Please Lead Us

Here is a letter I wrote to my city’s mayor, the city council, and the Chief of Police. Well, actually to the police commander of the Office of Professional Standards because I couldn’t find an email address for the chief. He’s on Twitter, but apparently not email.

I pledge to continue to strive to be an ally. I pledge to continue to strive to be antiracist. This is one small step.

Dear Mayor Chirico, City Council, and Chief of Police Marshall,

My family lives in the Stillwater subdivision, just a couple blocks from Welch Elementary and Cantore Park where racist graffiti was sprayed. We appreciate that the structure was quickly covered and then repainted. We are also grateful for your recently-passed resolution that “denounces all acts of racism, intolerance and unlawful discrimination and will not tolerate them of any kind.” 

However, so much has happened since that resolution was passed. Whomever placed that white supremacist message in our park wants to terrorize our neighbors of color. And make no mistake: this neighborhood is blessed with racial diversity. Our children have experienced this wonderful diversity in their classes at Welch Elementary and Scullen Middle School. Reporting by the Chicago Tribune confirms their experience: “48% of Welch students are Asian, 31% are white, 9% are black, 8% are Hispanic, 3% are mixed race and 1% are American Indian.”

This morning I feverishly scoured your websites and Twitter feeds for any kind of statement condemning the racist murder of George Floyd, the racist arrest of journalist Omar Jimenez and his crew, or the racist violence perpetrated upon communities of color — and especially directed at black communities — over and over again across our country. 

I found no such statements anywhere — not even a posting of the new resolution. If I missed them, and that certainly is a possibility, I would very much appreciate being directed to any statements condemning racism you made yesterday or today. 

You are the elected and appointed leaders of our community. Now is the time to put the words of that excellent resolution into concrete action. Naperville needs to know that all of you are committed to antiracist attitudes and actions. Naperville needs to know that our Chief of Police and his entire department are committed to just treatment of persons of color. Naperville needs its leaders to do just that: lead. Lead with your voice and your actions. Speak boldly and publicly so our city knows that racism is not tolerated in our police department or our government. Lead. Be proactive. Tell us what you are doing — what actual actions you are taking — to be antiracist. 

I have never met any of you personally. Yet, your willingness to serve in these public roles tells me that, like me, you love this city and want Naperville to be the best it can be for all its citizens. Right now your city needs you to be boldly and publicly antiracist. 

I look forward to your response. 

Sincerely,

The Rev. David Buerstetta

No Oz, Just Honesty

I expected this to be a week to have a little extra fun with my sermon. The texts for last week highlighted divisions that occurred in the Christian movement, even in its earliest days. I seem to derive (perverse?) pleasure in dispelling the notion of a golden age for the church. My hope is that in disabusing us of our nostalgia for a time that never actually happened, we will find ourselves freer to envision a better, more just, more hopeful future instead of seemingly forever being weighed down by the anchor of “If we could just get back to that time when all was well.”

But, as often seems to happen (thought that’s almost certainly some form of selection bias), real life interrupted my well-laid plan.

The Narrative Lectionary texts for May 10th were from Acts of the Apostles chapter 18 and Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, chapter 1. As I say in the sermon,

Now originally I thought it would be fun to evaluate our current divisions through our love of acronyms. Because, man, do we Christians love our acronyms. Almost as much, it seems, as we Christians love splitting the church which creates those acronyms… Further, I thought it would be fun to laugh at ourselves a bit through what can only be described as the UMC’s dizzying array of acronyms…A pure and unified church? Never really existed.

As Joe Posnanski wrote about Topps creating the first modern baseball card set, number 54 in his series, Top 60 Moments in Baseball (but, sadly, behind a paywall):

It’s at the heart of nostalgia to believe that things used to be more innocent. They really weren’t.

But then surfaced the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Thus my sermon with a silly title, “Divisions and Tribes and Acronyms, Oh My!”, ended up not so silly and with nary a reference to The Wizard of Oz. (Much to the chagrin of at least one of our students listening — who isn’t wrong. When one references a work in one’s title, one ought to mention it in one’s text.)

Instead I tried my best to respond to yet another deadly example of white supremacist violence. There are so many different paths we can take. We all — but most especially we who are white — must do more and do better to become anti-racist. Let’s chose paths that call out injustice and end racism.

Again, not sure why but video being obstinate. Sermon starts at 45:40

If you prefer just listening to the sermon, podcast-style, this is for you:

Featured Image Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Home is where…the sermon is?

Yes, indeed. For now at least. Due to the previously-arranged preaching schedule, the previous Sunday was my first opportunity to offer a sermon during our stay-safe-at-home time here in Illinois. So, yes, I spend the first few minutes talking about just how weird that feels. Probably too much time on that. But I strive to be honest in my preaching and I felt I needed to say all that.

I called this sermon “The World Turned Upside Down” because…well, for reasons I elicit in the video. Clearly, when I read the version of the Acts 17 text for the week in The Voice translation I relished the chance to connect to Hamilton through “ruffians” and “the world turned upside down.”

I think this might be my best part:

As we read the book of Acts, I think it is helpful and important for us to remember that Acts is Part 2 of the Gospel of Luke, written by the same person. The book of Acts is more akin to the musical “Hamilton” than it is a field report from an NPR reporter stationed in Thessalonica. What I mean is, that both “Hamilton” and the book of Acts are brilliant works created by master storytellers making use of historical events to tell a story and to persuade people of their beliefs. Both are very persuasive!

So what happens, How do people respond when their world gets turned upside down?

Would love to hear what you think!

The video won’t start at the beginning of the sermon. Grrr. You’ll find it starting at 59:56

The Silence of Saturday

“It’s Friday…but Sunday’s comin’!”

That’s a popular refrain among Christians on these final days of Holy Week. But we might reasonably respond in our most skeptical tone, “Yeah, right!”

Over on my favorite blog, Slacktivist, Fred Clark posted Holy Saturday. First seen in 2010, he’s reposted it every year. Fred has written a ton of great pieces over the years, but that one remains a favorite. Though, as Fred writes, “favorite” might not be the best word for his post or for this day. But it rings true like almost nothing else.

This day, the Saturday that can’t know if there will ever be a Sunday, is the day we live in, you and I, today and every day for the whole of our lives. This is all we are given to know. Easter Sunday? That’s tomorrow, the day after today. We’ll never get there in time. We can believe in Easter Sunday, but we can’t be sure. We can’t know for sure. We can’t know until we’re out of time.

“There are some things we can know on this Saturday. Jesus is dead, to begin with, dead and buried. He said the world was upside-down and needed a revolution to turn it right-way-round and so he was executed for disturbing the peace. He came and said love was greater than power, and so power killed him.

That post 10 years ago really helped me better understand what this Saturday of Holy Week really means. I look forward to reading it every year and it always moves me. This time more than ever before. This year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, every day can feel like Holy Saturday. Today as we shelter safe at home, we wonder when we will ever get back to normal life. As many others have said, I suspect there will be no normal to which we can return.

We can feel overwhelmed — overrun even — by uncertainty, fear, loneliness, and death.

Today, perhaps like no other Holy Saturday in living memory, we feel the weight of this day. Today, perhaps like no other Holy Saturday in memory, we feel the silence of Saturday.

As Dr. Tony Jones writes in his excellent Did God Kill Jesus?:


On Good Friday, at the very moment Jesus’ faith hit its nadir, God’s humility reached its zenith. But Jesus didn’t know that. Like so many others before him since, at the very moment that Jesus was most in need, all he heard was silence.

As counterintuitive as this sounds, if all you hear today is silence know that you are not alone. I can’t say for certain that “Sunday is comin’!” but I’m going to try to keep living as if it is.

Remember Ash Wednesday?

Turns out Ash Wednesday was only [checks notes] three weeks ago. I don’t know about you, but it sure feels to me more like three years ago. I mean, what a world we were living in way, way back in February. Think of all the things we did that month: I saw a movie…in a theater…with a bunch of friends. About 100 of us gathered to celebrate the wedding of two amazing people. Our kids had sleepovers. My 80+ year old mom and I went out for lunch whenever we could. Oh, and we all got together for worship. In person. In the same building and everything. Those were the days, man…

But on Ash Wednesday at Woodridge United Methodist Church where I am one of the pastors, we tried something a little different. (Different for us at least.) We tried to weave together a tapestry of scripture readings, songs, reflections, and silence. Isn’t that what we do every week? Yes…but also, no. Sure, we always tie those elements of worship together with a theme, but that night it felt as if we had, however briefly, achieved a new level of integration. It could very well be that “night” is the operative word in that last sentence. Gathering at a different hour than our usual Sunday morning with intentionally dimmed lighting on a day ripe for introspection and reflection…well, somehow it resulted in one of those rare, rare moments when everything seemed to really come together in an almost magical way.

I have no idea if that can be replicated here at all — but being in the midst of this time of social distancing and online-only worship sure seems like the right time to try by sharing the audio recording of that night.

A couple caveats first: The recording doesn’t include the music. But my sense of it is that the music is a vital part of the whole experience. So I’ve added videos of those songs, along with the script we used that night so you can read the intros and outros for those songs. However, as you might expect, what is written on the script isn’t always exactly what you’ll hear on the recording.

Another stylistic note: the scriptures you hear on the recording were read from the back of the sanctuary rather than up front. In other words, the congregation couldn’t see who was reading or from where she was reading. (Although, it was our Lead Pastor, Rev. Danita Anderson reading. A familiar voice, so it’s not as if the “who” question was any big mystery.) Her voice just emerged from the ether like the very voice of God. It was, I dare say, pretty cool.

The scripture readings tonight are meant to provide some snapshots of our relationship with the world, our relationship with each other, our relationship with God…and the surprising role dust and ash plays in all those relationships. 

Astrophysicists teach us that the atoms that make up our bodies are made of the remnants of stars, some of which was present at the beginning of the universe, in what we call the Big Bang, almost 14 Billion years ago. So perhaps a more accurate rendition of the common Ash Wednesday phrase would be: “From stardust we are made; to stardust we shall return.”

Our spiritual ancestors, those who told the stories that would eventually be written down in the form we know as the book of Genesis, those ancestors were pre-scientific…at least in the way we understand science. And yet, they seem to already have a sense of their connection to the universe and its stardust. Let’s take a listen…

[Gen. 2:4-9]

Like we said: “From stardust we are made; to stardust we shall return.” Isn’t that description of the world in Genesis so incredible? So much goodness and life and beauty right there in the garden of creation! So what happened? Well, we know what happened: we messed it up. 

We forgot who we were and from where — and from what — we came. We forgot we are all stardust and instead fought with each other, fought with our siblings. We created enemies just so we could fight with them. We made scapegoats just so we could banish them and feel better, feel superior. In truth, the whole time we were fighting with ourselves. Over and over and over again, we fought with ourselves. 

And yet, every once in a while, we catch ourselves in the midst of throwing yet another punch —physically, verbally, or metaphorically — and we stop and think, “what in the world am I doing??” Too often we wait until we are on the very brink of extermination before we stop, but, so far at least, we stop and seek forgiveness. And that’s a big tent “we” there: including our enemies. Here’s a word about that…

[Jonah 3:5-9]

There’s that dust again. This time partnering with contrition and repentance — a turning away from our destructive ways and a turning toward the ways of God in peace and hope and love. And because this is the book of Jonah, we know that the dust also partners with a knowing wink at our own foolishness and hypocrisy. How does the story wrap all that together? In ash. 

Sometimes recognizing our propensity to exclude and hate and sin results in deep and amazing stories like the book of Jonah. Other times, recognizing our propensity to exclude, to hate, to sin against God and against one another results in deep and amazing poetry. Like this…

[Psalm 32:1-5]

As the Psalmist says, perhaps God forgives us in order to enable us to repent and change our ways. As it turns out, we have a song for that…

[“Change My Heart O God” All the versions of this song I could find play it much slower (and cheesier) than we do at our church. Here’s the best one I could find…but no lyrics, so…”Change my heart o God. Make it ever true. Change my heart o God. May I be like you…You are the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me, this is what I pray.” ]

Ok, so God changes our hearts and we rise up out of the ash. Now what? Jesus shows up, that’s what! Jesus, who spoke and taught and loved like no one else. Jesus, who in mostly mysterious ways, was so intimately connected with God he actually was the literal embodiment of God who up and moved into our neighborhood. This Jesus he told us things that somehow are completely sensible to the point of being almost obvious…and yet also simultaneously near-impossible for us. Ideas like this one from Matthew chapter 6…

[Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21]

I have no idea who first began the tradition of reading this part of Matthew’s gospel on Ash Wednesday, but I’m so glad they did. Hearing this reading on this day carries on the good work of the book of Jonah. Because hearing this reading on this day is also a deep and knowing wink at our own foolishness and hypocrisy. You see it, right? Every year on Ash Wednesday, Christians of many types and stripes gather and hear Jesus say, “pray quietly; don’t make a big showy deal out of your devotion to me; don’t try to show off how pious you are.” And then, almost immediately after hearing that, what do we do? We PUT A GIANT MARK IN THE SHAPE OF THE CROSS…ON OUR FOREHEAD!

Friends, if part of the ritual of Ash Wednesday isn’t to laugh at ourselves a little bit, I think we’re doing it wrong.

I think it is a wonderful reminder as we strive to follow of God in the Way of Jesus to not take ourselves too seriously. Yes, we mean what we say, our contrition is real, our attempts at piety are real and important, our work to make the world more just for the least, the last, and the left out is real and so important. (As Dr. Cornell West says, “justice is what love looks like in public.”) Yet, this reading on this day? That’s a reminder to us that in the midst of our real and important work, we still mess up. Yes, we are loved; we are forgiven; we are trying our best…and we get it wrong. Regularly. We still need to be more like Jesus. Turns out, we have a song for that too…

[Wow. Turns out videos of “More Like You” by Scott Wesley Brown are even harder to find. Ugh. Here are the lyrics: “More like you. Jesus, more like you. Fill my heart with your desire to make me more like you. Touch my lips with holy fire and make me more like you. Lord, you are my mercy. Lord, you are my grace. All my deepest sins have have forever been erased. Draw me in your presence, lead me in your ways. I long to bring you glory in righteousness and praise.”]

So how do we do that? How do we become “more like Jesus”? Our tradition and experience tells us that prayer is one of the best ways. Further, our tradition tells us that silence is one of the best ways to experience God in prayer. But we live in world saturated in noise. How do we even find silence? And if we mange to find it, how do we, who are always on the move, sit still long enough to experience silence? Enter Taize. Prayers that are songs, songs that are prayer; song-prayer meant to lead us into silence. We will sing a few times through. Bow out when you need to; the rest of us will carry you. Come back in when you can. After the song and several minutes of silence, a poem-prayer will lead us out of the silence and into the present. May this time of silence be whatever you need it to be: thanking God for stardust; sitting in ash like the Ninevites; seeing how to be more like Jesus; or just simply being in the presence of Triune God. Let’s sing…

[“Come and Fill Our Hearts” Again, really tough finding a good sounding version of this song. Just listen to the first 45 seconds of this and you’ll get the idea.]

[We offered nearly 10 minutes of silence.]

[Poem-Prayer by Adrienne Trevathan, a Native American United Methodist in Evanston, IL]

Cover me with ashes,

the thick-smoke soot of the earth.

Make my breathing like the journey

from death into life — second by second,

prayer by prayer.

Cover me with a cloak — bring me low to the earth,

your justice whispering to me like the gleam of red rocks,

the colors dancing in the darkness.

Let me know the power of sage and cedar in my bones,

not that I may trap them there,

but bring them forth in words.

Cover me with darkness —

with the presence of my elders, their tears falling around me,

reminding me of why we are here —

sighing, groaning with our singing, longing to hear us into being,

stretching us beyond breathing and praying and weeping.

Cover me with mercy —

let the bones you have crushed rejoice,

like the woman who channeled every ounce of courage and dignity

to touch your cloak and find new life.

Breathe unto me life anew,

of possibility,

of beauty,

of balance,

of grace.

Cover me with mud —

bring me to my lowest state, so that in my weaknesses

I see your strength —

the reflection of your eyes in the brokenness around me,

the fullness of your love in the depths of our hearts.

Cover me with ashes —

the ashes of my grandmother,

who in living her days knew no strangers,

worked tirelessly with worn hands

and lifted grandchildren high into the air.

Cover me with mercy —

let my cheek come to rest on the cold earth,

its faithful presence a call to walk humbly

beyond myself

beyond my fears

and ever on to the red road that leads to your love.

Changer,

Cover me.

Cover me with ashes.

Change me.

Happy Christmas 2019

Merry Christmas!

The closest thing I have to a tradition on this blog is this Christmas day offering.

Each Christmas I post the Isaiah passage below (which is a reading for Christmas Eve worship every year); John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” which I find the world’s best and most challenging Christmas song; and a second song that moves me or makes me laugh.

Isaiah 9:2-7:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

No, not “all the boots of the tramping warriors” or “all the garments rolled in blood” have been burned as fuel just yet. But I do believe there will be a day when both the weapons and the uniforms of war will be obsolete. I think that’s why I like “Happy Christmas” so much: it simultaneously acknowledges the reality of evil in the world and reminds us, with Isaiah, to hope for – and actively strive for – a better future. A war-free future.

Our sisters and brothers in Israel/Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, and so many other places, know all too well that war isn’t over. I’m convinced the Prince of Peace wants all wars to end. To worship the babe born in Bethlehem means facing reality, means seeking to end war. But following God in the way of Jesus also means we don’t believe in hopelessness. It means we’ve got some work to do.

I’ve used the same “Happy Christmas” video each time, but watching it today…I just can’t use it again. With all the images of war, especially of maimed or dead children, I just can’t. It struck me today as emotionally manipulative rather than as a beacon of light shining on tremendous evil. Maybe that’s a copout on my part. Maybe I simply don’t want to be confronted by those images. Or maybe it has always been manipulative and I only just figured it out. I don’t know. I would love to hear what you think about that.

In place of the graphic violence version, I offer this one by Sarah McLachlan. I find her melancholy tone hits this song just right.

Now, for a second song…despite all that’s wrong in the world — starting with the lunatic in our White House — I’m choosing to be hopeful and joyful this Christmas. The song I can’t stop listening to because it just makes me smile and clap and shout and dance (ok, not dance so much as “dance”) is “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” by Pentatonix. Alright, so this video may be a bit, um, extra. But, c’mon, there’s no way you can get through this whole song without at least cracking a smile. And this season is about finding joy and bring that joy to others. Here’s my attempt:

From the Buerstetta family to yours: Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! Happy Holidays to all!

Why am I in the Washington Post this week?

The short answer?
Because I joined 99 other clergy — two from each state — in signing an open letter to Congress. That letter ran in Thursday’s (October 17th) Washington Post.

The more complete answer?
I know there are hundreds (at least) of incidents of injustice in our communities, our states, our country, and our world. I know most of those involve our president and all of them make us want to scream, cry, swear, tear our hair, and Do. Something. Until recently, the situation in Yemen was not on my list of things to care about. Maybe that’s true for you too.

So why do I care about Yemen now? Why do I think you should care too? Why did I sign this letter calling on Congress to end US arms sales for the war in Yemen?

The honest truth is, I know effectively nothing about Yemen.
Basically all I know about Yemen is that it occasionally shows up in a headline on p17 of the newspaper. You know, that part of the paper I’m more likely to skim the headline than to actually, you know, read the article. (Yes, I still get a physical newspaper. Yes, I know this makes me old.) 
And I know Yemen was played for laughs when Chandler went there on an episode of Friends, like, 20 years ago. Other than that…I don’t know anything about Yemen or Yemeni politics.

But I do know Bread for the World. And I trust them. After about 15 years as a Bread member and participant in many Offerings of Letters and other campaigns, I trust Bread to offer well-reasoned, theologically sound analysis. When Bread says an issue is important, I listen. 

Yemenis are trying to survive the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Twenty-four million people – 80 percent of the country’s population – need some form of humanitarian assistance and protection…By the end of the year, the UN estimates that the conflict will have directly or indirectly killed over 230,000 people…More than one million children suffering from malnutrition.

Bread for the World

I don’t know much about Yemen or Yemeni politics, but I do know that if Jesus is, as we Christians purport, the Prince of Peace, then 230,000 deaths due to the war in Yemen is 230,000 too many.

I don’t know much, but I do know that If Jesus is the Bread of Life as we Christians claim, then 1 million children hungry in Yemen is 1 million too many. 

Over more than four years of war, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have used US bombs and missiles to repeatedly target innocent civilians, bombing schools, hospitals, homes, and markets, and the war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Bread for the World

I signed this letter because I believe our ultimate calling is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Partnering with Bread for the World helps me do that…helps me love neighbors better than I can on my own.

I encourage you to contact your Congresspeople too. There is so much injustice in the world, I know. But now I also know that #YemenCantWait

#YemenCantWait

International Day of the Girl…and Women?

I know today is Indigenous Peoples Day. But I started to write this last week on International Day of the Girl. Is it ok to celebrate women today too? I think so. It seems like a good time to share a post I wrote this summer for my church blog.

As I often proclaim, I am bad at math. But sometimes the numbers are so easy to figure, even I can see it: 25-4=21. 

For 21 out of the last 25 years — in other words, from July 1994 until now — Woodridge United Methodist Church has had a female Lead Pastor. In the beginning of July we celebrated Pastor Danita’s official reappointment, meaning that number will continue to grow. The United Methodist Church has ordained women for more than 50 years– although the earliest known woman ordained to preach came in 1866. So our little 21 out of 25 statistic really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. But I’m convinced that it is. 

Here at WUMC, with that 21 out of 25 number, we’re so used to having women as Lead Pastor we may be fooled into thinking women are doing fine in churches everywhere — or at least all over the UMC.

Yet, even in the UMC, women make up only about 25% of our clergy. Further, women of color make up only about 4% of our clergy. Male pastors are more likely than female pastors to be appointed to biggest congregation and the wage gap is especially egregious with female clergy paid 76 cents for every dollar a male colleague makes. As followers of Jesus, seeking justice is our calling. Having an unjust and unequal pay system for our clergy makes for a horrendous witness. That is wrong and needs to change.

Simultaneously, we have to continue to change hearts regarding female clergy. This is obviously true in the larger Christian landscape where the two biggest denominations (Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics) refuse to ordain women at all; and very, very few nondenominational evangelical churches do. But hearts and attitudes need to change in the UMC as well.

The North Carolina Conference of the UMC emailed its female clergy asking for comments they have received about being a woman in ministry. The Conference released a video of those comments — wherein male clergy colleagues were asked to read the responses*.

We as a church and as a society need to do better and be better. As we strive toward that goal, I give thanks to God for those 21  years and counting — and give thanks for the ministry of The Reverend Linda Foster-Momsen, The Reverend Linda Misewicz-Perconte, and The Reverend Danita Anderson. Thank you for being my colleague, mentor, and friend.

*North Carolina’s video reminds me so much of the award-winning video Chicago-based sports journalists, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, released a couple years ago. It’s much more graphic than the clergy video, but very much worth your time and revulsion to watch. Again, for girls and for the women they become all over the globe, we must do better and be better.

Answers to questions you never asked

Then again, doesn’t that pretty well describe a majority of blogging??

Probably in much the same way as, say, September 22nd is, apparently, National Hobbit Day, and March is, among other things, National Frozen Food Month…October is Clergy Appreciation Month. However, this year the church I serve decided to expand that idea and so declared this past Sunday as Staff Appreciation Day. It was a lot of fun — and probably more than a bit uncomfortable for a couple of our staff who do amazing work, but generally prefer to remain well outside the spotlight.

We had a lovely catered lunch and the church bought each staff person flowers and a gift card. It was very kind and thoughtful. We were also asked to complete a “Get to Know Your Staff” questionnaire that a member of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee created. It was silly and fun and thus right up my alley. Even though you, dear reader, never asked or in any other way indicated an interest in hearing my answers to these questions, I thought I’d share them with you.

1. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

Seeing our family participate in their passions: Joann running, our son playing baseball, our daughter singing and acting, and my mom traveling. And of course reveling in my geekdom, reading comics, watching shows, and talking about those comics and shows.  

2. Do you live in Woodridge or another community? How long?

Joann and I have lived in Naperville since we got married in 2004. 

3. How long have you been with Woodridge UMC?

I’m on my third job title here since [gulp] September of 1995. It’s a long story, but the shorter version is I started as Assistant Pastor, then was Minister of Education & Youth until my current title of Koinonia Pastor. Duties and responsibilities have shifted several times over the years.

4. What do you think is the best thing about WUMC?

The passion we have for outreach and the many amazing, dedicated, loving adult volunteer Youth Ministry leaders. 

5. What is one thing you would change if you could?

If this means changing something at WUMC: We are great at direct help outreach, but I would have us do more justice work (i.e. stopping evil at its source) — and do it more consistently. Also, I would have lots more people understand what a good and vibrant place WUMC is to worship and serve the world.

If this means changing something in the world at large, then clearly it is to undo the disastrous effects of climate change. Followed by getting the destructive lunatic currently occupying the White House out of there.

6. Which sport teams do you root for?

White Sox (just wait until next year!), LA Angels (because Mike Trout is the best player of my lifetime), and Blackhawks (despite their racist mascot).  

7. What’s your favorite dish to eat?

Tacos! Honestly, have you ever been unhappy with a taco in your hand? Of course not. It’s impossible not to be happy when you have tacos.

8. Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?

Chocolate with mint, chocolate with peanut butter, or even chocolate with strawberry, but definitely chocolate.

9. Do you have a pet?

No, nada, zilch, nope, nope, nope, not gonna happen…despite our kids’ best efforts. 

10. DC or Marvel?

Oh man! I feel like my entire life has been built to answer this very question! However, I will spare you the full dissertation and just say this (though this will undoubtedly be more than you ever wanted to know):

Marvel Studio (aka Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies are easily the best comic book movies.

But the DC animated movies are really well done — way better than their live action movies.

Marvel puts out more comic books that matter to me. Jason Aaron’s seven-year run on Thor is absolutely amazing. It’s a masterwork in long-form storytelling. I’m quite sad that his work on Thor ends in just three issues. It’s really hard to imagine anyone else writing Thor after him.

However, I think DC takes bigger, bolder risks with their books — and especially with their major events, such as Rebirth. That said, both Marvel and DC tend to try too many Big Events so most end up being mediocre. But back to DC’s bigger, bolder risks: Tom King’s run on Batman is my favorite there. Apparently enough people dislike it and sales are down slightly, so they’ve reduced King’s issues from 100 down to 85. It seems King’s Batman is not for everyone. But I find it terrific — a delightfully weird, deep dive into what truly motivates Batman.

‘She Who Laughs Last…’ a sermon on Genesis 18

From 8th grade through the end of high school, I was always in a school where one of my parents was a teacher. That’s probably the main reason I never skipped a class in those years. Fast forward to college and, well, that record didn’t last. But I didn’t skip many or often because I discovered that once I skipped, it was easier to keep on skipping. While I had many flaws then (and now), I truly did not want to get into the habit of skipping class. So I kept it to a minimum.

As a fully formed adult, I’ve found that same principle to hold for going — or rather not going — to both the gym and church. Both seem to be at least somewhat beholden to habit: go regularly and it is easier to keep going. Skip once and it is easier to skip a second time; easier still to skip a third time. I suspect the relationship may even be exponential. So I keep going. Even — especially? — when I don’t feel like it. (Plus, going to church is, you know, my job.)

It seems that same idea applies to my blogging. Stop posting and it is easy to keep not posting. Even when I have something to say. Even when I cut out a newspaper article because I want to react to it. (Yes, I am old.) Even when I have easily-usable “content” like a sermon recording. Hell, right now I have [checks docs] ten — ten! — sermon documents open on my word processor because I intended to post the audio for them.

And yet.

Nada, zip, zilch from me on here since [checks website] January! I actually thought it might have been since Christmas, so…yay me?

Anyhoo, how about audio from my sermon last week on Sarah and the important subversive nature of laughter?

Here are my thoughts on Genesis 17 & Genesis 18.

The Mayo Clinic on the healing power of laughter.

The Abraham Joshua Heschel quote:

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Here’s the audio. And here’s hoping it is at least slightly better than word salad non-sequiturs.

 

Featured image photo by Guille Álvarez on Unsplash