Almighty One,
We give thanks to you for these scouts and for the years of hard work that have brought them to this day. We thank you for sustaining them through dozens of merit badges, from the obscure like Fingerprinting to the important like Emergency Preparedness.

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We read a portion of scripture today from the first letter of John that includes words from one of my favorite hymns—a hymn I want sung at my funeral some day. It’s “I want to walk as a child of the light” and the words from John’s epistle can be found in the chorus, “In him there is no darkness at all.”  The song goes on to say that the night and the day are both alike, and how Christ the Lamb is the light of the city of God. It closes with the request, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.” (And if this weren’t “Covidtide,” I’d be asking our organist to play that song for us at the end of the sermon, throwing him an audible call in the middle of the service.)

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Five years ago this week, Disney Pixar released the film “Inside Out.” For those you who haven’t seen it, the plot takes place in the mind of an adolescent girl named Riley. We get to see the control room of her memories as the characters, the emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger and others try to direct how Riley feels things and remembers. The memories of her life get saved in colored glass orbs that can then later be replayed for Riley to re-experience that event and the emotions with them.

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In the words we heard today, the prophet Amos has a fourth vision come to him from the Lord.  It’s a bowl of summer fruit set before him.  The fruit would be ripe at the end of the season just before the coming of Autumn, and it signified the end for the people of Israel whose time was now ripe too.  Their time was drawing to a tragic close because they didn’t engage in the work God had set before them.

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I’ve not posted much on Facebook or Twitter since early December. And frankly, I haven’t missed it much. 

Yes—to answer the inevitable question—I haven’t seen some updates from family and friends. I don’t know the latest on the lives of those I’m not in regular contact with otherwise—but most of those were food posts or pictures from vacations or their thoughts on the political climate (I’ve definitely not missed these).

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I began my seminary studies on September 4, 2001.  One week later the World Trade Center Towers fell.

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Since I attended classes in New Haven, CT many of my more experienced colleagues went down to serve as chaplains. Melissa taught classes at a high school at a nearby town not many people had heard of at that time—Sandy Hook, CT—and many students had relatives or family members that had been in New York that day.

I remember a general sense of gathering together and facing this together as a nation at that time.  Gatherings for prayer took place frequently.  Signs of support appeared in yards.  And then one day, I drove behind an SUV which had a duct-tape message on the back window.

Nuke ’em!

Continue reading A Rabbi, a Priest and the Son of an Imam Walk into a Mosque

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Darkness permeates are time both atmospherically—the sun sets earlier each night for a couple more weeks—and ideologically. Terror attacks, racial profiling, xenophobia have flooded the news cycles recently. Rather than talk about this darkness (yet again) I wanted to share messages of the light with my congregation this week. This sermon comes is based on Luke 1:67-80.

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When I was a kid we used to play the game of who could be the quietest the longest.  As every parent can guess, my mom would be the one to suggest the game on long road trips or even short jaunts to the store as we drove in our station wagon.  My sister or a friend in the car would make goofy faces at one another to try to make each other utter some sound first.  My tactic was to look out the window until someone else caved.  We’d last a long time, at least two or three minutes, and would play a couple of rounds more.  All told there might have been 5 minutes of silence—it was golden for some in the car, I suspect.

A good nine months of silence was endured by Zechariah.  He happened to be a priest and, as Luke tells us, he happened to be the one selected by lot to make the offering of incense in the sanctuary of the Lord one day. As he went in to the sanctuary by himself, the rest of the assembly gathered outside waiting for him.  In the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared.  “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah,” the angel proclaimed, “for your prayers have been heard!” The angel went on to say, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Continue reading 3 Snatches of Light in the Darkness

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If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I like having things figured out on my own rather than relying on others to teach me. It’s a control issue, of course. Going it alone means I don’t have to depend on someone else. But I’ve also learned that having a guide really makes things so much better. Advent is a time to release my grip on circumstances in my life and find ways to let God in to guide me.

A sermon based on Psalm 25.

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Taking a cue from REI, I opted outside this Thanksgiving weekend.  As you may know, I’m not big into the retail crush in the run-up to Christmas.  We’ve only just lit the first of our Advent candles, even though the Christmas decorations have been out in most stores since well before Halloween, and I think Christmas is about more than consumerism.  Hiking has become a passion for me, so Melissa and the kids and I headed up to Mt. Watatic near the New Hampshire border for a classic New England hike on Friday, and then yesterday I joined a group from the Appalachian Mountain Club to hike Pack Monadnock in Southern New Hampshire.

Continue reading Needing a Guide Rather Than Going It Alone

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