Lenten Homily – 3.3.2018

Reading 1 Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Gospel, Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

I was reading a book the other day and was struck by the gravity of our inauthentic existence.  The concept of sin in the bible is this sense of being a stranger to God and to our true being and existence.  Somehow, our purpose of being and destiny is tied to being in an intimate relationship with God/others/self.  When this harmony is disrupted by our “strangeness” of being, we become less human and loving.

The book reminded me of another layer that is affected:  the victims of our wrong living [if there is a notion that the words “wrong living” might seem too sharp or too black/white, I’m aware that sometimes it just fits the bill].  We are not isolated individuals.  Our actions and attitudes affect those around us.  We are made to do life together.  So it goes that we impact each other.

Recently, I was wrestling with my own inauthentic existence and wondered how it has victimized those close to me.  When I saw threads of how my “wrong living” has hurt my wife, my boys, and the people I serve, it broke my heart.  I realized that when I’m making personal moral (or immoral) decisions, others will either benefit or become victims of my shortcomings.  As we bring judgment on ourselves through our own wrongdoings, we must confess that we were given mandates to live truthfully and authentically in Christ.  We know better.

In todays readings, God is depicted as the one who pardons sin and forgives our wrong living ways.  It uses words like: delights to show mercy, compassion, dumps our wrongs in the deep ocean, faithful, redeems, heals, shows his love!

As you and I are made aware of how our wrong living victimizing those we love, lets remember that God is also faithful to make the wrongs RIGHT!  My wrong living doesn’t have the final say in my life.

A healthy response to the Word today is to lament (grieve/mourn) how our wrong living has affected our self and those around us.  Don’t move too quickly to try and “feel better”.  Allow the Holy Spirit to heal the dis-ease in our hearts as grieve our actions and attitudes.  Let the Holy Spirit make the wrongs right in your life.  Pray for wholeness and confess your brokenness.  Like the Prodigal son, you too will be embraced and welcomed.

Lenten Homily – 3.2.2018

Readings:  Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28, Psalm 105:16-21, John 3:16, Matthew 21:33-46

I have a few dreams that, to be honest, haunt the crud out of me.  I have this love/hate relationship with them.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t dream because I feel like they haunt me to keep pursuing them.

Dreams cause us to endure and persevere as we chase dreams.  I don’t think I’d be a corporate chaplain or drummer if it wasn’t for deep seeded dreams that were planted in me years ago.

There have been people in my life who didn’t believe in my dreams.  I’ve had people tell me I’m crazy to be a minister in the workplace.  That’s never really bothered me.  I’ve had people discourage certain dreams in me and they’ve been well intentioned.  No harm.  No foul.

God has a dream to see creation and humanity healed and empowered to flourish.  As God’s sons and daughters, we are called his beloved.  The readings for today paint a picture of a son who is deeply loved.  He also has dreams.  These dreams get Joseph sold into slavery.  Whatever he believed about these dreams, they somehow preserved him through great adversity.

I Psalm 105, we get the redemptive part of Joseph’s story:  he becomes the prime minister of Egypt and counsels the Pharaoh through a time of great famine.

I sure hope that my dreams are realized, even as I go through my own struggles.  I hope my dreams sustain me through the questions and doubts that I experience.

Part of dreaming is lament:  anguish, loss, doubt, unwanted, unloved, not being believed in, loss of opportunity, growing pains…

It seems like God too cares about dreams.  I wonder if he’s the dream giver and I wonder if that changes the way I live out the hope…

Lenten Homily – 3.1.2018

Readings:  Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16:19-31

The prophet Jeremiah lays down some truth:  we’re sure to fail if we SOLEY trust in our own abilities and our “hearts turn away from the Lord”.  Verse 6 paints a picture of a person in a desert without water.

The blessing is found in verses 7 and 8:  the blessed person is one who trusts and puts their confidence in the Lord.  Compared to the “my-own-ability-I-don’t-need-anybody” person who is in a parched desert, the person who takes on a posture of humility and admits that they don’t have all the answers or resources is a tree planted by streams of water.

In my experience of following Jesus, there’s a stark difference when I begin the day, decision-making, parenting, marriage–pretty much all things–with a profound sense of knowing that I can trust a God who loves us:  who is for us, with us, and unto us.

I love the 12 Step tradition because it starts with a confession and admission that we don’t have the power to make our lives work on our own.  I’ve screwed up so many times in my life that pain has brought me to my knees.

One and I truly want our lives altered and changed.  We don’t really want to live petrified, anxious, irritated, and busy all the time.  We’re like hurried humans who aren’t human-being.  We have such a fear of missing out, not being good enough, not having enough, or feeling overwhelmed by political/world events that we forget our true north:  Jesus calling us friends and breathing his life into us.

One of the temptations I’m currently confessing is the spirit of distraction.  Our focus is to be Christ centered, with our minds and hearts meditating on the One who loves us.  And yet social media, the news, and my own petulance distract me from the One who calls me His own.

Father, I confess my tendencies to do life on my own.  Help me to trust you in all things.  Amen

Lenten Homily – 2.28.2018

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Psalm 31:5-6, 14-16, Matthew 20:26-28

“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In the book of Revelation, the church is under a lot of distress and persecution because of Caesar Domitian, but also due to followers of Jesus compromising their practices to blend in with culture (for socio-economic gain, status, acceptance).  As I read Psalm 31, I remember Jesus committing his spirit to the Father as He is about to become the ransom for many.  

Psalm 31 and Matthew 20 juxtaposed with another offer a way to go about following Jesus:  He is the faithful one whose love is unfailing.  And our response is to commit our spirit, to pray for deliverance from enemies (inner/outward/among), and to trust God’s faithfulness in our lives.

Matthew calls us to remember that are we leaders to serve a mission that is bigger than us!  We too called to a life of mission service for the sake of God’s glory and the ransom of many.  

May we practice mindfulness as we commit our lives to Jesus, becoming servants of His mission, and gives our own lives as ransom.  Amen.

Faith-Work Integration: Trendy or Essential? (Fuller Article)

Folks at Fuller Seminary’s Studio is doing some great work with art, business, and theology.

Here’s a piece by Dr. Mark Robert’s on integrating faith and work.


Genesis thus reveals God as a worker. Yes, God’s way of working is distinctive. Nevertheless, God works. And, as we see repeatedly in the text, God appreciates the good work God does (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

As part of this good work, God creates human beings as workers. This is revealed, first of all, in the fact that humankind is made in God’s “image” and “likeness” (Gen 1:26). Theologians debate the precise meanings of these fertile terms. But, in the narrative of Genesis, God’s image and likeness are closely connected to God’s working. This is confirmed by the first commandment given to God’s image bearers: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . .” (Gen 1:28). Notice God’s first instruction to human beings was not “Build an altar,” “Think rationally,” or even “Love the Lord.” Rather, God told the beings created in God’s own image to get to work.

Lenten Homily – 2.27.2018


Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Today’s scripture readings emphasize the act of listening and hearing the word of the Lord.  We are called to take ownership of our faults and confess them as a way of becoming new people.  We are also mandated to “learn to do right:  seek justice, defend the oppressed, and to take up the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17).

Taking ownership of our faults–confessing our shortcomings–releases us from the power of the lies and distortions we believe about God, ourselves, and others.  There have been times where I sit in silence and what is most pressing are the thoughts/actions/motives of my shortcomings.  They distort my focus and true intentions to be a faithful witness and loving presence.  

Yet confession also involves my shortcomings with not taking up the cause of justice that reflects God’s heart.  The other day, I was leaving a coffee shop and saw a family of four asking for money on the street corner.  I checked my wallet and didn’t have cash (I usually don’t carry any) so I drove past the family.  Then the thoughts started…and some of them were not “holy”.  But what kept clamoring in my heart and mind was Jesus sayings on serving “the other” as if it was Him.  I got some cash and headed back to give it to Jesus–the one who is hungry, thirsty, and naked.  As St. Francis of Assisi posits, I was the one gifted to see the face of Jesus my Lord.

As the prophet Isaiah remind us today, may we hear and listen to the word of the Lord for this time and place.  And as the picture, we could use “a little change”.

Homily – God’s Unfailing Love towards the “idiot”


Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Liturgical Readings for the day:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022318.cfm

Three readings tying three themes of sin, forgiveness, and God’s unfailing love.

In Ezekiel 18, the writer begins with listing a set of behaviors that are considered sinful, worthy of death because the act themselves cause pain and sorrow for others.

In Matthew 5, Jesus has started listing his “10 commandments” and continues the prophet’s line of thought and spelling out what is considered harmful and wrong.  The commandment, “You shall not murder” is reinterpreted in Jesus as “You shall not WANT to murder.”

In Ezekiel 18:31, the Lord offers a remedy:  a new heart AND mind.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus focusing on the motive of the heart.

Thoughts, heart, and behavior are all connected.  And somehow God’s faithful presence, as well as the faithful, loving presence of others in our lives, have something to do with how we live among one another.

The themes of sin, forgiveness, and God’s unfailing love are very present in our lives each day.  During the Lenten season, I am confronted with my own heart/mind/motives, attentive to all the interior rooms, where there is light AND darkness.  God’s unfailing love gives me the courage and ability to reflect inwardly and confess the darkness and need for change.

I am also aware of my need for a spiritual community to help me live as unto the Lord and his unfailing love in our lives.  Our culture tends to live isolated from one another, leaving us influenced by our own thoughts and whatever we’re exposed to (i.e. video games, netflix, youtube, tv, etc).  Not all of it is “bad”.  I enjoy a good “netflix and chill” with my bae.  But I’m also aware of how easily I’m influenced.  I’m aware how I can be tempted to pick a side on an online debate that mostly gets me in trouble.  I’m aware of the constant barrage of sexual fantasizing that media sources convey.  I’m aware of violent images that I’m exposed to, making me feel like others are “stupid, idiotic fools” (for context, read Matthew 5:22.  The word “raca” is stupid/idiot/fool).

Ezekiel reminds us that it’s not God’s doing that we’re in broken situations.  It’s our unjust ways.  The remedy is always a return to a God who is unfailing in love, ready to give new hearts and minds in full redemption.

Lord, we confess the anger in our hearts towards others.  We ask that you heal our broken hearts that we might be reconciled to you and one another.  Amen.


Homily – The Shepherd

Readings:  1 Peter 5:1-4, Psalm 23, Matthew 16:13-19

In today’s readings, the ongoing theme tying each passage is Shepherd.  Peter and King David are key figures, with Jesus as the Chief Shepherd.  It’s beautiful how our faith tradition has put together passages like this so that we might see the coherence throughout the biblical narrative.  Two men–King David and Peter–experience God not as an angry, petulant image, but as a loving shepherd who guides and leads us.  These two figures were shaped and formed by the rod and staff, learning to become as their shepherd.  In later years, both figures became shepherds of flocks, attending to them and caring for them, not out of obligation but out of willing hearts.

During this lent season, I reminded of the need to be shepherded.  I need to be guided, led, healed, fed, and restored.  I am prone to deceive myself, become lax in my devotion to God, and to think more highly of myself than I ought to.

When do I sense God’s rod and staff comforting me?  In prayer, scripture reading, and spiritual community.  No matter how out of control the world (or my inner world) seems, in these disciplines, I find how God desires to be near so that He might heal, mend, guide, discipline, or gift us as He sees fit.

I see a difference in my devotion when I engage in rod/staff disciplines.  I’m not “problem-less”, as if I don’t have difficulties BECAUSE I enact these disciplines.  But I do feel more grounded and sober in mind and heart.  The Shepherd helps me to focus, rest, and trust.

May we experience the rod/staff of disciplined love of God today.

Healthy Practices for Pastoral Leaders

To be in ministry for the long haul, I’m learning that it requires some support, vulnerability, and deep devotion to Jesus for sustaining faithfulness.  Rich Nathan (pastor of 30+ years) lists some great practices.  Check out the source page for more details on each practice.


#1 Build a rock-solid daily personal devotional life with God.
#2 Choose a prayer partner, who is a peer and with whom you can be utterly transparent
#3 If you are married, schedule a weekly date night with your spouse.
#4 Get financial counseling from a professional financial counselor.
#5 Ruthlessly avoid all compromising situations with the opposite sex.
#6 Take care of yourself physically.
#7 Do not confuse knowledge or skills or giftedness for spiritual maturity.
#8 If you are married, take a great marriage inventory with your spouse and have a professional marriage counselor discuss the results with you.
#9 Join a small group (and if married, join with your spouse).
#10 Cultivate the fear of the Lord and a fear of sin.

The 5-7 minute rule of talking about work with your spouse

The 5-7 minute rule of talking about work with your spouse:

In countless counseling sessions, I’ve heard partners share their struggles with the “work conversations” when getting home after a long day. In the workplace setting, there are conflicts, crises, and criticism which takes an emotional toll.

Naturally, a spouse might want to share their work struggles with the partner because they have a safe marriage. But the problem is that the spouse hearing the lament is powerless to do anything about it. He or she can’t help with the issues and there can only be so much “listening” and “empathy” one can give. And usually, the listener doesn’t have an outlet to share the burden or pain.

All marriage partners need allies–friends, peers, support groups–to confide in so that the marriage doesn’t become the only place to share work struggles.

We’ve tried to have a 5-7 minute “talk about work” rule in our home in order to keep it minimal. Typically, the conversation might happen while we’re making dinner together and then there’s a transition of “Enough about my work…how was your day?”

We want to be a safe space for each other and not burden the other with work issues. Instead, focus on decompressing, having some confidants (preferably a therapist, coach, pastor, or trusted friend) to talk with, and using the evening to fill each other’s love tank.