What’s Behind that White/Black Hat?

One of the richest stories in all of Genesis is the Joseph story. Unfortunately, not much of it makes it into the lectionary. We basically get the beginning and the end. In between there are stories of imprisonment, interpreting dreams, false accusations of sexual impropriety, famines, desperation, more sexual impropriety, family drama, and the list goes on. This week, we just get the beginning.   Joseph himself ends up being an incredibly interesting character because he is not altogether good. In fact, at the beginning, it is pretty easy to see that he is basically a snotty little brat who probably deserves what’s coming to him. That being said though, he is also a character who clearly learns a lot and develops a lot before the end of the story. By the end he is able to utter some of the most graceful words in all of scripture (that is for next week).   What I think is so very

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Tradition Can Be Wrong

So, I have spent the better part of a week debating what scripture we would be doing this Sunday. I originally planned to go with the lectionary (Hagar and Ishmael), but I noticed there is this problem that the lectionary skips a story that has been foundational in some of our cultural arguments—Sodom and Gomorrah. You all know that I rarely shy away from a controversial passage like that, but one of the problems becomes the vast amount of territory that would need to be covered in a 15 minute sermon (ask the Wednesday night Bible study – we looked at it for an hour and didn’t get through all the material). So where does that leave us? I think we are going to look at Abraham’s conversation with God about Sodom, but not all the rest. So that means the epistle reflection this week will be the rest of it. Let’s talk about the 800 pound gorilla in the

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Meaningful Tension

One of my favorite Sundays of the church year is Palm/Passion Sunday. I tend to like it because there is a delicious tension that tends to connect well with the ways in which most of us live our lives. Most of you probably remember that as kids, this was just “Palm” Sunday. The shift happened some time ago, and whether it was for liturgical reasons, or because people were less likely to attend Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services, a change happened that led to Palm/Passion Sunday. For more on that, check out the article I linked in the meditation below. Now there is an emphasis not only on the palm parade and the children shouting Hosana, but also the march to Calvary and Christ’s suffering and death. Let’s talk about why this is so important and why it is a good change. I know, many of you don’t like facing the dark and nasty stuff. I have heard the

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Breathing Underwater

This week, our Lenten focus is the Gift of Difficult People, or as Yaconelli entitled his chapter “Idiots.” Our symbol to go along with this week is one of the great symbols of grace (to deal with said idiots): the dove.   About two months ago, as we were planning out the chapters, the symbols and the weeks of Lent, for some reason, when thinking about difficult people and which scriptures would work, the story of Nicodemus came to mind. Many people like to make Nicodemus into this heroic Pharisee who bucks the trend and comes to follow Jesus. Call me cynical, but I just don’t see him in that kind of positive light. A few clues give this away: First, he comes to Jesus in the middle of the night—not exactly a heroic kind of move to hide in the dark; second, Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ opening pleasantries is to basically tell him that he is blind to the

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Fish Vomit

So this week we are talking about Darkness and we are talking about the symbols of the wheel and the fish (if you are unfamiliar with the wheel symbol, you will just have to come to worship on Sunday to find out what I am talking about). When Sarah Kotchian and I were planning this, and were thinking about what Scriptures speak to darkness, the idea of Jonah being stuck in the belly of the fish was somehow where our minds wandered.   Needless to say, it didn’t take much convincing for me to get on board because Jonah is my favorite book of the bible. I love the message in Jonah, and more importantly, I love the way that the message is conveyed. Jonah uses humor and satire to poke fun at us religious folk, who far too often take ourselves too seriously.   Let’s start with a quick discussion on a very important key to understanding Jonah—the fish!

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Holy Troublemakers

It is hard to imagine, that I have been writing this blog for three years now. This Sunday I happen to be preaching on the beatitudes, and being that they were the inspiration for the name of this blog and the image off to the left, it seemed fitting to revive the original post (with a few updates) to remind the readers what this is all about. Enjoy! It all started about 6 years ago. [cue flashback sequence]. Since the Presbytery youth retreat happened to fall on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it seemed only logical at the time to run with Dr. Seuss books as our theme. We looked at the Beatitudes through the different lenses of Seuss’ writings and discovered some wonderful meaning. What was especially helpful was The Message version of the Beatitudes and its wonderful ending, “…my prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” Seemed to be the perfect fit, especially given Seussian characters

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Happy Holidays!

This week our story dwells on the Magi. Now, I know that the tradition of the church has the Magi show up after the birth, but let’s face it, I am always on vacation the week after Christmas and never get to spend time on the Magi. So here we are. I think the tale of the Magi is really important, and has something surprising to teach us. Notice, that I don’t use the name wisemen or kings. In this case, Magi is the word. Magi is the word that is used in the scripture in Greek. Our tradition has been muddied with kings and wisemen and astronomers, and it seems there are two or three possible reasons for this. First, it could simply be a lack of understanding of what a Magi was, and an attempt to explain it using characters from western culture that we understand. We know what a king is, or what a wiseman is, or

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Great Expectations

This Sunday, I will not be telling you a story, as I have the past couple of weeks. No, it is not because the last one was too long—as was pointed out by one of our cute kiddos last Sunday! Rather, it is because this Sunday, the kiddos will be doing the story telling. This should really be a wonderful treat for us all.   You know what the best thing is about Children’s Christmas Pageants? The mistakes! No really! Be honest with yourself. We don’t want a perfect retelling of the Christmas story. We want a REAL retelling of the story. We want a MESSY retelling of the Christmas story. We want to see the kids shine in all their messy glory because deep down, we know that this is a messy story. It is the story of an unwed teenage mother, and the man that wasn’t scared off. It is the story of the worst timed road trip

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The Advent Wars

Sometimes as clergy, I feel that I live in a bit of a bubble. Perhaps your Facebook feed this time of year is filled with holiday greetings, warm wishes and cat videos with a holiday twist. Mine is filled with angry clergy people griping about how we always skip advent and move right on to Christmas. They look something like this: This is an annual tradition of clergy the world over. The posting of silly memes that essentially amount to complaining about starting Christmas music too early. However, there is some validity to this sentiment. This really is a holy season and it should not be skipped in favor of getting to the birth of the Christ child. Advent is that time of waiting. It reminds us that so much of our life is spent in waiting, and that waiting can be holy time. It reminds us that even through our dark cold waits, the light of Christ beckons us

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Beginning Where We End

Now, on to more appropriate conversations in this holiday season, like…the crucifixion! Bet you didn’t see that one coming! That is right, we are reading the story of the crucifixion this Sunday.   As strange as it sounds, it is incredibly important for us to be reading the crucifixion story this Sunday, even if that does seem a bit out of place. As we are preparing for Thanksgiving, and as we bring the torture of the election season to a close, perhaps the last thing you want to be thinking about is the brutal death of our King, Jesus Christ. However, there is a very good reason that the lectionary chooses Luke’s version of the crucifixion story for us to contemplate this week. It is Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the church calendar year. We begin anew in two weeks with the beginning of advent. So this Sunday, the last Sunday, is the Sunday that we remember

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