From Washington with Love: My Bond Women

No, really, that’s not me on the right . . .

Around ten years ago, I participated in a week-long writing workshop at Washington DC’s National Cathedral with three powerful authors. Each had influenced me.

Nora Gallagher, Lauren Winner, and Barbara Brown Taylor are insightful writers. Their essays, sermons, memoirs, and novels have dived deeply into the Christian faith. And yet, I also private dubbed them my . . .  “Bond women!” Am I suggesting they could star—scantily clad and cleverly devious—in a film where the iconic British spy might seduce them?

Nope.

As with every story, sermon, or parable, it’s the context that matters. But, before I contextualize, let me tease. Near the conclusion of this wild caper, one of my “Bond women” and I will eventually rendezvous with a Pakistani-American. In a taxi. On the way to an international airport. (Cue the menacing soundtrack.) Continue reading →

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The First Sermon I Remember

Mark’s fifth chapter includes a long stretch of verses, depicting* Jairus pleading for his daughter’s life and an unnamed woman boldly seeking Jesus’ help for her illness. Those ancient words invariably time-travel me to high school. I am suddenly in the balcony of the church I attended until leaving for college. There, alone with others on a long pew, I listened to a sermon.

I cannot tell you the first sermon I heard.

But I can tell you the first sermon I remember.

Treasured.

Wondered about.

It was the first sermon that shared words and images that felt like it was only for me. Did I lean forward in the pew? Maybe. Did my heart race or did I hold my breath? Maybe. Nonetheless, I can still sense the shift, the amazement within, as the preacher portrayed an ill woman’s faith. In his description (or his tone of voice, or how he paused, or other inexplicable actions the preacher conjured) I sensed her faith. Her hand reaching. Her desperation for healing. Her hopeful selfishness mingling with humility.

Who among us doesn’t need healing? Continue reading →

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Hearing the Sacrament Flow

Tower Bridge, Sacramento River

The last time I attended my regional Annual Conference for the United Methodist Church was 2006. I’ve been bad, far too happily avoiding the official meetings.

This year, when I officially retire, I’ll go again.

But I recall that prior time.

Hundreds of clergy and laity gathered from the various corners of California and Nevada (as far south as “hot” Bakersfield and as far east as the Silver State’s Ely), headed for Sacramento to engage in worship, work, and fellowship.

When attending the conference, I frequently purloined ideas. I listened to stories told or phrases used by my colleagues that I sought to, ah, borrow for my own use. Christians are sometimes referred to as “the people of the word.” Indeed, from the beginnings, we are people of the borrowed word. We don’t just tell the Christmas story, or Jesus’ parables, once. We keep borrowing them, then telling stories about our stories, and passing them along to the next person or generation.

Even now, when I’m no longer preaching, my story-dar, or idea radar if you will, is at full alert. Yup, I won’t hesitate to pilfer from my fellow pastors. And I hope they’d do the same to me. Continue reading →

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