It is a truth less than universally acknowledged, that someone in your church will let you down. Maybe they’ll promise to do something, then fail to do it. Maybe they’ll say something thoughtless, offensive or belittling; maybe they’ll misgender you. Maybe they’ll always seem to take and never give. Maybe they’ll miss that something big is going on and hurt you through their lack of curiosity, or their absence. Whatever it is, one way or another, sooner or later, you’re going to feel hurt, disappointed, let down, even betrayed, by someone; quite possibly by the pastor. Continue reading “Being hurt is unavoidable. It’s what we do next that counts”
At our house, we have a simple mealtime ritual. We pause, then someone says, ‘Thank you, God, for this food, for the farmers, and for the cook.’ Then they add whatever else is on their heart. One night, we might give thanks for mathematics and minecraft. Another time, it might be for horses and sisters and … can’t we just eat now? Continue reading “A mealtime ritual: Pause, give thanks, pay attention”
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace (shalom). (Numbers 6:24-26)
I’ve always been fascinated by the phrase “The Lord make his face to shine upon you.” God’s blessing, God’s protection, God’s peace, God’s grace—all part of that same benediction—are great goods, and if I had to choose between them and God’s shining face, I might well opt for them. But God’s shining face outdoes them all. For God’s blessing, protection, peace, and grace concern the things that we possess, do, and suffer, while God’s shining face concerns our very being. It stands for God’s sheer delight that we exist and live before him. Yet I rarely “see” God’s face shining upon me, and given that I am an inveterate sinner, it is not easy to know exactly why God’s face should shine on me.
To every question and demand, God’s answer is simply presence. (Listen.)
Who among us hasn’t said something like: God, show me your plan. Tell me what I’m supposed to be doing here. I need clear guidance, a proper sign. Not some mimsy-wimsy spiritual hint, but something solid, something real. Otherwise, how will I know that you’re even with me? And how will anyone else know? Continue reading “Presence bathed the room with love”
The ancient story of a wilderness-wandering people invites us to ponder how God sustains us during shutdown. (Listen.)
Day after day, week after week, month after month, we have been walking in the wilderness of shutdown. School has changed. Work has changed. Church has changed; and so has everything else. Most of us are still spending time with too many family members and not enough friends; many of us are lonely, anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed. Babies are being born; children are growing; grandparents are ageing, all without loved ones attending every step. Significant milestones are passing by without our usual rituals: Birthdays. Graduations. Anniversaries. Even deaths.
We often assume God works only through good things, but here we see God working through bad. Remember, Joseph’s brothers nearly killed him, then they sent him into slavery and exile. Yet when they meet up again years later, Joseph attributes even their destructive choices to God’s design. Where have you seen ‘God in the compost’, redeeming the rubbish of life? Continue reading “Cartalk / Tabletalk 10: Redeeming the rubbish”
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. (Psalm 51:1-3) Continue reading “#34: Accept grace”
As long as we judge others, and preach that one criminal goes to heaven and the other to hell, we will not know God’s culture. (Listen.)
As is the way of things, whenever I meet middle class people, they ask me what I do for a living. When I say I’m a pastor, they almost invariably reply, “Oh, I don’t go to church—but I’m a good person!” And I think to myself, “Good on ya!” Because the older I get, the more certain I become that every single one of us has an incredible capacity for good—and an incredible capacity for evil. Continue reading “Sheepish goats and the scandal of grace”
Our Year of Luke is winding down, and I’m more in love with Luke than ever. Maybe it’s because Luke’s account is written for people like us: educated, professional, cosmopolitan, the sort of people who buy coffees out and who can confidently navigate a big city. The joy of Luke – and there’s a LOT of joy – is found when we allow God to confound our expectations and turn the world on its head. Hospitality is a big deal, and Luke teaches that we experience God’s hospitality when we welcome the stranger. Guests become hosts, outsiders know grace, the poor are blessed, and resurrection life can be experienced in this life now. Continue reading “Proclamation, parties and praise!”
One of the things we do at our house is say grace at dinner time. Generally, we take it in turns to pray, yet every now and then, when we are super excited about what’s on the table, we break out the ‘Superman Grace’! Continue reading “A simple prayer of radical love”