(Note: I preached this sermon on this Sunday in 2014) Can you wash off your baptism? That’s the question of a character in an astonishing new book. Lila the book is called, and the character of the same name is wondering just what she’s gotten herself into. Born around the time of the First World War, […]

(Note: I wrote this in September, 2012) There are many reasons I love St. Augustine’s House in Oxford, Michigan, North America’s only Lutheran monastery. Being back for my third retreat there, earlier this month, and browsing through some of its historical accounts, I was struck as I periodically am by how humbling it is to drag one’s […]

(Note: I wrote this for The Daily in November, 2011. It is no longer extant, so I am republishing it here). In America today, we may not know what it means to be a saint, but it can’t be said that we lack for opinions on what a saint is not. Or at least who […]

Note: I preached this sermon today for the commemoration of All Saints, which we transfer from November 1 to the following Sunday. Lutherans make a rather peculiar use of this festival, for two reasons: First, our approach to the cult of the saints was not total rejection but modification. For this reason many Lutheran churches […]

In recent years I’ve been easing my way back into scary fiction and the less gruesome sort of horror films. I am strictly a dilettante here; I can highly recommend Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House if you want a book, and recent films like It Follows, The Babadook, Let the Right One In, […]

This season of late comeuppances for sexual misconduct has reached Leon Wieseltier, long-time literary editor of The New Republic. He was both loved and hated, exercising for a time a kind of influence in the media world that one could scarcely imagine someone who edits a back-of-the-book exercising today. He was also, by many reports […]

The day after my mother-in-law died, we went to church and then to my oldest son’s baseball game. It had been a long illness with no real doubt about its conclusion, but the end still comes with a fresh harshness and finality, however long it’s been anticipated and however welcome the release from pain and […]

There was only a brief moment in my adolescence when I stayed current with the music of my own generation. Before my game attempts at being a fan of Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, and the rest of them, it was all Billy Joel, Elton John, and musicals. And after, I got really into the emeritus […]

I preached this sermon on September 28, 2014, on the Gospel for this coming weekend. And it is easy, too easy, to think of this parable as being about sinners who change their ways. The prostitutes and tax collectors believed John, and were baptized, and then they stopped doing their sins. But that’s not what […]

Here’s me at my ordination on this day in 2009. Back when I was preparing for ordination, I fancied myself a somewhat unlikely pastor. Then I learned that there really is no such thing as a likely pastor anymore, so I may as well get over that conceit and figure out how to do this job. […]