A Prayer for 9-11-2018

Almighty God,   We gather this morning in memory of a day that changed our world.

A day of darkness and fear, a day of loss and grief.   We remember our sense of vulnerability and the feeling of a world turned upside down.

We remember the war that began then, and has continued for a generation.…

Wedding Sermon, Part Two

(At the wedding of Aimee-Joy Cork and Joseph-Alexander Hearn, August 5, 2018, Katy, Tx) The last time Joy sang that song in public she was holding my hands and looking into my eyes. It was May 23, 1982. Joy’s father was the pastor who stood before us. Some of you were there. Ten years later,…

Wedding Sermon, Part One

What a Wonderful World Text: Genesis creation story (Preached at Spring Creek Seventh-day Adventist Church the day before my daughter’s wedding). Shortly after we moved to Houston in 1998 we took a trip to New Orleans. Aimee was in first grade, and there was one thing she wanted to see above all others: Louis Armstrong…

The Changing Face of Ministry

There’s a decline in respect for pastoral ministry, it seems to me, even among pastors. And by “pastoral ministry” I mean the visiting and care for members. I’ve seen it in pastors who give excuses for not visiting members in the hospital, even when they were told in advance and specifically asked. “That’s the job…

Government Must Not Define Religion, Part Two

No military chaplain can be forced to violate their conscience; that’s clear in both law and Army Regulation 165-1. Unfortunately, an investigator at Fort Bragg faults a chaplain who followed his conscience and Army regulations (press release). When a lesbian couple applied for a Strong Bonds retreat, he found a substitute. For that, he was…

Old-Fashioned, Part Two

Jesus said, “Have you not read that he who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Let no…

Old-Fashioned

I’m old-fashioned. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I believe these foundational truths. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified,…

The Government Must Not Define Religion

It is a dangerous thing for the government to start defining what is and what is not religion. And that’s true whether the government leaders seeking to do so are liberal or conservative. The Obama administration erred when it tried to say religious freedom is merely “freedom to worship,” and sought to restrict the rights…

Chaplaincy IS Ministry

Chaplaincy is under fire from different directions. Some church leaders suggest chaplaincy is something other than ministry — something you do if you “fail in ministry” or (strangely) want a “back door into ministry.” Meanwhile, some in chaplaincy (or, “spiritual care,” as they prefer to call it) want to separate chaplaincy from ministry and turn…

Adventists on Military Service

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was officially organized in 1863, during the US Civil War. The church from the beginning took a stand against bearing arms. When the first draft law was enacted, you could pay $300 and get out of it. The church was small, and few were affected. But the law was changed to…

Comparing Views on Abortion Across Denomination

Interesting PEW survey shows 42% of Adventists said “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” 54% said it should be illegal. Some denominations that are officially very strongly anti-abortion seem to have a hard time persuading their members — 48% of Catholics and 46% of Missouri Synod Lutherans were for legal abortion. Lutheran…

Fear and Immigration

I recently read a diatribe by a white liberal about the dangers brought by immigrants–especially those who make up much of the growth of our denomination. He was upset, and afraid that they would take our church backwards, in a “sectarian” direction; afraid that they would bring with them conservative beliefs and ways of doing…

The One Project: An Almost Epitaph

This coming week the final “One Project” gathering will take place in San Diego. It was started by a group of folks who were primarily chaplains at Adventist colleges and universities, to focus on “celebrating the supremacy of Jesus through the Adventist Church.” It became very controversial in some corners, with people saying it pushed…

The Four Chaplains–After 75 Years

Thirty-two years ago I raised my hand, took the oath of office, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Chaplain Candidate, in the US Army Reserve. That summer, as a student in the Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth, NJ, I first heard the story of the Four Chaplains: George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling,…

Rise and Shine: An Epiphany Sermon

My younger brothers were very happy last month when the most recent Star Wars movie came out. They have been devoted fans since the release of the first move in 1977–forty years ago. I have pictures of them at Christmas 1978 with their first Star Wars toys—12 inch figures of Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Darth Vader,…

Mary’s Song: The World Turned Upside Down

We’ve come to another Christmas season, and most of the trees are up and decorated.  Carols echo from speakers in every store.  Lights adorn the houses in the neighborhoods.  Cute creches decorate yards and mantles.  Wish lists have been drawn up by children, and parents frantically shop to fulfill their dreams. Christmas is a time…

When Miracles Grow Old

(Thanksgiving Sermon, 2017) Text–Numbers 11:4-6 We call the day, “Thanksgiving,” but I think we have forgotten the point. I was on-line yesterday and searched for “Thanksgiving Day” and “God”—I got 3 million results. “Thanksgiving Day” and “pilgrims” got fewer than 700,000. “Black Friday” got over 53 million. We keep the holiday on the calendar, but…

Divine Providence: The Forgotten Truth

We approach another Thanksgiving Day, and I think few understand the point. It is not supposed to be about sales, nor eating, nor even thanking other people—it’s about acknowledging God and praising him for his steadfast love. That’s what George Washington had in mind in 1789, when, in response to a request from Congress, he…

Religion or Spirituality?

Text: John 4:5-15 A few years ago, the Associated Press carried this story: By Day 2 in the blazing Utah desert, Dave Buschow was in bad shape. Pale, wracked by cramps, his speech slurred, the 29-year-old New Jersey man was desperate for water and hallucinating so badly he mistook a tree for a person. After…

The Chaplains We Need

In April 2016 I took part in the “Pathways to Military Chaplaincy” consultation at Boston University.  “The purpose of this consultation,” said the advertisement, was “to assist left-of-center and progressive seminaries in preparing military chaplains for the 21st century.” Chaplains and representatives of endorsing agencies were also invited.  It was clear, though, that we were not…

A Chaplain Speaks to Pastors

As a chaplain, I sometimes feel like Rodney Dangerfield. We often don’t get respect—particularly from ministerial colleagues. Some see us as pastoral failures who became chaplains because we “couldn’t make it” in the congregation. Some see us as having “left the ministry”—I’ve heard that several times, from other pastors and from church administrators. But chaplains are pastors. We are…

Justification by Faith and Moral Injury

This month we remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation—I began my ministry as a Lutheran pastor, so this anniversary is especially significant to me.  It was on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on Indulgences, igniting a firestorm which swept through church and state. At stake was the Gospel…

After 500 Years

October 31 will be celebrated as the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  It’s an arbitrary date, in many ways.  It ignores earlier reformers like Wycliffe and Huss.  It picks the date when Luther may or may not have posted his “95 Theses on Indulgences”–simply an invitation to debate, so they appeared.  At that point,…

Young Adults and Marriage Preparation

For eleven years, I did young adult and campus ministry for the Catholic Church, first as a campus minister at UCSB, then as archdiocesan director for Galveston-Houston. The foundational document of the US Catholic Church for young adult ministry is the 1996 pastoral plan, Sons and Daughters of the Light. It was a breath of…

New Martin Luther Film

PBS recently showed the new documentary, “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World.” I watched it online, as you can here (until September 27). I was skeptical, but was quickly impressed. This is very thorough, exploring the most important aspects of Luther’s theology, giving real insight into his person, through the shared perspectives of solid…

The Price of Vengeance

After 9-11, the United States and its allies went to war, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, ostensibly for the purpose of punishing those directly responsible for the attacks that day on the US.  For the 2,996 who died on 9-11. What has been the price the world has paid in the 16 years of…

Adventist Church on DACA

The North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church posted this statement on September 9, 2017: The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is concerned about the impact that the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may have on the lives of 800,000 young men and women in the United…

To Love the City

I recently heard a sermon by a pastor, in a large US city, telling members of his congregation that it was time to leave.  They should seek the Lord, but they should plan on getting out of the city.  To leave the “trash.”  To abandon what is now worthless. And this was a pastor who…

Robert W. Jenson

Originally posted on Advent Hope:
This afternoon I stumbled upon an article by David B. Hart, “The Lively God of Robert Jenson.” Jenson was one of my professors at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg. In fact, when I was still a student at Loma Linda University, my professor, Paul Landa, knew I was interested…