A Homily for Sunday, Aug. 2 – This is a Desolate Place

Texts: Matthew 14:13-21; Psalm 17:1-7, 15

I want to begin with a few lines from Psalm 17. The psalms have a prime place in our worship and spiritual practice. They did for Jesus also. He probably heard his mother sing them when he was very young. Psalm 17 is a prayer.

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;

    give ear to my prayer . . .

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;

    incline your ear to me, hear my words.

Wondrously show your steadfast love,

    O savior of those who seek refuge . . . Continue reading “A Homily for Sunday, Aug. 2 – This is a Desolate Place”

Some Thoughts on Proselytizing

Should Christians still share their faith with those who don’t believe? I understand that in many contexts the answer to that question is obvious . . . though what is ‘obvious’ in one situation is exactly the opposite of what is ‘obvious’ in another. I get asked for my take on this issue periodically. I don’t think I’m asked because my opinion carries any special weight. I think I’m asked because people assume I’m conflicted about the issue. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Proselytizing”

Homily for Sunday, July 26 – Of Fungi and the Kingdom

Texts: Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a rock star biologist, but if there is then E.O. Wilson is one. Wilson is retired now. He’s hook-nosed and in his 90s. But he remains one of the world’s leading experts on ants. Wilson spent his career teaching biology at Harvard, doing field research, writing books, and winning a slew of awards. E.O. (or Ed) Wilson is a fierce advocate for protecting and mapping the full diversity of life on earth. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 26 – Of Fungi and the Kingdom”

Homily for Sunday, July 12 – The Pressure Sparrows Feel

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Creator God, in the loveliness and intricacy of your world may we see the beauty of your infinity.  

Canadian birds have recently made an appearance in the New York Times (and the Smithsonian Magazine, the CBC News, ABC News, Popular Science, NPR and even the Technology Times of Pakistan). All of these news outlets have recently run stories about Canadian birds, specifically, about the white-throated sparrow.

In the New York Times Cara Giaimo tells the story this way: several years ago two ecologists were together in some forest in western Canada. One was Scott Ramsay from Wilfred Laurier University. The other was Ken Otter from the University of Northern British Columbia. Scott, the fellow from Ontario, noticed something strange. The birds were singing something weird. His ear had caught the song of the sparrow. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 12 – The Pressure Sparrows Feel”

Christianity and Conspiracy Theories

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they often have some element of truth, if not an element of factual truth, then a story that bears some resemblance to the structure of things. The other problem with conspiracy theories is that what counts as a conspiracy theory depends on where one stands. Certain liberals see the world controlled by international corporations. Certain conservatives see the world controlled by shadow states. Certain religious folks see the devil’s behind everything. Some of each see the end of the world as we know it just around the corner. Each sees their understanding as the one based in the facts, based in reality. Each labels the other view a conspiracy theory, a mental creation spawned from wishful thinking and bad movies. Continue reading “Christianity and Conspiracy Theories”

Homily for Sunday, July 5 – Bounding over the Hills

Texts: Song of Solomon 2:8-17; Matt. 11:28-30

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes, leaping over the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Whenever I hear lines from the Song of Solomon I remember how a woman at a church I once attended would read them. She would pretend to swoon and would fan her face. I always believed she meant it as a joke. Texts like these read in church can make us shifty. But I also thought her little bit of acting did a good job highlighting how this part of scripture cuts through our moldy piety.

Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 5 – Bounding over the Hills”

When We Do Not Have a Right to Pray

Imagine someone about to go skydiving. This person has a choice between two parachutes, one is in good shape and has been well-maintained. The other has recently been found under a pile of junk outside the hanger. It’s been bleached by the sun and chewed by mice. Some of the seams are pulling apart. Imagine that the skydiver chooses the old tattered parachute, even though the other one is right there, unused. The choice is politically motivated. “Only ‘other’ people use well-maintained parachutes,” he thinks. “And I’ve got God on my side. I’ll pray this old things holds up. I’ll even pray in a renewed way.” Continue reading “When We Do Not Have a Right to Pray”

Homily for June 28 – The Fire and the Wood

Texts for June 28: Genesis 22:1-14 (Ps. 13)

God tells Abraham to offer his son “as a burnt offering.” If you sit with that command for any length of time, if you allow your mind to move past the trite images that come with familiarity, it begins to feel like the plot of a horror movie. Continue reading “Homily for June 28 – The Fire and the Wood”

Enlivening Faith – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in New York

I’ve been thinking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer again these past weeks. There’s something about his life story that continually intrigues me. Maybe it’s the sharpness of his rejection of a vapid cultural Christianity or maybe it’s the incisiveness of his political critique—I’m not entirely sure. Whatever it is, it’s caused me to pick up a book that’s been on my shelf for a while, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen’s biography. I’ve read sections of this biography before, the ones most relevant to the book I coauthored on Bonhoeffer’s ethics. There are a few parts, however, that I haven’t read closely. I’ve been enjoying those. One of the things that’s stands out about Bonhoeffer’s faith is the decisive turn it took during his time in New York City. Continue reading “Enlivening Faith – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in New York”

Homily for Sunday, June 21 – “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword.”

Texts for June 21, Psalm 86: 1-13; Matthew 10:24-39

“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth.” Many have repeated that line, but far fewer have meant it.

In 1935 an American religious leader named Howard Thurman led a “friendship delegation” to India and British Ceylon, what is now Sri Lanka. Thurman would have been 36 at the time. One day, after giving a talk at a law college, he was invited by the principal to have coffee. The two men drank their coffee in silence until the principal asked a question. He asked what Thurman was doing there. The principal knew the intention of the friendship delegation, but what he didn’t know was why Howard Thurman, a black man, would come there as a Christian. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, June 21 – “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword.””