We had another clergy write yesterday.  Our third write was on the phrase (from “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) “Be Born In Me Today.”  I think I may have at least a start for Sunday’s sermon:

At bible study yesterday we were talking about Joseph, who was going to put Mary aside quietly (rather than have her stoned or publicly humiliated) when he had a dream.  And a dream is certainly not an automatically authoritative event.  We have lots of dreams, and they don’t all come from God — though therapists tell us we can all benefit from paying attention to our dreams.

Anyway, Joseph clearly didn’t want Mary as his wife when he had this dream. (more…)

Again, from the writer’s group; we were working on (the Lutheran’s) Reformation Sunday “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”  Here’s my response:

How free am I in Christ?

What does it even mean to be free in Christ?

I’m clear that I cannot earn and will never deserve my salvation.  It’s simply a gift offered and received.

But maybe something needs to be said about the receiving?

I’ve probably said this before.  But the controlling image in my mind for grace is marriage.

I don’t deserve (and could never have earned) Anne’s love. But the gift of her love was offered and (so far) has been something I received.

But the receiving changes me.  If I love Anne, I live differently.  I choose to do, some things at least, because I know they will please her.  And I avoid doing other things I know will hurt her.

I do this as myself.  A real turning point in our relationship [as I remember it] came when she broke up with me, I think right after I asked her to marry me, and we reconciled (within a couple of days).

What she told me was, “You are not my Prince Charming …” — which was why we broke up.  “But,” she continued, “I love you anyway.”

So I was free to be me, and still be loved.

Maybe God has created me to be someone in particular.  Maybe I am most fully myself as I become that person.  But it isn’t primarily about rules and expectations.  it’s about love and relationship.

And I’m free to be me.

I’m free to become myself.

At my own pace.

Lived out in a loving relationship.

I’m thinking that’s what it might mean to be “free indeed in Christ.”


Can’t remember the cartoon (about bankers) that was the genesis for this.  But this is from my last participation with my clergy writing group:

What is it about bankers and other “owners” of finance and production?  They seem to feel that their well-being supersedes and is necessary to the well-being of others.  So rules and justice and fairness simply don’t apply to them.  And their importance is such that they need to be rewarded on a scale that they would never consider applying to other people.

Or is this just human nature?  I could argue that there are may Christians, and even people of other religions, who may play on a different, non monetary field, but who also see themselves as outside of the normal rules with spiritual recompense due them that would never apply to others outside their special group.

And I would bet I could say the same thing for champions of the underdog, whether we’re talking animals or the poor or the unborn.

So maybe the question to ask myself is this:  do I want to apply this expectation I have across the board to everyone?  Could I live with this?

I know I’ve been quiet for a while; busy with church, prayer life, music and reading.  And that may continue for a while.  But I did finally get back to my clergy writing group.  And here is what I did for our free write today:

“What I’m thinking about is preaching and jazz.  (more…)

So, a little mini addition to the blog tonight.  My clergy writer’s group met this morning.  And one assignment was to write for 10 minutes on the parallels between figure skating and being a pastor:

I have to say, figure skating and ice dancing may be my least favorite olympic events.  Unlike my wife and daughters, I’m not convinced they should even be in the olympics.  Yes.  They demand strength and stamina.  But there is no objective and no objective standard in the activity. (more…)

So here is something else from my clergy writer’s group.  Remember, these are timed writes, one quick draft only that ends when time is out.  This happened back before Christmast during Advent:

Expectations.  Pleasing other people.  We all have them.  We all do it.  Face it:  if we didn’t meet some expectations and please some people, we wouldn’t have jobs.  We wouldn’t have families.  We couldn’t function. (more…)

My friend Mary wrote this piece (one draft, unedited) in the writer’s group last month.  It’s the third part of Descended from the Dead:

He descended to the dead….  I have felt at times as if I were on a descent to the dead: no life in me, no passion, no joy, no purpose… Maybe even felt like I wanted to go to that place of quiet oblivion, but only envisioning it as: divorce, abortion, adopting out my children, then running away: end of life as I knew it. (more…)

This, again, is from the writers group.  We listened to a poem by Mary Oliver called “Wild Geese” (found in Dream Works) three times.  And then we ran with what we heard.  This is my write:

This is the invitation I hear.

Sometimes we make our spirituality so hard, walking on our knees for a hundred miles.  Sometimes we make our spirituality something that seems disconnected with the life we live and know. (more…)

David Mullen wrote the second piece on “descended from the dead.  It follows:

Christ going down into the bowels of the earth–a metaphor for going deeper than we ever want to go–into the human condition, into the extremity of hopeless, far from God, supposedly, and lost.  But tradition has it that he preached to them.  Ah, so then the dead were undead, that is, not full of life, but able to hear, and receive the gospel.  Hope and Life! (more…)

In my writing group today we did a variety of writes.   One of them was running with the idea, taken from the Apostle’s Creed, that Jesus “descended to the dead.”  If all goes well, I will have three very different writes on this subject to share.  The first of them is mine:

I’m pretty sure I’ve never really understood even what I meant when I affirm, in the creed, that Jesus descended to the dead. (more…)