We’re turning to another halloween image: ghosts. Maybe the most well-know story of ghosts is not even a Halloween story. It’s a Christmas story. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a story of transformation prompted by a series of visitation from ghosts and spirits. Ebenezer Scrooge is described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” On Christmas Eve, he turns down a dinner invitation, fails to open up his palm to give alms to the poor,  and insists that his clerk come to work on Christmas Day before finally relenting. That very night, the ghost of his former business partner appears in heavy, clanging chains from a lifetime of greed and selfishness. He tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits; if he doesn’t listen to them, then he’ll receive chains of his own. The ghosts are messengers, or maybe angels, who have the capacity to deliver Scrooge from a lifetime of imprisonment.

A Christmas Carol is illustrative of the way that ‘ghosts’ are performative in all of our lives.  Each of us will be threatened by some ghost in our lives—some past shortcoming, some resentment, grudge, grief, whatever— and it has power to haunt us. But if we listen to the ghost, it has the power to bring liberation. A philosopher, Peter Rollins, says that we are each a haunted house, though most of us are too scared to look inside. What will happen if we open up the doors to our hearts and see if any ghosts are lurking around? The bad news is that there is almost always some ghost, but the good news is that it might open the door for liberation. Continue reading “Ghosts”

Death (Zombie) Drive

Two weeks ago we were camping with our two-year old, Eden. It was a bad parenting decision, but we’ll talk about that another time. We were getting ready for bed, about to put on pajamas, when Eden started running away from the tent. It was pitch black, but we knew that there was a three or four foot bank overlooking a creek on the other side of the tent. Eden was heading straight for the ledge. We started screaming at her, “No. Eden stop.” I tried to reach her, but I couldn’t. Eden fell down the bank and into the water, somehow missing all of the huge river stones. We were lucky that there was no injuries; she was just soaking wet. Continue reading “Death (Zombie) Drive”

What Are Your Demons?

I usually start with some funny story. Or, I pose some existential question that makes you think about your life, your greatest joy, or your deepest fear. Not today. There’s no convenient place to begin. We just ready a story where Jesus cast a bunch of demons out of a naked dude into a herd of pigs, who threw themselves over a cliff and into a lake. Is that too much? Don’t ever say Scripture isn’t interesting. I was so intrigued by this story that I wrote a paper on it in seminary. 12 pages of research and I’m still not sure what to say. A pastor named Nadia Bolz-Weber preached this story and a parishioner wrote to her and said, Continue reading “What Are Your Demons?”

Singing a New Song: Philippians 2:1-13

Last Sunday, Eden picked up a Bible and started saying, “Jesus Loves Me.” We’d love to take credit for teaching her those words, but we have no idea where she learned that phrase. Our best guess is that she learned the song at Emmanuel Lutheran School. The other option is that it was the osmosis from being in a pastor’s family—like she came out of the womb knowing the song. It feels like that for most of us, though. We can’t pinpoint the moment that we learned all these songs in the United Methodist Hymnal. We sang them as toddlers clinging to mom’s knee and mumbled the words as self-conscious teenagers. And many of us will go on to recite the words in hospital wards and Alzheimer’s care units. Continue reading “Singing a New Song: Philippians 2:1-13”