Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sermon: "It's Time to Trust", Genesis 22:2-3, 9-14/Luke 1:26-35, 38/Matthew 26:36-44 (December 24, 2017)

12/24/17--Sixth in an Advent Series, "It's Time..."


A man of many years is trudging up a hill, back bent nearly in two with the effort. He’s never been the athletic type, but now, at well over 100 years of age, after a morning of splitting wood through his tears, he finds himself making a trek that he very much does not want to make. A quiet man, he learned long ago that asking questions rarely produces answers that he wants or understands, and yet he has so many. Why, after having to abandon his firstborn son, his Ishmael, should he have to lose his beloved Isaac too, son of his very heart? And by his own hand? He wipes the sweat from his brow. What could this possibly accomplish? What kind of God could ask such a thing? And what will he tell his wife, with whom he’s already been through so much?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Jumping into the Fray

On the radio today, I heard a DJ getting sassy because, from his point of view, saying "Happy Holidays" is TECHNICALLY accurate since Christmas is a holiday, but why wouldn't we say "Merry Christmas" since everybody knows we're celebrating Jesus' birthday?

Therefore, I give to you: some reasons to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", from a Christian clergyperson to other Christians, especially the ones who are upset about this:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sermon: "It's Time to Wise Up", 1 Kings 3:5-14/Proverbs 8:22-26, 30-31/James 1:5-8 (November 12, 2017)



Wisdom is a slippery topic. It’s one of those things we think we understand, but if we were asked to define it, most of us would stammer until we came up with an unsatisfying answer. When I asked some pastor friends this week for a definition off the top of their heads, most offered many examples of what wisdom looks like, or factors that contribute to wisdom; very few were able to tell me what it IS. And yet, it’s crucial to our understanding of God and our calling as Christians. There are 180 mentions of the word “wisdom” in the Common English Version OF THE OLD TESTAMENT ALONE. Wisdom literature is its own genre in the Bible. Wisdom is even personified in the book of Proverbs. But it still remains an elusive concept.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What You Should Know About "Me Too"

Let me begin this post by saying that some may feel that it's inappropriate. I'll reiterate that this thoughts and ideas on this blog belong to me alone (except for my sermons--I hope that at least a part of those come from God, too) and that I thought long and hard before deciding to post this. Hopefully, it will be helpful to someone, and for those of you who are made uncomfortable by it, hopefully you can understand why it was important for me to say.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sermon: "The Runaway Bunny and God's Grace", Psalm 139:1-12/Luke 15:1-7, 11-19 (September 24, 2017)



We read about Jesus’ teaching in parables all over the gospels. He does it so frequently that they’re some of the most beloved and well-known stories in the Bible. Unlike other parts of scripture, we aren’t expected to believe that these events actually happened, but this lack of historicity doesn’t take away from their value as scripture. In fact, a lot of their value lies in their being universally understandable and relatable to anyone who hears them. They depend on their audience being able to mentally put themselves into the story.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sermon: “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?”, Genesis 37:2-7, 11-12, 18-28/1 Kings 19:9-18 (August 13, 2017)



As you hopefully recall from worship last week, the High School youth went to Pittsburgh, PA, for their mission trip this summer. We had a lot of incredible experiences on that trip, but one of the most unique was our opportunity to hear Hedda Sharapan speak. Hedda had worked closely with the Reverend Fred Rogers on his show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and has continued the work that he began back in 1966 even after his death. Although I think the celebrity of such a person was somewhat lost on a few of our younger youth, for me, this was like meeting Beyoncé’s personal stylist. I mean, for those of us who grew up between the 60s and the early 2000s, Mister Rogers taught us everything we knew about the most important things in life: sweater vests, make-believe, friendship, and, of course, feelings. And meeting Hedda was like being one step removed from one of the greatest teachers I’d ever had. So I’ve had Mr. Rogers on the brain since July.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sermon: “The How-Tos (and How-Not-Tos) of Discernment”, Judges 6:34-40/Joshua 24:2-5, 11-15 (July 23, 2017)



This sermon is the last one in our series based on questions submitted by you all. There were some excellent questions, and while Andrew’s sermon last week on sin and predestination addressed some juicy topics, I think that I lucked out for this week, too. The question for this week, as submitted, is: “How do you know what to act on, which decisions to make, what paths to take? How do you know it’s God leading you and when are you doing your own thing?” And, the questioner added, “Don’t just say to pray about it.” So, since THAT route is off-limits, I guess I have to go a little more in depth. No 30-second sermon for you this week.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sermon: "Psalm Pshoes & Good News", Psalm 30 (July 2, 2017)



I have to be honest: I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that I’d be preaching on a psalm this week. Don’t get me wrong; the psalms are great, and there are several that hold a very dear place in my heart. But preaching on the psalms can be a bit of a challenge—for me, at least. Why, you ask? Because so many of them are so thematically similar. I mean, how many ways can you say, “God is awesome,” or “Everything is terrible, God,” or “Save me, God”? They’re definitely important texts, but psalm sermons can get bland if you’re not careful.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sermon: "It Matters", 1 Peter 3:13-22 (May 21, 2017)


Sermon video here.


Even if you don’t have kids in high school and you haven’t been to school yourself in years, it’s hard to miss the fact that it’s graduation season. The party supplies are everywhere in stores, the announcements from family friends are arriving in the mail, and let’s face it: no matter how many years you work without a “summer vacation,” you’ll always remember that sense of hope and freedom that comes in late May and early June. Graduation is a big deal. For high schoolers, it represents the culmination of 13 years of study and learning (with maybe a TINY bit of goofing off mixed in). For college students, it often marks a cultural entrance into adulthood and the first step towards building a career. For many Masters, Doctoral, and Professional Degree students, it marks the end of formal education. No wonder we make such a fuss over it. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sermon: “Low Battery Alert (Fifth in a Series on “Hitchhiking with Jesus”: What Do We Bring?)", Matthew 17:14-20/1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (April 2, 2017)



Before I launch into my sermon today, I need to admit something to you all: I’m somewhat of a technology addict. Specifically, I’m addicted to my cell phone. Whenever I’m bored, the first thing I do is pull out my phone and check Facebook (even if I already checked it 30 seconds ago) or play a game or read an article that I saved from the internet. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m fairly confident that I’m not alone here. How many of you are like me? For those of you who didn’t raise your hand (or are in denial), I apologize and hope you’ve encountered someone like me so that you can understand everything that I’m about to say on some level (I assume that you have…it IS 2017…).

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sermon: "Unlikely Companions (Third in a Series on “Hitchhiking with Jesus”: Who Do We Travel With?)", Matthew 15:21-28 (March 19, 2017)



Picture this: the world is in crisis, a bad guy has the upper hand, and the powers that be have tried everything they can think of to fix the situation. But nothing’s worked. All resources have been used, all heroes have been sent, and now there’s nothing left to do but wait for death and destruction to rain down upon the world.

But wait a minute; what about that rag-tag bunch of misfits? You know, the ones that nobody believes in and might not even get along with each other, but are the only ones left willing to fight the good fight? What if…what if we sent THEM?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ashes to Ashes

I love Lent.

It's the most visceral of the liturgical seasons; the one I most readily feel in my bones. I love how I have the opportunity to connect with Christ on every level of my being--mind, body, and spirit--through the study, ritual, and reflection that characterizes Lent. There's something about Lent that forces me to STOP and BE and FEEL and UNDERSTAND that the craziness of secular Christmas and the busyness of Advent don't allow.

This is also why I make sure that our services involve some participatory ritual as often as possible.

This year for our Ash Wednesday worship service, we reflected on

where are you divided?


where are you being killed?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sermon: “Imperfect Perfection”, Matthew 5:43-48 (February 19, 2017)



For those of you who don’t know, our Wednesday night Logos program for elementary-aged kids includes a learning portion, a sort of Wednesday night church school. While the younger class is learning about major Bible stories this year, the older class is learning about worship—what we do, why we do it, how we do it, and how it reflects God’s Word. Really important stuff to know, and they’re doing a really great job digging into it. A few weeks ago, the class was focusing on the part of worship where we hear the Word of God—the scripture readings and the sermon—and they asked me how pastors choose what passages to preach about. I explained that there are two main ways that pastors (at least in our tradition) choose scripture. The first is situationally—if there’s a special event or set of circumstances (like a funeral or a major world crisis that needs to be addressed from the pulpit or even just a sermon series on a particular theme) we’ll choose a passage that speaks to that particular context. The students were, of course, in awe of the fact that we have to know the WHOLE BIBLE in order to pick one part, and I reassured them that between a Seminary education and Google, it wasn’t as bad as they imagined.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sermon: "Inquiring Minds, Inquiring Spirits", Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (January 22, 2017)


Sermon video here.


Last Sunday before worship, we kicked off our confirmation class. We’ve continued the lessons this week, and we’ll be meeting regularly until Easter, at which point each student will decide whether they want to join the church as full members. That leaves us with a lot to discuss in 12 short weeks! As I hope to impress upon them, Confirmation isn’t a matter of checking a box on the salvation checklist (there’s no such thing, by the way), nor is it about learning the “right” things to do in order to be a “good” Christian. It’s about exploring what it means to be a follower of Christ and a Presbyterian, discovering where you are on your own faith journey, and deciding whether the two things fit together for you. Like I said, it’s a pretty tall order for a few short weeks. But I think these kids are up to it.