31 March 2018

Easter 2018

"Christ is risen!"
"Christ is risen, indeed!"

On Easter Sunday in Christian communities all over the world, people will be uttering this phrase to one another. Some may do so with a polite smile on their faces, going along with the rest of the room. Others will shout it at their neighbors, nearly deafening them with loud enthusiasm. Yet still others will offer the greeting in whispers as they are overcome the weight of their words, allowing, instead, the sparkle in their eyes to communicate the intensity of the moment. And still there are many more ways to engage in this annual greeting (or more frequent greeting, perhaps, in some circles).

In all of the years I have participated in Easter services that include this greeting, I don't think I have ever experienced a half-hearted or disappointed response to "Christ is risen!" It's happy news; it's a declaration of life; it's victory over evil; it's good news. 

06 January 2016

A Benevolent Epiphany

Below is the sermon I gave at Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship on January 3 when we celebrated the Epiphany.

Today we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, which is fixed in the church calendar on January 6, twelve days after Christmas. Those of us who grew up near Amish communities may also know of January 6 as Old Christmas, when all the shops closed because their Amish employees took the day off as a holiday. Epiphany closes out the Advent/Christmas season and inaugurates a new season of variable length in its name. The exact length of the Epiphany season is determined by the placement of Easter, which varies from year to year. In days gone by, the season lasted only until Septuagesima, nine weeks before Easter, three before Lent, but in many traditions now stretches on through Transfiguration Sunday or Ash Wednesday. By its inconsistent length, it would appear that Epiphany has served somewhat of a functional role in church history, filling in the gap between the feast of Epiphany and countdown to Easter.

15 November 2015

Je suis Paris; je suis le monde

Below is my opening meditation and prayer from Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship on November 15, 2015.

Today we come together to celebrate life and to mourn death. As many of us probably know, Paris was attacked last Friday evening. I have to tell you I have mixed feelings about talking about this. I have mixed feelings because Beirut, Lebanon was attacked by suicide bombers Thursday, and I didn't even notice. Another suicide bomber attacked a funeral in Baghdad on Friday, and I didn't know. Garissa University in Kenya suffered an attack with a similar death toll months ago and I had no idea until last night. The U.S. is still conducting drone strikes and other military operations that take human lives. Human lives that shouldn't have to be qualified with the terms "innoncent" or "guilty," but human lives that should be valued because they are lives.

14 July 2015

Meditation on Mennonite Church USA Convention 2015

After attending the MC USA 2015 convention, I was scheduled to be the worship leader at church. The service this past Sunday was a lament, of sorts, over the painful decisions that were made at the convention this year. Our congregation found the resolution on membership guidelines particularly upsetting, but we should also not forget the pain that our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters feel over the Palestine and Israel resolution (click here to read the reactions of some Palestinians and Israelis to the decision to table the resolution), as well as that of others who have been hurt by the church, while at the same time not discounting the positive resolutions that were passed.

I am posting my opening meditation from this past Sunday's service below, along with the hymn I used to craft a call to worship.


26 June 2015

Religion and Obergefell et al. v. Hodges

Today's historic Supreme Court decision has thus far received an understandably mixed reception. I have been troubled by those, including dissenting justices, suggesting that religious institutions are now under threat by the decision. All of this in spite of the fact that the decision itself and Justice Roberts' majority opinion carefully protects religion under the first amendment. So let's talk about the rights of religious institutions and what this decision could mean for us as a society.

So, regarding marriage, what rights do religious institutions have? After the civil rights struggle of the mid-twentieth century, churches have to marry people of other races and interracial couples, do they not? And if they can't discriminate based on race, they surely can't discriminate based on religion! So, up to this point, all religious officials have had to marry all opposite-sex couples that have come seeking to be married, correct? WRONG!

11 August 2014

I tawt I taw some inequality!

Recently, as I was staying with my parents for a bit, the internet began having problems. Unable to do anything requiring an internet connection, and with nothing of interest to me on the television, I turned to their DVD of Loony Tunes classics for entertainment. The first disc contains a number of Sylvester and Tweety episodes, which, for several years, have reminded me of my sister's opinion of that type of cartoon. You know, the one where a predator is chasing his prey, only to be outsmarted and usually injured by said prey. Tom and Jerry and the Road Runner and Coyote are two other classic cartoons of this genre.


30 March 2014

Prayer

Last summer, I gave a tour to a nun, Sister Joseph. We had a great time on tour and talked a little bit afterwards. Somehow, prayer came up in our conversation, and Sister Joseph said she would pray for me, because she would think about me, and every time you think about someone, you pray for them. That profound statement has stayed with me ever since.

My understanding of prayer growing up was that prayer was a conscious action. We folded our hands, bowed our heads and prayed. And when we said Amen, the prayer was over; we were no longer praying. Prayer had a distinct beginning and ending, it functioned to give thanks or express concerns, and it had definable limits. But Sister Joseph was hinting at something far deeper, and more powerful.