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.
According to a recent study by Lifeway, 49% of Protestant pastors frequently hear their congregants repeating conspiracy theories. In institutions that purport to be about the truth, and tout Jesus’ teaching, “the truth will set you free,” why are churches such hotbeds for conspiracy theories?
There was no dress rehearsal or drill for what leaders have had to manage over the past nearly two years. Pastors and lay leaders in congregations have had to learn new technology not just on-the-fly, but with an audience of people they’ve promised to serve. Furthermore, we as a society have been so desperate for Covid-19 to be brief, to be over, that we have failed to adjust our expectations of leaders.
As we politely but firmly usher 2021 out the door, what is to keep us from committing to more person-to-person contacts? Sure, we still have a pandemic going on. But I’m not just talking about in-person encounters. Instead of using social media as our perpetual online broker for human interaction, what about actually talking more with people in 2022?
Each year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus we have another opportunity to bring Jesus into the world without all the baggage of the past. The question is—will we have the courage and intention to do it? Rather than allowing Mary and Joseph to do all the work, we become midwives at the manger, each and every year, partners with God in bringing hope, peace, and the possibility of salvation and justice into the world.
We are God’s hands and feet in this world. While grounding ourselves in the manger, we must bring God’s healing to all by reaching for the stars in the farthest realms, including the virtual world of the metaverse.
Those who wish to teach children a faith that calls for civil rights, liberation and justice would do well to look through their children’s Bibles and Sunday school curriculum with a critical eye, asking “How are the Bible’s stories being used and what stories are included? Are we passing on a faith of justice and social action, or a faith of passivity and submission to a sometimes-unjust status quo?” Such questions might lead teachers and parents to adapt curricula, change how Bible stories are used with children, and include more Bible stories that call children, and call us all, to become actively faithful and just Christian citizens.
This Advent, may we recognize that Christ is already among us, already at work. We are called to proclaim it: a child has been born for us, a son given to us; Emmanuel, God is with us. God is still with us. We already know the address. The world, however, is still using outdated methods to find its way. The world is still recalculating. There is still injustice, oppression, violence, suffering, and fear—much as in the time Jesus was born—but we know the way. We have the Good News. The journey isn’t complete, but in our faith in Christ, we have arrived at our destination. Christ is among us, now and always.
The way Thomas alludes to the wise men as “three waves from afar” who kneel in their own way, “offering their gifts to what they don’t understand” sticks with me this season. This striking image suggests we are capable of embracing the truth of the incarnation, even as we are limited in our ability to understand it. To paraphrase Saint Anselm, faith seeks understanding on the way to Bethlehem and beyond.
In some Christian traditions, people reflect, pray, and enter into joyful anticipation during the season of Advent. As we focus on themes of hope, peace, love, and joy, we often invoke images of the land of the Bible alongside treasured stories that recount the barriers to—and celebration of—Jesus’ birth.
This Christmas season, we have many reasons to pray for peace in the Holy Land, whose present reality exists far from such an ideal.
Though Baptists in every age can benefit from Rauschenbusch’s theology of the kingdom, I believe his thought concerning the church contains the most fruitful paths for contemporary Baptists. The church is still afflicted by an individualism that has made us vulnerable to the acids of consumerism that would leave us unable to discern our prophetic ministry in the world.
This Christmas when I sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I’m going to be thinking of the song and the town as a metaphor for seemingly unsolvable situations in my life and in the lives of people I know and care about.
We celebrate holidays because they are a sign and a foretaste of a future realities marked by resurrection, love, and the New Heavens and the New Earth. But that leaves us needing to live into those future promises here and now. We can live lives of joy, tending to the small plants of hope planted during our holiday festivities. This is the work between celebrations: living into the realities of the present by nurturing lives and communities that bear fruit we will harvest, ferment, and drink in celebration the next time the holiday season comes round.
The question we should be asking, and singing, is not “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?” Instead, we should ask why Mary would not be welcome in many pulpits, and why other women whom God has called, remain excluded from the pulpits and leadership of so many churches.
The trauma-informed community movement is an emerging social movement in the United States. It has received remarkable attention from many professional fields and has catalyzed collaborative efforts among community organizations.
During this Advent season, I invite you to spend less time pondering your problems, and more time counting your blessings. Count the blessings God bestowed upon you in the past. Count the blessings God is bestowing on you right now. Then consider all the blessings God is holding in store for you in the future and even into eternity.
Amid bleak and uncertain reality, how could Elizabeth experience an inner surge of joy? How could Mary sing of her soul magnifying the glories of God—of a divine power who had done great things for her and for humanity? I imagine that the rituals of their religious tradition, intentionally enacted through storytelling, singing, and Shabbat, placed the realities of the world in a greater context, affirming the presence of the Divine, their identity as a chosen community, and the promise of their future.
In this time of pandemic, what would it look like to visit the sick and imprisoned, to provide food and water for the hungry and thirsty, to welcome the stranger, not because we have something to offer, but because we know that in doing so we meet Jesus?
The growth of cities, with more than half the world’s population now living in urban areas, means the prevalence of artificial light, or light pollution, blocks the ability of many to enjoy the splendor of the night sky. Increasingly, people live under a blanket of darkness rather than a curtain of stars.
Agrarianism is a way of life that teaches us how to till and keep God’s life-giving garden (Genesis 2:15). Although most of us aren’t farmers, we are all called to work, eat, play and celebrate in ways that honor God and preserve the gift of creation.
God has a way of breaking through walls and into the spaces of darkness and grief. It is in those spaces where God meets us most fully, where we wrestle with God in the darkness of night like Jacob did. The spaces where God punctures the darkness that surrounds us and allows the light to shine through, like the stars in the night. These puncture wounds are my source of hope.
Here’s an Advent calendar of daily ideas for adults, beginning December 1. If you think chocolate would help, buy a bag of Hershey’s Kisses (or your favorite candy), and have one a day, after you do the suggested activity.
Not to put too fine a theological point on it, but perhaps getting back to where you once belonged is as much about where you are going as it is about where you have been.
So often, ministry is treated as something that ordained people do, but the priesthood of all believers tells us that everyone is called to ministry, and that churches ought to spend considerable time developing everyone’s gifts in ministry and helping them articulate their various vocations. That commitment is centuries old, but it is only in this present pandemic that I am seeing its promise truly come to life. It continues to enrich my own ministry to see it as a shared endeavor with congregants, and I am finding new contours of my own call in the wake of the pandemic. For that, I’m thankful.
The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to pay attention collectively to what we are thankful for. Thanksgiving automatically puts your attention on what is right, rather than what is wrong.
Once a year is not enough, however, for communities or individuals to practice shifting attention to the many things that are right. Even in this challenging time, every day can give the opportunity to gratefully notice what is working—in the world, in your communities, in your own life. This doesn’t mean ignoring challenges or the suffering of others. Our brains automatically register the negative, however, so it takes extra effort to notice the positive.
Practicing gratitude is linked to physical health benefits, including improved sleep, lower blood pressure, motivation to exercise more, better control of glucose levels and improved immunity, to name a few. Studies have also found mental, psychological, and spiritual health benefits of gratitude, including increased self-confidence, resilience, optimism, and patience.
I have thought about many futuristic stories from my reading and watching science fiction, and the maxim “faith manages” (from the 1990s television show Babylon 5) might just be the thing that has got me through the pandemic to date.
Without the full participation of women in decision making and policy making, there exists no balance, which is needed to maintain a healthy existence. This is the Creator’s natural law. When men take away women’s rights to participate in the decision making within the home, the balance of that home is no longer equal, and both natural law and the sacred circle are broken. Chaos in the home is usually the outcome.
Provide a safe place to talk. Don’t be afraid to inquire and to ask them to share, but do so on their terms. Incorporate them in your ministry to give them a reference that will help them to concretely see what it means to be part of a loving community. The experience of combat often generates a real sense of belonging and intimacy rarely felt elsewhere, but a loving church with an incarnate message of hope can fit the bill. Nurture them back to the land of the recovering, for we are all recovering in the hands of the Great Healer.
For months now I’ve been preaching to church leaders about the importance of building email lists rather than relying on social media platforms to engage people. My own advice has come home to roost, and today I’m sharing about my experience so you might not tread down the same path and end up in… (cue the dramatic music) Facebook jail.
Intercultural ministry calls us to perspective transformation, which entails learning to see in each new cultural context opening up to us values and symbols of culture, interaction with and internalization of the stranger, as with Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). It is a journey through which we learn to reflect on the ways in which we engage with persons different than ourselves. It is a process by which we also deepen our faith.
How would you continue to spread the good news of God’s kingdom if you no longer had a church (as we have come to understand them) from which to minister? Who would be your audience in the here and now? Whether one is lay or clergy, the question beckons us all.