Saints and Strangers: Standing Together in Love (a sermon for a divided country)

Saints and Strangers: Standing Together in Love (a sermon for a divided country)

In 1620 a group of about 40 religious refugees boarded a merchant ship leaving England and sailing for the “new land.” Others called them the “Separatists,” or the “Congregationalists” because of their desire to separate from the Church of England and return to the ideals of the Protestant Reformation. They oh-so-humbly called themselves the Saints. With this, they clearly aligned themselves with the religious cause: they were holy people, distinguished from the “Strangers,” the other people on board the ship…

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Stewardship: what money has to do with spirituality

Stewardship: what money has to do with spirituality

When I was a kid, my sisters and brother and I would often play a game of “if we were rich.” You know the game, right? “If we were rich, we’d have a house with 100 rooms.” “If we were rich, we’d have a pool on the roof.” “If we were rich, we’d hire a maid.” And, of course, if we were rich, we’d help all of the homeless people and the hungry people and the sick people. I had…

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Rites and rituals, the holy in the every day

Rites and rituals, the holy in the every day

One Sunday while I was in high school I invited a friend to attend church with me. I felt the need to warn her about two things: There weren’t a lot of kids our age. We did this weird thing every Sunday called “Passing the Peace.” This second one was a great source of embarrassment to me. I couldn’t fathom why we would stand up, walk around and say hello to people. Having no idea that this was an ancient…

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When Your Partner’s Faith Doesn’t Match Yours

When Your Partner’s Faith Doesn’t Match Yours

Several years ago I was at a women’s Bible study when the topic turned to family life. One by one, many of the women shared a sadness about their partner’s faith life. One women was in a mixed-belief marriage with formerly religious man. Although her husband still went to church with her, he did it reluctantly. The grief over the death of this part of their relationship was deep. One woman was less religious than her husband and found his…

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When Words Fail

When Words Fail

It’s been one of those weeks when words just can’t keep up with my prayers. I, like you, find myself tripping over my concerns, my heart barely getting traction to lift up one thing when the next thing comes barreling down. Now, we know God hears all prayers–from the carefully worded prayers we pray in public to the unintelligible gasps of joy or sorrow in life’s deepest moments. So I’m not particularly worried about making sure God’s listening. But prayer…

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Progressive Christians: It’s Time to Get Louder

Progressive Christians: It’s Time to Get Louder

I’ve been a “progressive Christian” for as long as I can remember. (Ok, I did a brief stint of evangelicalism in late high school/early college, which led to a crisis of faith and is the subject of a much longer post.) The point is, that for as long as I’ve been Christian, I’ve been a Christian who isn’t “like that.” After I was ordained, I felt like the only way to introduce myself was “I’m a pastor, but not that…

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Stop Searching for Security and Start Building Confidence

Stop Searching for Security and Start Building Confidence

If you happen to be up late at night surfing the internet or watching television–or maybe even both at the same time (as one does to relax after a long day), you’ll find yourself inundated with ads like this: “Protect your future, buy gold!” “Protect your home, buy insurance!” “Protect your children, see a financial planner!” All of these, of course, are accompanied by bleak visions of what happens when we fail to do any of these things. By the…

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Making Peace with Prayer

Making Peace with Prayer

Martha McMarthason (not her real name) was the queen of prayer in my small hometown. “I’ll pray for you,” was her answer for everything. I don’t know whether she did–although I always suspected she didn’t. Instead, she wielded these words like a weapon, shutting down everyone who said or did something she didn’t approve of. “I haven’t seen you in church in a while. I’ll pray for you.” “I saw you eat an extra cupcake at the school party. I’ll…

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The Fine Art of Presence

The Fine Art of Presence

“You have nice teeth.” Ellen peers into my mouth with the studiousness of a scientist. “Who’s your dentist?” She asks. I explain, again, that my dentist’s office is in a nearby town. She responds, again, that she doesn’t know him but her husband was a dentist right down the street. Ellen is a hospice client I’ve been visiting. I know her only through the veil of her dementia, which caused her to be sullen and angry much of the time….

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Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Well, it’s over. By the time you read this, you might have eaten 6 weeks worth of chocolate or binge watched Netflix or put away whatever spiritual practice you took on. Me? I plan to put Easter decorations away and finish projects that got set aside the hubbub of Holy Week.   Life will be back to normal, hallelujah and praise be to God. This is, of course, exactly not the point of Easter. Every year I do this, though–invest…

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