Tag Archives: Church

Confessions of a Failed Evangelist – Let’s Talk

[I wrote this in 2011] At a church council meeting a couple of years ago, we found ourselves discussing friends and neighbors of our city church and their prospects for eventual membership. One neighbor in particular seemed like he should really be coming to church because, as someone observed, his brother is a Lutheran pastor. […]

Serving and Being Served

Jesus says that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. And that means that we who are saved by faith in him, and raised to new life by his grace, must allow him to serve us, too. If you know the power of service, you probably know also the mania that can come with it. The passive-aggressiveness–”it’s ok, I’ll just do it myself.” The resentment–”I work and work and give and give and no one thanks me.” If Jesus only wanted us to find the humblest task and do it for someone else, he’d be setting us up for a great deal of misery.

Sacred Signposts Events in Chicago

I’m excited to be visiting two Chicago churches in October to talk about Sacred Signposts: Words, Water, and Other Acts of Resistance. First up will be Augustana Lutheran Church and Lutheran Campus Ministry in Hyde Park, a place that’s very important to me. The Wednesday night services in Lent brought me to worship for good, […]

Actions and Words

This principle–God’s words are actions, God’s actions are words–is something I try to keep in mind whenever I read a miracle story in the Bible. Because the fact is that miracle stories can seem very disappointing after you get used to them. The people who are healed and fed in the Bible just remind me, at least, of those people ever since and even today who are not healed and not fed. Where’s the miracle for them?

The Unwalled City

Think about what that means for a moment. Paul is saying that Christ has broken down the defenses, the protections, that divided Jew from Gentile, nation from nation. This is no cheap metaphor. A city without a wall, or a Temple without a wall, was vulnerable. It was naked. Yet Paul here is saying that what has happened in Christ Jesus and in the preaching of his Gospel has broken down the wall that kept Jew and Gentile in hostility to each other. The people who share in the gifts of his body and blood and who receive his triumph over sin and death by faith, those people are no longer divided into insiders and outsiders, into the safe and the abandoned, into the privileged and the excluded.

My Conversation with Metropolitan Nathanael

It’s important not to expect the wrong things from a Q and A between some guy and the shiny new bishop, so if some questions or demurrals go unanswered, I hope you’ll be indulgent. But we were able to have a friendly and serious conversation about topics facing his community and the church writ large: bioethics, racism, the place of churches in society. 

What Are We Doing Here?

What if the alleged indifference of the age to questions of God’s righteousness is not the age’s wisdom, with which we must catch up, but rather the age’s folly, which we are duty-bound to try to break through? What if people are putting themselves and their world in serious danger by ignoring those questions? And what if, after all, the wisdom and the virtues and the forms of fellowship we wish to salvage from our little household end up being no more necessary or appealing than the rest of it? 

Sacred Signposts Event in New York City

On June 27 at 7 p.m. I’ll be at Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church (178 Bennett Avenue, a short walk from the 1 and the A) to talk about Sacred Signposts: Words, Water, and Other Acts of Resistance.

Doubting Thomas: The Gift and the Wrapping

As the big day of confirmation got closer, my anxiety increased. Everything I was preparing to say I believed became harder and harder to swallow.

But you would not know any of that from the people who had been willing to accompany me on this journey. I had been away from church for a long time, but I was welcomed back with open arms. I was skeptical, but people were eager for me to believe. Where I was sarcastic, my friends and pastors were patient, tender, and completely without religious snobbery. They willingly invited me to see and touch and ask and test everything they believed. People I came to admire, trust, and love passed on the gift of faith to me wrapped in their own good work and faithful witness. And someone they admired, trusted, and loved passed it on to them. And someone else passed it on to them. And someone else to them, and on and on, a great chain of gift-giving that goes all the way back to that locked room. This weekend we even add a new link to that chain, as the children of the parish are invited to take this great gift of faith in their hands, to enjoy it, and to some day take up their own role in passing it on.

A Mediocre Pastor’s Catechism

At the beginning of Lent, I invited the participants in our new member/baptism preparation groups to ask any question they had about church or faith, and I would try to answer them as best I could over the course of our meetings. I didn’t get to all of them in the six weeks we spend together, but a commitment is a commitment and I emailed the answers to everyone. It made for the kind of long, burdensome email I almost never write anymore. But they were big, important questions that, I realized, I often spend very little time answering.