As I've gotten to know the stories of those in our congregation over the past year, one of the things that stands out to me is how so many of us entered the doors of our building for the first time deciding to give God one last try.
I’ve been coaching a few folks (in whom I see enormous potential) to write sermons. To be helpful, I compiled a shortlist of some things that have been helpful to me so that they can keep them handy. None of the materials are profound or exhaustive, but if you are a communicator of ideas, they may be useful to you.
If you attend Church In Bethesda on a regular basis, you know that I do my best not to use the pulpit as a platform for my political opinions. That’s a hard line for me to walk as a pastor, father, voter, and pedestrian with strong political views.
I keep those opinions to myself at times, not out of fear, but out of respect for where people are in their journey of life and faith.
In Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned that I’d post some resources here that further elaborate on some of the streams of thought that I’ve studied, causing me to rethink my views on the afterlife, Heaven, and Hell.
For those of you who you attend CiB regularly, it’s likely that you’ve seen or met Bob and Donna Z. They use the last name “Z.” because Bob will tell you that it’s too difficult to remember how to spell their full last name.
Donna is a retired schoolteacher and poet. From time to time, she writes prayers and benedictions for our liturgies.
We are including last week’s opening prayer here.
May its depth and beauty guide you throughout your week.
A friend and I went to two art exhibits past weekend. We decided to hit them up in succession. The first, a kind of stream of consciousness, acid trip, color-drenched, maximalist presentation of (in my opinion) carefully placed junk.
It wasn't my thing, but my friend really wanted to go, so I obliged, knowing that our second stop would be at a museum of contemporary art, much more my style…
At the breakfast table, I clasp my hands and recite the same words that I recite every morning, words that have become a worn and beautiful path. "Let me not so much seek to be consoled as to console / to be forgiven as to forgive / and to be loved as to love." Hearing my one-year-old crunch cereal in his high chair next to me, I glance up to ensure he’s not choking. He grins at me and I continue…
Church in Bethesda has the privilege of hosting an Oromo Congregation in our building on Sunday afternoons. From time to time, there's overlap in our comings and goings while the last of our folks are leaving and the first of their folks are arriving.
Each time there's overlap, it's always a joy to see them.
When we look around at the world, sometimes all that we can we see is tragedy. All that we might feel is despair. We see the immediate and not the possible. We see ourselves and not others. We act out of self-preservation instead of selfless compassion. But when we look up, we breed courage. We see a world where we can work together toward healing.
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day at our church who is a longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our church hosts a variety of Twelve Step groups like AA, and I was asking my friend for some advice on how we, as a church could do a better job of promoting them, as I didn't see them listed anywhere on our marketing materials.
Whatever age you are (unless you are the oldest person in the world) there's someone in your life who was here before you were that has seen more than you've seen, experienced more than you've experienced, and knows more than you know.
Finding the information for this post wasn’t difficult. A simple search on any Bible site or in any Bible software will spit it out this same data for you in a matter of nanoseconds.
Though many Americans identify as Christian, we often cherry pick Bible passages to support our prejudices. Many of us don’t read the Bible to be challenged, changed, or deconstructed. We read it to reinforce what we were already thinking.
There's a memory from my childhood that I will never be able to get out of my mind.
One day, outside of Flint, Michigan, my Mom and I were stuck in terrible traffic. The traffic was backed up it seems, for miles. As we eek'd our way down the highway, we could see what was causing the traffic jam up ahead. There had been some kind of accident.
Lying in bed with my eyes closed, I wondered if I was the victim of a cosmic joke. A few days earlier, I had celebrated a few moments of silence, but four days of looking at nothing but the inside of my eyelids was starting to feel like a bit too much.
The Sunday before, our entire church was silent just before the sermon. Everyone was reading the white text on the black screen in front of us. Among other thoughts of discomfort, the text said, “It’s too quiet” and “For the love of God, this is anguish.”
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
A colleague of mine told me a funny story once about his early days as a young assistant pastor. He was working at a large, influential megachurch in suburban Indiana at the time.
Each year during the Advent season, the church would set up a giant manger scene out near the entryway to the property so that passers by would be reminded of what Christmas is all about. There in the manger, nestled in the hay, my friend noticed something far too common in the suburban midwest. The baby Jesus figurine was white, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed.
Late on Saturday night, I came down with a horrible head cold. Luckily, living in the city, one can go to the store to purchase almost anything at any hour of the night, so I threw on my clothes and shoes and headed downstairs to the pharmacy to pick up some NyQuill.
I entered the pharmacy only to witness an alarming scene. A man was screaming, cursing, and threatening the cashier behind the counter. The words he was using were so violent, sexist, and cruel that I can’t repeat them here.