Sermon: The Easter Difference

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Text: Matthew 28:1-10 Sermon Excerpt Pam Driesell, a Presbyterian pastor, tells a story of her good friend Mary’s recent Easter experience.  To make sure her four-year old daughter Elena really understood what Easter is all about Mary tried talking to her about it. "Mommy, will the Easter bunny bring me purple jelly beans?" I am sure he will bring you jelly beans, Elena. But, remember, Easter isn't about the bunny. It's about Jesus. "But will they be purple?" Yes, honey, I am Read More …

Homeless Jesus Statue

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St. Alban's Episcopal Church (Davidson, NC) recently installed a $22,000 bronze statue of a homeless Jesus on a park bench on their church campus.  Created by Canadian sculptor and devout Catholic Timothy Schmalz, this provocative artistic addition has created significant controversy in and beyond this wealthy small town. In his recent article on this new homeless Jesus, John Burnett writes: The sculpture is intended as a visual translation of the passage in the Book of Matthew, in which Read More …

Causes of Religious Non-Affiliation

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Allen Downey, a computer scientist at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, recently published a paper suggesting that the rapid rise in those who label their religious preference as "none" (no religious affiliation) is likely caused by generational replacement - 50%, religious upbringing - 25%, internet use - 20%, and college education - 5%. So What? As one who studies changes in American religious affiliation, I am fascinated to find a computer scientist suggesting a Read More …

A Sensory Maundy Thursday Service

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This Maundy Thursday, I will be participating in a service unlike any I have ever experienced.  Ron Thompson, Interim Associate Minister at the United Church (Marco Island, FL), has designed a sensory experience that will offer worshipers the opportunity to rotate through five sense specific stations: Smell: anointing oil Sound: Taizé music Sight: stained glass Touch: foot washing Taste: Holy Communion/Eucharist/Lord's Supper So What? While every congregation I have served Read More …

From Hallelujah to 20M Views

Pope Francis' warmth and authenticity are among the reasons I am attracted to him.  As I listened to a recent viral video (over 20 million views in the first week) of a parish priest singing words no one expects to hear at a Catholic wedding, I found that I was drawn in by his warmth and authenticity. So What? There are many desirable attributes religious leaders may possess.  Which characteristics would you place atop your list for a minister/pastor/priest? Read More …

Check Your Privilege

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I rarely click through when I see friends sharing their score to the latest quiz, but I did a few days ago after seeing a number of posts on my Facebook feed declaring just how privileged people were based on their response to a rather lengthy checklist.  As I took the assessment, I realized my score would be high. I was, however, surprised by just how high it was, and that this placed me in the "you're the most privileged category." So What? I invite you to take the quiz, and to reflect Read More …

Implied Institutional Messages

Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer, ordained minister turned activist  in the non-religious spirituality movement, offers several implied messages of the institutional church based on Marshall McLuhan's frequently quoted premise that the medium is the message.  The first three are especially troubling as we begin Holy Week: church is a place, a location, a building; Christianity happens in services, classes, meetings, events, and programs; and what people need most is good information about God. So Read More …

Sermon: Competing Expectations

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Sermon Text: Matthew 21:1-11 Sermon Excerpt Scholars rarely agree on much of anything, but when it comes to Palm Sunday there is a general consensus that this is the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ earthly life – at least inasmuch as life had always been understood. If we lived back in this era, I think our individual decisions about whether or not to attend the parade would have been focused on our understanding of Jesus’ ministry up until this moment. We cannot really imagine Read More …

What I Really Do

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James McGrath, an associate professor in the Religion and Philosophy department at Butler University, recently shared his contribution to the meme "What I Really Do."  He later, after receiving input from readers, added a second image that intentionally differed from the first with regard to the inclusion of women. Since the first image is what captured my attention, and since that is largely the goal of a good meme, I will repost it below. So What? One of the many roles I have in life Read More …

End of an Era

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Travis Scholl, managing editor of theological publications at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis, recently reflected on what some view as signs that we are at or nearing the end of an era.  More specifically, he mentioned two recent news stories: (1) Alban Institute's decision to shut its doors and (2) the Unitarian Universalist Association's decision to sell its historic headquarters atop Beacon Hill in Boston. Scholl places these changes in their appropriate historical context: as we come down Read More …