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Speech bubbles

Selected posts from around our network of affiliated bloggers

In my first year of seminary, one of my professors suggested an exercise to our class that sounded fairly simple. He encouraged us to go to a public place, such as a shopping mall, and to watch people. “Note your reactions to those you see,” he told us.
May 15, 2016
Like many cities, Asheville, North Carolina, has a “Before I Die . . .” wall—a large chalkboard with multiple spaces for people to write some of their hopes for the future. Since the wall is on the path I take for most of my downtown walks, I read them several days each week. I’ve laughed and wept, said “me too” or “not me,” and wondered how many of the hopes chalked on that wall will be realized.
May 12, 2016
Many years ago I was the interim pastor at a small church and was free to celebrate Pentecost without regard to that congregation’s tradition. We decided that it would be confirmation day for the small group of youth who had been going to classes and they wanted red balloons among other things. This was long before I knew anything about latex allergies so red balloons it was. They were tied in bunches all over the sanctuary and there were red streamers galore. It was a day of joy to be sure.  Until a balloon escaped and wrapped itself around a ceiling fan.
May 11, 2016
Recently I read about a proposal for eliminating e-mail. After all, e-mail consumes time, adds extra pressure to an already stressful workplace, fragments attention, and feels like a never-ending black hole sometimes. One friend says bluntly, “I hate e-mail.” Some have written about taming the e-mail monster, and others have already abandoned e-mail in favor of texting or other forms of communicating. But I’m still a fan of e-mail.
May 10, 2016
One doesn't need to be a biblical scholar to recognize the link between the story of the Tower of Babel and the story of Pentecost. The former is the divinely appointed confusion of human languages, while the latter shows how the Holy Spirit transcends that barrier to translate the good news of Jesus Christ into every language. In many intentional ways, the two stories go together, and I'm a little surprised that the Genesis 11 reading is only available in lectionary Year C.
May 9, 2016
I talked with her face-to-face a handful of times, not enough to really get to know her. Through the latticework of interconnection that shapes a town, there were others in our congregation who did know her.
May 8, 2016
Evidently we’ve been reaching out to our neighbors without meaning to do so. It’s the latest church trend—unintentional evangelism. Every Thursday, our choir rehearses in our fellowship hall, a large and acoustically great space on the second floor of the education wing.
May 5, 2016
On May 17, 1968, nine Roman Catholic activists broke into a draft board office in Catonsville, Maryland, transferring 378 files to the parking lot to be incinerated with home-made napalm. As the fire burned, the “Catonsville Nine” prayed for peace. They were arrested, tried and sentenced to prison, but four of them, including two priests—Daniel and Philip Berrigan—went underground, eluding capture for a number of months, occasionally surfacing to speak at antiwar rallies. At one of these public appearances, following a dramatic tableau of the Last Supper with giant puppets, Dan Berrigan made his escape inside one of the apostles.
May 4, 2016
As a pastor, it is not unusual for me to hear people speak of their blessings. They may comment to me that they have been blessed, usually referring to what they appreciate in their lives, such as possessions, wealth, position, children, etc. In prayers people sometimes refer to their many blessings, often with similar meaning. What I've never heard is someone including the items that Jesus lists in the Beatitudes.
April 28, 2016
My wife and I have a joke. We tell it when we are out in public, at an airport or a restaurant or concert, and I need to use the bathroom. When I stand up to find a restroom I say to her, “Okay, honey, if I’m not out in five minutes, come look for me.” We always laugh but, actually, it’s not that funny. 
April 27, 2016
John’s Gospel message can be summed up in several different ways. For many, the heart of the Johannine message is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that any who believe in him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s a good one, and so is the very next one, “God did not send his son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”  There are also the seven “I am” statements in which Jesus not-so-subtly declares himself by the unspeakable name of God.
April 26, 2016