What Makes God Angry

John 2:13-22

It was difficult for me to write a sermon this week. My heart was in Pennsylvania, with Theresa (our former Parish Associate and beloved friend), who is facing down a lot of pain and anger that arose when hurtful parts of her past were dug up and spread around. 
I flew there Monday night to be with her Tuesday, as she faced the seminary community where she is president, and did the most courageous and vulnerable thing I have ever seen a leader do. She shared her very self with them by telling them her story – the parts that felt personal and fragile, the parts that have been misunderstood and misused, the parts that she regrets that have caused pain to others, and the parts that have made her a little bit more who she most longs to be.
And I saw briefly, a glimpse of what it looks like to belong so fully to God and to yourself that you can belong completely to others and invite others into their own belonging.I felt a bubble of hope rise within me for that community, that th…

To be made of dust and water

Mark 1:9-15
One Wednesday night in cold February, 2008, I stood in line holding my nearly six month old son on my hip as he sucked his little fist and clung to me with his other arm.   In front of me was a dear 99 year old woman. I watched the pastor smear ashes on her soft, wrinkled forehead and say, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.”  I felt my heart rise to my throat and the tears come to my eyes as I witnessed this and thought, not long now. The pastor’s words felt very true as I watched this woman slowly turn to walk away, leaning heavily on her cane. The truth of our mortality, I thought, right before my eyes. But I snapped back to attention when the next thing I knew, the pastor was pressing her ash-covered finger to my baby’s own soft, tiny forehead and saying the very same words to him, from dust you came and to dust you shall return. Then the tears did come. I didn’t want what was true for the old woman with a long, full life behind her and one foot in the grave…

A Way to Pray: 40 Days Towards Love

A year ago, I was preaching at Collins Street Baptist Church in Melbourne, Australia, just after the US Presidential Inauguration.  Before I got up to speak, I looked out into a congregation of faces filled with empathy, and was asked this earnest question: 

"America is facing a time of great uncertainty with a change of leadership. There are many rejoicing and may grieving at the change. How can we best pray for you and people like you seeking to live the gospel in these times?" And then these people on the other side of the globe committed to praying for my congregation throughout the year.  I was so moved by their care and their prayer that I was inspired to begin a weekly service of Prayer for the Nation.
These services took shape around a practice with 80+ Prayer Hearts, all bearing names of different people, groups or realities in our country. Every Friday morning, I sit with one or two others, and we hold a few of these hearts in our hands and feel our own hearts open to…

Time to Celebrate: Vulnerability & Ministry

(aka, LNPC State of the Union)
Mark 1:29-39
Nine years ago on Pentecost Sunday, we pulled out a big piece of chart paper in worship, and we asked ourselves a question together, that it was a new one for us.  The question led to a kind of a counting exercise.   In a world of measuring and comparing, churches have felt compelled to calculate how successful they are by what some call, “butts and bucks,” that is, they count butts in the pews and bucks in the bank.If their attendance is climbing and their financials look good, then they must be doing well. But Church isn’t a business we are building and it isn’t somewhere we go. It’s who we are. So on that day nine years ago we asked ourselves a different question, How are we being church?and we started counting people. We began by counting the obvious – butts in the pews.Then we thought of some of the groups that used our space and counted them. We branched out and counted the Meals on Wheels volunteers and the people they delivered food t…