I’ve been thinking a while about what I want to say today, and I asked Abbie if she thought it was OK if I didn’t base the talk on a passage of Scripture or mention God much.  Her reply was that she thought I had done my fair share of that here and that I should feel free to do what I was hoping to do, which was tell stories.  I have come to find her advice sound, so I’m taking it.  I want to say a grateful farewell to you by telling a few of the many stories that could be told about what it has been like to be your pastor.  By way of connection to Scripture and God, perhaps we can think of these stories the same way we think of the story of Esther in the Bible, in which the name of God is never mentioned, even as the presence of God permeates every scene.

When Abbie and I came to Cincinnati in the summer of 2006, I was fresh out of seminary, Abbie had just completed her work as a music therapist with developmentally disabled adults, and Eve was about as old as...

For the last number of years, I’ve had the amazing privilege of speaking with you most every week in this place.  This is not farewell Sunday and this is not a farewell speech, but, with Pentecost Sunday next week and our tradition of hearing from anyone who wants to share about what it has meant for them to be connected with this congregation in the past year, this is something like a farewell eve by way of sermon giving.  So, while the 26th will involve more storytelling and reflection on our time here as a whole, I thought that this could be something more along the lines of some final words of spiritual and biblical reflection.

Although we don’t follow it every Sunday, I have come to love the lectionary and being guided by these larger themes that so many Christian groups around the world have agreed to focus on together throughout the cycle of the year.  It was serendipitous that one of last Sunday’s readings was the story of Lydia’s baptism, which fit well with our own celebration of baptism.  So I’m grateful, and take it as guiding sign, that in this week’s gospel reading we catch...

At the end of last year I received this book as a gift.  It’s called Dark Water Dancing to a Breeze: A Literary Companion to Rivers and Lakes.  It’s a collection of short essays and journal entries from some of the leading observers and enjoyers of nature over the last number of centuries.  Names I recognized include John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and Mark Twain.  The writings range all the way from a reflection on the overpowering force of a flood, to a humorous inquiry as to how the heavily polluted Ganges in India still serves as the Great Purifier – that was Mark Twain’s piece.  The editor opens the book by saying: “Whether we are conscious of it or not, water is omnipresent in our lives.  This is literally true, since our bodies are 70 percent water and because, for practical as well as other reasons, most towns and cities and built beside water.  With a bit of thought, we can section the course of our lives by the rivers or lakes we’ve lived or traveled on.” (p. 11)

The giver of this book was Caroline Lehman, a thoughtful gift from a thoughtful person.  It was given...

Why in the world is this story in the Bible?

And why are we reading it in a worship service?

A man taking a concubine, angering her then trying to win her back, schmoozing with the girl’s father and regaining the girl, needing a place to stay and being given no hospitality, taken in by an old man who at first appears to be a god-send.  A mob pounding on the door demanding a body to abuse, the old man now only concerned with protecting one of his guests, and himself.  The girl being seized and thrown out to pacify the mob, which unleashes its brutality against her.  And finally, a breaking apart of the abused body, each part sent out as a gruesome message to the different tribes of Israel.

Let me ask again: Why in the world is this story in the Bible? Of all the stories Israel could have told about its history, its identity, its coming to be as a people, why include this one?  And dare we remember it and contemplate it in church?

Let me ask the question another way: What if this story wasn’t in the Bible?  What if something like...

No audio available at this time

“Snatch” isn’t a word I use all that often.  I’m not sure why, because now that I’ve thought about it a bit, it’s a pretty great word.  It’s one of those words that sounds like what it means.  It’s abrupt, snatch, over before you realize what just happened.  But that S and N at the beginning sound like someone has been plotting for a while.  Sneaky, like a snake.  And then the atch.  Once the premeditated sneaker reaches the desired object, things happen quick, Sssnnn-atch, grab, grasp, latch on and it’s gone.  Too fast to catch.  It just got snatched.

Snacks get snatched around our house by little, and big hands.  We’re probably not the only house of sneaky snack snatchers.  Our girls do need to work on covering their tracks with the plenty of incriminating evidence they leave behind, like ladders in the pantry, opened wrappers on the table, and chocolate on the face.  True story, during Lent Lily said that she was going to give up sneaking.  It was a vow not well kept, but Lent is all about forgiveness.

Snatch is a word that Jesus uses twice in this passage in...