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  • Spacious Faith

    Here is a call to worship for this upcoming first week of Advent, based on Psalm 80, Isaiah 64, and my own desperate need for Advent this year. (Even if the pastor part of me is not ready for Advent yet.) - – – - We are broken by racism and militarism. Restore us, O […]

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  • Considerations

    Where do we see the holy? Where do we catch glimpses of grace? Where is God most present in our world?  Maybe we think of grand cathedrals, where centuries-old art and architecture reflects the beauty and glory of God. Or perhaps an experience of nature, say a glimmering ocean sunset where the light dances to a tune of divine artistry. Possibly we consider our most precious relationships, the loving look of a spouse or the comforting embrace of a friend that speaks to embodied love and acceptance. God, grace, and holiness are all around us if we just take the time to look. But rarely will we think of a dirty homeless person rambling in the street. Neither did actor Ins Choi, who wrote and performs the provocative and moving one-person show called Subway Stations of the Cross, inspired by his own encounter over a decade ago with a homeless rambler. I had the pleasure of seeing Choi’s performance this recently at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver. While lacking a narrative structure -...

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  • "The threat was stopped," Darren Wilson told the grand jury investigating the death of Michael Brown on the street in Ferguson, Missouri. "The threat was stopped."There's so much about the shooting of Michael Brown that can be understood in a very human way, in a way that doesn't even engage our nation's racism. There is, after all, Michael Brown's size--he was a big man, 6''4", 290 pounds. Darren Wilson claimed in his testimony that Brown came at him like Hulk Hogan. Brown was a big man; Wilson is no little guy, but Brown outweighed him by maybe 70 pounds.And Michael Brown knew it, and when he said what he did after already being shot at, he poured salt in the wounds of Wilson who may well have seen himself as the wimp in this struggle. "You're too much a pussy to shoot me," Michael Brown said and came after him. Testosterone oozes from that line, and no one recognized that put down as deeply as the little cop holding a gun that had already misfired, the smaller guy with...

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  • Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19The psalmist does not stop talking to God even when fed on the bread of tears or drinking from the bowl of weeping. When life laughs at us and circumstances conspire to mock our hopes and dreams we tend to turn away and wonder what good is God. But I suspect the psalmist gives voice to what we know deep down – in the end there is nowhere else to go.  “Stir up your strength and come to help us” and the repeated refrain, “Restore us, O God” are prayed with a confident hope that God hears the prayer even if God’s anger “fumes” over things done and left undone, said and left unsaid. We know what the psalmist did not; the One at the right hand of God is the confident hope of all prayer. He was made strong for God's sake though that strength was made perfect in weakness and in the darkness of his death we see the light of our salvation.

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  • So the weather predictions for Thanksgiving Eve - Wednesday, November 26 - range from 4-8 inches of snow to 8-14 inches. Hmmmm... we in the Berkshires can handle the first in our sleep, but if you get over six inches at night we might have to pull the plug on our concert. We have rehearsal tonight so we'll caucus and take the pulse of the band. Who knows what will really happen? Last year, time and again, the apocalypse was forecast but only modest snow actually fell most of the time. But then there was a massive blizzard on the last day of October two years ago, so... who knows?At any rate, we're ready for whatever even while hoping the show goes on. In anticipation of Old Man Winter, we cleaned off the deck this afternoon and cleared out the garage, too. (We have to park the truck in there so that the snow plow can liberate us should things turn bad.) While moving things to the store room, I came across a box of tea cups my sister Karen packed up for me last May. I went...

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  • Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.A pastoral explanation of lament may be made, and each one present may be invited to light a candle and place it near the altar as a symbol-action of intention, to be present with God to suffering - our own and that of our neighbors. Let us pray.O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle andconfusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Psalms 142 and 143, followed by a time of silence in which personal expressions of lament, grief, and pain may me made, either in silence or in the hearing of all.142 Voce mea ad Dominum...

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  • A Litany of ThanksgivingLet us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts sofreely bestowed upon us.For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth andsky and sea.We thank you, Lord.For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,revealing the image of Christ,We thank you, Lord.For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, andour friends,We thank you, Lord.For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,We thank you, Lord.For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,We thank you, Lord.For the brave and courageous, who are patient in sufferingand faithful in adversity,We thank you, Lord.For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,We thank you, Lord.For the communion of saints, in all times and places,We thank you, Lord.Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies andpromises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and theHoly Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.David ...

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  • In the aftermath of last night's rioting in Ferguson, Jeff Krehbiel, a friend and colleague, posted this quote on his Facebook page. It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.These words are from...

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  • A few people took photos of me at the conference, and so I thought I would share them. I have already shared my papers. I felt that all the sessions I was involved in went well. The discussion of Bart Ehrman’s book on Saturday was great. I thought that the mix of people who agreed and disagreed with him, as well as one another, was pretty near perfect. Gabriele Boccacini made the suggestion that there should be more conversations between scholars working in the field of second-temple Judaism and scholars working on early Christian Christology.The first session of the new AAR program unit “Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity” was excellent, I thought, with interesting interaction across focuses on Mandaeism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity in that time and place, and interesting intersections on topics like magic bowls. One presented indicating that the session provided a natural forum for her scholarship which was not found in any other...

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  • Emily C. Heath

    Luke 17:11-19 17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 17:12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 17:13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 17:14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves […]

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    St. Paul writes to the Colossians,Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:14-17).Gratitude is the motivation for worship and all of our lives as Christians. We are thankful for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, we are thankful for the blessings of church and home, we are thankful for all that we have received from the Lord’s hand in the provision of God's creation. We know that what we have received is not owed to us; it is not the payment of a debt the Almighty is obligated to settle on our account. Our very...

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  • “How long, O Lord?”  That is the cry of the Psalmist and the Prophets.  “How long must we wait for your dream to become reality?” remains the cry for the faithful even today.  Since yesterday at about 8:26pm CST, I’ve been pondering this question of “How long?” and thinking, in light of the lessons for Advent 1, and the call to holy waiting, how I can faithful live in the meantime because living in the meantime can be heartbreaking. Living in the meantime means living as a broken and sinful human being in a broken and sinful world.  It means paying the penalty for sin: my own and a myriad of systemic ones.  It means that sometimes a young black man, after a lifetime of living in fear of the police, makes a terrible choice and ends up dead.  It means sometimes that a young white man, in a position of authority and carrying a gun for a living, makes a terrible choice and kills that young black man.  It means sometimes that a grand jury, bound by...

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  • Larry Patten

    Isaiah 40:1-11 – The Second Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 7, 2014 “A voice is crying out: Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3) A voice is crying out: Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!   Some say, fervent and sure in their beliefs, that Isaiah predicted a voice in the future: a John the baptizer that would cry aloud in the literal wilderness, a harbinger for Jesus’ ministry. Some say, fervent and sure in their beliefs, that Isaiah was not predicting a some-day future of John and Jesus, but shouting an every-day truth in the metaphoric wilderness: a longing for God to transform a wounded world. Either way, when modern hearts and minds read Isaiah’s ancient cries, there is a belief that from the wild, from beyond our safe homes and familiar streets, a change will come. American poet, Mary Oliver penned, Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a...

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  • Have you had a challenging year at church? Every church goes through ups and downs (and some churches seem to have a challenging year every year). One pastor, after surviving the recession unscathed, is facing a pay cut next year. Another is at the end of his rope with a mutinous staff member. A third has had at least one funeral a week since September. At times like this in ministry, it’s easy to feel exhausted, overwhelemed and resentful. Now there may be practical approaches to these and other challenges. Reduced pay should mean reduced hours (which may not solve the personal budget impact). Steps can be taken to terminate a difficult employee. An exhausting pastoral care season calls for post-Christmas (if not Thanksgiving) vacation time. Give thanks for the challenges And you can choose to step back from the negative feelings and give thanks even for the challenges you really wish would go away. I’m working to practice this for myself, and I know it isn’t easy...

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  • Tamed Cynic

    “The assumption that a black man suspected of a robbery is dangerous enough to be shot is the heart of the issue. The inability of the black community to trust that police offers will not see them as immediate threats and act accordingly is the heart of the injustice involved.” For proof that ordination does not confer upon the priest a shiny, new ontological status, you need look no further than the clergy group pages on Facebook. Over the past hours I’ve had more than a few occasions to do a double-take of the nasty comments and unsubtle racism posted by clergy (as in, vicars of Jesus) about the violence last night in Ferguson. One Reverend cited recent black-on-black shootings in Chicago and followed with a Rudy-worthy, self-pitying lament: ‘I guess people only care about evil when it has a white face.’  What’s called ‘partisanship’ in politics becomes something worse in a Christian forum: tribalism. Seeing another as Other. Dividing up the perspectives into Us and...

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  • Mark 13:24-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)24 “But in those days, after that suffering,the sun will be darkened,    and the moon will not give its light,25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.32 “But about that day or...

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  • I had an interesting thought when a commenter shared how they respond to the claim that the entire globe must have been covered by the flood spoken of in Genesis. He points out that Acts 2:5 says that “there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven” in Jerusalem, which means the known world and not the entire globe.It struck me that, in order to press that to really mean every nation under the sky, one would have to say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is correct, that Israelites reached the Americas.I wonder how many Protestant fundamentalists are willing to follow their “logic” to that logical conclusion. 

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  • Life With Jack

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr. God of Justice, God of Love, be with your people in Ferguson, MO. Make us into people of light and love. We are a people of hope. Guide us. Amen.

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  • Head and Heart

    On this Thanksgiving Daythe room is filled with faces.Much like that scene in the book where   there are just too many to number.And yet I remember. Some at least.Most have slipped away somewhere— But the delight they brought—those unremembered   and remembered ones—  the doors they opened—the fun we had—  all those shining times when the sun really did stand still.These remain embedded deep in my heart.That’s why I need a Thanksgiving.To open the door and see here and there   those that have cheered me on—and others too.On this Thanksgiving Daythe room is filled with faces.The old book says we are all surrounded by a sea of witnesses...  and this is true.The woman who birthed me and named me   and held me close to her breast her whole life long.The church with its tall white columns and stained glass windows   and its picture of Jesus—But more—all those who made faith so possible that after 79 years  I am amazed to...

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  • Four - Fold Franciscan BlessingMay God bless us with discomfort at easy answers,half truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts. Amen.May God bless us with anger at injustice,oppression, and exploitation of peopleso that we may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,rejection, starvation and war,so that we may reach out your hand to comfort themand to turn their pain into joy. Amen.May God bless us with enough foolishnessto believe that we can make a difference in this world,so that we can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

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  • Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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  • Do you like surprises? I love jumping out from around a corner and scaring the bejeezus out of someone. I enjoy hiding in a dark room with a bunch of people and yelling out “Surprise!” when someone enters in order to celebrate the birthday of that unsuspecting person. I like coming home from work and discovering that one of my children has drawn me a picture and wants to present it to me as a surprise.I don’t like it when the phone rings at three o’clock in the morning. I hate arriving at a hotel and realizing that I left my phone charger or my toothbrush at home. I’d rather that a member of our Vestry not surprise us with an important issue that has been bothering him instead of putting it on the agenda a few days in advance.I remember that the last time I met with my bishop before I went to seminary he issued me a stern warning, “Evan, keep me informed of what is going on in your life. Bishops don’t like surprises.” I suppose that the ministry of bishops is predisposed to hearing...

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