Famous Last Words, Part 1

I’ve had many opportunities to give sermons on the openings of the books of the Bibles. They are fun sermons to write because you get to dig into the particularities of genre or historical context or even artistic perspective. I realized that I had not had as many opportunities to preach on the texts that […]

A Litany for Changing Season

The air feels crisper this morning. 

The sunlight shines at a different angle. 

Change is in the air. 

 

We feel the change not only on our skin,

But in our souls. 

Something is shifting. 

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A Back-to-School Blessing

A top-view photograph of brightly colored school supplies (colored pencils, tempera paints, tape, protractor and compass, paper clips, calculator, eraser, pencil sharpener) arranged in a loose circle atop gray hardwood floor.

God of all that learns and grows,

Bless our students, and guide them that their minds may grow in wisdom and their hearts may grow in compassion. Help us to nurture their questions and encourage their curiosity that they may learn more about the world You created and the people around it.  Read more

Blessed are the Abortion Seekers

Blessed are those who seek abortions to save their lives

From ectopic pregnancies, septic uteruses, and miscarriages.

Blessed are those who seek abortions to save their lives

From domestic violence, suicide, and poverty.

Blessed are those who seek abortions for any reason at all.

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  A Father’s Day Litany

 

A Litany for Father’s Day

Leader: Our Lord Jesus Christ called God his heavenly Father and Joseph his earthly father. Let us come before our heavenly Father with our gratitude, praying for God’s blessing and offering up all our experiences with our earthly fathers in prayer.

Gracious God, we pray your blessing upon the fathers, step-fathers, adopted fathers, and grandfathers of our lives.

People: Good God, bless our fathers.

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A Litany to Pray in the Wake of Gun Violence

You created us in your own image, an image of love and grace.  You have called us to live in peace with one another, to be instruments of your peace and justice in this world.  Surround us with your divine presence as we mourn and as we rage in the face of yet another mass shooting.

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Make us instruments of your justice and peace.

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The Holy No

For Christmas last year, my husband gave me a “NO” button. It’s big, it’s red, and when you push it, a loud voice says (in one of eight ways), “No!” It was a silly stocking stuffer, meant to make me laugh and roll my eyes. But even silly gifts can impart a deeper meaning. My husband knows that I have a hard time saying no, and he thought the reminder—sitting right there on my desk, staring up at me day after day—would be helpful. 

 

Saying no is hard for many of us, particularly for women. We don’t want to let people down. We want to show that we can handle it. We want to come across as accommodating. So we take on work that isn’t ours to do, we fill our schedules with commitments we don’t have time for, we let people treat us with less respect and kindness than we deserve, and we go underpaid for years, in part because saying no doesn’t come easily. 

 

And if we do manage to say no, we soften the blow. We make up fake excuses to get out of that meeting we don’t want to attend. We dole out less-than-authentic encouragement when we think someone’s brilliant idea isn’t, actually, brilliant. We shrug off an inappropriate comment or action, laughing awkwardly and walking away. We don’t want to say no bluntly and directly. It’s hard. It doesn’t feel kind, or good, or right. 

 

I wonder how our Christian narrative has played into the relationship many of us have with saying no–and how this narrative might offer another way. Our foundational story—Jesus coming back to life after death—communicates that there is always room for hope. There is always room for reconciliation. There is always room for improvement. There is always room for something new. It’s expansive, this narrative. It allows for endless opportunities and possibilities. 

 

This expansiveness is what I cherish most about the faith I live and teach and preach. I have the word “hope” tattooed on my wrist as a constant reminder that our God is always capable of doing a new thing. The end is never really the end. Even in death, life wins. Even in grief, love wins. No matter what, there is something more, something better, something new, waiting. This truth is beautiful and powerful and transformative. It is, perhaps, the most important gift we have to share with the world. 

 

But there is a shadow-side to this belief and the way we’ve interpreted it.

 

It has formed us to be a people who can’t say no. 

 

The stone, after all, has been rolled away. The tomb is empty. Possibility is endless. Who are we to roll the stone back and seal off the tomb with our “no”?  Who are we, in the words of the United Church of Christ, to “put a period where God has put a comma”?

 

But maybe we should. 

 

Maybe saying no is just as holy as saying yes.

 

God, after all, says no.

 

God says no to murder and deceit and adultery and the worship of other gods in the commandments given to God’s people as they enter into a new, freed reality. 

 

God says no to Moses, denying him entrance into the Promised Land after years of wandering the wilderness.

 

God says no to remembering our sin, telling us over and over that God will forget our iniquities the moment they leave our lips in confession. 

 

And Jesus says no. 

 

Jesus says no to Satan in the wilderness, not just once but three times. 

 

Jesus says no to the money-changers at the temple trying to extort those who are simply trying to offer a sacrifice to God.

 

Jesus says no to a group of people about to stone a woman, forcing them to examine their own sin before casting judgment on hers. 

 

But the biggest “no” of all comes as God says no to death. 

 

In that very story that we interpret as God’s forever and final “yes,” God actually says no. The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty, possibility is endless—all because of God’s “no.”

 

Sometimes saying no can be the healthiest thing we do. Sometimes saying no honors our boundaries, energy, emotional health, and discernment better than anything else. Sometimes saying no, bluntly and directly, can be the holiest thing we do, full stop. 

 

No begrudging agreement. No niceties. No commas. Just, no. Only, no. No, period.   

 

No to that idea. No to that program. No to that meeting. No to that behavior. No to that relationship. 

 

Because let’s face it, not every idea is good. Not every program supports the mission of the congregation. Not every meeting is productive, not every behavior is appropriate, and not every relationship is healthy. 

 

So, no. No. NO. 

 

What if we stopped viewing “no” as prohibitive and started seeing it as freeing? What if we stopped viewing “no” as rude and started seeing it as assertive? What if we stopped viewing “no” as closing a door and started seeing it as opening one?

 

We have a beautiful, powerful story to tell. It’s a story about the endless possibilities of new life made possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s true. 

 

And it all started with “no.”

 

A Blessing for Those Who Say No

 

Blessed are you who say no.

Blessed are you who close the door,

who end the chapter,

who say there is not enough—

not enough time, not enough resources, not enough energy—

and who refuse to create more.

 

Blessed are you who call a thing what it is: 

A dead end.

An epic failure.

A terrible idea.

 

You have looked deep within and taken stock.

You have been honest with yourself and others.

You have not sugar-coated things or softened the blow or forced the idea.

You have examined the possibilities, counted the costs, and analyzed the benefits.

 

Be at peace with this tiny word that spells freedom.

Let the release it provides wash over you.

Be assured that it is a sacred thing you’ve done, saying no.

It is holy and brave,

and so are you.

 

Blessed are you who say no.

Blessed Are the Meal Makers

As my husband and I celebrate our daughter Jo (Josephine) coming into the world this week, I’m reminded and grateful for the ways love surrounds us and literally feeds and sustains us.

 

This blessing was inspired by The Ministry of Meals at the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn for the ways they have nurtured by body and soul and the bodies and souls of so many.

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A Women’s History Month Blessing for Clergywomen

 

I grew up in a Christian denomination that still opposes the ordination of women, but this March I’m celebrating my first Women’s History Month as an ordained clergywoman. When I left my childhood church at the age of 18, it took me a long time to find a church home where women were recognized as leaders and teachers. It took me even longer to respond to my call to ministry. Like many of us, my path toward ministry was winding, and I’m a pastor today only because I had the support and example of so many incredible women along the way.

 

My ordination service last October was held at my new home church in Baltimore, a Disciples of Christ congregation I joined shortly after graduating college. It was the first Mainline Protestant church I ever attended, and I remember how amazed I was my first Sunday when women greeted me at the door, read scripture during worship, and presided over communion. I couldn’t wait to go back the next Sunday—and every Sunday that followed.

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A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Zoom

Image courtesy of Coffee Geek-https://coffeegeek.tv/

This prayer marks the transition from online back to in-person worship. You are welcome to adapt to your context.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Zoom

Holy God, we give you thanks that we can worship you together in-person in the church building as of next Sunday!

At the same time, we mark this last service together on Zoom, and we give you thanks for this software platform. Thank you for giving your people the talents and skill to develop this communication tool.

For over a year, Zoom has enabled us to safely have and be church from home in the midst of a terrible pandemic.

We give you thanks that we have had access to computers, phones, tablets, and stable internet.

Of course, it hasn’t always been easy – we learned a great deal along the way. There were those times when someone not being muted led to a phone ringing or a dog barking during prayer or the sermon.

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