How Much Should a Pastor be Paid for a Wedding?

It was my first church where I was a full-time minister.

I recall spotting the best man striding purposefully towards me. It was after the wedding service, but before the reception had begun. He was pale, skinny, and so (so) young! In a tuxedo looking like he’d co-starred in a teen slasher film that ended badly and predictably at a prom, he stopped in front of me.

“Thanks,” he said, “for doing Tommy’s wedding.”

“You’re welcome.” (I don’t remember the groom’s name, but why not Thomas? Tommy to his pals.)

“He wanted me to give you this.” The best man reached into a jacket pocket and then handed me a folded envelope.

“Gotta go take pictures for the wedding party thing,” he said. “But thanks, again.”

I slipped the envelope in my Bible. Since the wedding was for the granddaughter of one of the long-time church members, I knew quite a few in attendance. I socialized, soon moseying over to where pictures were being taken and posing for a friendly photo with the new newlyweds. The reception followed. Boring me, I left early.

It was on the way home that I glanced at the envelope. Continue reading →

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Micah as Tweet and Truth

Micah 6:1-18; Matthew 5:1-12 – The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – for Sunday, January 29, 2017

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Once, still a young enough pastor, I memorized Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount for my Easter preaching.

Ego influenced me.

Oh, yes, there were other reasons, including using Lent’s forty days of discipline for the endeavor and a desire to share the unvarnished, unfettered good news of Jesus.

Every word. Every verse. Every paragraph.

I proclaimed the opening beatitudes to Jesus’ final warnings to those who built their “house on sand.”

I worked with a local professional actor to perfect my delivery. I prayed. I sweated. I doubted.

I did it.

The three chapters took around twenty minutes to preach. I was pleased as punch (okay, proud) that none of the words during that singular Easter Sunday were mine. I didn’t pick and choose the “good” stuff. I didn’t avoid the difficult sections. On that long-ago day of resurrection, I gave a small congregation an unfiltered dose of Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel.

One person, a first-time visitor who reluctantly grasped my hand after worship, told me that he’d never come back to this church. How dare I use Easter to make divorced people feel guilty!

. . . and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery . . .

It wasn’t me! It was Jesus! I was only quoting verses 31 and 32 in good old chapter five of Matthew!

Please, blame Jesus! Continue reading →

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Thin and Quiet

I Kings 19:1-15a – The 5th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, June 19, 2016

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice . . .” (I Kings 19:12)

Cradled in granite formed before human history was written . . .
Cradled in granite formed before human history was written . . .

As a baby boomer raised in the burgeoning California suburbs, I first heard about the “still small voice of God” at the Baptist church we attended.

It didn’t matter to me that the Revised Standard Version (RSV) tucked in the pews and clutched in the hands of the Sunday school teachers mirrored—word for word—the renowned King James Version’s (KJV) translation of I Kings 19:12. Both read . . .

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Why should I care what God muttered or what old Elijah heard?

I cared more about the crack of the bat and the ball plopping on a leather glove during the thousands of baseball games I played.

I cared about Mom’s voice announcing dinner.

I cared—and trembled—when hearing, “Lawrence George Patten, please come here.” Whenever the benevolent dictators known as my parents spoke all my names, the future was bleak. Sometimes I knew what I’d done wrong and sometimes not, but there was misery in every one of my steps to judgment.

I cared about the theme from Bonanza since it meant I was allowed to stay up an hour later, even though the next day was a school day.

A little older, and I started caring about how a girl giggled. What if she liked me? What if she, with her sweet voice, might someday want to—gulp—hold my hand? Continue reading →

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