Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Complete Series


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Christmas Play by Gary Neal Hansen

This year for Christmas I have the honor of serving as the Narrator for Gary Neal Hansen's Christmas Play, which will be presented in worship at First Presbyterian Church, Dubuque, IA. Gary's arrangement of the nativity narratives is a beautiful harmonization of the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John. This straightforward presentation of the good news of the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus puts the revelation front and center. It is a pleasure to read and it will be a joy to join with saints young and old in this retelling of the coming of Emmanuel — the King before whom all kings shall bow — for our salvation.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the "world premiere" of Gary's Christmas Play, with yours truly as the narrator, a.k.a. the voice from on high.

First Sunday of Advent (Year C)

God of truth and righteousness, we turn to you in anticipation of your coming to bring justice and peace into our world. Strengthen our hearts in holiness, unite us with our neighbors in love, direct our way along your righteous paths and among your righteous people of every time and place, that we may be found blameless at your return.

Christmas with A Phenomenal Llama

It has been observed that a lot of stuff tends to lie downstream of culture. Well, here is one way to improve the culture of Christmas, and hopefully mitigate the legacy of one Clement Clarke Moore. If you are looking for a fresh angle on the Christmas story or for new pageant ideas, this is a sweet, delightful, imaginative story that is fun to read aloud


1. Check out the good reviews, and order copies early for your Sunday school teachers, educators, pageant planners. Here, under "From the Author," is a bit of background.

2. Order two readers' copies to break it into voices for a dramatic reading at Christmas.

3. Design costumes for one pastor (narrator), a lead llama (Gregory), St. Francis, Noah, a camel, reindeer, a donkey, cows, sheep, any number of other animals (lions, peacocks, monkeys), ... and of course, plenty of extra llamas.

4. Make sure to get a copy of the e-book so you can project the lovely illustrations for the congregation.

5. Schedule a fireside reading at home with the family or for a fellowship night.

6. Consider sending a copy to your families with children, or letting a copy serve as your Christmas card to the congregation. 

7. Visit A Phenomenal Llama on FB, give it a Like, or better yet: "Share."

8. Post a review on Amazon or your favorite online bookstore or book review site.

9. Spread the word to neighboring churches, pastors, parents, and friends.

10. Ask for your local bookstore to carry it.

Time to get a jump on Christmas. I hope you, you family, and your families of faith enjoy A Phenomenal Llama.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

With the new liturgical year coming quickly ...

... this is a good time to order:



[or e-Book]


Monday, July 6, 2015

A freedom better than independence

Now that the Independence Day celebrations are behind us for another year, why not read about and celebrate the far greater, eternal freedom promised by the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Trinity Sunday (Year B)

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Prayer of Confession [from WHEN HEAVEN STANDS OPEN: LERW, YEAR B]
Holy God, we confess that we live unclean lives among unclean people. Unless you touch us we are lost, unless you save us we are condemned. Yet you have declared that your purpose in sending Christ Jesus is not for condemnation, but for our salvation, and this salvation is not only for us, but for the whole world.  Free us, O God, from our countless fears. Forgive us, O Lord, for our tendency toward the flesh. Impart to us your Holy Spirit, that Christ might be formed in us for your glory and majesty and honor!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Penitential Rite for Pentecost (Year B)

God alone has the power to breathe life into the dead, to redeem for vital service those who are otherwise lifeless due to the weighty burden of guilt and sin. This God who turns slaves into prophets, the young into visionaries, and the old into dreamers of the future glory, can be trusted with the truth about our sin.

Spirit of the Living God, we confess that change fills our hearts with sorrow, loss stirs up doubt and fear, and our memories of past unfaithfulness often make life unbearable. Yet you are more than faithful in providing for us and for all creatures under heaven. You are good to renew all things with your Holy Spirit and to give countless blessings with your open and generous hand. Forgive us, O God, for our shortsightedness, our lack of faith, our timidity. Empower us with your Holy Spirit to proclaim your good works and to do your will in all things, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ.

Surely all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved! The God, who takes care to proclaim the gospel to all peoples in their mother tongue, has made provision for forgiveness for every believer under heaven and redemption for the whole of creation under the governance of Jesus Christ. Receive the good news, even as you receive anew the promised Holy Spirit, for in Jesus Christ we are forgiven!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Jesus was and is "without sin." (Note the period)

Well, you can't blame the sad results of Q3 on the lectionary, since we frequently use Heb 4:15 in the liturgy—though evidently not as often as we should—and it does come up as a reading once in Year B and every year at Good Friday. Dear denizens of depravity, as the voice said to Augustine: "Pick it up. Read it."

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Freedom of Christ

So what can happen when one superimposes lectio continua over Lent? Well, for one thing: this short series of six sermons on Galatians, preached ten years ago as I was designing and experimenting with Year D. With so many homiletical options on the table these days, one would not presume to issue such a collection with the expectation that such a series would ever be considered normative or exemplary—by anyone, least of all an author whose job it is to study and teach manifold approaches to preaching—nevertheless, this little book is at least a fair representation, a non-exemplary example, so to speak, of how preaching can cover significant territory with (I hope) some depth, yet at a fairly brisk pace.

More specifically and somewhat pedagogically, I offer it as an example of what I call "reiterative exposition," which is, as I understand it, akin to what Walter Brueggemann calls "re-utterance." For the record, I do realize that while Brueggemann favors, promotes, and envisions preaching as "re-utterance" of the Word, he is less positive about "reiteration." The difference, if there is one, seems to me less clear and stark than it evidently does to him. So with that expression of intent, i.e., that I think we are aiming at the same thing, here it is: a reiteration or a reutterance (as you like) of the gospel of freedom, The Freedom of Christ.

Here's hoping that, after all the flailing and failed fleshly attempts at freedom we see displayed in the weeks leading up to Lent, this articulation of and invitation to the freedom of Christ will find its way home in many a reader's heart.

UPDATE: For some reason, according to Google Trends, there seems to be particular interest in Galatians in Zimbabwe these days, so perhaps this title will grab some African readers. Note as well the rising interest in the epistle itself, in contrast to the diminishing interest in the lectionary.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

'Tis the season for Salix Babylonicus

If you are looking for a one-off Sunday school lesson or Wednesday night program this Lent, this short story is bound to generate good discussion in this season of self-examination, repentance, and recommitment to the cruciform life. In fact, one could well take several angles on it: the psalms, music therapy, pastoral listening, persecution and exile. Perhaps it needs a study guide?

Previous post with related links here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time*

Job 34:1-20
Psalm 28
Matthew 6:7-15
Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25


O God our Father, your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. We realize, in light of the constant changes and challenges we face, that have no lasting city here on earth, but we look for the city, the new Jerusalem, that is to come. Through your Son and in his Spirit, we offer you our continual sacrifice of praise, the fruit of those who confess his name. Accept then our songs and prayers of praise and adoration, and strengthen our hearts with grace, for we seek the bread of your presence, and we gather at the table where your Son has offered the blood of the eternal covenant, in whose name we pray.