Reading Ecclesiastes with a senior citizen group was a deep experience. Together with a group of folks who have lived long years and seen much along the way, I discovered Ecclesiastes as that sort of deep wisdom that only becomes clear after you have lived a bit.
The well-being of creation includes and underlies human well-being in all of its dimensions and is the inescapable context for every single issue or area of common concern.
It has been my life’s goal to be a reminder… to remind others of God’s love, compassion, grace, justice, and mercy. Like the Prophets of old, I have sought to remind people to be faithful to the Divine. Such is the very work of the Holy Spirit, and such can be our own humble ministry to those around us.
It’s time to defend Christianity from Christian Nationalists. What seems like a fringe movement in American politics today can become a danger to religious liberty tomorrow for all Americans when the power of the state is used to advance the work of any group that presumes to speak on behalf of the whole church.
While the world of “Downton Abbey: A New Era” may seem distant from our time, we find its varied narrative threads speaking to us as the characters learn to live in the present, deal with the past, and enter the future.
For the ancient Hebrews, the year of Jubilee was not meant to be a long planning session for the future, nor a long break only to return to the past. It was to make them holy. They were different. Their world was different. When retirement comes, take a Year of Jubilee.
There can be a lot of “should” in the spiritual life—I should pray more, go back to in-person worship, read the Bible more. What it would be like to make pleasure rather than duty one of the motives for spiritual practice? What spiritual activities do you enjoy, and can you do more of them? Can you make a routine of them?
The right and the left are currently battling it out over cultural issues and are distracted from the most pressing issue of our era, the climate crisis.
When I recently lost a treasured ring, I realized I have a tenuous relationship with hope – the belief that things can change, that I can change, that the messages we believe of ourselves and our world can be changed.
Jesus told parable after parable about seeds, trying to teach his disciples that the abundance of God is available to us all, that we can build a world where everyone thrives if we have the courage to live with open hearts and open hands, meeting God anywhere God’s work of justice and healing is happening. In response, I became the unlikely founder of an investment fund: Invested Faith.
Prior to the pandemic, churches had become experts at what they did. For the most part, there was little room for experimentation, backtracking, the rethinking of processes and systems. Today, however, we are faced with a new challenge as we consider how to engage what can at times feel like two separate congregations—one in the pews and one online.
I still worry. But at least I understand more deeply that it is a waste of energy. God gives me the ability to make choices in the present to make at least a small difference in the world.
What if unity in the midst of a broken and fractured Christendom looks not like remaining a part of the same church gathering but rather continuing to engage in relationship—continuing to love—those people with whom you disagree?
As Christians engage in the cultural debate over abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, perhaps the biggest takeaway from surveying the Bible’s teaching around life and when it begins is that we need to exercise some humility.
In the language of the biblical prophets, the remnant is that small minority that is not swept away by popular opinion or by fear of any negative consequences. They are a righteous remnant in a wicked world. I thought about the word remnant when I watched and listened to Liz Cheney during the January 6 hearings.
As Christians, we should care deeply about what’s happening in Yemen. Jesus shows us how. Yemen needs some good neighbors. As the people of Yemen experience deprivation and war, we can care, we can stop long enough to see, to learn, and to look for our opportunity to reach out and serve.
I don’t believe that “love your enemies” is any longer a strategy for saints. I believe it is the new requirement for citizenship.
For 246 years, we have been working on this experiment to form this more perfect union. We have not yet arrived. But if we can bring together celebrations of freedom like Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, recognizing the inalienable rights of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other attribute by which we seek to divide, we will be closer to our goal.
A powerful reexamination of heart and soul is what led our forebears to create the United States of America. I am not proposing simplistic answers to complicated issues like mass shootings, but we must start somewhere. May we have the courage to faithfully reexamine the difficult things in order to move toward that more perfect union.
Properly understood, prayer is not just something that accompanies action but is embedded with it and is the most meaningful foundation for it.
We must take the lesson of Moses and make ourselves visible. We must be present, alive, and awake in this moment. We must be here. This requires each of us to face our challenges head-on if we are to tackle the challenges our society confronts.
The Incarnation is emblematic of God’s encounter with us. God’s human form in Christ is to be fully immersed in the human condition so that we too may know God.
Civil disobedience against injustice has long been a part of the world’s moral fabric. Sometimes it has come with magnificent public attention, while other times it passed unnoticed when only one person took a stand for what is right, true, just, and God-like. And yet, few will ever know the ripples of inspiration that one person, like Henry David Thoreau, can make or the impact they will radiate for generations to come.
In 2022, it seems as though we have the fundamental choice to either employ big data or reject the consumerist entanglement. My hope is that churches veer toward the latter and become messy places once again.
I looked and behold—a great multitude that no one could count, people of all ages, races, and creeds, those who died at the hands of gun violence. Some were church elders, leaders in their communities, and so many were children.
In the midst of deconstructing and reconstructing my faith, I can no more return to the faith I once had than I can return to my childhood home.
In this month of Pentecost, and Pride, and Juneteenth, we are offered the time to reconsider our use of language, and especially our use of language over time. It’s one thing to theoretically say God is all genders. It is another thing altogether to express the many genders of God in corporate worship.
Amidst America’s ongoing existential crisis of violence, peace is not something that will happen if we turn our heads and look the other way. It is not going to simply manifest because we have prayer vigils for victims of violence, give words of comfort, and walk away doing nothing.
In the debate about gun violence, let’s stop scapegoating mental illness and do the hard work of coming together to improve gun safety and public health.
Learning Italian in my 60s reminds me that Pentecost, and every day of the year, I have the opportunity to connect with people who speak, live, and think differently than I do.
I want to be heartfelt in my support of the vast majority of our clergy who are people of integrity. But I will be vigilant in dealing with those who are not.
Pentecost reminds us that the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing our way. We have an opportunity to try to capture its meaning for us and transmute that into some new form that will allow us to better serve God and neighbor.
This year at Pentecost, we may gather in person, hybrid or online only, but we can affirm that God is good, Christ’s gospel fuels us, and the Spirit of God (whether we like it or not) is bringing us into new challenges and a hope-filled future.
“I tried to let them know they were safe.” Hear these words. Allow them to penetrate your heart. Be moved by them. Then, let us come together and get to work.
Deconstructing my faith as a pastor was a strange thing. On the inside I was wrestling with deep questions about the faith I had built my life and career around, desperately seeking the truth while at the same time recognizing that what I would uncover could mean separation from my community and uncertainty about my next paycheck.
While the Batman mythology revolves around demented yet broken villains bedeviling Gotham streets and frequently the nightmares of its populace, this film by Matt Reeves sets up interesting questions about recovering from trauma and learning to live in a way that works more toward tikkun olam, the repairing of the world, more than meeting violence only with more violence.
How sadly contemporary Robert Kennedy’s words are more than 50 years later. How fitting for the moment and, I fear, how fitting for the future.
We live in the power of the resurrection and in its hope that in the end love and life are more powerful than death. And we are called to live the resurrected life in the kingdom of love here on earth.
Together, let us work to address the scourge of targeted violence against ethnic and religious communities which tears at the fabric of our life together
I am haunted by a question a church member asked me: “Why would a loving God allow my husband to be taken from me?” I was her pastor, and I had no satisfactory answer that could ease her grief. Hers was the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam in the 1960s, we can raise our voices on behalf of the one who said that we should care for and comfort and bring relief to the strangers, and the oppressed, and the impoverished. In light of events in Ukraine and at our southern border, it is once again “A time to break silence.”
In this global society, where we can connect at the touch of a screen to anyone around the world, everyone is our neighbor. May we not become conditioned by only what we are exposed to. May we find the emotional bandwidth to see all that is happening in the world and be sensitive. May we extend mercy to all of our neighbors. We must recognize that there is more to the world than what is being shared by those with personal agendas.
Not only are our fellow citizens dying in mass shootings, but our republic also is under assault. The integrity of the public arenas that constitute the lifeblood of our republican order are imperiled by the threat and fear of violence.
Many of us who have survived the past couple of years have come away with significant pandemic-related “brain fog.” Forgetfulness, confusion, agitation, fear, anxiety. You might have encountered a spike in any or all of these and more. The question marks continue to appear as COVID-19 cases come and go in different parts of the world. If you do not seem to be your old, pre-pandemic self, you’re not alone.
Over 100 years ago, Ernest Shackleton embarked on an expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. He never made landfall, but what could have been a disaster became a leadership triumph. We’re not on a life-threatening exploration gone wrong. However, church leaders face real challenges now and going forward. Following Shackleton’s example can help you navigate the challenges ahead with clarity and grace.
Understanding family systems theory helps us to self-differentiate and remember that we are important and valued for who we are as people, as children of God. While we have different skills and gifts for ministry, the burden should not be solely on our clergy or on one group of leaders.
Churches can be a vital force for their community’s mental health by gathering community, lifting up others in prayer, and creating safe spaces where access to community support is not predicated on falsely claiming that everything is fine.
Karl Barth famously said: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” I’d suggest that the newspaper can stand in for many activities that broaden our awareness of the world. We can read a newspaper, yes. But we can also go to the mall and interview people, or put up a table at the farmer’s market, or, as I have, sign up to substitute teach.
Yom Hashoah is not called a Day of Forgetting but a Day of Remembrance. The evil committed is remembered, not just out of the pain, but so that it can never happen again.
In the 21st century, and in the world that is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, churches that see their congregation as a platform for good in the community will thrive and connect with more people than churches that see their congregation as a pipeline of ministry.
We too often see time as an enemy, but if taking the time necessary to thoroughly explore a topic, so all understand the complexity (or simplicity) of an issue, isn’t that time well spent?
Healthy boundaries are essential to maintaining not only clergy health but church health. Clergy who are happy and healthy are more likely to serve with longevity and lead churches with ethical clarity.
It’s been a month and a half since I deconstructed my faith and became an exvangelical, and the best way I can describe this season is that I’m wandering in the wilderness.
“When strength fails, there is perseverance. And when perseverance fails, there is hope. And when hope fails, there is love. And love never fails.”
I used to read John’s account of the resurrection and think of Mary as confused, supposing Jesus to be the gardener. I see things differently since my mother died.
The work done on the cross through Jesus’ death reveals that from the darkest moments of life, “hope springs eternal.” It is that hope that we hold on to as we suffer shame and disgrace. It is that hope that gives individuals strength to continue to stand through the chaotic winds of life.
Idle tales and brokenhearted disciples gave way to the cries of “He is risen!” and “I believe!”
I need to share a secret burden I have been carrying for too long. It is a little embarrassing and will require your strictest confidentiality.
The journey through Holy Week can help us travel through dark times in our lives and in the world. Holy Week offers the opportunity to experience the reality of shadows and suffering without losing hope.
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility celebrates 50 years of faith-based shareholder advocacy
“Sometimes quitting is the courageous act. Sometimes the courage that is needed is to stop doing what is expected in order to start doing what is necessary.”
Jesus liberated himself from the vicious cycle of morality-gamesmanship; can his love now liberate us, too?
Americans with disabilities face unemployment and poverty rates twice the national average. Here’s how religious investors can help.
Ensuring people with disabilities have the same access to opportunity and enjoy the same civil rights protections as people without disabilities is a moral imperative. It’s the right thing to do. It’s also good business.
What is the deepest hurt you have inflicted upon another? Is there a profound sin of which you are ashamed or questioning? Could you be beyond the reach of God’s outstretched fingers pulling you heavenward?
If you’ve ever prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth” you have prayed a deeply political prayer, whether you realize it or not.
I am no less an American to acknowledge that my ultimate allegiance resides with the everlasting kingdom of heaven. And I am no less a Christian to acknowledge my temporary allegiance resides with a government formed in 1776.
When I hear and read disparaging comments made about unlettered Peter-tradition preachers, I am filled with righteous indignation. Hear this, those of you who are blessed, as I am, with a fine theological education. God called Peter and Paul.
I can’t let people who think, eat, sleep, or breathe racism believe that their actions have an impact on me. As hard as it will be, I need to take their words, stir them up with Jesus, and give them back. Perhaps in doing so, I will catch them in the web of Jesus. That’s how I call myself a Christian.
I must confess that I have not read many church growth books. I really don’t like them. They often make me depressed. But “Church on the Move” has recipes! That alone tells you it is different from any church growth book you have ever read.
Since the war began, Christian leaders have been almost of one voice in offering words of comfort and solidarity to the Ukrainian people, asking God’s blessing on all who suffer violence and the effects of war—and giving reproof to the Russian leaders who have directed the invasion.
Seeing photographically is not a natural gift the photographer is born with. It comes by practice and concentration, and by training the mind to notice lighting, juxtaposition, angles, contrast, irony, humor, emotion, and beauty. In a similar way, people of faith can train their senses for seeing spiritually, noticing the numinous spirit to where they step—not just in a garden, on a mountaintop, or in nature, but in common life.
For Christian believers, to repent means turning our lives to the way of Jesus. Rather than wearing ourselves down running the well-trodden path of the rat race, we Christians seek to trace our way through the contours and questions of the gospel.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, it is fitting to celebrate the continuing progress of women as elected mayoral officials. Yet, while women continue to make strides as elected officials, they are also being cut by the shards of the ceilings they break, suffering the brunt of abuses when their policies clash with constituents.
“God is making us stronger. The prayers of millions of Christians all around the world have power, and we continue to work. We continue to support our people, and we believe God will reveal his glory.”
Here’s a radical idea for Lent: Don’t give anything up. Instead, add something positive to your life every day.
As I have aged, I have found myself suspicious of the popular Christian practice of giving something up for Lent. If you’re like me, you’ve lost a lot over the years, and perhaps you find surrendering even more an annoying and uncalled for notion.
Victory demands a country and a free world united against the archaic proposition that war, not peace and justice, is the way to solve our problems.
Progress protecting religious minorities is now under severe threat. As Protestant churches in western Ukraine prepare to receive refugees from the frontline, a long shadow of Russian military presence is spreading across the country. Ukrainian Baptists are simultaneously hopeful and careful.
The conversations were an exercise in slow church. They took time but they were worth every second. Because of those conversations the ministry at Judson Church is now more focused and is directed not by what we think others need and want, but by what they have told us they need and want.
What is a Christian leader’s responsibility to the overall mood of an institution? Is absorbing rage that comes their way simply part of the job? Are leaders required to act happy, even when angry people are treating them badly?
As Putin orders troops to separatist regions of Ukraine, the prelude to God’s beautiful salvific offer is once again ignored
Yet again the elaborate rituals inaugurating Lent will be staged with bloody hands. The penitential promise will again be ignored. Sacred music will compete with the loud recoil of guns. Sackcloth and ashes will be replaced with body armor. Ukrainian and Russians will offer competing prayers for safety and victory. The gods of redemptive violence will receive all the offerings.
There was a gap in American theology, and Cone filled that gap with a God who dared to put on skin and become flesh for the world. It is now time for humanity to follow the one who became human so that we can truly be all that we were created to be, the authentic expression of the Creator—love.
Truth be told, I don’t really enjoy running all that much. But at the same time, I think that running is the closest I come most days to finding God in the ordinary.
We think of the season of spring as the beginning of life, but in fact, spring is not the beginning. It’s the manifestation of the transformation happening inside those great trees right now, in the winter.
Without taking anything away from a church’s recognition of veterans or celebration of patriotism, why not also give credence to objectors and resisters?
Concerns for the mighty and the oppressed sit uncomfortably side by side. I believe this is often due to the fear of being called out as “biased,” “political,” or “ideological.” As an antidote, some churches adopt the stance of impartiality, sitting on the fence on important moral issues such as reproductive rights, or challenging imperialism, racism, and xenophobia.
How do we prepare for the uncertainty at hand yet retain the “radical hope” for the future? Miles writes, “Our only options in this predicament, this state of political and planetary emergency, are to act as first responders or die not trying. We are the ancestors of our descendants. They are the generations we’ve made. With a ‘radical hope’ for their survival, what we will pack in their sacks?
We need to reclaim a generation with the love that comes from God through Jesus Christ. They need to know that we are here to listen and show compassion. They need the support of advocates who are willing to provide mental health counseling services. They need us to be unflinchingly present and unafraid to stand with them in this time of struggle.
We have the capacity to right wrongs in the present, and our future lies before us. What we do with it, independent of our salvation, is the matter that ought to occupy our imaginations.
I’ve found watching funny videos a tremendous help throughout this pandemic. Rediscovering Betty White has been another gift of laughter.
Rev. Dr. Henry Mitchell’s recent death at age 102 leaves a treasured legacy within Christendom, the academy, and the Black church. His influence on Black preachers and the Black church is incalculable. His biography is one to be studied during Black History Month and any other month.
Human beings have an almost limitless capacity for self-delusion, and “Midnight Mass” does much to put it on display. Perhaps that is its most redeeming offering: it forces the interpreter of Scripture to be humble.
Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.
Self-interest will always be a part of us; we cannot wring it out of our nature. But in words and action, we can harness the drum major instinct toward a purpose greater than our individual good.
King’s illustration about diming your lights demonstrates his point that when it comes to hatred, the vicious cycle will never end until someone has the sense to break the cycle with love rather than hate.
The measure of each person is revealed in those three dimensions of length, breadth, and height. Those dimensions are available to us but not given freely. They depend on a focused championing of the credence that there exists a profound reciprocation in life.
From the day I first saw that black-and-white photograph until now, I continue to be haunted. Each visit from the ghost of King in handcuffs has made me feel uncomfortable about our current and unresolved human condition.
An education system that results in a marginalized people with a subordinated sense of self or an inflated elitism by those in the majority must be regarded as immoral. However, when education can inspire a critical consciousness, people gain a greater awareness of self, which engenders dignity, fuels a transforming sense of agency, and inspires hope.
The Beloved Community requires constructing a society in which neither punishment nor privilege is tied to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation and where our diversity as a community and nation is celebrated and embraced as a source of strength rather than weakness.
Readers in 2022 have the dual task of hearing King’s word to the Montgomery faithful and acknowledging how in need of this word we are as well. The work of civil rights is far from over, and the past few years in the United States have demonstrated deep rifts in the way our politics, economics, and society function.
Honoring Martin Luther King’s leadership and faithful Christian example of peaceful resistance to oppression, violence, and inequality
Now is a good time to reflect again on King’s model for nonviolent protest to bring about peace and justice to a world still marred by injustice and violence. We should not only look for ways to name the evil in our world but look for paths toward redemption and reconciliation with others. And we must do these things in love for God and neighbor, or else we will be shaped by our hatred and fear of the other.