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A Plea For Tuesday


Tuesday, Gracious God, a day of second chances, unraveling what Monday brought, dispatching messages to any whom we may have offended, awakening to the week ahead, we plead with you to grant us such courage that we would fulfill Tuesday’s gift to us. We begin again.

For those who reside too long in shadows of grief and sadness, have mercy.  For those for whom life has become bitter or tasteless, have mercy.  Salt us with your salt.  Replace our shriveled hearts with joyful and vibrant hearts, released from burdens and into the world you love.  Light of light, enlighten us.

Our leaders oppress us, Prince of Peace.  They wring our pitiless lives of power, heap shame upon those they hate, destroy comity and exploit distrust for their own greed and power.  Help us not to become like them.  Instead, through faith, hope and love transform us and if you would on this second day of the week, we plead, provide us a glimpse of your Kingdom so that seeing its shoreline, we might sail our lives resolutely to its border.

For the earth and all who inhabit it, animals as well as human beings, we plead that they  find green pastures and still waters of restoration today.  In the name of all who suffer and  by your beautiful and holy name we offer our prayers and pleadings.  Amen.


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A Prayer on Monday


For the earth that is round or seems to be and goes round and around so that its rotation is somehow synced to my life in ways that defy complete comprehension but this I do know, that seasons come and go and my life is lived out in days whose completion is the setting of the sun and whose beginning is the rising of the sun—so for these mysteries of interconnection and for life, I give thanks.

For my body and five senses though these are gifts that betray me in the course of a day and a week, I give thanks, Lord God.  When I can stand on my two feet and walk, when I can eat from the fruit of the earth and its harvest, when I can feel the healing power of hot water on my face or on my aching and arthritic shoulders, as light enters my eyes and images of the earth are conveyed to my mind via light, I am deeply grateful.

For my mind that is a mysterious gift that defies reductionist science, that cannot be reduced to an analogy with computers, that allows me to critically engage the world around me and most mysteriously, like a three paneled mirror allows me to step out (ex-ist) of my being and behold myself, I give thanks.  For minds that communicate with me from centuries and even millennia ago through scriptures and books and now through media of all kinds and above all, Holy One, for this mind that allows me to speak and hear your Mind.  Selah.

On this Monday when the wicked swarm the earth and the politicians in high places prepare to cut the cords of covenantal obligations to our fellow citizens thus ratcheting even tighter the barbed springs of suffering, O Just God, empower your people to heal the world and cause princes of terror to stumble so that peace and justice might anoint the low, the humble and the outcast.  Have mercy on us, Lord Christ, Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, Child of Mary and Joseph, Light of the world.  Have mercy. Amen +


GENDERCIDE. MISOGYNISTS. AND FAITH.


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In 2009,  I preached a sermon entitled, Gendercide.  I preached it again in 2014.  Ironically, I preached that sermon both times in November.  Now in November 2017, I want to make the manuscript of it available to you.

The harassment, violation and even destruction of girls and women continues unabated in our world.  In the United States, it is winked at and even celebrated from the football field to the White House. We now have officials in Alabama using Jesus and his parents as an excuse for molestation.  But Christian fundamentalists are not the only problem. There are atheist comedians who are as bad or worse.  I leave you with this first sentence of my sermon, Gendercide:

Jesus counter-acted the obliteration of women.

I hope you will take the time to read it, share it and then on Sunday,  join us in worship where we believe in the equality and power of women; women serve in our church as deacons, ministers, teachers and trustees. We remember that it was a woman to whom the Resurrected Christ first appeared and trusted with the mystery of his victory over death and obliteration.   ~See you Sunday


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Blood Money and the NRA


First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

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Another mass shooting in America.  The time to talk is now.  The time for action to remove assault rifles off of our streets is now.  Men, women, children in a church–slaughtered by an alienated male (and let us not feign offense, most of these assaults are carried out by males.  We need to talk about anger management with boys, starting in elementary school).  Enough of the NRA lies and misleading, ideological nonsense.  Guns really do kill people and assault weapons make a lone gunman an army of one.  Christians, stop giving your money to the NRA and ask your congressperson to stop taking it.  It is blood money.


The Counter-Cultural Power of Covenant Community


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Once upon a time, way back in the 1970s, I worked in a warehouse.  It was a non-union shop in Florida, low wages, hard work and people pretty much stuck.  I was between college and seminary.  It did not take long to see the patterns of these laborers. They worked strictly by the clock.  They had to clock in on time and they definitely wanted to clock out on time.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.  And you know what comes on Friday: TGIF.

People did and do work for the week-end. I’m going to skip over the long battles in this country for worker’s rights and how so many today take for granted that they get a week-end or work a 40 hour week instead of seven days, sun-up to sun-down.  This pattern is what I am focused on, how living for the week-end is ingrained in people’s lives. People are always looking to get across the finish line on Friday and begin the week-end. And then they push their stone back up the hill again starting Monday.

There is another pattern available to us. There is a way to break through the maze of work and and mindless binges in a haze of drugs, drinking or shopping.  That pattern  is called keeping the Sabbath. Whether or not you strictly adhere to the biblical notion of Sabbath beginning on sunset Friday to sunset Saturday or you simply block Sunday out and make time for worship, doing so provides remarkable gifts.  I’ll list a few (there are many more!):

*You are not working but resting and acknowledging the Creator who also sustains the world. And you are remembering this God who is Holy and Just expects us to live holy and just lives, so in that regard, you participate in a primal counter-cultural protest and are liberated into a joyful and satisfying life.

*You are being reminded that you cannot do it all and are not expected to save the world and all of its problems. What you are required to do is walk justly and act mercifully and do your best to alleviate some small amount of suffering in your corner of the universe (I’m paraphrasing Albert Schweitzer with that last phrase).

*You are creating a covenant with others to care for one another and our world. What results from this –week in and week out– is communal discourse or community.  This is one of the greatest antidotes to not only loneliness but our struggle with our own identity.  When you lose yourself inside a covenantal community you end up gaining your life and an identity that can sustain you when you enter back into the work-a-day world.

Many of us are struggling in this madness of an administration that seems hell bent on turning its back on middle America, poor Americans, sick Americans, aging Americans.  I really do believe that the way to peace is peace, the way to justice is justice. Introduce a new pattern or revive the pattern of Sabbath rest in your life.  Find a communal discourse and live at the center of it.

~See you Sunday.


500th Anniversary of the Reformation


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500 years ago,  an Augustinian monk and priest named Martin Luther ignited the Reformation with his 95 theses.  There have been, of course, a lot of events worldwide and locally to ponder this moment.  It really is difficult to exaggerate the importance of that moment in history.  I read a piece somewhere last week that quibbled over whether or not he had actually nailed these to the door at his Wittenberg church.  He could have sung them out the window for all I care.  He stood in front of a moving tank, that is what he did.

He was not the first reformer, of course.  Jan Huss of Prague met a fiery end for his efforts a century before Luther.  And certainly the mendicant orders, such as the one started by a man named Francis, were aimed at reforming the Church.  But Luther succeeded in ways these others had not. There are lots of reasons for that and a simple blog post cannot do such a discussion justice.

I traveled to Wittenberg more than ten years ago.  I ambled through the house run by Martin’s wife, Katharine von Bora; through Melanchton’s garden; and into the Castle Church where I lit a candle.  This  was and is the epicenter of the Reformation and perhaps modernity, if by modernity we mean the assertion of one’s conscience over the demands of the State or ecclesiastical authority.  With his emphasis upon justification by faith over a works theology; with his attack on corrupt popes and councils and in their place “the cradle of Christ,”  the Bible, and his emphasis upon the priesthood of believers, I could not help but be moved by being in that town where the drama of the Reformation unfolded.

There are, of course, unfortunate and terrible things about Luther.  His anti-Jewish rhetoric, his siding with the State against the peasants and his reluctance to forge a way with Zwingli were grave errors.  We should be aware of these shortcomings and as with any person of such a magnitude, be careful of idolizing him.

If you read the Bible in your own language and not Latin; if you believe you should be able to receive both the cup and the bread of the eucharist; if you believe in the priesthood of believers and by all means, if you rely on the grace of God in Christ and not a works theology, then you should celebrate this moment in history.  And if you are not religious but believe in the sanctity of one’s conscience and the critical engagement of one’s intellect with things religious then this moment also offers you something to celebrate.  The fact is, Luther would not have countenanced Baptists and I am a Baptist clergyperson whose movement emerged on the radical edge of the Reformation in the 17th century.  Still, he is the great Reformer and I walk my spiritual journey along his mile markers:

Sola scriptura  By scripture alone

Sola fide  By faith alone

Sola gratia  By grace alone

Sola Christus  Through Christ alone

Soli Deo gloria. To God alone the Glory. 

If you are so inclined, here is a link to the 95 theses of Dr Martin Luther.  And if you are so inclined, worship in our Protestant assembly held in Jefferson Middle School on Sundays at 10 a.m.  We practice a radical table fellowship that invites everyone to the Table of our Lord, denying no one access to his grace. Such worship is a protest and a counter-sign to a culture in love with death, bereft of any reasonable notion of truth.

~See you Sunday