Connections 02.18.2024: Adjusting Expectations

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t tend to read the New Testament epistles as sources of wonder. The Old Testament, yes!

Connections 02.11.2024: What’s the Big Secret?

On the Sunday before Lent—the season when, with Jesus, we will turn our attention to the coming crucifixion and resurrection—we pause with the disciples and pay attention.

Connections 01.28.2024: Stumbling Blocks and Building Blocks

Sometimes I forget how unusual churches are. We have people of all ages and abilities.

Connections 01.21.2024: The Time is Short

This holiday season was a first in my family: this is my older son’s first year at college, so this was the first Christmas when we’ve had a child come home for a little while and then go away again.

Connections 01.07.2024: What Have You Heard?

When I was in high school it was normal for churches to send teams out “on visitation”—dropping in unannounced on new folks.

Connections 12.31.2023: Not “The End”

The post-Christmas letdown can be a relief or a disappointment—or both.

Connections 12.17.2023: A Blessing from the Lord

Recently our teenaged son experienced a rite of passage: we introduced him to one of our generation’s cultural icons, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Connections 12.10.2023: Who Needs Good News?

Advent catches me off-guard every year with the reminder that God may be “in his heaven” but all is not, in fact, right with the world.

Connections 11.26.2023: Grace and Goodness

It’s Thanksgiving week, which means many of us will gather with some of the people we love best in the world, and we’ll eat amazing favorite foods, and we’ll share the things we’re grateful for, and we’ll celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.

Connections 11.19.2023: Peace and Security

Most of us don’t know very much about the ancient history of the region that many faith groups consider to be holy land.

Connections 11.05.2023: Recipe for a Saint

The first Sunday in November is often observed as All Saints’ Day.

Connections 10.29.2023: The Bible and the Newspaper

In 1963, Time magazine published a short article about the retirement of the theologian and professor Karl Barth.

Connections 10.15.2023: “Yes, But” or “Yes, And”

If these parables were a modern movie franchise, volume three (22:1-14) might frustrate fans and critics.

Connections 10.08.2023: Regrets, I Have (More Than) a Few

Yesterday I let my fifteen-year-old son connect his phone to my car’s audio system so we could listen to his playlist on the way to the orthodontist.

Connections 09.24.2023: What’s Your Problem?

In general, it is not a good idea to base complex theological understandings on snippets and sound bites.

Connections 09.17.2023: All Means All

In literature, including the Bible, repetition of a word or phrase is a way of giving emphasis to an image or an idea.

Connections 09.03.2023: Up to Good?

Of all the descriptions we might apply to the Bible—holy, inspired, encouraging, uplifting—one we might not usually consider is ironic.

Connections 08.27.2023: Stop, Look, and Listen

As children, many of us learned to “stop, look, and listen” when we crossed the street, to (hopefully) cross safely.

Connections 08.13.2023: You Are (Still) Here

Elijah is on the run. His life is in danger because he has been faithful to the ways of God and has faithfully proclaimed God’s messages, even though the people have responded violently.

Connections 08.06.2023: Making the Pitch

There’s an old advertising maxim that if you want to sell something, first you show the people that they have a need, then show them how your product or service can meet that need.

Connections 07.16.2023: Changing the Things We Can

The Bible is full of stories of people who grapple with this reality, whether they know it or not. They learn to trust God in times when a situation “is what it is.”

Connections 07.02.2023: Here I Am

About three miles from the White House are the gated, green grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Today it’s a quick car ride to a place that feels a million miles away from the marble monuments and memorials of the National Mall.

Connections 06.25.2023: Good to Know

Those of us who grew up in churches and denominations that were “evangelical”—in the sense of sharing the Good News (from the Greek, euangélion)—can probably rattle off quite a few Bible verses that we learned to lean on as foundations of faith.

Connections 06.11.2023: You Can Sit with Us

I have very clear memories of lunchtimes on several first days in several new schools, when I would stand at the edge of a crowded, noisy cafeteria, clutching the edges of a plastic tray.

Connections 06.04.2023: The Great Reassurance

Matthew 28:17 seems to me to be one of the most honest descriptions of Jesus’s disciples in the entire Bible. They have followed him from their fishing boats to the upper room.

Connections 05.21.2023: On Their Behalf

Many of us have probably had the experience of someone praying for us by name, in person, right in front of (or next to) us. Maybe they’re even holding our hands or laying hands on our heads or shoulders.

Connections 05.14.2023: Making a Home

In 22 years as a military family, my family has had a lot of homes. We are old hands at moving in and moving out.

Connections 04.30.2023: Seeking Understanding

Jesus regularly teaches his listeners—whether his devoted followers or his frustrated (and frustrating) detractors—using metaphors.

Connections 04.23.2023: Doing Something

When I was about fifteen years old, the movie Dead Poets Society came out and changed my life—at least, it sure felt like it.

Connections 04.09.2023: “Who Are You Looking For?”

If the question of Palm Sunday—“Who is this?”—is a good one, the question of Easter may be a better one.

Connections 04.02.2023: Who Is This?

There are Scriptures we can hear spoken aloud in worship—and sung about in hymns—and acted out in children’s pageants—and taught about in studies and sermons.

Connections 03.19.2023: How Long, O Lord?

At least fifteen times in the Psalms, the psalmist asks God “How long?” How long will God allow God’s people to suffer (Ps 4)? How long will God hide God’s face (Ps 13)?

Connections 03.12.2023: In Remembrance

In Exodus, there is a refrain: the Hebrew people are to tell their children what God did to save them from slavery in Egypt. But the exodus isn’t the only thing the people are supposed to remember.

Connections 02.26.2023: For All We Know

The narrative of the Garden of Eden makes a great children’s story. It’s ideal for picture books: the flowing blues of water and sky, with the shining sun, moon, and stars in their courses.

Connections 02.19.2023: We’ve Heard It All Before

People who have grown up in church, been regular Sunday School attenders, or listened to enough sermons based on the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary may feel like they’ve heard it all before.

Connections 02.05.2023: Who Are We to Say?

For someone who claims to have come preaching to the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (v. 3), the Apostle Paul always seems to me to be very certain.

Connections 01.29.2023: Wisdom for the Here and Now

The city’s residents and visitors included educated Greek philosophers and faithful Jewish scholars alongside many other religious groups and ethnic traditions.

Connections 01.15.2023: Letting Them Go

All four Gospels tell stories that include John the Baptist. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus’s cousin John shows up several times.

Connections 01.08.2023: Who Jesus Is

The four Gospels record many similar depictions of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and each writer also includes unique parts of Jesus’s story. When we study the Bible, we remember that the similarities and differences between the Gospels are important.

Connections 12.25.2022: Pondering Traditions

The other day I saw a social media post aimed at newly married folks. It said, in effect, whatever you do, you do not question your spouse’s family’s Christmas traditions.

Connections 12.18.2022: What is Love?

In this final week of Advent, our wait for Christmas Day is in single digits. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, is here.

Connections 12.04.2022: Seeking Peace

There are several different ways to “name” the four traditional weeks of Advent as we move closer to the celebration of Jesus’s birth. The most familiar is probably the quartet of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Connections 11.27.2022: Counting Down

When I was growing up in the Olden Days (you know, the 1980s), my family didn’t celebrate the church season of Advent. Once Thanksgiving was over and December 1 came, we went straight into red and green overload.

Connections 11.13.2022: Remembering to Forget

Where I live, the autumn trees have been spectacular this year and every time the wind blows a flurry of red and gold leaves spill to the ground. The trees are letting go until next spring.

Connections 11.06.2022: Looking Back and Working Toward

For the past several Sundays, the church my family attends has been gearing up for a time of visioning: where are we being called in the months and years ahead?

Connections 10.23.2022: God in the Midst

The “end times” are big business. When I was in youth group in the 1980s, we had a leader who was really into end-times stuff. At lock-ins we watched ‘70s-era apocalypse movies, and for many years I carried a bookmark in my Bible describing all the possible tribulation timelines.

Connections 10.16.2022: The (Im)possible Dream

The books of the Old Testament prophets are sprinkled with visions through which God communicates to these dedicated messengers. We may be so familiar with the stories of prophetic visions that we are no longer impressed or amazed by them.

Connections 10.02.2022: One Quiet Hope

The book of Lamentations is a book for the people. Five long poems of lament put a whole community’s grief into words as the people of Israel come to terms with their exile from their home in God’s holy land.