Category Archives: Discipleship

The Cones of Shame

14th Sunday after Pentecost: August 21, 2016
Luke 13:10-17             Psalm 71:1-6

shame pointing-fingerIn you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be ashamed.
In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;
incline your ear to me and save me.

“Ryan Lochte locks down spot in Olympic hall of shame.” So headlines an article in the Houston Chronicle in a report from Rio. The first lines stated, “Congratulations to Ryan Lochte for winning the final race of his Olympic career: the race for most embarrassing athlete.” The U.S. has had plenty of embarrassing athletes before: Tonya Harding and her goon squad in 1994; the American hockey players who trashed their village room in 1998. But Lochte and his three swimming buddies managed to not only embarrass our country, they humiliated the host country in the process, not to mention themselves.

As a noun, shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. As a verb, we think of its use as when we humiliate, mortify, embarrass, chasten, or “cut down to size” another person.

An early memory of feeling shame for me comes from my grandmother when I was a child – about 8 years, I guess. I don’t quite recall the full incident, but I must have been talking back to my mother in a very hurtful, hateful way in the presence of my grandmother. Later when she was alone with me she told me how disappointed she was with me and how horrible it was for me to speak to my mother in that way. She was visibly upset with what I had said. I don’t recall what I did next, but that feeling of shame and sorrow remain with me as a visual and visceral memory. I had been called out for something I had done, by someone I had loved. It was shame given with love, meant to make me notice that my actions had broken – or at least splintered – an important relationship. Continue reading The Cones of Shame

Pack Light

Overpacked-SuitcaseA sermon preached on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8, Year C based on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.

For years every summer around this time I would be packing a trunk for either my son or daughter as they were getting ready to go to camp (Camp Washington in Lakeside, Connecticut). So with checklist in hand, I would make sure each had enough clothing, towels, bug spray, and clean underwear to last them two weeks. The trunk would be filled with all the necessities for being away from home that also often included a stuffed animal, some books to read, paper with pre-addressed & stamped envelopes (for of course they would write home), and other personal belongings he or she couldn’t live without. By their request, we would drop them off early and pick them up late. Inevitably, every time we picked Chris up, most of his clothes had not been touched, having lived in the same couple of shirts and shorts the entire two weeks. He came home happy and healthy, filled with stories, songs, and plenty of new friends. He had used all that he needed; I had packed too much.

How many of you have gone on a business trip or vacation and crammed as much as possible in a suitcase (even just a carry-on to beat the baggage fees)? We’ll be going to the Cape for two weeks in August and we’re already talking about taking two cars to hold all our stuff we want to bring. And I don’t know how many business trips I’ve been on that I’ve come home realizing I didn’t need that extra pair of shoes or projects to work on “in my free time.” Through the years I have learned to travel light, bringing just what I need, but I am always afraid as I leave the house with my carryon that I’ve forgotten something, so I jam in some last minute extras. Continue reading Pack Light

Resurrection and Transformation

laundry-basket-webA sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, CT on the 4th Sunday of Easter, based on Acts 9:36-43.

There was a conference at Virginia Seminary this past Friday and Saturday called “Missional Voices.” It was a gathering of Episcopalians from around the church who have a vision of living into becoming a missional church again, much like the early church.

Missional ministry is defined by its advocates as:

“a Christian community that crosses boundaries to embody and participate in God’s mission – loving the world into wholeness – in all that we do: prayer, worship, preaching, teaching, loving service, and daily life.”

Listening to the conference being live streamed Friday, I heard details about a growing missional initiative called Laundry Love. Its founder, a former drug addict and homeless guy, named Christian Kassoff, was one of the presenters. Fully tattooed and pierced, he was nervous talking in front of an audience, but his demeanor calmed as he began to tell the story of Laundry Love.

Christian talked about his hard past and about his love/hate affair with organized Christianity. It was in living at the edges with others who are followers of Christ that he found wholeness, not in a church building. After finding sobriety, he met “T-Bone,” a homeless gentleman living in Ventura, California and regularly visited with him on the street. In one particular conversation, Christian asked, “T-Bone, how can I come alongside your life in a way that would matter?” T-Bone’s response was honest and practical. “If I had clean clothes I think people would treat me like a human being.” Continue reading Resurrection and Transformation

Discerning a Way Forward

empty church pewsThere has been an uptick of inquiries in my inbox as well as voice mail, all essentially about the same question: “Can you help us figure out what to do with our (fill in the blank: children, youth, adult, formation, education, Church School) ministries program?” The difficulty in responding is that I don’t have an answer. Nothing that is a quick fix. Nothing that hiring a children’s minister, youth director, or Director of Christian Formation can solve (at least not on their own). It can only be addressed through community discernment – lay and clergy leaders with parents especially – working together.

Here’s an example of some of the statements raised, after the initial question:

  • Children aren’t coming to Church School.
  • Parents are disengaged with talking about faith at home and don’t support their attendance in class (or worship).
  • Our teachers don’t like the curriculum we are using (read between the lines . . . What curriculum can you recommend that volunteers like that is easy?)
  • Youth are bored.
  • We keep reading about putting things online – but who has the time to figure that out?

Continue reading Discerning a Way Forward

All Our Children

AllOurChildrenLogoMy children, now grown, attended public schools before heading off to college. However, my son did attend private school for four years as we sought to provide him the accelerated education he needed at the time. We were fortunate to have the resources to give him that experience for his fourth thru seventh grade years. Not all children have those choices. As parents, we volunteered in and outside the classroom (in our local public schools) knowing how our help supported the teachers and enhanced our own understanding of the issues facing children in our community. Continue reading All Our Children