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A Thanksgiving Message

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Grace and peace to you all on this Thanksgiving Day!  Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn't declared a national holiday until 1863, during the height of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that it be celebrated on the final Thursday of November?  This would be changed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 when he moved the holiday up a week during the Great Depression in order to boost retail sales.  Eventually, after a lot of pressure, he moved it to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941.  Funny--back then people were actually outraged that the holiday would be used as a precursor to shopping.  Alas.  As I was reading through Lincoln's original proclamation for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I found the following plea that he made to all Americans (Northerners and Southerners alike), imploring them to ask God:   “...commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife

This Is What It Looks Like

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For centuries, those of us who call ourselves Christians have tried to make sense of all of the tragedies and tribulations of each successive age by basically blaming God for them.   To put it another way, generation after generation of Christians have affirmed the notion that God either directly or indirectly sends tragedies and tribulations our way as punishment of some kind for faithlessness, or as a way to test us or prove our worthiness.  On the surface, there is a simplistic kind of logic to these assertions.  If as Christians we affirm (rightly so) that God is sovereign or "over all things," then God would have to be the source of even our worst tribulations. This particular moment in history is no exception to these kinds of assertions.   The global pandemic has spawned scores of so-called prophets, who preach and teach that the trials of our day amount to a litmus test for the faithful, which can only be passed if they put their trust in Jesus, practice "faith

The Suffering God

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Several years ago, I was teaching a class on the basics of Christian theology, which included a session on the theology of the Cross.   Not to get too deep into the weeds, but my teaching that day was heavily influenced by Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God, which is one of the very best books I have read on the subject.  Moltmann's entire premise is grounded in Trinitarian theology, which means that through Jesus (embodying the eternal, universal Christ, the second "person" of the Trinity) God is crucified on the Cross.   This simply means that God suffers. God experiences the loss of God.  God feels the unimaginable pain and loss of betrayal.  And yes, God dies.  All because it is God (in Christ) hanging on the Cross, taking on the worst the world has to offer.  When I shared this with my class, there was stunned silence as they took it all in.  And then someone quietly said in the stillness, "This changes everything for me."   I completely understood the

The Evil That Men Do

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I was saddened and horrified yesterday to see the news from Waukesha, Wisconsin of an SUV barreling through a holiday parade filled with high school marching bands, a children's dance team, and many others.  The reports this morning indicated that five people lost their lives, and at least 20 others were seriously injured.  A suspect has been taken into custody, but there's no indication as of yet why he did what he did.  My heart is hurting today as I think about how something as sweet and wonderful as a small-town holiday parade could have become the scene of such tragedy and loss.  There's so much that's wrong with our world right now.  It's enough to shake anyone's faith.   As I write this, I can't stop thinking about a quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:  “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” It feels that way sometimes doesn't it?  It feels as though evil just keeps scoring victories, and we fin

Christ the King Sunday

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Today is Christ The King Sunday, or as it is also known, Reign of Christ Sunday--pretty exciting, right?    This is a historic feast day in the Church that teaches us about the true nature of the Kingdom of God and the purpose for the Incarnation---the theology of God becoming one of us in order to rescue all of us.   This feast day comes right before the beginning of Advent, and the Gospel reading comes to us from the Gospel of John chapter 18 where Jesus and Pilate have an interesting conversation about the nature of God's kingdom.   Here's the thing, this Sunday also reminds us that the Church proclaims something that isn't entirely self-evident.  The Church proclaims that Jesus is Lord and that God's kingdom is breaking through all around us.  Yet, we still ask: Who is Jesus? and Where is the kingdom of God?  The reason why we ask these questions is that the world is not as it should be.  Which leads most of us to seek the answers to those questions on our own terms

Of Tombstones and Stories

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  Caitlin Abrams, known on Tik Tok as @manicpixiemom has 1.9 million followers, which is an impressive number by any metric that you might use.  She doesn't do zany or risque videos, either, which makes the number of followers she's accrued even more remarkable.   Caitlin simply creates videos of her cleaning some of the oldest gravestones that she discovers throughout New England by first scraping them of moss and debris, and then using steel brushes, cleaning solution, and old-fashioned elbow grease.   As she cleans the tombstones, Caitlin tells the story of the person buried beneath them after painstakingly researching their history.   Like  t he story of Rachel Burton...  Rachel died of tuberculosis in 1790, and was suspected by local townsfolk of being a vampire and cursing her widow’s new wife with the same disease. They exhumed Rachel's body, burned her organs, and her husband’s current wife breathed in the smoke to undo the curse. Then she died too. I don't know

Why You Should Go Back To Church

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It's been no secret that church attendance in the U.S. has been on the decline for the past few decades---up to a 3% decrease every year for at least the last 30 years.   As a pastor, I can attest to this fact and the statements that people would make to me as to why they no longer attended a church.  They would say things like:  "I've given up on church." "The Church is full of hypocrites."  "I don't need a church to experience God."  "Church is irrelevant." Honestly, those of us who lead in the Church grew used to those reasons and shaped our worship, ministries, and missions to respond to them.   But after a global pandemic rocked the world, the decline in church attendance and engagement has been accelerated dramatically, and there don't seem to be a lot of answers readily available.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported that most congregations are experiencing a 30-50% decline in attendance and involvement from church me