Friday, July 10, 2009

Celebrity Sinners

We non-celebrities are prone to project our personal anxieties, insecurities, and judgments onto public figures. We are also apt to project our hopes, dreams, and aspirations onto public figures who delight us. In an age of mass media when entertainers and politicians intrude upon our psyches in powerful ways, the urges in this direction are nearly irresistible. Public figures are enormously present in our private lives.

Consequently the death of a celebrity like Michael Jackson or the discovery of infidelity on the part of a politician like Sen. Ensign or Gov. Sanford draw us into a puzzling blend of public and private discourse. The boundaries between public and private worlds become fuzzy.

The spiritual danger here is that given the public roles of the persons we feel they are fair game for judgment so that we maintain the public standards of appropriate behavior. At the same time, given the way in which they have entered our private worlds, they become objects of gossip that is emotionally engaging in a way that allows us to feel morally superior.

My guess is that there is little chance that in an age of mass media that the public/private boundary will return. In the midst of these ambiguities let us reflect on the sins of celebrities not only with the public judgment that may be appropriate, but also with the knowledge that each of us has our own questionable corners and vulnerabilities to temptation. A helpful prayer I have found in Phyllis Tickle’s adaptations of The Offices of Daily Prayer:

God of justice, God of mercy, bless all those who are surprised with pain this day from suffering caused by their own weakness or that of others. Let what we suffer teach us to be merciful; let our sins teach us to forgive. This I ask through the intercession of Jesus and all who died forgiving those who oppressed them. Amen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Betting on Cowardice

In a nearly unanimous vote the US Senate bet that their constituents were cowards. They decided that Americans would not be brave enough to accept Guantanamo detainees to be held in US prisons. The Senate concluded that rather than uphold American values of justice and ideals of due process, their constituents would prefer to continue to operate Guantanamo and undermine our international credibility. I hope they bet wrong, but I'm not so sure.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Torture is wrong

Torture is wrong. It's just that simple.

I am willing to believe that the motives of those who practice torture may be good. They may believe they are saving lives or protecting their country. They may believe they are following lawful orders.

But torture is still wrong.

It is important that those who torture or who oversee torture are brought to justice. There must be no hiding place for those who torture or who authorize torture.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Story

God put the question to the world in Christ Jesus: Will you accept and receive me? Will you embrace the love and presence and peace I have to offer?

The world answered with the crucifixion. Conversation over? No!

God’s reply is: I am going to love you anyway. I am going to transform that very act of rebellion and rejection of me into your salvation. I want to rewrite every death story into an Easter resurrection story.

Listen, God says: my story, your story, our story together, is not about retaliation, condemnation, getting ahead, or dominating others. It’s neither about getting your own way nor about shrinking back from the dreams of your true heart. It’s about living out of the real life Easter resurrection story.

Our story together is the real life story of how we embrace the abundance of God’s blessing and goodness in faith, hope, and love. It’s about how we embrace the life that Christ opens up before us. That’s what it’s about.

Together -- on the journey – that’s God’s Easter story.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bigger Story

During last Sunday’s sermon we explored the notion of stories. All of our words and deeds have meaning based on the story that surrounds them. We never are just driving in a car. Instead we are going to get groceries, going on vacation, going to visit a friend, or going to work. In turn these larger activities fit into a larger story. As we consider how our activities take on their meaning from more and more comprehensive stories, as Christians we believe that those stories ultimately have their meaning in the cosmic lovescape of God’s grace. God invites each one of us to live all of our words and deeds into the eternal story of God’s redeeming love.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Glad I Didn't Do This

Published: March 23, 2009

Filed at 3:43 p.m. ET

SHEBOYGAN FALLS, Wis. (AP) -- A pastor and parishioner have been cited by police for shooting an arrow during a church service. The pastor asked to have the arrow shot across the front of the church during a recent service at Pentecostals of Sheboygan County as a 'teaching tool.'

As the parishioner prepared to shoot the arrow with his bow, one man stood up and objected, telling the pastor it was unsafe and illegal. Parishioners said the pastor told the man to be quiet and sit down.

When the man objected a second time, the pastor asked him to leave. He did and called police.

The parishioner was cited for using a missile indoors and the pastor was cited for aiding and abetting. Both were fined $109.


Information from: The Sheboygan Press,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Problem at Ithaca College

I have been spending some time following the heated controversy at Ithaca College around an article my daughter, Emily, wrote describing her experience in Hebron this past summer. You can also follow it at:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Many Sundays at Fairport United Methodist Church we affirm our faith together with an affirmation of faith that comes from the United Church of Canada. This past Sunday morning we reflected on the importance of a statement of faith for keeping ourselves focused on the fundamental beliefs that keep us rooted in our understanding of who God is, who we are, and how we are called to be followers of Jesus.

In times of anxiety and stress it is easy to become confused and set off-course. Our fears can warp our understanding and convince us that we are alone in an uncertain and meaningless world. Our frustrations can lead us to believe that we are not guests in God’s good world and that God has abandoned us. We can come to think that we have no calling to be evidence in this world that God is indeed with us and to celebrate that call together.

Because we can forget and lose focus, week by week we affirm:

We are not alone,
We live in God's world.

We believe in God:
Who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God's presence,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.

We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Thoughtful Friend Writes...

How many times have you heard that word or in your case said it?
It is one that has caused me to shut down and quit listening,
didn't apply to me. The whole idea of sin + repentence has always
felt at best of secondary importance. the two great commandments
are more than enough for me. But, maybe a week or so ago the
Word/word came into my head (repent) and it's definition of
turning away from a path finally and simply seemed to say turn
away from those self destructive ways, I'm not trying to turn you
into something "holy" I just want you to be whole. Never mind
about what is seen on the outside by others it's your insides that
matter and those things that you do to find comfort are hurting
you. Give 'em up. Never mind about sin, those are just words Love
you neighbor as your SELF.