Showing posts from June, 2018

The Power of Grace (Grace Encountered, Part 2)

(For Part 1 of the "Grace Encountered" series, go here . For Part 3, go here ). Ephesians 3:14-4:6, 4:25-5:2 (Luke 15:11-32) Twenty years ago I went with some seminary classmates to a Benedictine monastery in Southern CA. We were having lunch at long tables, in the dining room with the brothers. There was one monk, a very old, Chinese man, who came around with a water pitcher that his shaking arms could barely hold.  He watched for emptying glasses and silently filled them.  I wondered why this oldest of the brothers, (and the only monk in the room who was an ethnic minority), this man who seemed frail and unsteady, was the one serving the others.   My professor noticed me watching him. She leaned over and told me this story: This monastery was in fact founded in 1929 in China by an Abbey in Belgium.  They soon established an Institute for Western and Oriental Cultural Studies, which housed an impressive 10,000 volume library. On Christmas Day 1949 the Commun

The sermon before the sermon: remembering what's true

Sunday, June 17 Children are being taken from their parents at the borders of our country.  They have been ever since the beginning of April.  It's excruciating to contemplate, abhorrent and terrible. When something terrible happens in the world, or something terrible that has been happening suddenly comes onto our collective radar and we all start paying attention to it, it demands that we don’t turn away.  Because of technology, and social media especially, we are now connected to everything everywhere; we know it all and can feel it all in any moment.  And because  that  is impossible and would crush us, the collective gaze often turns like a brief and powerful laser on one thing at a time. It’s often, (not always, but often), something important and worth paying attention to.  It is often something that brings great despair and sadness. But we are bad at bearing great despair and sadness, so we try to fix it by focusing on it harder, talking about it more. We pass a

The Heart of a Father

A blessing for Father’s Day The heart of a father who loves his children, who pours into them wisdom and knowledge, and teaches them skills,  and gives them experiences, and watches them sleep in the night, their faces pressed against their pillows, dreams flitting across their faces, and prays, for their tender hearts, and their wide open futures, and the pain that will pierce them, and the joy that will buoy them… the heart of a father that breaks in pieces with his child’s suffering, and breaks wide open with his child’s delight, that beats in time with their steps, and when danger threatens, ceases to beat altogether… the heart of a father  that swells with his children’s accomplishments, and shrinks with their humiliation, that finds itself utterly linked to their hearts, mysterious, holy, and maddening… the heart of a father  that never before knew such worry, or wonder, or waiting, that would give his beloved c

God's First Name (Grace Encountered, Part 1)

Prodigal Son, by Kristi Valiant, used with permission Romans 5:1-5 Luke 15:11-32 Today we are kicking off a year on Grace, immersing ourselves in stories of grace, to try to understand it from the inside and live in it more readily.    It’s important to say right off the bat, that there is no way to talk about grace as information. That is like trying to talk about love as a thing, apart from a relationship that holds and expresses it. Love is not a concept or commodity, it is a mother tending a sick child, a brother celebrating his sister’s accomplishment with a life-long inside joke, a husband gently washing his dying wife’s tired limbs, two lovers gazing into each other’s eyes and feeling the depths of their beloved’s soul.   When you are inside of love, you are completely oriented toward another, and simultaneously completely yourself, and also completely connected with something transcendent and beyond. Grace is like this. It can’t be taught or grasped, i