Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quotations for Worship and Reflection

I haven't posted the quotations used in our worship bulletins since last August, so here are the ones used in recent weeks and ones from not so recent weeks.

This past Sunday, I preached on Matthew 22:34-46 where Jesus states the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. So, I used the following quote from Tolstoy. I don't know the source. I usually find quotes for worship from my own reading or I pick them up from one of the e-mail lists I subscribe to, so if I don't know the source that's because I picked it up from one of the e-mail newsletters that feeds such things to me.

“Everything that I understand, I understand only because I love."

—Leo Tolstoy

On October 19, the Sunday before church members made their pledges for the 2009 church budget, I preached on stewardship and used Luke 17:11-19 as my test. It tells the story of Jesus healing ten men afflicted with leprosy. Only one of them returns to thank Jesus, a Samaritan, truly a surprise to Jewish readers of the day who would have considered Samaritans to be half-breeds and inherently less ritually pure and devout. I found the following quote about gratitude by Melody Beattie, although again I don't know the source.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

--Melody Beattie

On October 12, I preached on the subject of Christianity and politics. My text was Matthew 5:13-16 (from which our Puritan ancestors took the image of "a city on a hill" later appropriated by Reagan) and my sermon title was "God Doesn’t Endorse Political Candidates." I was pretty much preaching to the choir at First Christian, but I felt like it still needed to be said. The following quote by Felix Adler worked for the occasion, but I really can't remember where I found it. sorry about that.

"No religion can long continue to maintain its purity when the church becomes the subservient vassal of the state."

--Felix Adler

October 5 was World Communion Sunday and I chose John 17 20-23 as the text, because of Jesus' prayer that all Christians would be one. I didn't preach that Sunday, because we had members of the local Sudanese community dance and sing in our worship--far better than any sermon I could preach and it was wonderful to share the bread and cup with our brothers and sisters from Sudan. The following quote comes from James Whites book on sacraments. White has a number of general books on worship that were textbooks in my seminary studies.

'We can never forget the evil of church division as long as communion cannot be shared together by all Christians."

--James F. White,
Sacraments as God's Self Giving

On September 28, I preached on Exodus 17:1-7 where once again, despite the miracles of God they have already experienced, the Israelites question God. My sermon title was "Live as if God Exists." I like the following quote by Barclay a lot--sorry don't know the source, found it on-line--because it recognizes the difficulty of belief even as it acknowledges the power of hope.

'I believe there comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove and accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that that purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light.”
—William Barclay

On September 21, I preached on Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the generous landowner who pays a full day's wage to his workers even if they only came at the end of the day. In the sermon, I addressed the question of God's grace which seems unfair according to our own way of judging others but thankfully is available to all--even those of us who judge others. The following quote comes from one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner. Wishful Thinking is a great book. He writes a short bit about various theological ideas--a paragraph here, a page or two there--but his words are so provocative, a little goes a long way. I've found myself meditating for a long time over Buechner's words.

“A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.”

--Frederick Buechner
Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

On September 14, I preached on forgiveness and used Matthew 18:21-35 as my text. This sermon probably got the best reaction out of all of the sermons I have preached at First Christian. It's title is "Forgive but Don’t Forget." The following quote came from an e-mail list I'm on. I'm sorry I don't know the source. It is powerful precisely because of what Corrie Ten Boom experienced of Nazi persecution, when she and her family hid Jews and other fugitives from the Nazis.

"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness."

- Corrie Ten Boom

On September 7, I preached on Matthew 18:15-20 and my sermon title was "Can Republicans and Democrats Worship Together?" Obviously, I was preaching on faith and politics. After watching the two political conventions in the previous weeks, it just seemed to me that according to the speakers we should be hating people who belong to the opposite party of our own. To hear them tell it, the other party (whether Democrat or Republican) wants to bar-b-que puppies wrapped in American flags. It just seemed important to me to remind folks--and I guess myself--that as Christians we have a higher allegiance--to God--than to our political ideologies. The following quote came from a commentary article on the passage by Pauline scholar Beverly Gaventa. It's well worth a read. I almost always find her stuff insightful. Here's a good interview of her.

“The church of Jesus Christ is not a therapeutic community, although healing can and does happen within it. The church of Jesus Christ is not a social club, although it sustains profound social relations. The church of Jesus Christ gathers in his name and with his presence. For that reason, conflicts, hurts, pains must be examined, discussed and addressed and healing prayed for. Not because the church is ours, but because it is his.”

--Beverly R. Gaventa

Finally, on August 24, I preached on Matthew 16:13-20 where Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. My sermon was titled "Do You Know Who You are?" and in it I offered the idea that we find our true identities when we experience God's love for us in Christ. This quote comes from the late great William Sloane Coffin, a chaplain at Yale during the Vietnam era and later the pastor at The Riverside Church. Coffin's stuff is always great. I'm sure this came from a sermon. I don't know which one.

“God's love doesn't seek value; it creates it. It's not because we have value that we are loved, but because we're loved that we have value. So you don't have to prove yourself -- ever. That's taken care of.”

--William Sloane Coffin

Hope these are fruitful for you and your journey.

Grace and Peace,


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Forrest Church on NPR's Fresh Air

On yesterday's episode of Fresh Air, Unitarian minister and author Forrest Church was the guest. I've always enjoyed his writings and when I've heard him interviewed. I had a friend in NY who was on staff at his congregation where he is beloved. His new memoir tells of his battle with inoperable cancer and reveals his long-time struggle with alcohol addiction--the latter I'm sure came as a surprise to a lot of people. The interview is good, but unfortunately Terry Gross (whom I really normally enjoy) is really inept when it comes to talking about religious topics. So, when Church starts talking about faith, Gross keeps things at a shallow level. That really is my complaint about Gross. She does so well on so many topics, but when anything religious comes up she is really out of her depth--but I digress. In any event, the interview is worth listening to. I'm holding out hope, however, that Church will appear on the truly great NPR show on religion Speaking of Faith.

Grace and Peace,


So What if He Was a Muslim? (Dialogue Column 10.28.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.

On Meet the Press a week ago, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president. His comments were interesting from a political perspective—a Republican military leader endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate--but far more interesting to me were Powell’s comments on religion. He addressed the persistent accusations and rumors that Barack Obama is a Muslim by saying,

“It is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”

CNN’s Campbell Brown asked a similar question in an on-air commentary,

“So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter? When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical? Whenever this gets raised, the implication is that there is something wrong with being an Arab-American or a Muslim. And the media is complicit here, too. We've all been too quick to accept the idea that calling someone Muslim is a slur. I feel like I am stating the obvious here, but apparently it needs to be said: There is a difference between radical Muslims who support jihad against America and Muslims who want to practice their religion freely and have normal lives like anyone else."

I agree with Powell and Brown. There is a larger issue at stake here than whether or not Barack Obama is a Muslim or not. That issue is what kind of society do we wish to live in? It hurts us all when members of both parties demonize the adherents of a particular religion. It may seem strange that a Christian minister would be writing about prejudice against Muslims during an election season, but from my perspective it feels like a very Christian thing to do. As we read in worship this past Sunday, Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We revere this commandment as “the Golden Rule,” but I believe that we have heard it so often that we trivialize it and give little thought to its implications. One of them should be that since we do not like to be on the receiving end of unfair stereotypes or generalizations, we should not make them about others. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists and only want to live in peace. I would oppose a Muslim fundamentalist imposing his will through government, just as I oppose Christian fundamentalists doing the same. Although I hold different religious beliefs than Muslims, I can and have found common ground with Muslims to help our society as a whole.
Furthermore, just as we Christians hope that others would work and speak out to make sure that we are not the victims of prejudice based on our religion, we who are called to love our neighbors as ourselves should speak out and work on behalf of others who face prejudice because of their religion. It is the Christian thing to do to stand up for the rights of people to practice their religion free of prejudice, even if that religion is not our religion.

Despite the misplaced and misguided declarations of America being a Christian nation, I believe that only people can be Christians not nations. I believe one of the great strengths of our nation is that it creates a level playing field for all religions to freely coexist together. I don’t need my government to defend my God. My God can do that without the government’s help, thank you very much. I believe Christianity is credible enough to stand on its own no matter the religious views of political leaders. So, I believe that a Muslim has as much right as a Christian or a Hindu or an atheist to be president or participate in any other way in our society. Guaranteeing the freedom of all to practice their faith is the only way to guarantee my freedom to practice mine.

Grace and Peace,


Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Response to Bill Maher

Here's the thing about Bill Maher: I think he's hilarious! As a commentator on politics and culture, he's brutally funny. BUT the thing I've never understood about him is that he thinks every person on earth who is religious is an idiot. He doesn't allow for the idea that they could be on to something; in his mind, they are not just deluded--they are stupid! I've never understood how someone who spends so much time puncturing the arrogance of politicians and other famous people could be so arrogant when it comes to religion. I don't expect him to believe anything in particular--just allow for the possibility not all people of faith are crackpots, terrorists and war criminals.

He's got a new film out now--Religulous--that purports to be a documentary where he takes the part of an agnostic who just asks religious people questions, but based on the trailer, interviews and what I already knew about Bill Maher's thoughts on religion, I knew from the beginning this would just be a chance to show the worst religion has to offer without any indication that there could be some thinking, rational, moral and decent people of faith somewhere out there in the world.

I do have to admit that I haven't seen it yet. I live in St. Joseph, MO where nothing besides action movies ever shows up at our theatres. When I make the drive to KC, I'll make sure to catch it. So, since I can't honestly offer a critique of the film I haven't seen--here's a good one by Gareth Higgins at the God's Politics Blog. It's probably better than what I would write anyway.

I also have to admit my disappointment when I realized that Larry Charles was Maher's director and sidekick on this film. I find Charles--writer for Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and other favorite shows of mine--to be truly a comic genius. To hear him join Maher in offering such ignorant and utterly one-sided generalizations of all people of faith was disheartening.

Don't get me wrong; I can take a joke. There is much that is done in the name of religion that deserves to be made fun of mercilessly. I also think, however, that there is much offered by all world religions that is worthy of respect, admiration and even awe. I can still laugh at the comedy Maher and Charles write, but I feel frustrated to be both a fan of both men and one person among many whom they despise.

Grace and Peace,


Can We Still Be Generous During an Economic Meltdown? (Dialogue Column 10.14.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.

$700 billion! I can’t really conceive of what that means. I saw a segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that stated $700 billion could provide 2000 McDonald’s apple pies to each American. That’s a lot of pies! Of course, apple pies don’t really help me understand things any better either. All I know is that the stock market is on a roller coaster ride, banks are closing and experts are saying that a bad economic recession (is there a good kind?) has either already begun or is soon to arrive. From the histrionics on TV, it seems like the best course of action is for all of us to curl up into the fetal position until things get better.

Personally speaking, I’m a long way from retirement, my kids are a long way from college and I’m not planning on borrowing any money in the near future, so I’m not in panic mode. On the other hand, my paycheck comes from a church that depends upon people’s contributions, many of whom are retired and on fixed incomes, are paying for their kids’ college educations or are in jobs that depend upon a good economy. So, I guess you could say that my finances are only one degree separated from the crisis, and speaking in less self-interested terms, I happen to care about an awful lot of people who are affected directly by this economic crisis. Furthermore, given my line of work, I’ve sort of bought into this whole “Christians can make a difference in the world” thing, so I also wonder about what this financial squeeze will mean not only for the ministries of our church but of many other churches as well. After all, the fetal position is looking very attractive right about now.

I had a moment of clarity (or at least less haziness) when I read a quote from one of my heroes, Bono, lead singer of my favorite band, U2, and social activist on behalf of the world’s poorest people. He offered these words at a recent conference on global poverty:

“It is extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion to save 25,000 children who die every day of preventable treatable disease and hunger. That’s mad, that is mad. . . Bankruptcy is a serious business and we all know people who have lost their jobs. But this is moral bankruptcy.”

Here’s a little background on the quote: the G8 (the world’s 8 wealthiest nations) vowed in 2005 to raise annual aid levels to the world’s poorest people to $50 billion by 2010. $25 billion of those funds would go to Africa. Current estimates say the G8 will fall short of their goal by $40 billion. Despite the common assumption that the United States and other wealthy nations give tremendous amounts of money in foreign aid, the reality is that excluding military funding, money to the world’s poorest nations amounts to less than 1% of their annual budgets.

Back to my moment of less haziness, it is easy to criticize the priorities of our government and of the powerful around the world. Nations can curl up into the fetal position during tough times too. For that matter, they can lose themselves in self-centered gluttony during good times. What I realized, however, is that the same can be said of churches and the individuals that make them up. During good times, we can get lost in ourselves; oblivious to the ways what we possess and do not need could change the lives of others. During bad times, we curl up into a ball and shut out the world. Yet, during good and bad times, the spiritual and physical needs of the world around us do not stop. During good and bad times, Jesus’ call for us to care for “the least of these” does not stop either. As we flow in and out of good and bad economic times, the specific amount we give may by necessity change, but the amount we sacrifice on behalf of a needy world should remain constant. In times of economic bankruptcy, can we as people of faith avoid moral bankruptcy? This is the question our times have thrust upon us.

Grace and Peace,


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Blessed Sunday (Dialogue Column 10.7.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.

This past Sunday was a blessed one in the life of First Christian Church. We celebrated World Communion Sunday, enjoyed the music and dancing of our Sudanese brothers and sisters, and welcomed two new members. We have much to be thankful for.

It‘s not out of the ordinary for us to celebrate communion; we do so every service. Communion represents the inclusive and welcoming nature of Christ’s love, and our weekly ritual reminds us that we are to welcome all who come in our doors as Christ welcomed all people to his table. This act of communion is not only central to our identity as a church, but it is also central to the identity of our denomination, The Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. It originated out of a desire to set aside all barriers—doctrinal and otherwise—between an individual and Christ’s community as embodied in the sharing of bread and cup.

Even though it is not unusual for our church to celebrate communion, for many churches of various traditions, communion happens only once a month, once a quarter or less. For instance, I grew up having “the Lord’s Supper,” as Baptists call it, only four times a year. Although there was an emphasis upon community, “the Lord’s Supper,” as I experienced it, had more to do with concerns about salvation and Jesus’ atoning death for our sins.

Even though Communion may occur at different times, have greater or lesser significance and reflect various theological viewpoints, it nonetheless remains a potent symbol of what all Christians share in terms of a common experience of God’s love revealed to us in Jesus Christ. World Communion Sunday is as an attempt to help Christians of all traditions and geographic locations live out their common faith, and on this date every year, Christians around the world celebrate communion with this purpose in mind. I’m proud to say that the Disciples of Christ played a significant role in establishing this effort of Christian unity. It was great Sunday to reflect upon our connection with Christians around the world.

That spiritual connection between all Christians was lived out Sunday when members of the Sudanese worshipping community here in St. Joseph joined us for worship. Their dancing, singing, drumming and shouts of praise filled our sanctuary. I was proud once again to tell the story of the young Sudanese men who were present with us. The ones with us Sunday and all of the other young men from South Sudan who are in St. Joseph and throughout the United States are refugees of that nation’s long and brutal civil war.

They were called “Lost Boys,” because their families were wiped out by government troops in a program of ethnic cleansing. The younger boys in the villages of Southern Sudan are assigned the job of tending flocks in the countryside, so they escaped the fate of their families back in their villages. Thus began the amazing journey or thousands of young boys who fled hundreds of miles to refugee camps in other countries where they were raised without families. Many of them came to the United States under a special refugee status where they work at places like Triumph Foods, Sara Lee, etc. to support not only themselves but also other surviving family members who remain in camps in Kenya and Uganda. As a church, we were blessed by their presence and their stories. It was a living reminder of what we who do not know such tragedy have to be thankful for and how our love for our neighbors needs to extend around the world.
Just when I thought Sunday’s service could not get any better, at its conclusion, two people came forward to become new members. One found First Christian, because she moved here to be close to her sister, a long-time member. The second found First Christian by looking around on the internet for a church that suited her own beliefs and experience of God. Each of them found us in their own way, but together they represent an encouraging word to us as a congregation. We must be doing something right, if people like these two are choosing to join our church.

Let us continue to celebrate God’s blessings here at First Christian Church!

Grace and Peace,


Letter From a Church Member in News-Press

In today's St. Joseph News-Press, there is a letter from one of our church members, Mike Edwards. He points out that a letter printed in yesterday's edition about Barack Obama was copied from an e-mail full of unsubstantiated information. Not only did Mike catch a bogus letter, he actually got an apology out of the News-Press. Wow!

Given the amount of bogus stuff being e-mailed this election season--from both sides of the political spectrum--I would like to think that I would be a big enough person and concerned enough with the truth that I would object to the publication of any false accusations. Whether or not I would actually be that fair, I don't know. That's worth pondering--after all, the truth really does matter, no matter how it affects one's own candidate of choice. I believe that the problem today with our political system is that there are too many people willing to win at any cost, no matter what the truth may or may not be. I hope that I'm not one of them.

Church and State in an Election Year

On September 28, a number of ministers in conservative churches endorsed John McCain for President from their pulpit during worship services. The event was called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" and is organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a religiously and politically conservative legal group founded by key members of the Religious Right (e.g. James Dobson, James Kennedy, etc.) to support conservative causes like opposition to same-sex marriage, prayer in schools, etc. (Read Source Watch's description of the organization.) The event was planned and executed as a direct challenge to the IRS regulation that says in order for a church to maintain its non-profit status, it cannot engage in partisan political activities--namely working on behalf of a particular candidate.

I first heard about the event a while back and paid little attention to it, because it's such an obvious political stunt that is derives from a distorted understanding of the role of religion in a pluralistic democracy. I began paying a little more attention when I heard one of the ministers involved interviewed on NPR. (Yes, I know. All my posts have to do with public radio lately--I've admitted I have a problem.) In addition to the minister who had endorsed McCain, Welton Gaddy was also on as an opponent to ministers endorsing political candidates. Gaddy is a pastor in Louisiana and the president of The Interfaith Alliance, a group of different religious faiths that works to protect religious liberty. I like Gaddy a lot. He's a liberal Baptist--yes there are some, I was one--of the variety that actually remembers that Baptists were once a persecuted minority in colonial America and therefore ought not to impose their beliefs on others. I know, I know, it's hard to believe that there are Baptists who believe such things, given how most Southern Baptists act. Gaddy did an okay job stating his case, but spent more time arguing the broader principles of religious freedom than explaining why ministers should not endorse politicians from the pulpit.

The argument made by the ADF and the ministers in question is that the federal government, specifically the IRS, is limiting their freedom of speech by saying they will lose their tax-exempt status if they endorse a candidate. What they do not say is that ministers can endorse candidates, work for political campaigns and even run for political office without their churches losing their tax-exempt status. It is only when ministers endorse a candidate from the pulpit during the worship of the church or by some other means make use of the church to support particular campaigns that their church can lose its tax-exempt status.

Tax-exemption is a privilege given by government that benefits the church--its property, money, etc. cannot be taxed--and its members--donations to the church become individual tax deductions. The idea behind this status is that houses of worship benefit society as a whole and therefore should be free from taxation. This point is debatable, of course, I have a good friend who argues that churches benefit society no more than many other institutions that are taxed. Another idea behind tax-exemption for houses of worship is that the government should keep its hands off of religious bodies including taxes. This point is also debatable, of course.

Houses of worship, including worship, have spoken out--and indeed must speak out--on important political issues--think Civil Rights, Abolition, Peace/War, etc., but they do not need to become a part of the partisan machine that so dominates our media and culture. I would argue that in order for the church or any other house of worship to have any credibility, it must avoid at all costs endorsing particular candidates. Once a church becomes just another partisan voice in the cacophony of such voices, it loses its ability to speak prophetically to all people in power regardless of their political affiliation.

Furthermore, churches have, as a part of their inherent nature, a duty to work against idolatry--that is, anything that seeks an absolute claim upon a person's identity. No party or person is infallible, and therefore none of them deserve our absolute devotion and none of them are worthy of uncritical support. In order to maintain our devotion to God and hold God as the highest priority of our lives, we must hold fast to the belief that all other entities--including politicians, parties and even the church--are flawed human institutions.

Finally, as Christians we are called to love our neighbors. I believe that part of loving neighbors means allowing them to disagree with us. This happens when we admit to ourselves and others that we do not have all the answers and all truth. When a claim is made that God would have us support one candidate over another, we deny the right of others to disagree with us, because they are not just disagreeing with us but also God and therefore are an enemy of God. By declaring God has chosen one candidate over another, we cut off love towards people who choose a different candidate than us.

I have not hid my own choice for president in this election. Indeed, you only need to check out my car bumper or for that matter just ask me to find out. I've made my choice, however, based on what issues are important to me, which policies I think are best for the country and my own limited and imperfect understanding of what God's mercy and justice look like in the political arena. I don't believe God endorses candidates, and when I hear of ministers who do, I feel sure they have mistaken their own beliefs for the thoughts of God.

Grace and Peace,


P.S. Randall Balmer, Barnard professor and Episcopal priest, has a nice column about the Pulpit Freedom Sunday event that is worth reading.
P.P.S. The Kansas City Star also had a nice editorial regarding this issue on Saturday.

Sarah Vowell and Our Puritan Ancestors

I've written here in the past about how much I love the work of Sarah Vowell. Like many of her fans, I got to know her from public radio's This American Life, and then I picked up one of her books and there was no turning back. She's got a new book out, The Wordy Shipmates, which is about the original Puritans who came to what would become Massachusetts and their continuing influence on American identity and culture.

Not only did the Puritans give us the idea that America could be "a city on a hill" chosen by God to demonstrate to the world what godliness looks like, they also gave us, through their policy of regularly sending all dissenters into exile, the idea of separation of church and state thanks to Roger Williams. Puritans also helped embed in the American psyche the idea that God intends for some to be rich and others to be poor, therefore there is no need to worry about the poor very much.

These concepts and many others are incredibly pertinent to our culture. I haven't picked up a copy yet, but I soon will. I guarantee that Vowell will cover this part of our shared history in her trademark hilariously wry yet reverent manner.

Vowell was on NPR's Talk of the Nation today sharing some of her insights--well worth a listen.

Grace and Peace,


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Sermon on Church Web Site

This fall I've been trying to do a better job of having my sermons available, but I'm about a month behind. Last week, I put on the church web site my September 7 sermon on forgiveness: Forgive but Don't Forget. The sermon is based on Matthew 18:21-35, which includes Jesus' saying about forgiving "seventy times seven" or "seven times seven" depending on your choice of translation. It also includes the so-called parable of "the unmerciful servant." In the sermon, I relate a story told by Sister Helen Prejean in her book Dead Man Walking about the father whose son was murdered by a death row inmate the nun worked with. As I say in my footnote, I haven't read Prejean's book. (I did see the movie which differs from the book for the sake of adapting it into a movie.) I got the story from a commentary on this scripture passage in The Christian Century. You can read that article on-line.