Here you will find a collection of writings, resources, and samples of my work ranging from spiritual formation and devotional material to homilies, sermons, and academic papers. These materials have been used in churches, in academic settings, and shared through social media. For more information about any of this content please contact me

ADVENT SERIES FROM INSTAGRAM

The following are excerpts from my 2018 Instagram Advent series.

#Advent, Day 6: This advent season I am personally mindful of some people I love that have experienced profound loss or other experiences of stress and anguish. And If I have learned anything from the times in my life that were particularly difficult it is this: Suffering is hard. Doing it alone can be fatal. You see we weren't created to live and survive (much less thrive!) alone. Of all the creatures on earth, humans are some of the most vulnerable at birth and in their early years. Our capacity to grieve, or merely to be overwhelmed by grief, is beyond our capacity to articulate. And this is just one of the reasons that as followers of Jesus we are called to do life *together*. Dorothea Soelle, one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century experienced both profound loneliness and that kind of deep solidarity that only comes from rich community. She reminds us that no one needs to be alone. And the minimum alternatives she offers are simple, yet powerful: to watch and to pray. This points us back to the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he wrestles with his looming torture and execution. He asks his disciples to watch and pray. In other words, he calls them to be close, to be attentive, and to intercede on his behalf. Jesus does not call them to figure out a solution (though Peter tried!), to "fix it", or "make it go away", but merely to be present. This posture is possible for you and I this season because there is One who is always watching and interceding on our behalf. And this One longs to enable you and I to do the same for one another. So this advent season, let us watch and pray. #woundedchurch

#Advent, Day 12: This is the entrance to the famous Shops at Columbus Circle. It is not too far from where the kids go to school and has two of our favorite places: Williams-Sonoma (we are bakers after all) and the Amazon Book Store (and bibliophiles). And while it is a beautiful space all year long, there is something different about the time that Christians mark out as advent and the market denotes as Christmas or "the holidays." While the architecture of this place is always meant to be appealing and impressive there is a shift at this time of year. It is almost as if they wish to make just the experience of being in the building (much less any of its three-stories of shops) a kind of "spiritual" experience. And really, if we stop and think about it, the mall has always been a kind of liturgy. (James K. A. Smith points this out so beautifully in his book "Desiring the Kingdom") We enter into each of the chapels (stores) and offer a portion of our means as a tithe/offering to the priest (salesperson) from whom we receive the thing we came seeking (our purchase). It is a profound and deeply formative cultural liturgy. In 2016, it was expected that Americans would spend over 1 *TRILLION* dollars on holiday shopping. This is a pornographic amount of money. This contrast is made even more clear as we think about the entire focus of Advent being about a child born to people without economic power. It is made clear when we consider men and women who have walked thousands of miles, carrying their children, in order to escape the poverty and violence of their homes which was often exacerbated by the choices of those with economic and social power in other nations, including the US. It is made clear when 1 in 20 children under six in the US is currently homeless. It is clear when 1 in 8 Americans are food insecure. I confess here to a real struggle. I love to give gifts, to experience new things, to bring joy, to make memories. But I am increasingly suspicious of the ways in which my imagination has been captivated not by the story of advent, but by the advent of the consumeristic culture in which I live. Who will rescue us? How will we escape? #woundedchurch

#Advent, Day 15: These words from Saint Poemen, the fourth-century monastic have been rattling around in my heart today: "Silence is not a virtue when charity [love] calls for speech." These words hit me today because I revisited a piece I had written a couple years ago about the challenges for Christians in the age of internet outrage. This brought back to memory the refrain of a gathering I attended last year to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech at the Riverside Church. The refrain was this: "Silence is complicity." As I thought about advent today I was struck by how *not* silent it was. Angelic choruses irrupting in the sky, wise men from far away lands in audiences with rulers and authorities, the piercing cry that cuts to the bone of a newborn calling out for its parents. The first advent was anything but quiet. But what does all this mean for us? Am I suggesting that we have to speak up about every slight, every outrage, every injustice? I don't think so. What I do think that love requires is this: that we are as open and public and explicit as we can be about these things by both our words and our deeds that there is no ambiguity about how we might feel about the thing at hand. We need to ask ourselves, how do people presume I respond to places of brokenness, suffering, injustice, and oppression? If the answer is unclear or involves a presumption of silence, you have some work to do. If it is known, then you must ask how what you say is received: Does this naming of these places of something that is not right come from a place of love and justice for all people? If not, we have repentance and growth to pursue. But I think it is safe to say this: Silence only serves the status quo, it only protects those already at the top, and it only makes possible the realities that are already in place. God's work is made manifest among us through others by those who will raise their voice for beauty, for justice, and for truth. #woundedchurch

#Advent, Day 19: This image by one of my favorite painters, Caravaggio, captures the moment that Thomas touches the resurrected Jesus. This painting has inspired reflection for four centuries and in some ways has altered the way we hear this story in the text. Thomas is skeptical (and he should be!) of what everyone is saying about Jesus being alive again and appearing to the disciples and others. He exclaims, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John‬ ‭20:25,‬ ‭NIV‬‬) And here we apply the nickname that Thomas has unjustly received: Doubting Thomas. There are a couple of important details here: (1) Thomas doesn't touch Jesus, and (2) his response is the clearest confession of all the apostles in John. I think the primary lesson here is about God's response to doubt. Jesus doesn't kick down the door and say, "What the hell Thomas? We talked about this!" Jesus comes directly to him and speaks to the reality and validity of his doubts with an invitation of proximity and vulnerability. And it is then that Thomas is the one who actually "gets it." (Let's not forget that the other disciples didn't believe before they saw either!) I received a lot of feedback from my reflection yesterday about #depression, #anxiety, and "the fog." There were two reactions: (1) People who don't know me well tried to tell me "it will get better" and (2) those who know me well sent their love and affirmation of my reality. They were simply with me. For some of us in this season, our wounds are heavy, for others it is our mental health, and for others it is our doubt if this stuff is even real or if it's just what we have been handed. All I want you to know is this: I see you. I am willing to meet you where you are, and I hope that you can do the same. I'm finding myself trying to hold on to the idea that the Jesus who comes through locked doors for Thomas will come wherever and however I find myself. That the God of the universe is not afraid of the mess of my life, but eager to reveal that he has always been willing to reveal himself in acts of love, mercy, justice, and truth #woundedchurch

COMMUNION HOMILIES

The following are 3-5 minute homilies given at multiple churches in preparation for participating in Holy Communion or the Eucharist. My objective has been to traditionally deliver these in less than 600 words but with the depth of a fully formed sermon.

The Defiant Eucharist

(Originally delivered January 28, 2018)

My work as a theologian has been largely spent exploring the realities and challenges presented by some of the most immense and debilitating kinds of suffering that have occurred throughout human history. For me these questions have always been profoundly personal, shaping the family that I love and the world in which we live, in ways that are hard to wrap our heads around.

And so it was one of the great discoveries of my own wrestling and journeying with and among these questions when I learned that the most ancient posture of Christian faith to the struggle and suffering of life, in this case from the perspective of a fledgling and persecuted church, was not surrender to a kind of cosmic fate, or a deterministic explanation of the way that “all things work together,” but was actually a posture and an embodied practice of defiance. And that at the very heart of this open defiance towards the powers of sin and death and those people and systems that cooperated with or were co-opted by them, was the Eucharist.

For the rest of this homily click here.

GOD CAME DOWN

(Originally delivered February 1, 2015)

In the ancient world there was only one place to go to find the gods. You had to go up. You went to the highest point in the city, or you walked up the stairs of a temple, or you looked to the heavens as a statue of the fearsome deity towered over you.

So imagine how hard it was for those earliest Christian communities who would at some point in the day find themselves literally in the shade of those places where the divine lived. 

It wasn't in temples that those earliest Christians met, but homes. Places of welcome and embrace were the living spaces of the church. Where many expected God to be found in a place of power and splendor he was instead found at a table. An ordinary, everyday table. Any table would do as long as it had a place for all to come. 

You see, unlike the gods that early Christianity grew among, the Son of God chose to make himself known to the poor, the unimportant, the undervalued. This shouldn't really surprise us. God has always been in the habit of showing hospitality to those who least expect it, to those whom the world thinks don't deserve it, to those who need it most. 

For the rest of this homily click here.

Sermon

Harvest of the Wounded.png

This sermon explores the story of the woman at the well and the way in which Jesus encounters us not in our brokenness as wicked, sinful people, but in our woundedness as valuable and vulnerable people made in the image of God. Originally delivered on October 22, 2017. The full text is available here.

ACADEMIC PAPER

Theodicy (With)in C. S. Lewis
This paper explores the internal tension that exists in C. S. Lewis's reflection on questions of theodicy in two of his most important writings: The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. This paper then asks, which of these responses to the reality of suffering actually helps us live a life of faith in the world.