Showing posts from 2021


Yesterday, I get a text from Corey during the school day. He texted, "I am scared." Why? Because there was a kid at school who was accused of having a knife in his bag. This caused a big stir, naturally. Teachers were checking his bag. The school police officer was called. The kid was removed from the class and the class put on lockdown. Thankfully, it was a false alarm, and the school did the right things. But as we sadly know in America, it easily could have been the real thing, and gone a very different way. And it could have been a gun instead of a knife. Our kids know this. That is why Corey's text read, "I am scared." After all, they do lockdown drills in the case of an active shooter. Read that last sentence! Our kids practice going into lockdown in the case of an active shooter. Seeing those words, "I am scared" - it immediately shook me. As a parent, like thousands of parents across the country, there is fear in me in sending my kid off to sch

The State of Religion & Church Life in America, 2021 (Pt. 2)

This week I’d like to focus on a couple things – the demographics and the faith practices of the United Church of Christ. To do this, I’d like to compare the UCC to a similarly sized denomination that is distinctly Evangelical in nature as well as distinctive altogether, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church of America (SDA). One reason why it is distinctive altogether is the fact that it’s Sabbath and day for Worship is Saturday. Another distinctive feature of the SDA is that most of its adherents practice vegetarianism. According to the 2015 American Religious Landscape Survey, the SDA, along with non-denominationalists and Pentecostals, were the only 3 Christian groups that saw growth between 2007 and 2014. So, the SDA is doing something right. That said, juxtaposing the UCC next to the SDA helps us have a helpful frame of reference. This is, as mentioned especially so when UCC and SDA are similar in size.   I’d like to begin by considering the age range of the SDA and UCC. SDA i

The State of Religion & Church Life in America, 2021 (Part 1)

Covid-19 – it changed everything. Or did it? In some ways, yes. In some ways, no. To see the similarities and differences between pre-Covid and amid-Covid church life, we must first go back to the years before Covid. What were sociologists, researchers, and church-people telling us? A couple huge surveys measuring religion in America painted a grave picture of church life in the few years before Covid. All in all, things were not looking so good for institutional churches. The Religious Landscape Survey put out by Pew Research Center in 2014 and the American Values Atlas put out by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in 2016 both agreed that religion in America had shifted in major ways. The number of Christians in America was steeply declining. The number of religiously unaffiliated Americans was steeply rising. PRRI indicated that in 2016, 69% of Americans were affiliated with some form of Christianity. In 1976, it was 87%. What made up the difference, mostly those who clai

Our Daily Bread

I want to begin with a quote from the book we’ve been reading for Wednesday’s Bible Study, A More Christlike Word. The author Bradley Jersak begins the book with he calls, a reliable one-liner. Here it goes: “The Word of God is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. And when he was about eighteen years old, he grew a beard.” This quote gets at the heart of the book’s thesis – that we must read the Bible through the lens of Jesus, which the Bible itself declares to be the Word of God. Christ and his Spirit, the primary Word of God, are the reading glasses we need to read the Bible and get to the heart of the Bible’s truths. The Bible points to Jesus and so he is the lens through which we decipher each text. This morning I want to give a working example of reading scripture through the lens of Christ as we focus on our reading from the Old Testament, also known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible. Our story from I Kings 17 is a wonderful one. It resonates on its own, doesn’t it? The c

Why I Don't Wear a Clerical Robe

A spiritual value I really try to apply and live by is the value of simplicity. I live rather simply. I dress simply. I eat pretty simply. I try to keep it simple.  That said, wearing a clerical robe on Sundays to me doesn’t match how I usually approach life. And of all hours, the Worship hour when we stand before and sit with God demands simplicity and humility. In this vein of thought, there is a Protestant Reformer that I especially admire who sadly is not as known as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. His name is Andreas Karlstadt . In addition to implementing the removal of all symbols from the sanctuary, he also rejected the wearing of clerical vestments and eventually even of academic gowns which is the style Protestant clergy still use. He wore simple, peasant garb, believing that we are all priests and pastors, and we are all equally created in God’s image. Lastly, I prefer the Johnny Cash approach. The Man in Black, another hero of mine, influences my clerical garb – wearing bl

Jesus on Wealth

W e live in a culture that values wealth. I think this is abundantly clear. We highlight our rag to riches stories. We place wealthy people on pedestals and see them as people to emulate. We elect into power mostly wealthy people. We measure the state of our country and other countries by measures of economic wealth. The same can be said about the religious culture Jesus confronted… It said in many ways in society, blessed are the rich. That is why Jesus presented and still presents a problem for many. Jesus did not see material wealth as an inherent positive. In fact, he saw it as just the opposite. Material wealth for Jesus served as a detriment when it came to what Jesus was all about – God’s Commonwealth, which most biblical translations translate as the kingdom of God. God’s Commonwealth is the translation suggested by renowned theologian John Cobb. This is Cobb’s rationale for translating Kingdom of God as Commonwealth of God. The Greek phrase that we translate as “king

Where’d All the Young Folks Go?

  13   People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them.   14   When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them,  “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.   15   I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.”   16   Then he hugged the children and blessed them. In the short vignette from the gospel of Mark chapter 10, the disciples of Jesus want to hinder children from coming to Jesus. They want to turn them away. Why, you ask. Well, you need to consider that we live in a different day and age, a day and age where children are treated special, lovingly, and exalted. This is a very kid-centric time we live in, in most ways anyway, and rightly so. But in Jesus’ times, kids were not seen as special or exalted. For families struggling to get by and survive, children were expensive, first of all. And infant mortality

On 9/11 Twenty Years Later

9/11 is personal for most Americans. I am no different. Perhaps being in New York City that horrible day makes my sense of loss a bit more acute. Perhaps all the events surrounding my life at the time does the same. I don't know. I had just moved to Manhattan a couple weeks before that world-altering event. My wife and I for the year prior were teaching Conversational English in South Korea. It was overall a terrific experience, but some serious health issues related to air quality and physical limitations made the month before our departure from Korea rather tenuous and stressful. Holly was forced to leave early a month earlier than expected (July 2001). She'd recuperate in Florida with her parents while I went to New York City to begin seminary. She'd join me in mid-September. Union Theological Seminary is on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, some 4 miles north of the Twin Towers though connected by the Subway system as most places in NYC are. My first day of classes w