Category Archives: Faith & Culture

There’s Got to be a Morning After

poseidon-adventureThere’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let’s keep on looking for the light

So begins the song that has been running through my mind since the day after the 2016 presidential election, from The Poseidon Adventure, a 1972 mother-of-all disaster movies (at the time). In a nutshell, here’s the plot: The Poseidon is the largest ocean liner ever, bigger than the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary combined. A ship full of passengers are celebrating New Year’s Eve. Just after the New Year is rung in, the Captain spots a tidal wave. A huge tidal wave. Soon, everybody else sees it, too. For almost all of the passengers and crew, it will be the last thing they ever see. The ship is capsized, turned completely upside-down, and only ten people have survived. Now those survivors must make their way from the capsized top of the ship up to the bottom before they drown as well. Continue reading There’s Got to be a Morning After

Faith and Civil Discourse

political-jesusProper 27C – Pentecost 25
Haggai 1:15b–2:9 
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

This past Wednesday evening, I, like many of you, was in front of the television for the seventh game of the World Series. Besides being a stressful, nail biter of a game, what remains with me was what happened before the game even started. The Cleveland Orchestra’s String Section performed the national anthem with the crowd singing in unison. One voice comprised of thousands. It made me feel how baseball unites, bringing opposing teams together for the good of the sport. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that sense of pride in humanity.

Not much has been uniting in America these past weeks and months. The vitriol, fact-checking for truth or lies, fear mongering, and incivility of this election season has led to a significant amount of stress in over half of the adults in this country. I know I feel it. I want Tuesday to be over with; but I’m afraid that no matter what, Wednesday will not be any better.

I will be working the polls on Tuesday in Norwalk and this past week attended training as required by the State of Connecticut. We were told that security will be stepped up more than ever; the 75-foot rule will be monitored closely; intimidation can be expected. And we can expect to have lines from 6AM to beyond 8PM. We were told to prepare for lack of civility and a very long day. I don’t remember hearing these messages in over forty years of exercising my right to vote.

What can today’s Scripture say to us? How can we remain faithful to our beliefs, witnessing to a different way of being than what we are seeing in our society today? Continue reading Faith and Civil Discourse

Empty Pews?

lonechildinpewsIt’s been awhile since I’ve written here; I’ve been busy writing and editing some great projects coming out this Fall and early 2017. Stay tuned on that front.

Meanwhile a new “program” year has begun in our churches, with families returning after a summer hiatus of skipping worship to sleep-in, vacation, or simply doing other things. And hopefully they have returned, along with all the others who have been absent the past few months as October rolls around. With the oncoming Fall and schools back in session, everyone is eager to “begin anew,” making a commitment, at least for a few months to come to church on a more regular basis.

One of the projects that I have been working on (which has taken much longer than I anticipated) is the dissemination of a Curriculum Survey that was distributed across cyberspace in June 2016. Almost 900 individuals took the survey, with 270 taking the time to also share their thoughts in the comment areas provided. And wow – there was a lot to be said.

A few stats first: 70% of the respondents were associated with an Episcopal church, 30% from other denominations; all shared the same themes, needs, and concerns. 87% have some sort of children’s ministry program (75% youth and 75% adult). That sounds amazing. However, 82% of the congregations have 50 or fewer children who regularly attend a Sunday school program. And 50% of the churches have less than 10 middle schoolers and less than 10 high schoolers participating in youth programs. 68% of the congregations who offer adult education programming reported to having less than 30 individuals who regularly participate in those offerings. Continue reading Empty Pews?

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

Trust & Prayer: In Gods or Idols?

A sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, CT.

  • The Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 4, Year C
  • 1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39
  • Luke 7:1-10

Where do you put your trust? What helps you to pray?

saint-joe-statue-kitAbout a year ago a friend in Columbia, SC bought a little St. Joseph statue and buried it — deep and upside down — next to the “For Sale” sign on his front lawn. Now Roger is a faithful guy who has worked in church settings all his life. But he was not going to take any chances. His house had to sell. He had just accepted a new position in Houston and couldn’t rent a house for his family there while also making mortgage payments on a house they no longer lived in. So he followed the ritual of purchasing St. Joseph off the Internet to ensure his house sold. He was taking no chances, and wanted to play the odds in every way he could to make sure he would come out a winner. And of course he prayed. A lot. But just in case, perhaps St. Joseph would intercede for him with God in bringing the right buyer to the front door. He was willing to put his trust into just about anything if it would sell his house. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Continue reading Trust & Prayer: In Gods or Idols?