Tuesday, June 04, 2013

How a Gay Webcomic Teaches Christians About Resurrection

 In a recent post, I said that being autistic makes it somewhat hard comprehend faith.  I also said that what has helped me the most is the use of imagination to make visible what can seem not very visible or tangible at all.  Tales about vampires or to a lesser extent, zombies, are good ways of understanding the afterlife to me.

So, how do I come to understand the resurrection?  What did it mean for Jesus to come back to life?  What will happen to us in the future when we are promised to be raised from the dead in the same way?
This is where the androids come in.

Keep reading How a Gay Webcomic Teaches Christians About Resurrection 

Children’s Sermon: “Help Is On the Way” | The Clockwork Pastor

“Help Is On the Way”
Luke 7:1-10
June 2, 2013 (Second Sunday of Pentecost)
First Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

Do you know what’s been happening in Oklahoma?  Yes, the people who live there have had to deal with tornadoes.  Tornadoes are scary.  I’ve been through one and they are not nice.  People who had homes lost their homes and all the things that were in it.  It’s very sad.

But you know what?  A lot of people have been helping the people of Oklahoma.  People have given money to things like Week of Compassion to help people have food to eat or a place to stay.

Keep reading Children’s Sermon: “Help Is On the Way”

Repost: Love, Justice, Vengence and Grace


The following is a blog post from 2007.
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
-Matthew 5:43-48
I decided to call my parents back home in Michigan tonight to find out how they were doing. Mom answered first, like she always does and we started chatting. At some point, she talked about a horrific crime just outside of Detroit. My mother expressed rage at the sheer savagery of the crime and saw this man as the perfect candidate for the death penalty.

Keep reading Repost: Love, Justice, Vengence and Grace

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Discipleship or Consumerism?

A few days ago, I was at a church retreat.  In response to a question on what challenges the church is facing, a woman remarked that one challenge is how people don’t really want to get involved in church.  They don’t see it as a life, as much as a place where they can get their needs met and be on their way.
I was glad to see someone in the pews notice this.  It’s been a growing frustration of mine over the years.  Pastors are pushed in many ways to try to make their churches appealing to folk, especially the oh-so-important Millenial crowd.  We are told that younger folks are not interested in serving on committees.  We are told they want to do mission.  We are told they want a church that is welcoming to LGBT folk.  So, we try to do everything to try to attract people: we offer more mission opportunities.  We push for our churches to be Open and Affirming.  We try to make our worship experiences more hip.  There is nothing wrong in trying to be hospitable and welcoming.  I’m not saying we don’t engage in mission and I most definitely am not saying churches should not welcome LGBT persons.  But there is a danger in that we start to trade the call to discipleship, the call of Jesus to follow him and replace it with a slick marketing message in order to gain market share among a certain demographic.

Keep reading Discipleship or Consumerism? 

'via Blog this'

Is There a Plan B for Plan B?

 "I don’t have kids.  But if I had a daughter and she was say around 12, would I want her to be able buy Plan B without my say-so or even knowledge?

The Obama Administration has decided to offer Plan B, the emergency contraceptive, to women over the age of 15 without a perscription.  All those under 15 have to get a percription.  That goes against a judge who ordered that the drug be made available to all women without a script.

Of course, most women’s groups tend to favor the judge’s ruling.  It’s about the women’s health, the say.

Yeah.  I’m pro-choice and favor comprehensive sex-ed and I even favor giving kids condoms.  But going back to have my hypothetical daughter (I’ll name her Harriet, because I’ve always liked that name).  I don’t know if I want my little girl being able to go to Target and get birth control when they aren’t even able to drive."

Keep reading Is There a Plan B for Plan B? 

'via Blog this'

Why Does God Hate Suburbs?

I’m a city kid.  I grew up in Flint, Michigan and was only an hour away from Detroit.  The 1970s, my childhood, was the time when we heard a new phrase: white flight.  It was a time when whites who lived in cities like Flint and Detroit, left the inner cities to head to a new life in the burbs.  At least in Michigan, the move to places like Rochester Hills, Farmington Hills, Troy and Southfield created segregated metro areas with a black and poorer inner core and a white outer ring.
So, I grew up with an antipathy towards the suburbs.  They were places that were gated paradises filled with racist white folk who couldn’t give a damn about the folks in the cities.

Keeping reading Why Does God Hate Suburbs? :

'via Blog this'

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Am I So Annoyed By Progressive Christianity?

Anyone who has read this blog over the years, know that I have a bit of a beef with Progressive Christianity.
While it might sound like I don’t like Progressive Christianity, or that I want to move to a more conservative denomination, let me reassure you, I’m not going anywhere.
The fact is there are many reasons that I like running alongside Progressive Christians.  I love their support of LGBT rights.  I love their concern for the marginalized.  I love that they want to really study the biblical texts.  It’s for all of these reasons that I’ve been a part of Mainline/Progressive Christianity for 20 years.  This is my home.
And yet, I want to some times scream at my fellow travelers for being self-righteous, hypocritical jerks.

Keep reading Why Am I So Annoyed By Progressive Christianity? 

'via Blog this'

Monday, April 22, 2013

What Joe Paterno and Kermit Gosnell Have In Common

 Like a lot of folks, I’ve been following the whole story on the role of the media concerning abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.  There’s a lot to said about media ethics and double standards. Last night, I watched a Huff Post Live segment on the case, which I consider some of the best coverage I’ve seen so far.  What made it so good was the honesty of the host, Marc Lamont Hill  and the Pennsylvania State Representative Margo Davidson, who lost a relative from actions at Gosnell’s clinic.

Keep Reading What Joe Paterno and Kermit Gosnell Have In Common

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sermon: “On Pastors and Pastures”

A sermon from Good Shepherd Sunday 2006.

“On Pastors and Pastures”
John 10:11-18, Psalm 23
May 7, 2006
Lake Harriet Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

I have to “blame” our Associate Minister, Tammy Rottschaefer for this sermon. For a while she has commented on the problem with parts of the church today in that we don’t know how to be church together. Somehow, all that talking about being church, sunk into me. For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be church at this time and place. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to be a pastor, a question that has been on my mind since I was ordained nearly four years ago.

Keep reading “On Pastors and Pastures”

On Holy Friendships

My thoughts these days are drifting towards relationships, or the lack thereof in churches.
I’ve been thinking about this in light of a recent blog post on CivilPolitics.org on the dearth of cross-party friendships.  The post linked to a longer article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the issue.  The author, Neil Gross notes that such friendships have benefits for the whole of society:

Read more On Holy Friendships |...

Friday, April 12, 2013

How a Clockwork Pastor is Becoming Human

 When I started seminary 15 years ago, I had come to accept that I would never pastor a church.  I just wasn’t a people person.  Maybe I’d be a seminary professor or something.  I didn’t know it back then, but I was basically acknowledging my Aspergers limitations.

Of course, as you can tell, I didn’t end up as a seminary prof.  Instead, I’ve been the Associate Pastor at a church for nearly five years.  And somehow, I’ve managed to not mess things up, praise be to God.

Keep Reading How a Clockwork Pastor is Becoming Human

Being Gay at Liberty University

 Last fall, I wrote a blog post about how I’ve come to respect social conservatives.  What I’ve learned over time is that the view of social conservatives is not so black and white.

Keep Reading Being Gay at Liberty University

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Now That We’ve Won (Maybe)…

526563_10151536092120549_414515262_nThis week's drama over the issue of same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court has been nothing short of historic. American society is at a point that I thought wouldn't come for several years, if not decades. Same sex marriage might be legal in most of the nation in a few short years. Here in Minnesota, it might be that by the end of the year we might have the right for gay couples to marry. It means that I can have my relationship with my partner Daniel, recognized by the state and therby able to receive benefits that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for a very long time. There's been a sense of celebration among my friends, as we see places like Facebook ablaze in the red equal signs with people showing support for same sex marriage. But there has also been a darker side. I've seen friends kind of using this moment to make fun and belittle those who have opposed same sex marriage. Of course, when you are on the winning side, especially in the culture wars, it's very easy to start "spiking the ball;" enjoying the tables turning.

Keep reading...

Happy To Be Stuck With You

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her about it.
Ruth 1:16-18 Common English Bible

On my wedding day, we had a reception for family and friends at our house. I remember Daniel and I were getting things ready for the event. Daniel kind of gave me an order to get something done. I looked over to a friend who smiled and said, "you're stuck with him now."

Keep reading...


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good Friday: Now With Zombies!

WARM-BODIES_510x317 It's Holy Week, so that means I'm going to hear a number of pastors use their blog space to talk about how they don't buy atonement. They don't believe that Jesus died for our sins, they don't like using the cross which is considered a symbol of violence, they don't like the focus on blood, and the list goes on.


Keep reading...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How A Nun and A Priest Led Me to be a Pastor

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point it became fashionable among both secular and religious progressives to bash the Catholic Church for basically everything under the sun.  Since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I’ve heard a number of slams against the church including that it is old-fashioned, sexist, homophobic and the like.  What is surprising and somewhat disturbing is how easily some progressive Christians have joined in the Catholic-bashing.  Posts by Tim Suttle, Tony Jones and David Hayward are just some of the negative reactions that I’ve seen from progressive folk on Facebook and the blogs. People who usually get upset when people speak ill of gays or Muslims have no problem saying all sorts of nasty things against Catholics.

Now, part of this bashing is understandable.  The child sex abuse scandal which has rocked the worldwide church has basically tarnished it’s reputation.  I also wish the Catholic leadership were more willing to bend when it comes to same-sex marriage.  But what bothers me is how we tend to miss the nuance of the Catholicism.  People who are so quick to judge others for being too black and white and ready to tar the Roman church without a hint of shame.

Even though I am an openly gay man, I still have soft spot for the Catholics- the result of knowing so many of them.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What J.C. Penney, Sears and Montgomery Ward Taught Me About the Mainline Church

Ever since it appeared a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about John Vest’s blog post called “The Vine is Dying.” The Presbyterian pastor from Chicago has been involved in finding ways to help the Presbyterian Church (USA) rebound after decades of decline and his February 27 post was one borne of frustration with the church he loves:


Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sermon: “Three Beeps Means ‘I Love You’”

This is a sermon from my Community of Grace days.  I think my sermon writing is a lot better than it was back then, but the essence of the sermon is still prescient.  
“Three Beeps Means ‘I Love You’”
Micah 6:1-8
January 23, 2005
Community of Grace Christian Church
St. Paul, MN
I’m going to break tradition here in that I am using a text that is appointed for next week.  However, since we are a bimonthly church, I think that’s okay and I think this text is timely-I didn’t want to miss the chance of preaching on it.
A year ago, next month, my best friend Erik and I moved into a home we purchased together.  It was a heady time.  Neither of us could believe that we were buying a home.  We were surprised that any bank would even loan us $100,000-plus to buy a home.  We moved in and got situated in our new surroundings in North Minneapolis.  One day, I noticed this stocky woman come out of a house across the alley and into her Subaru wagon.  Now I know stereotypes are a bad thing, but I wondered if she was a lesbian.  When I saw the equal sign bumper sticker on the Subaru, I knew.

Keep reading Sermon: “Three Beeps Means ‘I Love You’” :

'via Blog this'

Sermon: “This I Believe”

I really had a temptation to call this Dennis’ Baptismal Follies, because me and baptism have had a troubled relationship.  There was nothing wrong with baptism per se, but it was how I learned of baptism and faith as a youth growing up in Michigan during the 1970s and 80s.  I didn’t have a good understanding of what baptism was all about and because of that, I continually doubted my own faith. 

Keep reading Sermon: “This I Believe” :

'via Blog this'

Monday, February 25, 2013

How Do You Solve a Problem Like A Bigot?

It was about 15 years ago that I saw firsthand how love of enemy and justice for the oppressed clashed with each other.  I was in seminary at the time and one Sunday afternoon, I went to a discussion held at a local Lutheran church.  The then-Bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, Mark Hanson (who is now the denomination’s Presiding Bishop) was in attendance.  The topic was on LGBT inclusion.  Bishop Hanson was trying hard to stress the unity of the church amidst diversity.  He tried to talk about how churches that were opposed to having non-celibate gays as pastors and those who advocate for it are brought together and have a place at Christ’s table.
The audience gathered was having none of this happy talk.  A few in attendance talked about LGBT folk they knew who were no longer in the church.  More than once I heard this phrase which was accompanied with tears: “People are dying!”
I never knew what that phrase meant.  Was it literally or figurately?  I don’t know. What I did know is that the people wanted some sense of justice for LGBT folk right now-unity be damned.
In the ongoing debates on the role of LGBT persons in the life of the church, we normally see these two important aspects of our faith, love and justice, collide into each other.  What I’ve observed over time is that you can’t really bring these two concepts together or at least not perfectly.

Keep Reading How Do You Solve a Problem Like A Bigot? :

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

There’s Still Hope for the Mainline

Anyone who’s read this blog knows I tend to be critical of mainline Christianity.  It’s not that I want to leave what has been my theological home for two decades; it’s that I get frustrated at some of it’s shortcomings.
Despite all of that, mainline/progressive/liberal Christianity is my home.  As much as I respect my evangelical beginnings, I don’t belong there anymore.  My current home might be a fixer-upper, but it’s still home.
So, I get a bit sad when I hear stories about how Mainline Protestantism is shrinking.  People leave the church.  Congregations close.  Denominational offices keep cutting staff. Will this form of Christianity even be around in 20 years or so?

Keep reading There’s Still Hope for the Mainline:

'via Blog this'

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ashes to Ashes…We All Fall Down.

Like many people, I’ve been rather surprised to hear that Oscar Pistorius has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend.
The South African athelete, who is a double amputee, is known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon fiber legs and his speed.  Pistorius was a symbol that persons with disabilities can achieve great feats, like being a world champion runner.  Yes, he was to use that tired cliche, an inspiration.  He helped put the Paralympics on the map, helping us to see it as a serious sporting event on par with its sister event, the Olympics.
I remember watching him run in the quarterfinals during the London Olympics.  He didn’t get farther than the quarterfinals, but even in that he was a winner.
So, it’s shocking to see him brought low, quite possibly by his own actions.

Keep reading Ashes to Ashes…We All Fall Down. :

'via Blog this'

Friday, February 08, 2013


This summer the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will gather for its biennial General Assembly in Orlando.  One of the items to be considered is a resolution proclaiming the denomination Open and Affirming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
A resolution is for the most part a sense of the Assembly and carries no legislative power.  That said it does carry some importance in making some kind of a statement at a specific time and place.  I know some of the people who came up with the resolution and after much revision it looks good. It resolves that  “the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) declares itself to be a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children–inclusive of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical ability.”
Good words.  We want to strive to be welcoming to LGBT persons who have been told in the past that they aren’t welcome at church. 

Keep reading QMTD*:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Trees. Forest. Pastor.

One of the things that is common among folks with Aspergers is that they lack executive function skills.  What’s executive function?  It’s basically being able to see the forest from the trees.  You can look at a tree in a forest and comprehend that it’s part of a greater whole.  What’s different for someone with Aspergers is that they can see a tree, and another tree, and another tree and never really think that these are part of something bigger.

This has shown itself in my own life.
Keep Reading Trees. Forest. Pastor.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Birth Control And The Sham of Theological Diversity

One of the things that Progressive Christians like to say about themselves is how welcoming and tolerant they are.  Compared to their more conservative cousins, progressives can pride themselves in being able to think for themselves and to have a place where all ideas and beliefs can be shared without fear. Why, your progressive church even welcomes Republicans!

But in reality, all of this talk of diversity is a complete sham.  We are no more tolerant of other viewpoints than our conservative relatives.  What we are good at is lying to ourselves about how good we are.

Birth Control And The Sham of Theological Diversity

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why I Like Lillian Daniel.

I really like Lillian Daniel.  Really.
Why, you ask?  Because in 2011 she said something that many mainline Christians have been thinking, but were too afraid to say outloud.   In 2011 Daniel wrote an article with the very provocative title:“Spiritual, But Not Religious?  Please Stop Boring Me.”  If you think this was a rant, well, you’re right.  Daniel basically tore into those folks that have been called “Spiritual But Not Religious” or SBNR.  The article went viral and it’s easy to see why.

Keep Reading Why I Like Lillian Daniel. « The Clockwork Pastor:

'via Blog this'

Monday, January 28, 2013

Love In the Time of the Zombie Apocalypse

I just finished reading Warm Bodies, the zombie novel by Issac Marion.  A movie based on the book will open in theatres on February 1.
I have to say I enjoyed the novel, which is saying a lot because I don’t usually like to read zombie novels or watch zombie movies or TV.  I’m probably totally uncool because I haven’t the seen the zombie apocalypse series, The Walking Dead.
Why?  It’s pretty simple: zombie media tends to be so hopeless.  

Keep Reading Love In the Time of the Zombie Apocalypse

'via Blog this'

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Civic Church

What is the role of the church in a society?

That’s the question that I’ve been trying to answer for a few years.  I think blogger Michael Kruse came up with the best answer.  Before I get to Michael’s quote, let’s look at opinion piece by David Brooks that Kruse comments on.
Keep Reading The Civic Church

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lectionary Sermons: “Called. Gathered. Sent.”

From 2010.

“Called. Gathered. Sent.”
John 2:1-11, I Corinthians 12:1-11
January 17, 2010
First Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

I’ve come to realize that as you reach a certain age, you start to look back at an earlier point in your life more and more.  A friend of mine who turned 40 last year commented that he has basically stopped watching what is on television currently and with the wonders of Hulu.com, he has taken to watching television shows of the 70s and 80s.  For my friend, he loves watching these shows because it is a wonderful memory of an earlier time.

I can understand what my friend is talking about.  I love watching the old commercials of my childhood at YouTube.  Marketers have noticed that people are interested in nostalgia and have come up with special editions of products that are packaged like they were in the 1960s or 70s.  A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Target and happened to notice that Pepsi was packaging its usual pop in the look and logo of the early 1970s.  For me, I was immediately catapulted to that time when I was a little kid and was at a picnic where everyone was gathered and drinking Pepsi in the this same style.

I’ve seen other products do this like cereals and other soft drinks.  Of course, it’s a way to get people to buy the product, but they also know that it hits on our desire to want things like they used to be.

Nostalgia is an interesting thing.  It’s not a necessarily bad, but it is incredibly powerful.  We love to do look back at the past with a sense of wonder.  It gives us comfort for a time when things seemed less complicated.

Churches tend to deal with nostalgia as well.  We love to look back at the time when the sanctuaries were full and the Sunday School program was the greatest in all the world.  Among mainline churches, we love to look back at the past because we want to go back to that time, when things seemed a whole lot easier.

Keep reading “Called. Gathered. Sent.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wait for the Healing

Back in May of 2012 , I shared a story of what happened at a Baptist church I attended in Washington, DC in the early 90s.  It was a story of how people who disagreed with each other on the issue of homosexuality were able to still be friends and support each other.
Around that same time, I remember someone saying something after a congregation was going to make a tough vote on becoming open and affirming.  The exact situation is foggy after 20 years, but what I remember this woman saying that after this vote, “there would be some healing to do.”
The pastor was quite aware the stand be open and affirming to gays and lesbians was the right thing to do, but there was also a need to heal the rifts from this challenging process of discernment.  After the prophetic, there had to be time for the pastoral.

When my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathers in Orlando this summer for our General Assembly a resolution will be up for consideration on welcoming LGBT persons not just as congregations, but as a whole denomination.  Knowing some of the folks who came up with the resolution, I think it’s pretty good.

And yet, I’m concerned what will happen to the wider church after the vote.  Will the body been torn apart, never to be put back together, or will there be agents of peace who will try to mend the broken pieces after a hard, but neccesary vote?

Keep reading Wait for the Healing

Monday, January 07, 2013

Sunday Sermon: “No Do Overs”

This is a sermon I preached in 2007 for the Baptism of Our Lord which is next Sunday.  I happen to be preaching next Sunday.  No, I won’t be using this sermon.
“No Do Overs”
Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 3:15-22
January 7, 2007 (Baptism of Our Lord)
Community of Grace Christian Church*
Minneapolis, MN
Did you ever have one of those experiences where you are playing a board game and you made some kind of mistake? Someone usually has pity on you and you get what is called a “do-over.”
I live for those moments.
Do overs can be great, I mean you get another chance. I really like them when I was playing some kind of athletic game as a kid. Since I was not blessed with physical prowess, this meant that I had another shot at getting it right.
Getting a do-over in say, kickball, is a good thing, but do-overs don’t work so well in the life of faith. In fact, they might do some damage.

Keep reading Sunday Sermon: “No Do Overs”:

'via Blog this'

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Grown-Up Conversation on Guns

In the weeks following the Newtown shootings, there were calls for a “conversation” about guns.  I always find it funny when folks talk about having a conversation, because it never means what I think it should mean.  I’m envisioning something like one of those old PBS shows from the 70s where men in serious suits debate the issues of the day.  Maybe even in British accents.

Keep reading A Grown-Up Conversation on Guns:

'via Blog this'