A Psalm for Piles of Leaves

I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." (Psalm 16:1)

Each change of the seasons brings tasks that can ground our humility. We root ourselves in simple thankfulness. It wearisome to rake and rake, and to hear the wind wail at night, knowing it is replenishing the yard with leaves from the neighbor's trees. But, my soul is grateful to be living in this time and place. I say to the creator God, who designed my neighbor's maple trees to be so prodigious, "you are my God." 

Sunday, November 18, 2018
Pentecost 26

To Do Lists

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

We all think it is important to do important things. Most of us can remember some big thing in our lives that took all of our attention and made us anxious for night after night. I have the first half of Psalm 127 memorized (Unless the Lord builds the house...). It dogs me in those periods of my life when I have such great plans that I bulldozer things to the edge of hubris.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Pentecost 25

All Saints Day in Pittsburgh

The people were gathered for a child's naming ceremony at the Tree of Life. The Torah lessons for the season spoke of Abraham and Sarah's immigration into a new land, and on the responsibility thrust upon them by the children born to them in their old age. In this segment of our shared tradition, Christians, Moslems, and Jews are reminded of our collective responsibility to teach, listen, and learn. For the sake of the child, and our own salvation, we vow together to engage in lifelong learning, religious reflection, and the development of our emotional intelligence. Good religious leaders encourage dialogue and the cultivation of emotional intelligence. Saints are people with empathy.

In Mr Roger's Neighborhood

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Pittsburghers are prone to think that Jesus borrowed the words, "Love your neighbor as yourself," from Mr. Rogers. There is evidence, though, that Jesus actually heard this grouping of God's two greatest commandments from the respected rabbis of his time. It should also be noted that "Love your neighbor" can be found in every one of the world's great religions. The Buddha taught compassion, and Mohammed affirmed that his revelation rested upon the Jewish prophets and God's call to Abraham to follow the one God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Sunday, November 4, 2018
Pentecost 24
All Saints Sunday

Why Bartimaeus Matters

Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside

Important people often suffer from a disease. The important ends that they are engaged in, steals the meaningfulness of the moments along the way. They write a check to a charity. They don't stop to meet the people they are helping.

Sunday, October 28, 2018
Pentecost 23

Plays for Your Church

I am offering at cost, two Lenten plays for use in your church. One is a full-length Passion Play "I Believe" and the other is a short chancel drama suitable for worship or Holy Thursday, titled: "Judas Returns to the Upper Room."

Play takes place in and near Jerusalem during Holy Week

When Ambition becomes Sinful

[James and John] said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."

We expect Jesus’ business to be organized the same as our businesses here on earth. Our organizations are structured to be pyramids, you have one person at the top (call them king, or president, or Jesus), then you have the two below them (call them princes, Ivanka and Jared, or James and John). The pyramid then spreads out and so how high an ambitious person goes depends upon how willing they are to shove the rest of us down a few levels. So, when the other disciples complain about James and John, we know just how they feel.

Sunday, October 21, 2018
Pentecost 22

A Psalm for the Fall

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Psalm 90 is both good and bad news. The good news is that God is in this human redemption business for the long haul. All of human existence is but a moment to him. Like Martin Luther King, God knows where the arc of moral history is going. It is not a long arc to him. God knows that it bends toward justice. But it will take forever in human terms. And yes, the bad news is that God knows that your life, and mine, on this planet will be over in a blink. We won't live to see what we hope for become a reality.

Sunday, October 14, 2018
Pentecost 21
Fall Season

Maya Angelou Poem for Transition

"On the Pulse of Morning" was written for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. It cautioned the new leader to think first about the long view of history.

What makes a marriage?

[People asked Jesus] "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

Many people are troubled by the passage where Jesus speaks about marriage and divorce. It is important to note, however that Jesus’s words are directly followed by verses that demonstrate Jesus’s concern for the needs of children. I would argue that Jesus is not laying down a law prohibiting divorce, but rather expressing, as he does in all of his teachings, the demands that living a compassionate life places on each of us. As we go through life, we form relationships that involve promises. In marriage, we promise mutual aide, "in sickness and in health."

Sunday, October 7, 2018
Pentecost 20

Bending Toward Justice

the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul, and making wise the simple

The only way that the law of the LORD can be perfect, reviving the soul, and making wise the simple, is if that law is dynamic and constantly developing. There is a heresy afoot in the church today that closes the door on God’s ongoing revelation, that is, denies that God is speaking through modern figures such as Martin Luther King, while dismissing the moaning of the God’s creation as it speaks about climate change. Some of the these heretics have diminished the diversity of God’s word down to some dusty fundamentals and a few ancient rules.

Sunday, September 30, 2018
Pentecost 19

Me Too and Proverbs 31

“A capable wife, who can find?”

The thing I find most difficult about Proverbs 31:10-31 is its emphasis upon what the woman in question does. We are not human doings. We are human beings. It’s not our accomplishments that need praised, it’s our growth as compassionate people. The whole of Proverbs, as well as, much of the Bible’s wisdom literature, makes this point clear. How do we come to fear the Lord? We each permit ourselves to go on a spiritual quest for wisdom.

Sunday, September 23, 2018
Pentecost 18

God Speaks in Triplicate

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Back in the old days of typewriters and carbon paper, the most dreaded words heard by secretaries was, “I want that in triplicate.” Whatever the form or memo, it had to be important if it needed three copies. The process involved carefully aligning three sheets of 24 lb bond paper and two finicky carbon backed tissue in your Remington and striking each letter as hard as you could and spelling the every word perfectly, because corrections were impossible. Psalm 19 says that the creator God, speaks to us in triplicate.

Sunday, September 16, 2018
Pentecost 17

A Long Ways from Jesus

Do you believe that the poor actually have been chosen by God to be rich in faith?

When I read James, I find myself reconsidering the radical statement that some Liberation Theologians make, that being poor is a prerequisite for understanding Jesus. Throughout the Bible we hear an oft repeated warning, friendship with wealth never ends well. Those who have been born with it, need to flee into the wilderness — do a Saint Francis of Assisi style run — to be purged of its effect. Those who have earned it, must cauterize all thoughts that they are somehow better people because they played life’s game to achieve this sordid end.

Sunday, September 9, 2018
Pentecost 18

Chasing Unicorns on Labor Day

[Real religion is] to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep neself from being polluted by the world.”

There was a time, I’m old enough to remember, when religious people had 84 reasons to believe the world was going to end in 1984. Then there was a time, not long after that, when many churches, my own included, stockpiled batteries, bottled water, and baby diapers, because they were convinced that Y2K would make such things valuable. There was a time when almost every Christian woman I knew, wore a little angel on their shoulder (for protection or advice, I never found out). Unicorn chasing would be in the Christian Olympics, if we ever decided to have our own, because we think the Greek one has too many pagan symbols. Such malarky gives religion a bad name.

Jesus’s brother James is blunt, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

When I was younger, I was taught by well meaning religious people that the “stain of the world” was drugs, sex, and rock&roll. Now that I am mature enough to recognize such teaching as malarky, I see that the stain of the world is populism, greed, and whatever is considered “truth” on cable news.

James is the most practical of the New Testament books, and may give us the clearest view of Jesus’s day to day teaching. James devotes the second chapter of his little book rebuking Christians for bringing the world’s love of the rich, famous, and powerful, into the church. There was in his day a moral majority that thought being poor was a sin. There is today, a majority in many churches who are content to ignore people of color and their concerns about our society. Churches by their silence, paint themselves with the stain of the world that is racism.

Sunday, September 2, 2018
Pentecost 15

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