For My Daughters

Here are the first 3 paragraphs of my sermon last Sunday.  I wrote this for you to share with your friends who are hearing a lot of nonsense about the church and religion and Christians, and they are again hearing preachers quoting the bible to hurt others. You know better, but a lot of your friends don’t:

David, not yet a king, mourns the death of King Saul and his son, David’s beloved friend, Jonathan, of whom he says: …”Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26b), not a text quoted by those claiming their religion and their gospel is under attack because the Supreme Court at last made Marriage Equality the law of the land, but then cowardly and unfaithful people have long resorted to religion to justify bigotry.

If I am offending anyone, I do not apologize, for I believe that in time, when you have a child or grandchild, a niece or nephew, a dear friend or loved one who is born to love differently than you love, then your love will move you to advocate on their behalf, and though it may take you awhile, you will remember and appreciate this day, this Sunday, when many join with me in saying “Praise God for this victory on behalf of all God’s children,” and you will join me in praying that Christians like us would raise up our voices to show the world that those who take to the airways to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit do not represent the God of love we serve.

Love is love.  God is love.  Jesus Christ revealed God’s love, and religious people of his day killed him for it.  I stand in, with, and through Christ, and I say, “Praise God for that the United States of America has dignified all love as equal.”

More than a Song

The media is playing President Obama’s singing of Amazing Grace in his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinkney.  But the President’s eulogy offers much more than  this song: he calls us to express God’s grace today, in our world; he tells the truth about racism in the United States–about the Confederate Flag, Gun Control, the prison system, poverty–all within the context of faith.

I invite all of my friends: those who have not lost their faith in the church and who seek to express God’s grace with their lives; those who have left the church because it has worshiped its own traditions, because has been too slow to engage the movements for human dignity and justice of our age, because it has loved comfort and feared conflict; and those who see faith as weakness and belief as a sham; I invite all of my friends to watch the entire video of President Obama’s eulogy, or download the full text ( .pdf  |   .docx ): the President puts into words what I believe and what Christians in my life see as the heart of faith.

Slinging Stones for Mother Emanuel

4th Sunday After Pentecost, 6/21/2015: Mark 4:35-41  1 SAMUEL 17:32-40

This was an important Sunday for churches across America.  Four days earlier, Rev. Clementa Pinckney was assassinated and eight parishioners were massacred during a bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  The story of David and Goliath provides a way view of how we as people of faith will slay the giant of racial terrorism.

I am indebted to Malcom Gladwell’s recent book, David and Goliath.  Gladwell’s reading of the story is available as a TED talk: The Unheard Story of David and Goliath.

Slinging Stones for Mother Emanuel (pdf sermon manuscript)



We remember the story of the unnamed woman who pours perfume on Christ’s head. While others call her wasteful, we know that she was extravagant and beautiful.  As the unnamed woman annointed Christ for burial, so we were anointed by Nicole’s extravagance and beauty.

Of Marshmallows and Temptation

LENT 1B, 2/22/2015:  GENESIS 9:8-17  MARK 1:9-15

What is your wilderness and what is your marshmallow?  How do we give up and give in? How do we distract ourselves?  And how do we nibble a little bit?

Homily: John Klossner Holstein Whisperer

John Klossner

John Klossner, October 8, 1993 – August 12, 2013

Holstein Whisperer
Luke 15:3-7

A few years ago, a movie came out called “The Horse Whisperer.”

The lead character’s name was  Buck—no surprise there.  The movie told the story of Buck’s special connection with horses, a connection that was rooted in who he was: his way with horses was a view into his soul.

It seems to me that a movie called “The Holstein Whisperer” could be made

The movie would open with a little boy playing at home with one of those farmyard play sets—a freckle-faced farmer with a hat wearing bib overalls, a tractor, several barnyard animals, a fence to lay out, and a barn with a door that would go “moooo” when opened.

As the scene opens, the little boy’s back is to the camera; he is hunched over working at something.

What is he working at?

Slowly, the camera rotates around to the front; the little boy’s mouth is set in concentration; as the camera zooms in we see that the boy has a bottle of White-Out and black Sharpees; he is changing the black and white patterns of the Holsteins, because, of course, the markings of Holsteins are as individual to them as fingerprints are to us.

The next scene would be the little boy in church wearing bib overalls and bright yellow barn gloves; his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes.

As he grows, there would been countless scenes of him playing the barn and alone in the pasture with cows.  There would be scenes of the boy leading calves around and playing with them because they were his friends.

He would constantly ask question about Holsteins and remember everything he was told.  His family would celebrate and nurture his gift; he would work along side his father milking and feeding and caring for the herd;  his mother would encourage him to develop his gifts; older brother and sister would be delighted by his fascination with Hosteins.

He would go to Dairy Expos and Dairy Bowls and win too many honors and awards to name.

In time, he would begin to share his gift with others and help them along, as glad to see them learn and succeed as he enjoyed winning himself.  When he saw in other boys and girls that gift that he himself had, he would help them in every way he could, not only because this is what he had been taught to do, but because to help them was good for the breed.

There would be an intensity about him; a focus borne of lifetime of loving Holsteins.  He would know just how to “dial it in” so that would never come in “DFL.”

You all can write the script for this movie because you knew John.

Everything I know about showing cattle I learned by talking with the Klossners the last few days.  I know that part of showing and breeding is about confirmation—how well a cow conforms to the standards of the breed.  But it seems to me that there is something more to it, something that I hear is essential to the gift John was given.

It is about relationship.

John had a way of relating to Holsteins that was an expression of his very soul.  He was nice and kind and gentle.  His cattle felt comforted with him; safe in the hands of a young man who related to each individually, who understood each cow’s personality, who could read each movement.

And of course, the cows knew him as well as he knew them.  They had heard him singing to them when he did his chores; they felt his love and commitment to them in his touch.  When it came to showtime, they gave him their bovine trust because he had loved them from the time he had a bottle of White-Out and a black Sharpee marker.

You can’t fake relationship.  It develops over time.  It is about commitment; it is about trust.

You would need to talk with a Holstein expert, of which there are many here today, but I believe I can say with confidence that the breed had not yet been developed in ancient Palastine when Jesus told stories about God’s love to his disciples using sheep as an example.

Jesus talked to shepherds, not dairymen, so he told stories about sheep, not cattle, but what he says about God’s love for us makes sense in times like this.

Jesus tells stories to help us to trust our relationship with God.

The story might bear updating for today.

If you have a hundred head of cows, and one of them goes missing, you leave the 99 to go looking for the lost one.

God’s love for us is like that; it searches for us each individually when we are lost or in need or in pain or in sorrow.

Today, we are the 99 and John is the one.

He is the one lost to us but is found by God, who blessed John with special gifts, loved him from the beginning, and loves him in the end.

We have lost John, but God has found him.

But we are also the one today.

We are the ones who need to call on God and trust that he will find us, we are the ones who need now to trust our relationship with God, we are the ones who have questions to ask and fears to tell and frustrations to relieve.

And so we pray for faith in the coming days, that God will lead us, show us tender care, feed us and heal us, for we belong to God, and we can trust that God’s love will always find us, most especially when we feel lost and alone.

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So [Jesus] told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.