Sunday, February 21, 2021: Beyond Wilderness

When it comes to the way the Gospels tell the story of the testing of Jesus, I like Mark’s bare-bones approach the best. Luke and Matthew use a lot of ink describing the details of the temptations that Satan sets before Jesus. And thus preachers use a lot of pulpit time analyzing those temptations: turn […]

Sunday, February 14, 2021: Is Your Head in the Clouds?

2 Kings 2:1-12 and Mark 9:2-9 The future of a church—even one as historic as Union Church—is always uncertain. It is, after all, the nature of the beast. We are not born knowing Jesus Christ by name. It takes one generation to teach the next, and the church is always, therefore, just a single generation […]

Sunday, February 7, 2021: By the Hand

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c and Mark 1:29-39 When the Bible speaks of someone as “possessed by a demon”, what does it mean? Unfortunately, there is no built-in glossary, only those we create from inference and historical analysis. When I hear that phrase, I always think of my brother-in-law, Steve, a brilliant banker and entrepreneur whose financial […]

Sunday, January 31, 2021: The Authority of Jesus

Psalm 111  and Mark 1:21-28 David Brooks wrote a wonderful op-ed piece for The New York Times a while back bemoaning the erosion of authority—what he calls “institutional thinking”—by the individualism of modern culture, with its emphasis on personal inquiry, personal self discovery and personal happiness. Institutional tradition—rules and obligations passed down to us by […]

Sunday, January 24, 2021: Worthy of Their Lives

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mark 1:14-20 Following Jesus is the subject of this morning’s lesson from Mark’s gospel. And as it makes clear, the decision to follow Jesus when he calls means that things may never again be the same. For where is he going? It is only in the following that we can know. […]

Sunday, January 17, 2021: Your Servant is Listening

John 1:43–51 and 1 Samuel 3:1-20 We call ourselves Christians. And as a Christian, I, for one, was disturbed to read in the New York Times this week about how the so-called Proud Boys, just before marching on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, stopped to kneel in the street and pray in the name […]

Sunday, January 10, 2021: As It Was in the Beginning

Genesis 1:1-5 , Mark 1:4-11, Acts 19:1-7 It is still early in this new year, a time when many of us are still thinking about what comes next, what we would like to accomplish, what resolutions we intend to keep in 2021. It’s a time of beginnings. We have been living in a sort of […]

Sunday, January 3, 2021: One Miracle is Enough

Jeremiah 31:7-14 and John 1:10-18 The late David H. C. Reade was pastor of New York City’s Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church for 33 years. A Scot by birth, Dr. Reade was a chaplain in Britain’s Highland Division during World War II. He was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk and spent the rest of the […]

December 27, 2020:

Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 2:22-40 Have you noticed that we’re not allowed to linger long at the manger? We heard, during the Sundays of Advent, the prophets speak of darkness, of sin, of desire, and need, the pain of exile and homelessness. And then, in the middle of a starlit night in Bethlehem, there was […]

December 20, 2020: Hopes and Fears

Luke 1:47-55 and Luke 1:26-38 Our readings this Fourth Sunday of Advent focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and tell the story of the annunciation—the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel of the coming, miraculous birth of Jesus. It is a scene of great mystery, simplicity and beauty, but also of fear. It […]