Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry

Date: June 23, 2019
Scriptures:  Isaiah 65:1-9 | Luke 8:26-39  

Prayer: Lord, save us on one side from our easy comfort – and on the other from any liberal guilt – that we might be aware and assume our share of responsibility of the dirty laundry piled high in the basement of our society.  That, in that awareness, we may discover your grace. And in your grace, discover your peace.  Amen.

My Ten Years at Bethesda Presbyterian

My Ten Years at Bethesda Presbyterian

Date: June 16, 2019 — Trinity Sunday
Scriptures:  Romans 5:1-5  

“Where my life was broken and healed is the greatest gift I can give anybody.”

These are the words of an old friend of mine named Tom. At the age of 24, in an alcoholic blackout, Tom ran over and killed two young people. In the 50 years since, he became the first ex-con hired by the state of North Carolina to serve in corrections – rising to the top to design programs for rehabilitating youthful offenders like he was. Tom has grown in sobriety for over 50 years into a man of admirable and astonishing wisdom.

The One and The Many

The One and The Many

Date: June 9, 2019 — Day of Pentecost
Scriptures:  Genesis 11:1-9  |  The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-12

For twenty centuries – in all places and spaces – the Christian Church in its life and ministry has struggled with the dilemma of The One and The Many. How to situate our one good news story of Christ that the kin-dom of God is near, in the midst of the many cultural situations we have found ourselves.

 The Tower of Babel story today presents us I believe with one response to this One and the Many dilemma – our 20th century response. The Pentecost story, on the other hand, presents us with a vision more compatible with being church in this 21st century.

Goings and Comings

Goings and Comings

5/26/19: Easter 6
Scriptures: Acts of the Apostles 16:9-15 … John 14:25-29

I would like to begin my message this Memorial Day weekend by honoring the legacy of someone who returned safely from war and knew so many who did not.

His parents allowed him to leave high school to enlist for military duty in World War II – and his formal education ended there. And yet Melvin “Red” Allen, a parishioner in my first pastoral call in rural Oklahoma, possessed a perspicacity for our English language far beyond his knowing what perspicacity means. (It means perceptiveness, by the way.)

One day, while we were fording a swollen stream in his pickup truck, I commiserated with Red how difficult it must be to go back and forth over this brook in wet weather.

Red stroked his chin. “Wellll,” he said, “I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to go back and forth across it. I would say it’s difficult to go forth and back.”

“Forth and back?”

From Temple to Tribe

From Temple to Tribe

5/19/19: Easter 5
Scripture : The Acts of the Apostles 11:1-18

If our church were to disappear tomorrow … what would our wider community be missing?

An important question. An essential question. And not a question we might think to ask ourselves.

As you know, following Worship today, we are holding a capital campaign information lunch downstairs in our Fellowship Hall: catered – a taco bar, of sorts! All are welcomed to join us – members and friends alike – free will donations.  

It’s our first capital campaign in two decades. And our Session along with our capital campaign leaders – Joan Kloepfer, Paul Dudek, and Brooke Christian – are excited to unveil what this one is all about.

Be Still, Waters

Be Still, Waters

In honor of the Baptism of Cali Christian
5/12/19: Homily
Scriptures: Psalm 23 | Mark 1:4-11

This is the first Mother’s Day without my own mother. Later today, I will be driving down to Richmond to be with my brother and place flowers at her grave.

When I was just a bit older than Cali, it was my mother who taught me two scriptures to say by memory: Psalm 100 … and Psalm 23. Both of them in the beautiful and inimitable Elizabethan language I just used for Psalm 23.

I tried to pass along that tradition and get my son, Andrew, to memorize Psalm 23 when he was little. I regret that I was not as perseverant with him as my mother was with me. We got as far as the third line: “He leadeth me beside the still waters” – which Andrew could never seem to get. He would always look at me with his big eyes and say, “And be still, waters.”

A Forward-Looking Faith

A Forward-Looking Faith

5/5/19: Easter 3
Scripture:  John 21:1-19

Central Idea: Events good and bad happen. They just happen. Resurrected living translates into a forward-looking faith – superseding our search for meaning at every turn.

Prayer: In the words of the Psalmist today, O God of resurrection, you turn mourning into dancing. You take off our sackcloth and clothe us with joy.

And in so doing, the lion of another winter finds a warming and welcoming lair in the fierce lamb of resurrection and spring. 

And so, as we enjoy … let us, this day, be enjoined by you. And so, as you stand beside us … let us, this day, stand beside you: wherever you may appear.

Welcome Home, Thomas: The Power to Forgive

Welcome Home, Thomas: The Power to Forgive

4/28/19: Easter 2
Scripture: John 20:19-28

It was the first Easter Sunday. Trouble was: the disciples did not know it yet to be.

“The doors of the house,” we are told, “were locked for fear.”

Quite understandable, this fear. Fear of being discovered, arrested, crucified even – for aiding and abetting a political traitor. Crucifixion was reserved for the treasonous, you know. Traitors to the violent ways of the Roman Empire, and the ethnic leaders – here, their Jewish leaders – coopted by that empire. Traitors, like this so-called “Prince of Peace” – this latest “Messiah”. And they had aided and abetted Jesus’ act of treason.

The doors were locked out of fear for their oppressors. But of course.

Pardon the pun: but guess who’s coming to sinners? One moment: doors locked. Next moment: “Jesus came and stood among them”. Resurrected, in all his transformed glory, our imperial traitor commits yet another crime: breaking and entering. Picking the lock on the doors of his disciples’ hearts. Freeing them from their spiritual prisons – by showing them his wounds, as if to say: I have compassion for yours. Saying to them, twice: “Peace be with you!”