Tag Archives: Church

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.

Ash Wednesday: The People Between

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday 2017) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Lent: it arrives every year whether you need it or not. Worship becomes a bit more somber and reflective. We give something up, a luxury […]

Ash Wednesday: Starting Again

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2013) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. About this time twelve years ago, I wandered into Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. I was studying a […]

Chicago Diarist: Happy Birthday to Ya

(Note: I wrote this for my blog in January, 2008) Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. at church. The pastor switched the appointed Gospel reading with a passage from the Sermon on the Mount and, between the readings and the children’s sermon, we listened to an excerpt from one of King’s […]

Come First, Then See

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on the Second Sunday after Epiphany 2018).  Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. I want to note two special prayer concerns for today, one of them sorrowful and one joyful. First, I have added […]

Authority at the Edge of the Abyss

The corner of Twitter in which I do most of my reading and arguing has been furiously arguing over the story of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child in Bologna secretly baptized by his family’s maid, and Pope Pius IX, who removed him from his home in accordance with law forbidding a Catholic child to be […]

My Back Pages: Forgetting Advent

(Note: I wrote this column for The Daily in November 2011. It is no longer extant, so I am republishing it here). Black Friday kicked off the “holiday season” last week. The pumpkin-flavored pastries and beverages have already given way to eggnog and gingerbread, while lite-music radio will be in full Noel mode until Christmas. […]

Chicago Diarist: Waiting

(I wrote this in December, 2009) Say what you will about cold weather, crowds, and snow or the threat thereof grinding the streets to a halt, but I kind of love Chicago in December. I love the concerts of sacred music for free or cheap, the Bavarian Christmas market at Daley Plaza (with offsetting public […]

They in Glory Shine

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 […]