Tuesday, August 29, 2006


This story resonated with me; I heard many like it when I was in Mississippi a year ago.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We often assume we have only two options. Either God ordains/permits everything that comes to pass, and we simply have to accept that fact, or there are some things that happen even though God does not want them to. There is at least one other option, and it is the one I argue for: God ordains/permits everything that comes to pass, but we don't simply have to accept that fact. We can complain to God rather vigorously about the things we have a hard time accepting. - Richard Mouw

Monday, August 14, 2006

The gospel reading this week is yet another in the long speech in which Jesus identifies himself as the bread of life. But paired with the Old Testament lesson for the week, Lady Wisdom's invitation to dinner, Jesus' insistence on eating and drinking his flesh and blood drove me to study anew how the church understands the ultimate dinner invitation: The Lord's Supper.

Charis on a balance beam

So here I sit at Starbucks reading representatives of both traditions I am balancing: The Heidelberg Catechism and Luther's Small Catechism. I started in a non-denominational seminary where the discussion of theology around Communion was quite diverse. In a more “proper” reformed education, I had to learn the intricacies that separated Calvinists from Lutherans from Catholics from Zwinglians and Anabaptists. Today, it's no longer an academic question to compare and contrast Luther and reformed understanding of the sacrament. By Sunday, I have to something to say to God's people. And these people, unlike some seminary professors, are more interested in life than historical debates.

Here is the genesis of where I'm going with this:
  1. At the Table, we are invited to forgiveness, real life and Christlikeness.
  2. Something real and mysterious happens here. Something beyond reason.
  3. These two traditions have a lot more in common with each other than they do with a bubble-gum church where worship is synonymous with singing and emotions drive sermons more than a thirst for wisdom.

When I moved in to my office a couple months ago carrying Calvin’s entire commentary set packed in a box for Huggies diapers, I knew I’d be in for a balancing act. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, I’m discovering so much more that we share in common than should separate us. For 500 years, we’ve looked at each other skeptically, but I think it’s time to look ahead to what we can do together rather than focus on our historical separation.

Friday, August 11, 2006

This week at Vacation Bible School, the kids (and adults) dress up as if they lived in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth. I'm playing the part of the Roman Census Taker; I get to see each kid each night to teach them a bit about the Roman Empire at the time of Christ and then to ask them questions about their God and what all the ruckus is about shepherds and angels and stables. It's great to listen to them tell me that they can talk to God themselves - some have even offered to teach me how they pray - and that they don't need to offer food sacrifices to certain roman gods. As a pastor, I listen to them talk about their faith and feel such hope and joy in their prayers.

Each night, the kids and adults start with singing songs, many of them dressed in "Bible times" clothing we dragged out from the leftover Christmas pageant boxes. The kids circle up and follow the leader in hand motions and dancing as they sing.

The other night - actually our wedding anniversary - when Misha, Charis and Rebekah joined the festivities, Charis asked for her costume.

As a father, it's great to watch my older daughter get into the group's activities. She watches the older kids and slowly joins in with the hand motions. Her mouth moves as she tries to keep up with the lyrics (though all the next day, she sings over and over the few words she does remember!).

This is an important part of how faith is formed in kids. Of course, I'm not talking about the costumes, or even the songs. Early faith is formed by watching the rest of our "tribe" go through the motions of religion. Neither the motions nor the religion are what actually creates faith, but kids watch and will learn what they see. If they see others celebrating their faith and praising God, their world will be shaped around the reality that God loves them and is a part of their lives.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Let each person proceed according to our given ability and continue the journey we have begun. There is no one so unhappy who will not make some progress, however small. Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the smallness of our accomplishment. Though we fall short, our labor is not lost if this day surpasses the preceeding one.

From Calvin's "Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life"


This summer, I am not volunteering at Camp Fowler, but was able to visit today. Stepping out of the car, I was nearly overwhelmed with emotion to again walk the trails, smell the pines and hear the laughter of Christian community. I hugged and was encouraged to see campers, staff and volunteers whom I love dearly. This camp is one of a few places on earth where each time I visit I am nourished merely by smells, sights and sounds.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Work should work

This morning's Times Union runs an editorial about last week's House vote on the minimum wage and the subsequent decision facing the Senate now: to accept the minimum wage increase along with the repeal of portions of the estate tax, or to reject both proposals. Increasing the minimum wage is intended to help the working poor in our society; repealing parts of the estate tax benefits only the wealthiest of the wealthy. The TU states that this type of politics happens all the time but Congress "counts on the public's inattention." Well, I'm paying attention and I'm upset.

I try to get the Y at least three times a week to spend some time on the treadmill. Running outdoors doesn't work as well for me: but the monotony of the treadmill, my mp3 U2, and sometimes the television makes the monotony of running a bit easier for me to take. Last Friday on the treadmill I saw 25 minutes of Oprah whose topic engaged me more than my music: she interviewed a couple who spent 30 days living on minimum wage and trying to survive. I missed the first and last parts of the show, so I don't know a lot of the details or how it turned out for them, but I watched it because earlier in the day I had called my congressman to ask him to support the increase of the minimum wage.

Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren teamed up to write "Adventures in Missing the Point." In a chapter on Social Action, Tony says, "When we talk about Jesus, we must make it clear that he is not just interested in our well-being in the afterlife. He is a Savior who is at work in the world today trying to save the world from what it is, and make it into a place where people can live together with dignity." In short, Jesus cares a whole lot about how we treat the least of these who live among us.

And so I've signed on to Jim Wallace's Covenant for a New America which seeks to bring issues of poverty to our leadership and ask that they work to eliminate the injustices of the current system. Specifically: people who work should be able to live off what they make, children should not have to suffer the consequences of being poor, and we should take steps to end extreme global poverty.

Jesus said "by their fruits you shall know them" or "how you treated the least of these you treated me." Church should point to a Savior at work in the world ... and then go about helping Christ make a place where people can live together with dignity.