Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I remember conversations in my youth about “what I’d do” when I got older. Some teachers suggested I follow in my father’s footsteps and become an attorney. I said I lacked the appropriate dorsal fin… Bad jokes aside, my frequent response was I didn’t want to because day after day, I saw Dad cooped up behind a desk, writing. Hour after hour. And then more writing. And I didn’t like writing then! Ergo, I was going to medical school, where the skill of one’s writing was measured purely on the badness of one’s handwriting. My handwriting is terrible.

Fast forward to nowadays and Pops has properly razzed me many times since about the fact I write as much now as he ever did! Every Sunday: sermon. Every day: email. Every Monday: this pastoral letter. What’s more, I love doing this! So I’m sorry, Dad. Sorry, that is, about the whole criticizing-writing thing (the law school thing…no offense, but not for me, amen?!).

And you know what the best thing about writing is? When people actually read.

I’ve never said thanks, I believe, to you all for reading and that’s long overdue. Therefore, thank you. It makes this strange weekly routine worth doing. Sometimes you even write back and we discuss things further. Sometimes you’ll say something before service, pointing out a fact or plot point I missed. Sometimes I hear nothing for months until someone brings up a letter topic out of the blue. Even if you’ve just scanned these musings irregularly, it’s greatly appreciated.

This week’s letter, of course, is my last for a while. January 31 will be my final Sunday at Plymouth Creek. I’m very grateful this church gave me space to pursue a (late-blooming) passion for writing. Whether it’s been any good or not, I enjoyed it.

And while I’ve bloviated on many topics, a basic impulse lay behind my writing that I’m not sure I’ve said upfront before, clearly. That is this: You know how in modern America people are really, really good at discussing sensitive, complex issues without getting defensive or screaming or walking away? Wait…we’re actually terrible at that, amen?!

Indeed, we should be embarrassed by the increasing intolerance of our political and social culture with thoughts that aren’t what we already believe, or didn’t emerge from “our tribe.”

I’m certainly not immune from such polarization. Still, I want to be open to perspectives beyond what I find most comfortable or persuasive. After all, God loves each person, I believe, and for good reason. That’s a core conviction I aim to live up to. All have gifts to offer, thoughts and opinions, ideas and dreams, each of which- combined- would create a beautiful whole, if we took more time to listen.

That doesn’t mean we must agree with every other voice, obviously! Some we’ll even rightly call wrong, or bigoted, or worse. Respecting your neighbor’s differences doesn’t imply conforming to their purposes.

But somehow we act like it does, like if I listen to a politician I’ll probably not vote for, God forbid incorporate some of her/his ideas into my own thinking, then I’m selling out. Or empowering the enemy. Or betraying my own.

But that’s not Disciples Christianity. Our faith tradition- at its best- revels in diverse voices. For we proclaim that what unifies us as God’s people is God. Not our beliefs, our votes, our Facebook feeds, our houses or styles of worship even. It’s God’s love. Period.

And that was meant to be the intention behind these writings- Offering thoughts while making space for people who think different to disagree, who understand different to offer wisdom. I didn’t always achieve that, but such was my hope.

Thus, my parting prayer will be that you find further ways to make space for many voices in your souls and daily pursuits. Because life is better for everyone if we treat one another as potential allies rather than likely enemies. Or to use Jesus’ preferred word- “Neighbors.”

Grace and Peace,

P.S.- I’ll probably write regularly again at my next church. If you want to keep reading, let me know and I’ll keep your email (or address) for my distribution list.
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