God promises the people of Israel that he will not “pass them by.” At
the same time, God sets a plumb line against Israel, using a divine
standard to measure the fidelity of God’s people. A visit from God,
then, is presented as judgment that shall lead to desolation and
As I read through one of the epistles, with Paul hammering an early
congregation for its members’ infidelities and numerous discipleship
shortcomings, I wish I had the guts to give my people the sermonic
tongue-lashing they so richly deserve. Then suddenly, in mid-diatribe,
Paul asserts, “Now you are the body of Christ.”
Illinois claims Abraham Lincoln as a native son, because even though he was not born in the state, he settled in Springfield, which is where he practiced law, entered politics, married and raised his children. We Presbyterians like to claim him too, though he never formally joined a church and his parents were Separate Baptists.
It seems strange to be reading a tough text like Luke 9:51-62 during
the gentle days of early summer. Most of our congregations are in
relaxed, vacation mode. And into these mellow summer days is shoved a
gospel that speaks of the stark demands of discipleship. Jesus has set
his face toward Jerusalem, but he is no passive victim of
"I eventually realized that leaders are not made by books or workshops," says Lisa Yebuah of Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Leaders are people who marry their knowledge to action."
"I've been given an opportunity to color outside the lines," says Nanette Sawyer of Grace Commons and St James Presbyterian Church in Chicago, "the permission and charge to be creative and experimental."
"Progressive Christians do a good job with issues like LGBT rights," says Dennis Sanders of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis. "But we're less good at helping people become disciples of Jesus."
"Religious commitments are no longer taken for
granted as part of North American people's lives," says Scott Kershner of Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in Washington State. "So space opens up to
ask very basic and interesting questions."
Nov 30, 2011
| An interview with Carol Howard Merritt
"What would happen," asks Carol Howard Merritt of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., "if we coupled baby boomers' prophetic focus with the pragmatism of my generation? What if the church unleashed us to plant churches?"
Jul 28, 2011
| An interview with Katherine Willis Pershey
"People need to hear the good news," says Katherine Willis Pershey of First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. "If the church doesn't take on this
mission, I'm afraid—well, that's where that sentence can end. I'm afraid."
"We have rejected much of our immediate [evangelical] past," says Josh Carney of his church, University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Looking to older traditions, "we found that some of our objections had already been
Conducting funerals is one of the most important acts a pastor does. Inevitably, pastors have some tough funerals—after tragic accidents or premature deaths, or involving people with no faith or connection to the church. Michael Rogness, who has taught about funerals for over 20 years, makes these recommendations: carefully choose a fitting text for the sermon; try to articulate what the survivors are feeling, including their deep grief; don’t make judgments about what God was or wasn’t doing in the death of this person or about the deceased’s eternal state. Most important, “Proclaim the gospel to the survivors. The heart of our faith is that because Jesus was raised, death is not the last word” (Word & World, Winter).