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Quotations

On the Harm We Have Done

Here is a prayer from Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) that seems as timely as ever, and one we ought to be praying regularly, especially given the state of the church and its too often unfortunate behavior in American society and politics.

OUR Father, we look back on the years that are gone and shame and sorrow come upon us, for the harm we have done to others rises up in our memory to accuse us. Some we have seared with the fire of our lust, and some we have scorched by the heat of our anger. In some we helped to quench the glow of young ideals by our selfish pride and craft, and in some we have nipped the opening bloom of faith by the frost of our unbelief.

We might have followed thy blessed footsteps, O Christ, binding up the bruised hearts of our brothers and guiding the way ward passions of the young to firmer man hood. Instead, there are poor hearts now broken and darkened because they encountered us on the way, and some perhaps remember us only as the beginning of their misery or sin.

O God, we know that all our prayers can never bring back the past, and no tears can wash out the red marks with which we have scarred some life that stands before our memory with accusing eyes. Grant that at least a humble and pure life may grow out of our late contrition, that in the brief days still left to us we may comfort and heal where we have scorned and crushed. Change us by the power of thy saving grace from sources of evil into forces for good, that with all our strength we may fight the wrongs we have aided, and aid the right we have clogged. Grant us this boon, that for every harm we have done, we may do some brave act of salvation, and that for every soul that has stumbled or fallen through us, we may bring to thee some other weak or despairing one, whose strength has been renewed by our love, that so the face of thy Christ may smile upon us and the light within us may shine undimmed.

-Walter Rauschenbusch “For God and For the People.”

Categories
Sermons The Biblical

No! Yes and… (Matthew 3)

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“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13–17 NRSV)

NO!

Have you ever said no empathetically, because you believed that you were without a doubt right, only later to learn that saying no was going to be a big mistake?

I had a “No” like this that I said to God’s face once. When I was first called into ministry I flat out said to God, “No way, no how.” I felt kind of bad because of my attitude. [After all, my parents taught me to talk respectfully to my elders. If God wasn’t one of my elders, who was?]

So I back tracked a little and said,

“Okay God, I hear what you are saying. But here’s the thing, there is no way on earth that I would ever want to be a pastor — don’t you know I want to be a musician, an artist, a film-director, pretty much anything but a pastor. So here’s the deal. You are going to have to make me want to be a pastor, actually make me desire it and see how I fit with it. Because there’s no way on earth I’m doing something I don’t want to do like that.”

This was only a mildly better than my first response. That’s because I still felt strongly about holding down that “No!”

Categories
Sermons The Biblical

Presence Matters (Matthew 2)

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“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1–2 NRSV)

Alive Enough

One of the most interesting episodes from the radio program, On Being with Krista Tippet, I’ve ever listened to was titled, “Alive Enough: Reflecting on Our Relationship With Technology.” For the program, Tippet interviewed Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who has done research on the prolonged effects of technology in the practices of everyday life. Turkle’s book “Alone Together” is aptly titled and describes how we as a society are increasingly connecting with one another in ways that may look like we are together, but leave us experiencing deep loneliness.

In this particular episode, Sherry Turkle recalls a visit with her fourteen year old daughter, Rebecca, to to the “Darwin exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.” In this museum you come face to face with dinosaurs, and many other species of life that document in physical form the transformation of life over millions of years. This exhibit is a celebration of the beauty of all of life. And features many of Darwin’s insights and findings. At the entrance of the exhibit two giant tortoises from the Galápagos Islands. The location of many of Darwin’s now-famous discoveries.

Categories
Sermons The Biblical

On Quaker PR: Salt, Light and Transformation (Matthew 5:13-20)

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“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16 NRSV)

Do we have a PR Problem?

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone you are a Quaker or that you go to a Quaker meeting and get a bit of a blank stare? You watch as the wheels turn and then the person you’re speaking with says one of these things:

  • So you’re amish?
  • You mean like the guy on the Quaker oats container?
  • I have no idea what you’re talking about?
  • If you’re lucky, you might get a response like “Wow, I really like what I’ve read about Quakers.” Aren’t they the folks who were involved in the abolition movement and women’s suffrage?

I actually don’t mind any of these responses because they’re all something to start with, and usually the person I’m speaking with is interested enough to give me a minute or two to explain myself further. And with of all the brands we could be associated with, I suppose it could be a lot worse than oatmeal.

And as amazing as it is to have folks know that the Quakers are associated with great historical movements like abolition and women’s suffrage to name only a couple, that was more than 100 years ago.

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Blog Entries

Moving Through The Fog

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Movement by Rumi

If a tree could move from place to place,
It would escape the pain of the ax.
And if the sun and moon were set in stone,
how could they spread their light?
How bitter would the great Euphrates, Tigris, and
Oxus rivers become,
if they were stagnant as a lake?
If air is confined in a well, it turns foul:
see what loss is suffered from inertia.
But when the water of the ocean rose high
in the clouds,
it was delivered from bitterness and became fresh and
sweet.

As I look out the window today, I can’t help but notice the presence fog-thick sky resting upon the ground. Fog is a good metaphor for those places in life where we find ourselves uncertain, unclear, and just afraid to face the unknown. But the presence of Fog does not have to be seen negatively. It has a way of slowing us down, and if it’s thick enough it can even bring our wandering lives to a halt. Even here though, we can learn to move through it and break the inertia that fog often brings.

Categories
Sermons

The Beatitudes: Receiving and Giving Blessing (Matthew 5:1-12)

Happiness

I wanted to start off by saying something about happiness.

There’s been plenty of research done around what is happiness and how do we achieve it? In one recent study by Arthur Brooks he stated that scientists have proven that up to 48% of happiness has to do with genetics, 40% has to do with a “isolated events” like getting a dream job (but they unfortunately rather short-lived), leaving about 12% under our control in four key areas of life: faith, family, community and work.