Forgiveness

Forgiveness. The word is central to what we believe. We hear it often, and hopefully we speak it more often. We pray for it. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This past week we saw and heard what that looked like in a Dallas courtroom where Brandt Jean forgave Amber Guyger, the ex-police officer who mistakenly killed his brother Bothom Jean, and embraced her in open court before television cameras. He not only forgave her, he urged her to turn to Christ for peace and forgiveness.

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Covering Up

You probably heard the story by now. Carson King, a 24-year old man from Iowa, holds up a sign asking for beer money at a college football game to replenish his dwindling Busch Lite supply. Donations come pouring in like a frat house kegger. Then matching donations, along with a few cases of Busch Lite. King decides to donate everything to a local children’s hospital. The donations exceed a million dollars. Then a reporter for the Des Moines Register does some internet trawling and dredges up some less than politically correct sludge dating back to when Mr. King was 16 years old. Outrage ensues. Then people dig and find similar dirt on the reporter. And, of course, more outrage.

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The Grace of Slowness

I decided to improve my handwriting, which had deteriorated to the point where even my pharmacist couldn’t read it. Years of banging away at the keyboard had taken its toll on my penmanship. Even my printing had become illegible. I could not decipher notes I had scribbled to myself the day before yesterday. Writing a card was a chore, a hand-written letter unthinkable.

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The Grace of Silence

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. – Revelation 8:1

I talk too much. I know that, and those who know me know it all too well. It’s an occupational hazard for a preacher. I pontificate, I preach, I lecture, I dump the latest contents of my head on anyone who will listen, even if they aren’t listening. People come seeking a sip of wise words; I turn on a fire hydrant. Conversation with me is the verbal equivalent of being waterboarded.

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Tourists, Travelers, and Pilgrims

Too often, we travel as tourists, bringing the comforts of home along with us. Tourists are known for their excess baggage. You can easily spot a group of tourists. They travel in tightly closed groups, surrounded by their own language, tastes in food, and culture. They prefer to keep foreign lands and peoples at a safe distance, touring in a hermetically sealed bubble of the cruise ship or tour bus. Like bird watchers on an Audubon outing, they maintain a safe, sheltered distance and observe through their own presuppositional lenses, content to collect souvenirs and selfies.

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Spiritual and Religious

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” I’m sure you’ve heard people say that; I have. It’s become increasingly common among those who claim “None” as their spiritual identity on religious surveys. They are growing in numbers, especially among the rising generation who are not carrying on with the faith traditions of their parents and grandparents. They aren’t atheists or agnostics. They believe in some sort of spiritual Presence. They may even pray and practice spiritual disciplines such as meditation and fasting, but they have no use for religious institutions. They are, as they say, “spiritual but not religious.”

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O Rachel, Weep No More

The violence of the past weeks in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, and other places in the world, brought to mind the horrors of September 11, 2001. I recall that morning vividly. It was a Tuesday, and we were scheduled to host our circuit pastors’ meeting at our congregation. We were all in shock. We talked, we wept, we prayed. Many of us called our congregations together for services of prayer that evening or the next day.

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A Deep Wound

Early Sunday morning, after my morning prayers, I always look at the intercessions of the church for the divine service for that day to add any last minute petitions. As I was doing so yesterday, I saw a news notification for yet another mass shooting, this time in Dayton, Ohio. The day before had been El Paso, Texas. The week before was Gilroy, California.

I’m sad. I’m weary. I’m angry. I’m sickened. How long, O Lord? How long?

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Slowing Down

I’ve incorporated the psalms into my daily prayer practice in a more intentional way. The monastics pray the entire psalter weekly or monthly; I’m content with two to three psalms per day; four if they’re short. There are 150 psalms in the psalter (151 if you use the Apocrypha), so that will keep me going for a couple of months. This week, I hit Psalm 119.

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From Convention to Conference

It’s good to be home again. After a week of rain, humidity, and heat in Tampa, FL at the synodical convention, it’s good to be home. I’ll be home just long enough to wash my clothes, prepare a sermon, and head down to Irvine for the last of the Higher Things Concordia conferences. All things considered, I’d rather be at a youth conference than a synodical convention any week of days.

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