Tonight’s service was a Calvary version of a traditional tenebrae service.  In this service the light was extinguished, little by little, as we heard scripture, music, and poetry that told the stories of our faith and made space for reflection.  Our service ended with the Kol Nidre played on the cello, an Aramaic prayer usually played or sung at the opening Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  At the end of worship the sanctuary was very… Read More

From Palms to Protest Matthew 21:1-11 Think back, if you will, to January 20, 2009.  It was a notable day, as the United States inaugurated the 44th president of the United States and our first black president, Barack Obama.  I think most anywhere in the world with a satellite signal you would know that something big was going on, but friends!  Some of us were here!  In the middle of it all…. Read More

Speaking of Sin: Salvation John 11:1-45 “Are you saved?” A few years ago someone asked me that question…and I didn’t know what to say. That’s what an evangelical childhood plus a seminary education will do to you. I didn’t know how to answer what seemed to the questioner a pretty straightforward query.  That’s because salvation is a word fraught with contradictions and misunderstandings.  But it’s a concept inherent in everything God is… Read More

Speaking of Sin: Penance John 9:1-41 You and I, we don’t know how to talk about sin.  The whole concept makes us uncomfortable. We’ve been making that case every Sunday this Lent, but if you aren’t yet convinced all you needed to do this week was turn on NPR to see the reaction Pope Francis got when he was presiding over mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday.  When it came time… Read More

Speaking of Sin: Repentance John 4: 5-42 Fred Phelps died this week.  As you may know, Fred was the founding pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, a small independent church in Topeka, Kansas.  Fred put his church on the map by staging protests at any number of events, waving signs printed with hateful, hurtful theological words.  And folks like Fred are the ones who have caused some of us to surrender our… Read More

Speaking of Sin: Hell John 3:1-17 Since confession is an important part of Lenten practice, I will share with you this morning that I had a hard time finishing up today’s sermon.  I just couldn’t concentrate, due to the different interpretations of the hit Disney song Let it Go all over Facebook. As those video links kept popping up on my Facebook feed I would click over and watch them, mesmerized and… Read More


Speaking of Sin: Sin Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 Welcome to the first Sunday of the season of Lent.  In the liturgical calendar of the church year, Lent is a period of 40 days leading up to the celebration of resurrection, Easter Sunday.  It is characterized in churchy circles by frequent conversation about giving something up or taking on some spiritual practice, and worship involving more than your usual opportunity for confession (and no… Read More

Blessed Ash Wednesday, all.  Today is one of those days that weighs heavy on many.  I see people in church on this day whom I don’t see the entire rest of the year. Every year, I think about why.  I think is has to do with the burdens we all carry as the very reality of being a human being, alive, on this planet.  I wrote a few reflections about this here…. Read More

The following is a sermon delivered at Woodbrook Baptist Church in Baltimore on March 2, 2014.  Woodbrook’s pastor, Dr. John Ballenger, is part of a dear group of clergy colleagues who have met annually for sermon planning and support for over ten years.  This group, called Preacher Camp, has been one of the greatest gifts of my own vocational journey.  Every year John and I swap pulpits, just to share a little bit… Read More

Our children reminded us during the children’s sermon today. 


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