May 13, 2018

“IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER . . . “

Some years ago, when she knew her time was short, the wonderful Nora Ephron made two lists: What I will miss -  & - What I won’t miss.

Here is some of what is on her What I Won’t Miss list …   Dry skin, E-mail, washing my hair, bras, polls that show that 32% of the American people believe in creationism, Clarence Thomas, Mammograms, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, E-mail – I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it, taking off make-up every night.

Here is some of what is on her What I will miss list ...

May 6, 2018

All The Apostles of God

Way back in 1907, two scholars, a British scholar named William Mitchell Ramsay and a German scholar named Gustav Adolph Deissmann, got on a couple of trains and then a couple of boats and finally two horses and went around visiting sites of the early church in the northern Mediterranean – places where the apostle Paul had planted an early form of Christianity, and they saw some ancient stone inscriptions on monuments in those towns that said that Caesar Augustus was divine.  They saw inscriptions that showed that he was called the son of god, and lord, and redeemer, and savior of the world and they said, “Hmm?  Those are familiar titles.”  They saw all that and they said, as it were: “Oh, my God! So that’s what these titles in the Bible are all about!”

April 22, 2018

Anger Issues: Jonah

Well, Jonah went down to the bottom of the ship and went to sleep.  But God wasn’t through with Jonah.  God hurled a storm, a strong wind like we had here last Monday afternoon, against that ship and it says that all on board were afraid.  And so, in a panic, they began to throw things overboard.  And then in their superstitious way, they thought: “Maybe there’s a guilty-critter on board this ship who made this happen.”

April 15, 2018

When the Ordinary Becomes the Sacred

When I was a kid, way before digital photography, we would hurry to the drug store with rolls of film as soon as we’d return from a trip, and then, in a day or two, we’d hurry back to get our pictures and eagerly open them, right there on the counter, to see what just happened to us a few days earlier, so as to begin the process of sealing and celebrating the experience by remembering it.

April 1, 2018

“Married To Amazement”

... It is this type of grief that I believe Mary Magdalene was dealing with on that first Easter morning when she walked alone to Jesus’ tomb – she was not just going to look after the body of a friend, her teacher – she was going to that grave to bury the dead future he had helped her imagine, to lay to rest their dead vision of the way things might have been.  She was going there to grieve for her lost hope – what else could she do?  Mary thought the story was over.

March 11, 2018

When Time is Up

Martha cuts to the chase saying,  "Yeah, I know all that stuff about the resurrection of the dead on the last day, whenever that is supposed to be.”  But she is not interested in any pious talk about her brother having gone to a better place, or that it’s somehow God’s will.  After all, without her brother, what’s going to become of her and her sister?  She wants muscular answers she can trust.  Why not?

March 4, 2018

Good Timing, Bad Timing

Many years ago in India, a group of men traveling through desolate country found a seriously wounded man lying beside the road.  They carried him to a Christian Missionary hospital and asked the physician who met them at the door if a bed was available.  The physician looked at the injured man and immediately saw that he was an Afghan, a member of the warring Patau tribe.  “Bring him in,” he said, “For him we have a bed.”  When the physician examined the man, he found that an attacker had seriously injured his eyes and the man’s sight was imperiled.  The man was desperate with fear and rage, pleading with the doctor to restore his sight so that he could find his attacker and extract retribution.  “I want revenge,” he screamed.  “I want to kill him.  After that I don’t care whether I am blind for the rest of my life.” 

February 25, 2018

Glimpsing Eternity and Finding the Words to Express That

I remember when I went to the very first church I served as a student pastor.  I was 24, I think.  I was only supposed to serve that tiny two-bit town parish for three months.  Before I got there, I tried to bargain with God about it.  I knew I wasn’t ready.  I’d only had one semester of seminary.  I said, “Okay, I‘ll preach every Sunday, and I will call on the people, and moderate meetings if you want, but under no circumstances allow anyone to die on my watch.  Nobody, period.  I’m just not ready for that.”

February 18, 2018

Now is the Time

And so we begin the Lenten season, the traditionally somber season before Holy Week and Easter.  It is a time when Christians remember the great story of Jesus and his love and turn inward, reflect and do self examination.  It begins, for many, with a service we observed four days ago with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads, a liturgical reminder of our mortality.  Traditionally Lent has been a time for penitence and confession.  Well, let me propose to you that we begin this journey, this year, slightly differently, by pondering the gift of love in the context of passing time; God’s love and the love God’s love awakens in our human hearts.  How about love?

February 4, 2018

Rahab the Wise

Here is how he did it.  First he bought a long black leather trench-coat (known to be worn by Gestapo operatives).  Then he purchased a tommy gun to look even more menacingly like a member of the Gestapo.  Next he walked into the ghetto one sunny day and rounded up 125 Jews who he instructed to walk out of the Ghetto with him, their hands up behind their necks as if they were under his arrest.  He cut a fearsome figure.  No one, either Nazi or Jew, dared ask him any questions.  He then delivered the Jews to the people waiting to hide them.  Marching behind Graebe they expected to be executed and instead were given their freedom and their lives.

January 28, 2018

When My Perfect Right May Be Perfectly Wrong

What the best teachers do is not give us lots of new information.  They help us in fact, unload information that is bogging us down.  That’s what I like to do in the class I teach once in a while about reading the Bible on its own terms.  I’m working to get us to get rid of lenses we’ve been using to read the Bible on other people’s terms for way too long.  I think that can be freeing.

January 21, 2018

A World Blown Open

Paul says, if you are happy, grieve.  If you have a family, live as if you were 19 again.  Paul is saying that because of the coming of Christ, the whole world is topsy-turvy.  It’s flipped on its head.  Everything is now up for grabs.  But for us here, in Salt Lake City in 2018, we aren’t interested in anything half so out of control. But you know, even for us here – we well-adjusted, well-insured, firmly in the middle-class or upper middle-class, there are these moments that come along, even for us.

January 7, 2018

In The Beginning

But look, by no effort of our own we find ourselves living on an oasis, placed perfectly by chance (or God) at the perfect distance from the sun to support the life that’s on it.  The universe is something like 13 billion years old. The earth has been around for a bit longer than 4 billion years. We humans have only been around for 200,000 years – a whisper in the lifetime of earth, and even less in the lifespan of the universe.

December 31, 2017

A Time For Every Thing

Thirty years ago I spent a whole day in the hospital, sitting with a woman named Marion, from my first church.  She was waiting her turn in the queue for a by-pass operation. I will never forget the trepidation she felt that was just underneath a veneer of calm.  I will never ever forget her eloquent reflection on what she was going through.  As I offered her empathy, she looked back at me very tenderly and said, “Well, I guess it’s all in a lifetime.”

December 24th, 2017

Magi:  Love, The Power of Devotion

I’ve previously written in the church newsletter about my visit to Bethlehem in 1999.  That day, before tensions between Israelis and Palestinians began to rise due to the intifada, and cement walls began going up all over, a visitor could still imagine an impossibly young Palestinian girl filled with holy purpose, riding a donkey down that little town’s one main street with her new husband, Joseph, the both of them looking desperately, by starlight, for a place to gain shelter for the night.