Words that change the world

(James 3:1-10; 5:13-16) When Matt was a young boy, he took piano lessons with a lovely and prim and proper Christian woman, Sylvia Swisher.  One day, she reported an interaction during a piano lesson. When Matt hit a wrong note, he said “Jesus Christ” under this breath.  To which Mrs. Swisher responded, “I hope that was a […]

Doers of the Word

 (James 1:22-25; 2:1-7; 2:14-26) My home state California is a paradise for bumper sticker watchers. Nothing is off limits in the point-counterpoint battle of bumper stickers, even religion.  Years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker that exclaimed, “Honk, if you love Jesus.” Not to be outdone, a counter bumper sticker emerged with an equally ardent […]

Philemon – There is no “other”

Philemon 1-21 With just 335 words, you have to wonder why Philemon is in the New Testament.  Like Ruth and Esther, there is little explicit theology, doctrine, and ethical discussion.  Yet, like Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and Song of Solomon, Philemon may be an important book for just such a time as this – our time of racial […]

More than a Fish Story – Jonah

Jonah 1:1-6, 17; 2:10; 3:1-10; 4:6-11 What would you do if God challenged everything you thought was true about your faith and the people around you?  What if you discovered that your Sunday School faith was fine when you were ten but not when you are thirty or seventy?   The book of Jonah is more than […]

Esther: For Just Such a Time as This

Esther 4:10-17 Can a beauty queen become a national hero and have a book in the Bible named after her?  Can God call a reluctant royal to be God’s instrument of deliverance?  That’s the story of Esther.  Every year, our Jewish siblings celebrate Purim.  It is a time of celebration, feasting, and rejoicing.  People reach out to the poor […]

Ruth: Not Just a Hallmark Love Story

Ruth 1:1-8, 15-17; 4:13-17 It has been said that good things come in small packages.  The same applies to speeches and books.  Abraham Lincoln didn’t think his 272 word Gettysburg Address would be remembered, and yet we recite “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, […]

Feet Planted On Earth with Hopes for Heaven

Romans 8:37-39 I became a theologian at age five.  My parents had gone away for the weekend to a church conference and left my brother Bill and me for the weekend with a kindly church lady, Bertha Orr.  I had never spent much time with a dog before, but that weekend I was inseparable from Taffy, her […]

Beginning and Ending the Day

Philippians 4:4-9 When I was a child growing up in the Baptist church, one summer my mother insisted that my brother Bill and I memorize a Bible verse each day.  We typically chose quick and easy ones like “Jesus wept” or “Judas hung himself”  Or more humorous ones like “Balaam said to his ass, ‘Because you have […]

A More Perfect Union

Amos 5:24 On this Independence Day Weekend, we need to ponder what it means to be a follower of Jesus in 21st century America.  I realize there are many good responses, but given our congregational history of concern for the well-being of our community and beyond, it is appropriate that I share my images of what it […]

A Quest for Greatness

Genesis 21:8-21 Matthew 10:29-31, 39 Do you remember  the wise words of Forrest Gump’s mother, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!”  That’s how I feel when I look up the lectionary readings for each week.  Sometimes you get Godivas, other times lemons.  Today’s Old Testament reading has a lemony quality, […]