Hello, Mr. Doubt

A hand waved from the back corner of the room. Then the question: “Do you have ‘anyone’ else in the room with you when you write?”

The quotation marks framing “anyone” are important. The questioner wasn’t talking about a real person, rather an imagined real person.

Ron Carlson replied with, “Oh, yes—”

In a moment I’ll finish his response.

When many of [Jesus’] disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” – John 6:60

Once upon a time, for a week in August, I lived in Squaw Valley USA. It’s the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Nestled at 6,200 feet near Lake Tahoe, this Sierra hint of granite-ribbed heaven is also a slice—or maybe many slices—of commercialism. Come the snow, skiers flock here. There are fancy restaurants, luxury hotels, and mansions dubbed cabins. Continue reading →

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Anyone Got Living Bread or Leftover Crackers?

Though unable to recall my tenth or one hundredth time of serving communion, I recall the first.

Picture an immense cathedral. There was a gathering of sojourners, eagerly listening to the quiet words of preparation for the “living bread” of the Lord’s Supper. Imagine the expectation, the longing. Some awaiting the cup and bread know each other; some, until recently, were strangers. The bread was simple. The cup, filled to the brim, enough for everyone.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. [John 6:35, 41-51]

But don’t imagine fresh bread. And please, don’t figuratively sample my memory and start tasting the sweetness of grape juice or the spirited sip of wine. Before my first official communion as a United Methodist minister, which occurred mere days after ordination, I had to ask a critical question:

Anybody got any bread? Crackers? Chips? Anything?

Shortly after ordination I headed for the place where I would be a student intern pastor for a year. The youth group there immediately roped me into becoming the token adult leader on their annual backpack to the High Sierra. Into what naturalist and writer John Muir called the “Range of Light,” into the granite cathedral of wind-scoured peaks, alpine meadows, blazing blue skies, and sudden afternoon thunderstorms. Continue reading →

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Fear at 30,000 Feet

He became frightened.

I invite you to contemplate that phrase. Hold the words at a distance, as if you were objectively curious. Bring the words closer, like a jeweler peering at a gemstone.

Personalize the phrase—I became frightened—and what is conjured? What in your life recalls, or is anxious over the arrival of, fear?

Though three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, John) include Jesus walking on water, only Matthew (Matt. 14:22-33) has disciple Peter speaking to Jesus in the “battered by waves” boat. In Matthew, Peter shouts . . . “If it’s you Jesus, command me to come to you.”

Jesus did.

Soon, however, Peter became frightened. In the Bible, fear often influences faith. It is part of Adam and Eve being tossed out of Eden. It is Joseph after his brothers abandoned him in a cistern (and then it got worse). It is with Esther in the court of King Ahasuerus. It is Jeremiah dreading becoming God’s mouthpiece. It is . . . Continue reading →

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