Meditations on Luke: The Depth of Darkness

One the greatest measures of human creativity is our ability to rationalize almost anything. No matter how destructive our actions, no matter how foolish our choices, no matter how selfish our behaviors, no matter how dark our impulses, we can always come up with a good excuse or a reasonable explanation for them.

Mystery, a Prayer for Lent

God, thank you for faithful signs
of spring that tell us you love the world.
Give us glimpses of your creation
that are sights for sore eyes…

Crossroads: Ash Wednesday

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. It’s a time when we will put ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross, but it’s also a time when we will exchange Valentines at school, give cards to our families, and give and receive lots of candy. These two events, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, seem very different.

Try Writing with Friends for Lent

Writing in groups creates that kind of wonder. I’ve seen it show up around classrooms tables when people who had spent their lifetimes in the same congregation share their longing for a deeper faith for the first time.

Silent Saturday

God is dead. He left us to pray and they found him in the garden and God is dead. They dragged him before the High Priests and then they took him to Pilate and God is dead. They didn’t care about how many people he had helped or about the lives he had changed. They didn’t care about our lives. They didn’t care about the good things he had devoted his life to and God is dead.

Crossroads: Good Friday

Have you ever had a week start off well, but by the end of it all hope seems lost? Terrible things happen all at once, and you just aren’t sure how you’re going to make it another hour, let alone another day? We’ve all had bad weeks, and perhaps you have had a week so terrible that you just couldn’t go another step.

The Walking Dead

Let me start off by just laying it out there. The title of this sermon is “The Walking Dead.” I do not like scary movies or TV shows. At all. “Well, Chris, that’s silly. Scary movies aren’t real.” I know that. I know that the odds of being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac are infinitesimally small.

Crossroads: Palm Sunday

I wonder if Jesus felt that odd mixture of anticipation and disappointment when he entered Jerusalem. He enters Jerusalem triumphantly, riding on a donkey, with people spreading out their cloaks on the road and others waving branches in the air, shouting, “Hosanna!”

Formations 04.16.2017: In Graves and Gardens

As I’ve been asking who needs to hear my story of Easter joy, I’ve come up against another question—what story of Easter joy do I need to hear? And what I hear reminds me of a ghost story I first heard as a seventh grader.

Formations 04.09.2017: Jesus’ Death Foreshadowed

Jesus enters Jerusalem amid cheering crowds inspired by hope in “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 13). They came out to meet Jesus because they had heard about the raising of Lazarus (vv. 17-18). Ironically, it was this same sign that led to Jesus’ death.

Crappy First Drafts

Crappy first drafts. Anne Lamott phrases it slightly more colorfully, but that’s the gist. Can’t write? Don’t wait for the Almighty to hand you a perfectly formed manuscript from the sky. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just write. Will what you write fall somewhere beneath the quality of a hundred grand emoji? Often yes. Often much less.

Crossroads: My Hope is in the Lord

I am a worrier by nature. When things go wrong, I get anxious. When things have the possibility of going wrong, I get anxious then too. So it is comforting to know that the Lord who watches over us doesn’t sleep. God doesn’t get tired. God doesn’t get anxious.

A Spirit Prayer

O God, Thank you for your Spirit that is with us, within us, and among us.
Thank you for the spirit that we are.
Thank you for the spirit of your creation.

Crossroads: Ash Wednesday

I always feel the weight of the ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. It wasn’t until I went to a Catholic middle school that I began participating in Ash Wednesday services. From that first Ash Wednesday service until now, it never ceases to amaze me how much I feel those ashes.

Crossroads: He Is Risen!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Easter is such a wonderful time. The dark, somber mourning of Good Friday has passed and in its place is new life, lots of color, and thankful spirits.

Crossroads: Good Friday

Have you ever had a week start off well, but by the end of it all hope seems lost? Terrible things happen all at once, and you just aren’t sure how you’re going to make it another hour, let alone another day.

Experiencing Cotton Patch Moments

Although long a fan of Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel translation that recasts Jesus in the southern part of the United States in the middle of the 20th Century, it still took some time to develop even a hint of Jordan’s prophetic vision.

A View from the Pew: Ready for Easter

Nothing throws off our seasonal awareness like an early Easter. It’s a seasonal version of what we experience with daylight savings. We’re not quite sure how to feel and everything about our celebration can seem just a little off.

Crossroads: Palm Sunday

I love celebrations. In particular, I love birthdays. I love finding the perfect present and celebrating who that person is. I love my birthday as well, but it’s always a little odd to me.

Formations 03.27.2016: Risen Offers a Unique Perspective on Easter

Easter is a story Christians tell year after year—whether or not Hollywood finds the story marketable, and whether or not Hollywood retellings of the story are “rotten” or “certified fresh.”

Connections 03.27.2016: The First to Know

When I was seventeen, my church put on an Easter play that one of our members wrote, paraphrasing directly from various Scripture accounts of Jesus’ last week, his death, and his resurrection.

Connections 03.20.2016: Good Intentions

I believe Peter, who could be the patron saint of those who mean it until it matters, was serious when he told Jesus he’d never desert him and wouldn’t deny him even if it cost him his life….I have a theory about what happened.

Death and Life

We lose so many good people. When Jesus finally arrives at his friends’ home, Lazarus has been dead for four days.

Crossroads: Our Wisdom vs. God’s Wisdom

There are many instances in my childhood where logic got me into trouble. It usually began with me saying “I told you so” and you can guess that it didn’t end well.

Formations 03.13.2016: Learning from Failure

Is our success-oriented, results-driven culture setting us up for a life of disappointment? In a recent column in the Independent, Gerard Gilbert wonders if this might be the case.

Crossroads: Rules vs. Grace

I love lists. I make to-do lists, grocery lists, lists of things to clean, etc. Whatever it is, if I can make it into a list, I probably have.

Formations 02.14.2016: The Lenten Fast

The message that church conveyed—sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly—was that Lent and many other traditions of the wider church were nothing but empty ceremonialism that “real” Christians were better off avoiding.

Connections 02.14.2016: The Feast of Weeks

Have you ever planted a seed and watched it grow into food? Sadly, I haven’t yet undertaken that experience—hindered by fear of failure and, to be honest, resistance to such a level of responsibility.

That Dark Thursday Night: A Maundy Thursday Reading

“Go into the city,” he said. “A friend of mine will show you a large, upper room, furnished and ready.” Strange. Peter and I rounded a corner and there, coming out of a narrow alley was a man we didn’t know, but he looked at us as if we were expected.

Formations 04.05.2015: Easter Faith

The resurrection of Jesus is Christianity’s greatest story. It is the event that set in motion everything believers hold to as distinctively Christian.

Uniform 04.05.2015: Of Resurrection and Moon Landings

On this Sunday, a high holy day for Christians around the world, many Americans will observe a holy moment in pop culture: the premiere of the final season of Mad Men.

A View from the Pew: The Resurrection Applies to Chreasters, Too

The Resurrection is for everyone. Infrequent attendance at worship services does not exclude a person from accessing the hope of the risen Jesus Christ. But for consistent church attenders, high holy days such as Christmas and Easter can create a sense of protective exclusion.

Crossroads: Train Up a Child

I loved going to church as a child. I loved Sunday school, VBS, choir, worship, and everything else I went to. I wanted to be there every time the doors were open.

Uniform 03.29.2015: Whom Do We Celebrate?

A couple of weeks ago, cities all over the nation celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with parades. People wore varying shades of green, and some dressed like leprechauns. Four-leaf clovers were everywhere.

The Sound of Silence

Silence. We experience it so infrequently, most of us wouldn’t even recognize it. We wake to loud alarms, the drip of brewing coffee, running water as we prepare for our day.

In Pursuit of the Spirit: Practicing Lent

I’m in the process of (slowly) reading The Art of Family and Everyday Spirituality by Gina Bria. I’m not very far along, but the way in which Bria speaks about the role of family has captured my imagination.

The Tears of Lent

It happens every time. No matter how hard I try to stop it. When the music begins, when we turn toward the cross dominating the center of our sanctuary during Lent, my throat tightens, my eyes well up.

Crossroads: Never Again

How many times have we said “never again?” I’ll never eat there again. I won’t eat THAT again. I’ll never lie again. I’ll never go there again. I’ll never stay there again. We tend to say “never again” a lot.

A View from the Pew: Doing ‘Sorry’

Whether or not you have ashes dabbed on your forehead this Wednesday, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to do more than say “I’m sorry.” The season of Lent is a chance to engage in active repentance.

Thrive: Surely Seven Is Enough – Lauren Brewer Bass

One year, with Ash Wednesday approaching, I found myself stewing about words spoken to me by a friend (who is now my husband). He casually mentioned to me that I liked to hold grudges. (Um, what?)

Be an Easter Person All Year Long

What do we do, after Easter? Can we really just walk away from the whole experience, putting away the stuff of Easter and going back to business as usual? Doesn’t it mean more to us than that?

A Meditation for Good Friday – Amy Butler

I had the strangest experience just a few weeks ago. I’d been asked to participate in the funeral of a woman I did not know well; she grew up at my church, Calvary, and I knew her family from a couple of chances we’d had to be together.

Formations 04.20.2014: TV Show Asks Us to Consider the Possibility of Resurrection

ABC’s mid-season replacement series Resurrection invites viewers to consider what would happen if their loved ones came back from the dead. The series premiere introduces us to Jacob, an eight-year-old boy who wakes up in a field in China after having died thirty-two years previously.

Uniform 04.20.2014: Thoughts on Resurrection

Every Easter, we read the story of the empty tomb. And every year, I find myself wondering how I would have felt if I had been there that day. What would I have focused on as I walked to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ body? How would I have responded to Jesus’ absence? Would I have been outraged? Afraid?

Cultivating an Easter Vision – David L. Odom

Master woodworker Richard Heitzenrater carved away the decay in a log of black locust wood to create a cross he called “Redemption.” Heitzenrater, William Kellon Quick Professor of Church History and Wesley Studies at Duke Divinity School, believes that in human life as well as in nature, God brings life out of death, joy out of pain.

Heal Our Fears

Heal our fears,
the jagged-scar fears
that slice the skin
of our communion,
rip us one from another,
bleed lines of division.

Formations 04.13.2014: The Way to Calvary

Although we think of the Sunday before Easter as Palm Sunday, it has another name that is equally valid: Passion Sunday. Churches that follow a lectionary traditionally read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on this day as they embark upon Holy Week’s solemn commemoration of the events leading up to Jesus’ death.

Moravian Witness in a North Carolina City – Bill J. Leonard

Every Easter morning, in the pre-dawn hours, a pickup truck full of Moravian musicians stops at the corner outside my family’s home in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the sound of “Sleepers, Wake” floods the neighborhood. It is a resonance heard throughout the city as Moravian bands roam the streets, preparing a community to receive the news of Christ’s resurrection.