In Company

On the wall of my study hangs a poster-sized picture of my confirmation class. It’s a game for my church members to come in & try to find sixth-grade-Josh. Not a hard game, actually. I keep it even though I can’t remember everyone’s name—it was a big class, and not everyone was a regular at … Continue reading

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Holy Week is a bit of an exercise in futility for some of us liturgically-minded pastors. While the Sanctuary may be full on Palm Sunday and overflowing at Easter, the empty pews at our midweek services beg for some attention. I urge my congregations yearly to appreciate the joy of Easter by attending to the … Continue reading

An Advent Poem

Poetry just seems right in Advent. Here’s a contribution of mine… Instructions for Making Appropriate Preparations  Light a candle. Carry a flower. Hear a song. Simple when the wick is long and dry, where the blooms multiply, with plenty of angels to choose from. But now the fuel is damp and dark, here the earth … Continue reading

Do You Know What I Have Done To You? A Sermon

This sermon was preached at First United Methodist Church, Orange, Texas, on Maundy Thursday 2011. The Scripture is John 13:1-17, 31b-35. The camera pans out, and we see our hero, paralyzed, perhaps strapped to a chair. No escape. The James Bond villain, or perhaps an antagonist from CSI or some other police or mystery drama … Continue reading

Collect for the First Sunday in Lent

Your Son, O God, fasted in the wilderness forty days, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: grow us in obedience to your Spirit, so by observing discipline we may be truly disciples, and that in our weakness we may know your power to save; through our Brother, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lent, Ash Wednesday, and Self-Denial

I have pretty high hopes for Lent every year. “This is the year I’ll finally be self-disciplined!” Or, “I will discover a new depth to my prayer life by…praying…all the time.” (Replace praying with “giving up this luxury” or “acting with mercy,” it changes from year to year.) I’ve been reminded in several places by … Continue reading


We’re on our way to New York for a week. We’ll do some touristy things, not having been to the Big Apple before, but the reason we’re going is for the 2011 Unconference. #unco11 (as it’s known on Twitter) is a gathering of about 70 adults to build IRL community & learn from one another. … Continue reading

Deserving Death, Mercy, and Good Friday

The religious leaders tell Pilate “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die…” (John 19:7) because Jesus has committed blasphemy. Hearing that read at today’s Good Friday service reminded me of this passage in J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Gandalf are discussing Gollum, who … Continue reading

An Identity Crisis

Eight years ago today (liturgically speaking) I preached for the first time in “big church”…not a devotional or talk but an actual sermon in the awe-inspiring sanctuary of St Paul’s United Methodist (Houston) on a Sunday morning: Transfiguration Sunday. It holds up, I think, and today seems oddly resonant. In honor of how the Holy … Continue reading

The Preaching Life: Countercultural

[picapp src=”f/3/7/a/Cardinal_Francis_Arinze_133a.jpg?adImageId=7433719&imageId=4948037″ width=”234″ height=”384″ /] …there is a certain contrary character to all faithful preaching…The words of the sermon will be expressing our culture in need–beloved by God, but not itself God. So the preacher’s life, as well, will have certain countercultural strains to it. Perhaps simply being willing to become a preacher was already … Continue reading