Monday, August 22, 2016

Before It Gets Dark

My Visit to Belknap Campus

The Other Side of the Tracks
I paid a little visit to Belknap Campus (the main campus of my alma mater) on the penultimate Monday of August. It's probably the longest time I've spent there since 1983. Little is as it was back then. For example, here is the approach to the campus heading west on Warnock today. In the old days, this was just a seedy street with nothing but garages and stuff like that.

This is the natatorium. We didn't have one of those when I was a student. Or if we did, it wasn't worth putting a sign on. We did have a pool somewhere, I'm sure of that. Maybe in Crawford Gym. This is on the west side of campus which was little more than an industrial wasteland in the old days. The university has bought up most of the land between the old campus and I-65, and it is now home to what is probably the most amazing set of college sports venues in the nation. Every team has its dedicated field, arena, or stadium, and all of it is practically new.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

God's Future Is Our Future


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
—Heb. 11:1

Big churches can be glorious: The programs, the huge choirs, the enormous staffs, the campuses with multiple buildings, the parking lots. In our day and age when everybody expects to have their needs met not sometime in the future, but right now, it’s easy to see why big churches keep getting bigger, while small churches are left wondering if they’ll still be here in a hundred years.

So we get discouraged when we compare ourselves to a megachurch. They really do have something wonderful going on. Just this year, in fact, a local La Jolla congregation decided to give up being the church as they’d known it. The work was just too difficult and the future too uncertain. They still had a congregation, and I guess they kept it, but they decided to cease being the church they’d been and allowed a megachurch to move in and be the church for them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hollow Succor

Sunday, July 31, 2016

More to Life

Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
—Luke 12:15
Introduction: Sibling Rivalries

He’s beside himself—the guy who comes to Jesus with his problem at the beginning of this morning’s scripture reading. He is angry in the way only one sibling can be angry with another sibling. Maybe you don’t know this, but fights between brothers, or between sisters, or between a brother and a sister, can be one of the most intense and long-lasting of any kind of human conflict. Remember the first murder in the Bible? Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, and he killed him. And the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is described in the Bible as basically a sibling rivalry.

Sibling rivalries go back to earliest childhood. They’re about the most basic kind of jealousy. And because they’re so long-lived, there’s been a great deal of time for the competitors to nurse their wounds. I don’t believe all siblings have this kind of rivalry. For example, Sophia and Hannah certainly won’t. But there’s enough of it to go around, and sometimes—as we’ve already seen—can grow into biblical proportions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A.D. 1916

My church's building was built in 1916 and dedicated on the first Sunday of August of that year. So this August 7, we're going to rededicate the church building, remove the 1916 cornerstone and see the time capsule inside, and place a new time capsule in it before replacing it.

As we prepare for this auspicious occasion, I did a little research to see what the world looked like a century ago. Here's some of what I found out...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Another Meditation on Prayer

This meditation is the second one I gave on the same Sunday and speaks about prayer from the viewpoint of process theology. The first discussed the same subject from the more traditional Reformed point-of-view. It can be read here.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
—Luke 11:13

If you listened at all to the verses of scripture that immediately followed Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, then you learned that Jesus taught that we can indeed change God’s mind. Or at least cajole God into acting more quickly on our behalf. I won’t say that this necessarily contradicts my first meditation of the morning. But it certainly doesn’t fit comfortably with what I think of as the traditional Reformed view of prayer.

But don’t worry. If you prefer to think of a less omnipotent but more omnipresent God, then you are in the right church. Though most of the United Church of Christ’s roots are in the Reformed tradition, the contemporary UCC looks elsewhere for its theological inspiration. Though we don’t now have a theological confession that we’re required to subscribe to in order to be UCC pastors (let alone church members), a school of thought called process theology holds sway among many (if not most) of our clergy.

If you’ll remember, I’ve talked about process theology a few times over the past eleven years. It is not the theology I subscribe to, but I feel comfortable recommending it to people whom I think it might help bring closer to God. And one of the areas where many find it the most helpful is the area of prayer.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Meditation on Prayer

This meditation is the first of two on Luke 11:1-13. Here is the second.

A Reformed View

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
—Luke 11:1

The cosmology described in the Hebrew Bible
The authors of the books of the Bible—both Hebrew and Christian—had a very different cosmology than we have. If you were to ask any of them what the center of the universe was, they would tell you without question that it was the earth. They would also have had no doubt about the fact that the pinnacle of all creation—indeed the purpose of creation itself—was the human being.

By the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century of our era, that view had changed somewhat. The universe had grown, and the earth was no longer its center—the sun was (though this would still have been contested by some “conservatives”). But there was still no question that the highpoint and goal of creation itself was the human being.

Think about what this cosmology might tell us about prayer—its purpose and the way it might work.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Heaven & Earth

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Martha's Place, and Mary's

Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
—Luke 10:41b-42
Introduction: Promises, Promises

We all make promises we don’t keep. Many of our promises we don’t even remember making. But I made a promise on March 6 of this year that I’m going to keep today. On that day, I talked about the Parable of the Prodigal Son—a passage of scripture intended to make traditional religious people question the value of their religion and their attitudes. And when I preached that sermon I promised another sermon on a very different text, but another one which forces dedicated church members to re-think their religion. That text was read this morning, and so the words that follow are a fulfillment of a 19-week-old promise.

The story of Mary and Martha that we just heard is different from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, in that it’s a biographical detail of Jesus’ life, and not a story Jesus told in order to help his listeners better understand the nature of God’s love. But both are stories about family dynamics, and both challenge our view of our own place in the Christian faith. This is why, when I talked about the Prodigal Son back before Easter, I also got a request to address this story—the one about Mary and Martha.