Monday, December 31, 2018

Sermon: "Lessons of a Brief Adolescence", Isaiah 9:2-7/Luke 2:41-52



Today, in the perpetual strangeness that is the Revised Common Lectionary, we’re doing a little bit of time travelling. While we celebrated the baby Jesus’ birth on Monday, today, on the sixth day of Christmas, we discover that he’s already aged 12 years, and next week on Epiphany we’ll jump back ten years to his encounter with the magi at about 2 years old, until finally we arrive at his adult baptism on January 13. When you only have 52 weeks to cover 33 years of life, things can get a little bit wonky sometimes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Sermon: "The Son, the Moon, and Shooting Stars", Christmas Eve Reflection (December 24, 2018)



This past Friday was the winter solstice in the northern part of the world. In case you’re a little bit foggy on what that means, I’ll explain quickly: in science terms, it’s the point at which the Earth’s axis is tilted as far away from the sun as it will be all year. In more practical terms, it’s the day of the year when we get the least amount of sunlight. It’s the shortest day and the longest night. Although this might seem to primarily be the concern of astronomers and other scientists, this phenomenon has been observed unscientifically for millennia; in fact, the festive term “Yuletide” comes from the name of the ancient pagan rituals surrounding the winter solstice.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sermon: "The Gospel According to Dave Matthews", Luke 1:46-55/1 Corinthians 13:4-13 (December 23, 2018)

12/23/18 (Advent IV)


While the Church at large dwells in Advent just a little longer, the secular world has been immersing itself in all things “Christmas” since at least Thanksgiving; in some cases (like in retail stores) the Christmas season seems to have started back in October. Now, as Christians, we’re used to holding things in tension—a savior who’s both divine and human, a God who’s both three and one, even our own identity as simultaneously sinners and saints—so unlike many pastors I know, I don’t have a problem enjoying the trappings of Christmas outside of worship during Advent. One of my favorite parts of the secular Christmas season is the moment Christmas music starts playing on the radio. I love hearing all the different versions of familiar songs, and I love hearing the new music that artists have created to celebrate this time of year.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Sermon: "Unexpected Expressions of Joy", Philippians 4:4-7/Luke 3:7-16 (December 16, 2018)

12/16/18--Advent III


Today marks the third week of Advent, so at the beginning of worship, we lit three candles. Traditionally, the first candle represents hope, the second candle represents peace, and the third candle—this week’s candle—represents joy. Before I go any further, I want us to think about what joy looks like, and how we express it. What words come to mind? Exuberance? Energy? Confidence? Boldness? Singing? Shouting? Dancing? Jumping?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sermon: "Preparing for Our Part of the Story", Malachi 3:1-4/Luke 1:68-79 (December 9, 2018)

(Advent II: my first Sunday preaching for Boone Memorial Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, ID)


I love Advent. Every year I look forward to this special time of transition, excitement, and anticipation: a new liturgical year begins, many of my favorite traditions return, and the Church once again awaits Christ’s coming. An exciting time, indeed. And here at Boone Memorial Presbyterian Church, we have extra reason to anticipate and celebrate joyfully this Advent—you and I are beginning our ministry together, and I know that we’re all feeling hopeful and eager to find out what God has in store for us. There’s so much to look forward to, and Advent is a particularly apt time for us to be anticipating this community’s bright future together. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sermon: "A Letter to My Family", 1 Corinthians 3:4-11, 21-23/Romans 12:4-13 (November 11, 2018)--Farewell Sermon


Sermon video here; benediction video here.


Writing a “goodbye” sermon is really tough. From an intellectual standpoint, it’s hard to decide what it should look like, how it should be put together. Which scripture do I choose? How do I choose it? What final message do I want to share? What important points should I make? What kind of tone do I want to convey? To be honest, I went through at least three different iterations of potential sermons, one of which involved me singing a Broadway song from the pulpit, none of which I wound up using. So, you’re welcome.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sermon: "Relational Gratitude", Job 1:1, 2:1-10/Hebrews 2:5-12 (October 7, 2018)


Sermon video here.


Before I begin today, I must confess that the excitement of preaching this week has been eclipsed for me by another even more exciting, more personal event. You see, tomorrow is my first wedding anniversary, and as we all know, it’s smooth sailing after the first year, so I’m pumped. In all seriousness, though, this week has been a flood of memories for me, since the week leading up to the big day were filled with last-minute on-site details (because I had done a bulk of the planning from well over 2000 miles away). And I know that there will be even more memories in the coming days, as I relive the ceremony, the reception, and of course, the most important part. You know what I’m talking about.
The thank you notes.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Worst Group Project EVER

I realized this week that writing a sermon feels like a nightmare group project with myself.

--Student 1 is in charge of the research, but she just wants to skim everything and get it over with.

--Student 2 is in charge of taking notes, but doesn't really care if the order is helpful at all--she just slaps them down on the paper willy-nilly.

--Student 3 has to come up with some sort of outline or structure. She's probably the most helpful member of the team, but resents everyone else's laziness.

--Student 4 is the one who writes the sermon. She's the type A classmate who keeps working on the project until the absolute last minute because she's trying to make it perfect and fix everyone else's mistakes. She thinks she's the most important member of the team, but everyone else is SO OVER IT.

--Student 5 is the diva who finally shows up just in time to make the presentation, gets the credit and everyone else agrees is the literal worst.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sermon: "The Trouble with Teaching", Isaiah 50:4-9a/James 3:1-12 (September 16, 2018)


Sermon video here.

Now that school has been back in session for a month or so here in Idaho, and we’ve resumed our full Christian Education program here at FPC, it seems like as good a time as any to talk about teachers. I mean, we all know how important teachers are, right? They’re the ones who help us to grow into better people by opening our minds, supporting our exploration, and encouraging our discoveries. The best ones help us to understand and appreciate things that we previously had little interest in. I bet that most of us can easily recall a favorite teacher of ours from our past—and it might not have been a school teacher. Friends, family, extracurricular leaders, neighbors, pastors, even folks you meet on the street: any of these people could wind up teaching you.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

If You Love Something...

I am not a gardener.

In fact, I would characterize myself as "the furthest thing possible from a gardener". What's the opposite color of green? That's what color my thumb is. So when my sunflowers started wilting, I was devastated.

Nick and I bought a sunflower plant a month or two ago because it was getting towards the end of the season, so they were on clearance. It was his idea--he knows how much I love sunflowers and how anxious I am about the state of our garden and yard (i.e. "off the charts" anxious), so he suggested that we give it a shot. Now, you have to understand how I feel about sunflowers. They're my favorite flower. They were in my wedding bouquet. They're a tangible symbol of light and hope is a world that is often weighed down with ugliness and pain. So yeah, I like sunflowers.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sermon: "Where's Waldo--I Mean, God?", 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 9-11, 22-30/Psalm 84 (August 26, 2018)


Sometimes, searching for things can be fun. The increasing popularity of scavenger hunts, geocaching, and escape-the-room games attest to that. When I was a kid, though, we didn’t have quite as many of these opportunities, and I wasn’t one to get out very often anyway, so most of my recreational searching was done between the pages of a book. And of course, in the early ‘90s, there was no search-puzzle book greater than Where’s Waldo.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sermon: "The 'Me' Generation", Deuteronomy 32:1-7, 15-18, 28-29/Mark 6:14-29 (July 15, 2018)



“Millennials. Am I right??”

There’s a popular trend these days—it’s nearly impossible for you to have missed it—which involves complaining about anything that the Millennial Generation does. I’m talking everything from refusing to move out of their parents’ house to “killing” department stores to their overwhelming social media presence to their infamous penchant for avocado toast. If a Millennial has done it, someone somewhere has complained about it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sermon: "The In-Between", Exodus 18:8-9, 13-24/Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 (May 13, 2018)



I’m about to preach a very different sermon than some of you may be expecting.

Today, many churches around the world are celebrating Ascension Day, the day when Christ finally “ascended” into heaven forty days after his resurrection. This is an important day for Christians as we remember the end of Jesus’ physical time on earth and his final instructions to the Apostles: to proclaim the good news to all nations. But today isn’t actually Ascension Day; that was on Thursday. With Ascension Day technically over and Pentecost not happening until next Sunday, today is something different. Today, we’re in what’s liturgically called “The In-Between.”

Well, no, that’s not true. I completely made that up. But I figured that, since it’s so often overshadowed by those other major festivals, this day deserves its own memorable moniker. Besides, it plays an important role in Eastertide. Just as it’s crucial for us to dwell in the darkness of Holy Week between the celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, we need to take a breather between the Ascension and Pentecost in order to more fully appreciate where the disciples are at this point: what I call “the in-between”.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Braiding and Brokenness: The Significance of Our Lenten Practice

It's been a few weeks that Lent has been over, now. Since I've gotten some emotional distance from the difficulty of the Triduum and the catch-up work that always happens after Easter Sunday, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on our Lenten practice this year.

Many people of all ages (even some from outside our immediate congregational community!) took part in our lenten braiding project. Each Sunday, I collected the braids that people turned in, and spent my afternoon weaving them together by hand, one by one, using a continuous piece of yarn--my own personal Lenten practice.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Life and Love out of Darkness (Maundy Thursday)

Each year, our community combines Holy Week services with another local church, Southminster Presbyterian Church. We alternate who takes point on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday--this year, we were up for Maundy Thursday. 

Now, Maundy Thursday is known as "the day when we wash each other's feet" in many communities, but in many others, the thought of touching another person's bare foot is enough to turn them atheist. You may recall that two years ago, we did a ritual involving broken pottery that was both beautiful and profound (from my perspective, at least). This year, since our Lenten focus was on symbols, I wanted to make sure we did something significant that tied into our theme.

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Sign Unto You--Lent 2018


Lent again.

As always, I put a lot of thought into what sort of Lenten practice I should encourage our congregation to undertake together. This year, our Lenten sermon series is "A Sign Unto You", and we're examining the symbols of our faith and how they help or hinder our ability to see Jesus. We're specifically addressing the cross, the (baptismal) font, the (communion) table, and the bible, plus a week on idols and, of course, Palm Sunday.

Symbols are kind of my wheelhouse, so I wanted to make sure that we connected beyond just an intellectual engagement with them.

On Ash Wednesday, we took four large cloths (two yards of fabric each--thanks, Joann's!) with a question written on each:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sermon: "A Sign Unto You: The Cross", Numbers 21:4-9/John 3:14-16/Mark 8:31-38 (February 18, 2018)


Sermon video here.

(This sermon was the first in our Lenten sermon series, "A Sign Unto You", where we'll be talking about the prominent symbols of our faith and how they help--or hinder--our ability to see Christ.)


Here we are again at the beginning of Lent. Purple paraments, repentant reflection, and a new sermon series: a sign unto you. Over the next six weeks, we’ll be looking more closely at the signs and symbols of our faith, considering together how they help or hinder our ability to see Christ. It’s so easy to embrace symbols without putting a lot of thought into what they really stand for, isn’t it? It’s one thing when the symbols are just literary metaphors in high school English class (does anyone actually remember what Moby Dick was supposed to be about, anyway?) but when they inform our faith—the lens through which we understand the world around us—it becomes a lot more important to pay attention.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Sermon: "A Prophet Like You", Deuteronomy 18:15-20/Acts 2 (January 28, 2018)



One of the gifts of the Revised Common Lectionary is that it draws our attention to things that we might not think about otherwise. For example, the last two weeks’ readings have shown us that prophets aren’t all cut from the same cloth: Samuel was earnest in his desire to serve God beginning in his childhood, while Jonah threw prophetic temper tantrums. Then this week, we get this informative flashback in Deuteronomy that provides helpful insight as to why God gave prophets to the Hebrew people in the first place. While we do tend to talk about prophecies often enough—especially around Advent—it’s less common to talk about the mechanics, characteristics, and criteria of prophet-dom. So I’m really glad to have this opportunity to dig into it, especially given a recent conversation I had.