Posted on April 24, 2017

Last night I watched a wonderful PBS special about the life and ministry of Reinhold Niebuhr (for many years a Professor at Union Theological Seminary here in New York). His was once virtually a household name in America, with his portrait even appearing on the cover of Time Magazine. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called Niebuhr “the most influential American theologian of the 20th century.” Now, sadly, he is primarily remembered only by professional theologians. In fact, most who pray The Serenity Prayer (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”) do not remember it was written by Niebuhr. Still, for those who attend seminary, some of his works remain required reading, as well they should be. The Nature and Destiny of Man and The Irony of American History are timeless masterpieces. But perhaps heading the list of the brilliant books he wrote (and, I think, the most important) is Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics. Written in 1932, its lessons are still fresh and relevant.

After Easter
Posted on April 17, 2017

What do we do when Easter’s done? It’s not an unfamiliar question in religious circles. We’re all aware of the ebb and flow cycles of church that apply to Advent and Lent. Huge numbers come out on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. And in both seasons, the Sunday following those dates is called “Low Sunday.” It refers to attendance and stewardship. But, I also think it applies to human emotions.

Holy Week
Posted on April 10, 2017

This blog is written for Holy Week, the most meaningful week on the Christian calendar. It is because of what happened this week two thousand years ago, and what occurred the following Sunday, that there is a Christian Faith. Without all this, if Jesus were remembered at all it would merely be as a bright rabbi with a loyal following who helped reinterpret the Law of Moses for people living under Roman occupation. But because of what happened on this Passover Week long ago, and how it all culminated on Easter Sunday, He is remembered as Messiah, and we are part of an ongoing spiritual movement two billion people strong.

Posted on April 3, 2017

Years ago in the area where I grew up, there was a preacher who was notorious for taking the Sunday newspaper into the pulpit with him every week. He must have misinterpreted Barth’s metaphor as fact. (Karl Barth advised preachers to enter the pulpit with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other – He didn’t mean to do so literally, but rather to write sermons that bridge the gap between the world of scripture and the world of the worshiper in the pew.) Anyway, the minister from my home state would point out two or three stories from the front page and then talk about them (throwing in a biblical text here and there to make certain it sounded sufficiently sermonic). No doubt he thought it made him look up-to-date and relevant. But all his church members thought it made him look unprepared. They would sometimes joke that he was too lazy to write a sermon. Instead, he let The Charlotte Observer do it for him.