I’m working from home today. Not long ago the doorbell rang. A delivery man handed me a box. An initial shake gave me the impression it contained books. Occasionally I do receive books that I forgot ordering, but not usually this many. It turns out this box of books was different: inside were several copies of my new book, Speaking of God. I wasn’t expecting these for several more weeks. In honor of the early arrival of the blue books I’m posting an excerpt from chapter 14, which is titled “They were all Together in One Place: Connections.” It’s about ways that we connect with God. Continue reading “Prayer and the Lumberjack”
On my desk I have a sticky note with a few key words that guide my preaching. One of them is the word ‘meaning’. I think we’re all looking for meaning. We want our lives to mean something and we want to participate in something bigger than ourselves. We want to make a difference in something that really matters. Yet I think it’s increasingly uncommon for people to have this sense, this deep conviction that their lives mean something. This is one of the reasons that I’ve found myself drawn again to the theological concept of vocation. Continue reading “Vocation and the Economy of God”
Imagine an alien spaceship hovering over a city. Let’s say the aliens have an anthropological bent and start making observations. What intrigues them most is the city’s traffic. Initially it looks like chaos. The aliens are astounded by the fact that there aren’t more accidents. Not only do they observe many different kinds of vehicles, but they’re all going in many different directions, at different speeds, through intersections, making lane changes.
The alien anthropologists realize that there must be some logic or code behind it all. So they take a bunch of video and the run it through some powerful analytical tools. Pretty soon they’re looking at a printout of the rules of the road. They wouldn’t be entirely right, but they’d be close. They might misinterpret speed limits as minimums and yellow lights as invitations to zip through intersections, but for the most part they’d understand how things work.
Wouldn’t it be nice, we might think, if life were like that? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some underlying code that we could figure out? Continue reading “Is there anything we need more than wisdom?”
Earlier this month the lectionary assigned a reading from Revelation 5. The passage is an excerpt from John’s vision of a heavenly throne room. John sees the throne of God surrounded by twenty-four elders and four strange creatures. He sees a scroll, which no one can open. No one that is, until a lamb, one that had already been killed, steps forward and opens it. Then John sees the elders and the creatures all worship the lamb and the one on the throne. Continue reading “The Weekly Dose – Worship as Reorientation “
I’m am not an expert on children or parenting or teaching or mentoring—I claim no expertise in those fields. One thing I have noticed, though, is that just as soon as you feel like you have a kid figured out, they change. Last Sunday our congregation celebrated the arrival of two new little ones. As we usually do, we joined their families in celebration and then committed ourselves to supporting the parents and being decent examples for the children. The babies were champs. The only tears shed came from adults. Then the scripture reader read to us the passage assigned for worship on that Sunday. It was John 13:33-35. It is not explicitly a passage about the nurture of children. Continue reading “Babies, If, and Simple Instructions”
Preaching on Easter Sunday is hard. Expectations are high. Whenever there’s a trumpet involved in a worship service, the preacher is obligated to step up. But Preaching on Easter is also hard because it can feel dishonest. Or maybe not ‘dishonest’ exactly, but certainly ‘hollow’ or ‘one-sided’. Already, in the few days that have elapsed since Easter, I have spoken with a number of people who are suffering—who have been suffering for a long time. Some are in hospital beds, some have creaky knees, some have relationships that are strained to the breaking point. What does Easter mean in those situations? How do we speak about victory over death and evil, when there seems to be so little actual victory over death and evil? Continue reading “Easter—This Time with Honesty “
One of the most persistent questions I hear about the Christian faith relates to what we believe about the future—our future, the future of our communities, the future of the world. In the midst of our suffering and confusion, what are we hoping for? There was a time when responses to this question were dominated by the idea a spiritual future in “heaven.” This vision didn’t include our bodies and didn’t have much of anything positive to say about God’s beautiful creation. The concept of heaven is important to the scriptures, but not as the dominant picture of the future for which we hope. That spot belongs to “new creation” or “creation renewed.” II Corinthians 5 is one key passage here, as are Ephesians 1 and Revelation 21 & 22. The first chapter of Colossians is important too, as is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. What we anticipate is the renewal of the world God created. We believe that God’s peaceful economy will realized in the place we were designed to enjoy and keep. Continue reading “Thinking Big: What are Christians Hoping For?”
Several weeks ago I parked the car on the side of a rural road south of Ottawa. The snow had melted back to big banks thrown up by the plow. My sons and I scrambled up and over the snow. As we did, the oldest pointed to movement in the forest. A flock of turkeys, annoyed at our slamming of doors and crunching of snow, headed deeper into the tress. We followed their tracks hoping to see them again. We found nothing but a few stray feathers. Continue reading “Responding to the Turkey God”
In the middle of Luke chapter 9 we hear Jesus giving his followers some harsh news: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” He is telling them, and telling us, that we can’t save our lives by trying to save our lives. If we hold on too tightly, if you try to keep everything under control, we will lose our lives. The liveliness will be gone. We’ll squeeze out the vitality.
Then, a few verses later, Jesus says something really strange. He says that some of the people listening to him will see the “kingdom of God” before they die. Actually he says, they will see it before they “taste death.” They will “see” before they “taste.” It’s an interesting way to put it. Continue reading “To the Mountain, with Nobodies (190)”
One of the most persistent pieces of spiritual advice is to “trust in God.” Like so much of the spiritual life, what initially seems simple and direct, becomes more profound and more challenging as the years pass.
What does it mean to trust God when experience tells us that this does not mean our lives will unfold in the way we had hoped? What does it mean to trust God with loved-ones who we know will not escape suffering? Continue reading “What does it mean to trust God?”