Sunday, February 28, 2016

Station 4 - Simon Carries Jesus' Cross

photo by dbgg1979 / flickr

"Those who carry grand 

wardrobes and coffins
to the tenth floor

the old man with a bundle
of wood hobbling beyond the horizon

the woman with a hump of nettles

the lunatic pushing her baby carriage
full of empty vodka bottles

they all will be raised up

like a seagull feather
like a dry leaf
like eggshell
scraps of newspapers

Blessed are those who carry
for they will be raised up."

 --Anna Kamienska

Jesus falls under the weight of the cross
and drag a passerby, Simon
and place the cross on his shoulder.

The man didn't intend to do that. 
He had just come to Jerusalem from the country
for the first time.

He followed the noise and the crowd
and stood there craning to see what was happening.

A man on the way to be crucified
had fallen down from the heavy cross.

A soldier grabbed this stranger's arm roughly 
and said: "You carry the cross."
He didn't intend to do that.

Yet this bit player in the drama 
was no bit player after all.

Looking back I don't know if 
you have ever been pulled into something
you had no intention of doing.

Changing a diaper, wiping away a tear, 
putting on a bandaid and whispering:
"It is gonna be all right."
Changing a bed-pan
holding a hand in the dark.
Locking the doors tight so he/she 
won't wander off. 
No wonder they call it the 36 hour day.

We've all been pulled into the drama
and carried something unlikely and heavy
for someone else.

Simon was no bit player after all.
And neither or all those folk along the 
way that lifted some load, 
that made it somehow bearable.

Looking up at this Station we know, 
don't we, that wouldn't be here today
unless someone, somewhere 
had come forward 
and shouldered our load.

Simon was no bit player. 
He was at the heart of the drama 
and so are we.

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Station Three - Jesus Falls

photo by Jim Forest / flickr

" He became like his brothers

(and sisters, too) in every

         --Hebrews 4. 15

This third station is our station. 

Jesus falls. Before the journey is over he will fall three times.

And so do we. 

We don't intend to fall--but we do.

Sometimes the weight of it all just gets too great. And we can't carry it another moment.

Arthur Godfrey, entertainer from another era, flew over New York City one night. He looked out at all the glittering lights and told the pilot. "You know what gets me. Fifty years from now all that will be going on down there and won't be around to enjoy it. It makes me so damn mad."

Godfrey was talking about limits. His limits. Ours, too. Everybody's. And if we ponder this Station very long it makes us damn mad, too.

Donald Trump, speaking of John McCain's long ordeal as a hostage said, "I don't like John McCain. I don't like losers. He was a loser."

Behind every bully's braggadocio  lurks really a fear. Nobody wants to be a loser. But we all are. That is the third station of the cross.

Why did the church place this station so early in his journey? 

Because it doesn't take long when we start out to stub our toes or be humiliated or have them stand by laughing when we are face down.

We put up statues for the winners. But there are no monuments for the fallen. And here Jesus is one with all the unnamed ones. All those that have had to sell a house in short sales or take bankruptcy or file a Chapter 11 or sit in  some Doctor's office already knowing the report looks bad. All those who still go to the cemetery and find the name and weep.

The heroes stay on their feet. Too smart--or like the banks--too big to fail.

Well, maybe not. Falling is part and parcel of our humanity. Everybody's.

Limits and bad lab reports and aging and failures are all part of what it means to be human.

The monks lived up on the hill behind stone walls. The old farmer was intrigued He asked a monk: "It must be wonderful living up there away from all the problems and temptations we have to face. Praying and loving God. What does your day look like?" And the monk said: "We fall down and we get up and we fall down and we get up."

Jesus will not stay face down on the ground suffocating under his splintered cross. No. He will get up and continue his journey.

And so will we. Thanks be to God.

--Roger Lovette /

Friday, February 19, 2016

Politics--We Need to Remember our History

I saw this display at a bookstore in Montreal of all places.
So I couldn't resist taking this picture. RL

Everybody I know is shaking their heads over this election. When I was Pastor of a troubled church one time somebody told me: "Look at it this way. It is as if the bus went by the mental hospital loaded up all the inmates and let them out at the church and they are running all over the place." Why do I remember this story right now? Hmm.

Whenever we get down over the state of the nation and all these candidates--just remember our history--the crazies don't always win.

--Roger Lovette /

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Stations of the Cross - 2: Jesus Takes the Cross

photo by Jim Forrest / flickr
"Jesus was led away,

and carrying the cross by


went out to what is called the 

 Place of the Skull." 

(in Hebrew, Golgotha)

     --John  19.17

Standing here looking up as Jesus takes the cross
I remember that story that Victor Hugo told in Les Miserables.

"She had only one thought, to fly; to fly with all her might, across woods, across fields, to houses, to windows, to lighted candles. Her eyes fell upon a bucket...She grasped the handle with both hands, She could hardly lift the bucket.

She went a dozen steps in this manner, but the bucket was full, it was heavy, she was compelled to rest it upon the ground...She walked bending forward, her head down, like an old woman: the weight of the bucket strained and stiffened her thin arms.

                                    .             .           .           .          .

Arriving near an old chestnut tree which she knew...the poor little despairing thing could not help crying: 'Oh! my God! my God!'

At that moment she felt all at once that the weight of the bucket was gone. A hand, which seemed enormous to her, had just caught the handle, and was carrying it early. She raised her head. A large dark form, straight and erect, was walking beside her in the gloom. It was a man who had come up behind her, and whom she had not heard. This man, without saying a word, had grasped the handle of the bucket she was carrying.

                             .             .            .              .           .

There are instincts for all the crises of life.
the child was not afraid.

Later, Victor Hugo wrote, the child learned to call him father and knew him by no other name."*

As Jesus carried his cross I remembered this old story. I wonder why.*

"Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested." --Hebrews 2. 17-18

*I first discovered this story in Carlyle Marney's, Faith in Conflict (New York: Abingdon, 11957) pp. 41-42

--Roger Lovette /


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Happy President's Day--Republicans!

photo by mehlem / flickr
""He (the President) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court..."
  --Article II, Section 2, Constitution of the United States

After Judge Scalia's untimely death things got embarrassing. Even before the man's funeral the power forces were at play. Whatever happened to manners? Mitch McConnell, then Senate Minority Leader made a promise promise the night President Obama was first elected. He said:  "We will make sure that Obama is a first-term President."  He vowed to lead the fight to make sure that none of the new President's plans would pass. Now seven years later he is consistent in his mean-spiritedness. He has joined the ranks of those that say that the New Supreme Court Justice should be nominated by the newly elected President. 

McConnell and his minions fail to remember that the President was elected twice by the people of this country. He has one more year left in his eight-year term. Whatever one feels about this President it would be a serious mistake to try to thwart the will of the people who spoke loudly in two separate elections. Opponents of the President are saying that we should let the people have a voice in this matter. The people already have a voice--his name is Barack Obama. And he is still the President of this great country.

--Roger Lovette /

Stations Of the Cross I - Behold the Man

We look up like those other pilgrims 
photo by Jim Forest / flickr

through the years.

"Behold the Man" Pilate said to the soldiers, the crowd, the destitute disciples. 

He hoped word would trickle back to Rome. He wanted them to know he had not lost his touch.

And so, we too, behold the man.

What do we see?

A man. 

Pilate was right. 

A man weaving to and fro from a night of beating and scourging.

Surely Caesar would take note of Pilate's toughness.

Behold the Man. 

Blood-soaked...,near naked...stripped of whatever dignity he had.

No wonder the church kept this first station. 

Whoever has known torture or injustice or unfairness or PTS or the memory of a blood-splattered torn-up tank or just the burden of being human can find it here.

No wonder the church began the journey with Jesus standing before Pilate.

We look up. He really is like us.

Shining through the pain--even Pilate must have glimpsed it.

Standing before him helpless and weary
There was a grandeur about him.

Behold the man!

"There was a Man
who dwelt in the East
centuries ago
and now I cannot look
at a sheep or a sparrow,
a lily or a cornfield,
a raven or a sunset, 
a vineyard or a mountain
without thinking
of Him."

--G. K. Chesterton

--Roger Lovette /

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Donald Trump...Anger... Jesus and Politics

photo by Bart / flickr

 The political candidates have done invaded our state! South Carolina. I am almost afraid to leave the house. But last night I heard Donald Trump was speaking about 4 miles away down a black-top road that led to a large auditorium. I dragged my friend and we were late but we thought it might be fun to see the big man and Lord knows I need some pointers. Somebody to let me in on refugees, Muslims, Veterans (by a non-veteran), Obama not being a valid President (the birther-Kenya thing)--Hillary, Sanders, Cruz and Rubio. Just about everything including his love for the Holy Bible with his name on it and that "little cracker" that he took at his Presbyterian church.I particularly wanted to hear how not to forgive anybody from a man that claims he never had to.  I've been missing something all along.

So we drove through the evening at break-neck speed to get to the rally. When we got there--it was a traffic jam. You had to park close to a mile away--and it was cold, cold. I have never seen so many cars. We parked, got out and decided to brave the cold. After all it isn't everyday that Pendleton, South Carolina has been graced by anybody as famous as Donald Trump. Well maybe after John C. Calhoun anyway. As we finally got to the auditorium people were leaving. "He's already gone." So we turned round and headed back. It was still freezing. I knocked on this woman's car door and asked her if we could ride to the main road. After my buddy told her I was a Reverend she cleared off the back seat and reluctantly let us in. 

"Who are yaw'll gonna for.Trump I hope,.." My buddy looked at me. Since it was thirty degrees outside we punted. "Well...we're just not sure." "Not sure! The only one that can help this screwed-up country is Donald Trump. He can do it. We can win again. He's gonna tear this Obamacare thing apart and get us on the right track. I like it because he speaks so straight. And being a Christian--I think he is just wonderful."

I didn't mention the three wives, the bragging about his adulteries, his money, the ugly way he has talked about women and Muslims and Mexicans or his foul mouth. "He's gonna be at Bob Jones along with Rubio and Cruz on Friday--hope yaw'll will go. I love the fact he is going to build a real wall to keep all them Mexicans out." As we started to get out of the car a man came by selling tee-shirts. HE'S GONNA KICK THE S....OUT OF ISIS! it read. We didn't buy.

We didn't say much except thank-you when we left the car and found my buddy's truck. Maybe just hearing this woman was worth the cold. I don't know. I am still wondering where all the rage comes from and why so many evangelicals are standing in Trump's line. Maybe they never heard the dirty talk. 

Cal Thomas. columnist and not one of my favorite people wrote in today's Greenville News  an article I am pushing on everybody.This syndicated writer has written a pretty common-sense piece I recommend. He wrote that all this God-talk from political candidates should have no place in this election. They are all trying to out-Jesus everybody else. Must be hard work.

Anyway--read Mr Thomas article, "Put focus on policy, not God." It's good for a change.The old ship of state is in some scary choppy waters. Don't forget we've been there before and we'll be there again. We'll need some Captain that will help us all and care for us all which seems is a pretty good job description for a President.

Do  not lose heart. Vote. Pray. Raise your voice. Remember American belongs to us all--even the non-believers, the atheists, the socialists, the liberal Christians and the Evangelicals. 

photo by Quinn Dombrowski / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

The Stations of the Cross--We Begin...

photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

For years now as I turn away from Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent--I wash away the cross-smudge on my forehead. But even with this mark gone--I still remember those old words: "We are dust...and to dust we shall return." More than that I remember that cross that was on my forehead and cannot be washed away quite so easily from my heart. 

And so during the Lenten season for several years I have, like pilgrims through the years, pondered the Stations of the Cross. You can find them in almost any Catholic church and in other denominations as well. The Stations of the Cross have been called several different names: Via Dolorosa--The Way of Sorrows. Often these stopping off places have been called simply, The Way.

The Stations date back to the Medieval times when the world was dark and sickness was every-present and the world was a difficult place. And somewhere in that dismal time the Church erected the Stations. Some pilgrims had visited the holy places which portrayed the last days of Jesus' life. But most folk could not travel to Jerusalem. So--we thank St. Francis of Assisi who began the stations as a devotion time for believers. Early they called these stations depicting the last week of Jesus' life--halting places.

 Franciscans began in the 15th and 16th centuries  to build a a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of Stations varied from eleven to thirty. But somewhere the church settled on fourteen stations.

The object of these Stations is to help the faithful meditate on the chief scenes of Jesus' sufferings and death. Catholics and some Protestants have taken to walking these Stations particularly during the forty days that lead to Easter.

As I look out at our world it is so different from those Medieval times  which were so crushing to the human spirit.--I think we, too need these Stations. Like other times in our history--there is ugliness and prejudice and hearts so hard we really cannot even open the doors and let any of those millions of refugees in. We battle cancer and alzheimer's and drugs and depression and anger so deep and far-reaching that it is scary. The main-line church seems to be stuck and millions of former-pilgrims would rather read the newspaper on Sunday than go to church. And so maybe we, like our brothers and sisters in the Middle Ages, can look up and find in him  enough to keep us going.

Walk with me this year and look up and ponder that once upon a time there came one who stretched out his arms and his brave heart and gave himself unreservedly for the likes of 
us . No anger there. No rage. Just love for all--not some. For all.

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? 
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow..."

Walk with me by these fourteen stations on the Way of Sorrows and remember.

photo by elycefeliz / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ash Wednesday--Why Do We Keep Doing This?

photo by Sean Claes / flickr
'"The preacher asked, 'O death where is thy string, o grave where is thy victory.'
And someone answered back: 'Just about everywhere, Reverend if you think about it.'"
   --paraphrased from Annie Dillard

We Christians do a strange thing on the first day of the Lenten season. We find our way into some church—people are scattered here and there in the Sanctuary. It’s quiet—you can almost hear a pin drop. Many grey and bald heads. But here and there a smattering of young people. One woman is on a walker.  An old man drags his oxygen tank behind him. A businessman must be come from work. We wait in the quiet. I look around at the windows. They tell the story of the Stations of the Cross. Jesus bears his cross. A cluster of women stand by weeping. He falls. Not once but several times. There’s Simon who picked up Jesus’ cross after one fall. The Priest comes in and the service begins.

There are Old Testament and New Testament Readings. We always hear the familiar Ash Wednesday words from Joel: “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” This first day of Lent is a gloomy day,. A day of mourning and humility and repentance. The mourners once would tear their garments—as an act of sorrow. Their ritual of mourning was not quiet—together they lifted up their common griefs with crying and wails and lamentations. Not a pretty sight or sound, either. We moderns don’t do that. Yet here we are with a collection of others. 

On this day the ground is level. We are all the same—the blue-haired woman who arrived in her Cadillac and the black man with overalls. We rend not our garments but our hearts. We mourn our losses. The years—many wasted. The shames. The sins we would just as soon forget. The losses we’ve known—some have come very close this year. We think of the tall sharp runner—now bald-headed and weak from the cursed chemo. I think of cousin Ray dead now three years by his own hand. On this day some of us oldsters know there is more
photo by Tom Cherry / flickr
behind than there is ahead—and there is a rending the heart just knowing this. My old mentor said: “We all just run out of time.” Arthur Godfrey flew over Manhattan one starry night. Looking down he said: “It makes me so damn mad that one day that will be down there and I won’t be around to see it.” That’s a rending, too I think.

And so we come with who we are and what we bear and evade and cannot let go of. And yet we keep coming back on this day when the Church is quiet and the music is somber. Why? To stand in a line waiting our turn. The Priest will take a dab of ashes and say quietly, “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.”  And so he/she marks us with a smudge of the cross. We make our way back to our seats. Soon it all ends and we shuffle out. 

Outside far away a bird sings. The weather is cold. The sunlight hurts our eyes. We reach for the keys to our cars. We open the door and just sit there for a moment. We really are dust. One day, hopefully not soon, we will all return to dust. But in the meantime maybe we will find some mercy and some forgiveness and some faith enough to hang on to the finish line. And joy, too I hope.

Maybe that’s why we pilgrims turn on this cold day and walk inside and sit in the quiet. We have rent our hearts. Dear God some times it just hurts terribly. And yet we keep doing this year after year. 

Martin Luther would say when his depressions would rage, “I have been baptized.” And this day we say, like baptism, we have been marked by the sign of the cross. Maybe that is really why we come. To be reminded that we don’t just shuffle through our days and weeks and whatever follows alone. We are kept, despite it all, by the one who first took up his own cross. We take a tissue and wipe off the smudge. And yet we remember.

photo by Bruce Reyes-Chou / flickr

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Looking at the Serenity Prayer---We Need Some Acceptance

photo by Luca Maglia / flickr
For three weeks we are going to be looking at the Serenity prayer. I don’t know if you know the history of this prayer. After Reinhold Niebuhr’s death someone asked his widow about this prayer that her husband had written. He was one of the great American theologians. And she answered by telling this story: “Well, I think it was in the early 1940’s. We were vacationing in Heath, Massachusetts, where we had a cottage. My husband Reinhold was preaching on Sundays at a little church. At the end of one of the services he used this prayer: “O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.”

After the service, a retired minister who had been Dean of the Cathedral of the Episcopal Church in New York, Howard Chandler Robbins, asked his good friend Niebuhr for a copy of the prayer. Dr. Niebuhr took a copy of the prayer on a crumpled piece of paper from the back of his Bible and said, “Well, just take it. I don’t have any further use for it.”

Robbins liked the prayer so much he put it on his Christmas cards the next Christmas. The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous saw it, liked it, adopted it as their official prayer. The USO reprinted millions of copies for soldiers and their families in the Second World War. Today we find the prayer everywhere—on greeting cards and plaques and whispered by many, many people trying to recover from all sorts of difficulties. The man who prayed those twenty-seven words had no idea the power of what he would pray that summer Sunday morning.

I have wondered what it is about this prayer that has touched millions around the world. Why have so many troubled people found comfort in these words? Maybe it is because the language is clear. The words express something about the things we all understand—real life, real living. The prayer deals with the realism of life. The things that cannot be altered, those things that will not change regardless of what we do. But it also deals with those other realities which are sometimes transformed miraculously, whether we do anything or not. The last part of the prayer helps us to sort out what can be changed from the things that cannot be altered. So I thought it might be helpful during these days of transition to spend three Sundays looking at this prayer. 

Chagall painting / photo by Jim Forest / flickr
Let’s begin with the first part of the petition: “God, grant us the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed.” Our sermon in one sentence is: there are some things that just cannot be altered in your life and mine. We know that. We don’t like it but we know it. 

This is what our Scripture is about this morning. In the second chapter of Genesis, God placed man and woman in the garden. He gave them this magnificent place that was lush and rich in so many ways. And then he gave them the animals and land with such hopeful possibilities. The promise stretched out endlessly, it seemed—except, he said, there was this tree. There in the middle of the garden there was this tree. You can eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden except this tree in the middle of it all. You cannot eat of the fruit of this tree because you will die if you eat it. 

We know the story well. None of us like this story. It says we cannot do everything. We can do a great deal: except. Carlyle Marney used to say there is a wall around our garden. We can’t do it all. There is also this forbidden fruit. There are these limitations we have all chafed under all our lives. Robert Frost understood our frustration when he wrote: “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall…it walls in some things and walls out some things…” And one of the first lessons we teach our little ones about becoming human is to deal with the hard edges, the corners, the spills, the falls— writing on walls flushing your Mama’s glasses down the toilet. There are some things we just
cannot do. “Don’t touch that hot stove.” ”Do not play in the street.” Our youngest granddaughter was instructed that she could not take food into the Great room. And so she would take her snack or drink, walk all the way to the edge where the tile ended and the carpet begin—and she would put one foot half-way up into the Great Room. Pushing the limits. For one of the hard lessons of life is that if we break these rules they may just break us.

photo by Tom Sens / flickr
So early, we begin to come to terms with this garden filled with infinite possibilities. But a garden, unfortunately with limits. What does it mean? That I am never got to run a four-minute mile. It means most of us are not going to win the Miss America contest or be movie stars or win the lottery. All of us will have to settle with the painful fact that we cannot do it all. Don’t you just hate that. Once Arthur Godfrey was flying one night over New York City and he'd looked down at all the twinkling, glittering lights and the told the Pilot: “You know what gets me? Fifty years from now all that will still be down there glittering and I won’t be around to enjoy it.”He’s right, you know. For many of us there is more behind than there is ahead. Someone has said that the great grief is this: we all run out of time. I told my friends at a funeral in Birmingham three weeks ago: It never lasts long enough. 

Have you ever gone back to a High School reunion? It’s a funny-sad time. Over there in the corner was the head cheerleader—still a cheerleader after all these years. On a walker and a cheerleader! Senior Class President—toupee slightly askew—still running for office. Athletes that made all the touchdowns, hobbling around still trying to make it to some goal line. One friend confessed to me that when it came to his high school reunion he rented a limousine to make all his class mates think he was somebody. He rented the limousine We all get stuck. Stuck. In the middle of this garden there is a deal we have to contend with. We can’t stay here—we have to move on.

What is this tree and what are the limits in our lives? It’s different for all of us. Maybe you never got married. Or maybe you married and it was lousy. Maybe you never had any children—or maybe you had too many children. Maybe you are the like the woman I talked to one day who said, “I would give anything in the world if I had not had children—it is too painful.” She was having a hard time. Maybe you got the job you wanted and you hate it. Maybe you worked twenty-five years and got passed over and you despise where you are. One buddy confessed to me that he hated the chicken neck under his chin and so he went to this plastic surgeon and had it removed. When he recovered he asked his friend: "Well, what do you think?” And the friend said: "They should have fixed your nose too.”

We all have a tree. Health problems. Some parental scar back there which crippled us intentionally or unintentionally. A friend of mined in Kentucky told me one time: “You know Roger, I used to lie in bed every night wondering what it was I was doing to hurt my children. And all the things I didn’t think of was what hurt them. And all the things I worried about didn’t matter to them at all.”  It’s hard. But there is always this tree. You see, there is always this tree.

What is the point of all of this? We are all human beings. We all travel this winding, winding road called acceptance. And along the way we all have to come to terms with finitude, weakness, lusts, givens, frailties. We have to come to terms or we are going to fail. One of the reasons I think AA chose this prayer is because they know who they are. Can’t drink. Powerless by themselves. They needs some higher power. They need other people. I don’t know why you need to pray this part of the prayer but there is a tree in everybody’s garden. 

One of the great writers of our time was a man named Reynolds Price. He lived in North Carolina and taught at Duke. He had a book entitled, A Whole New Life. He told his own story. He woke up one day with these strange pains and went to the doctor. They discovered a tumor wrapped around his spine. They had to dig it out and when they dug it out it left him paralyzed from the chest down. He would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He could hardly move his arms. But the terrible thing was the pain that came and never went away. It was just excruciating. Twenty-four hours a day—just pain. He thought about suicide. Day after day, month after month was a nightmare. Finally, under the
photo by Willy Nelson / flickr
care of Doctors at Duke he began hypnosis. He learned, in time, to manage the pain. It never went way. It’s was there until the day he died.But he said he learned to manage the pain in such a way that he was able to begin to live and be productive again.

Since that time he wrote more than ten books. PBS featured his life in an hour’s program several years ago. He wrote the song, “Copper Line” for James Taylor. He was honored by a President. The creative juices came back and he wrote that this became the most creative time in his life. Sitting in a wheelchair, crippled from his chest down. He said he wouldn’t recommend what happened to him to anybody. But he went on to say that you can choose to live with your limitations or not. You can be bitter and hateful and spiteful and make everybody around you miserable. He reminded us that doctors could not change his life and medicines could not change his life. But that does not mean we do not use medicines or go to doctors. But he said we have to manage our own lives. There are some things we have to do for ourselves. And if this Church will be healthy and viable in the future we don’t try to copy some big old fat church somewhere—but we choose, with God’s help to do what we can here on our little half-acre. Some people here would;'t be here without this church--or another church somewhere. And with God’s help--it will work. It always does.   
What are you going to do with the tree in your life? That’s the question. What are you going to do with the hurts, the disappointments, the raw deals that are so hard. Evelyn Underhill once wrote: “Sometimes we need to remember there is always a night shift, and sooner or alter we are all going to be put on it.” It’s that lousy tree we all keep bumping into. 

Genesis says, yes there is this tree. But the Garden is still fraught with infinite possibilities. We can spend our time raging at the things we cannot do—or we can spend our time creatively on the things we can still do. 

Somebody wrote a book some time ago. The title took my breath away. Painting Rainbows With Broken Crayons. It’s the only thing we’ve got. We take what is given and ask God to help us learn to paint rainbows with the limitations of our lives.

And so we pray the prayer, bring all the things of our lives: “God grant me the serenity—which is peace—to accept all the things I cannot change.  And if we learn to do this, maybe we will know what to do with all the lushness in the garden—even with a fence around it.

No wonder the Church has set a table of bread and cup and invited us all to come. Just as We Are…just as we are…we bring the broken things of our lives—and here, believe it or not, we find healing and hope and promise and love. They called the Supper Eucharist—thanksgiving. I think I know why.

photo by Tom Sens / flickr

This sermon was preached at the First Baptist Church,  Pendleton, SC,  February 7, 2016

--Roger Lovette /

Friday, February 5, 2016

Taking America Back--From What?

photo by mandhak / flickr

Looking out at the political landscape today and the talk, talk, talk that we hear from candidatesI  am reminded of the geographical terrain in other days. In Medieval times the old maps were filled in the margins with drawings of all sorts of creatures: wild beasts, serpents, sea monsters, lions and dragons. In fact one map called the Hunt-Lenox Globe of 1503 scribbled across the unknown territories: “Here be dragons.” 

These scary creatures would fill in the unknown blanks where people had never ventured. Not knowing what was out there—this was the map-makers way of saying: There is very bad stuff out there. Dangers ahead.Who knows what demons might just gobble you up?  It took explorers a long time to discover the wonders of a larger world and slowly see their fears evaporate.

Sometimes I wonder how much progress we have made. At every venture forward there have been those that say: “No. No. Here be dragons.” Many turned back afraid that the trackless lands and seas would hold unbelievable horrors. 

photo by Stuart Rankin / flickr
Lewis and Clark were no nay-sayers. They are included in our list of American heroes. They struck out from Saint Louis to learn what was on the other side of the safety of their maps. There were warnings galore. Indians who would scalp you without notice. Disease, plague, hunger, Grizzles and rattlers were out there and winter was coming on.

Yet Lewis and Clark joined that noble band who dared to defy the mythical dragons. They found their journey long and arduous. Men and their horses died along the way. Yet—if we visit Saint Louis today and look up at the Golden Arch it is a reminder that maybe the old map makers were dead wrong. The Louis and Clark journey westward began in May, 1804. Their trek ended at the Pacific Ocean November 16, 1805.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could, in this time of fear-mongering and hand-wringing to be part of another generation that dared to defy today’s mythical dragons. I have been trying to discover the roots of the multitude of fears that so many of us lug around daily. I fault the politicians, the pundits and social media with much of the fear that infect us all. The seeds of our despair are many. Economy. Certainly. Yet if we look at the facts we are not in those terrible days of the depression. The Dow has bounced so much lately and yet that rate is double what it was in 2004. Records show it stands around 17,000 today. Ask the old timers how this age compares with the bare 1930’s of dust bowls and soup lines across there country. It is true that many of our people are out of work and many cannot find jobs. Yet—what is the employment rate today? It stands at 5.0%. In 2010 the unemployment rate was 9.8%. 

photo by Edith Zwagerman / flickr
But someone says what about ISIS and the dangers to our land? We have not had a concerted terror attack on our country since 9-11. Thanks to the vigilance of many people. Yes, there have been scattered terrorist attacks by individuals here and there. Yet most of the murderous attacks have come from our own citizens. Many say there is more fear out there than their was after September 11th. I find this very strange.

All this weird talk of “taking America back to greatness”—fails to remember that we are still the strongest country in the world. Where are our dragons? Millions of decent folk flee the horrors of their home land hoping to find safety for themselves and their families here. Why are we shutting our doors so tight? I passed a new house going up this week ion my street. The brown-faced Hispanics were hard at work in the rain. There are no dragons in my neighborhood.

I am no Pollyanna. We do have a long laundry list of changes that would help us all. We must be vigilant and we must be careful at every point. But whenever we hear all these fearful folk fanning the flames—we need to say: “Dragons—where?” I have not seen one lately.

William Inge wrote a play years ago called “The Dark At the Top of the Stairs.” It was a play about the convulsive changes taking place in our country in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. In the drama a Mother tells her little boy to go on up to bed. Minutes later he still sits on the steps. Sighing, she asks: “Buddy why are you so afraid of the dark?” “Cause,” he said, “I don’t know what’s up there and what might get me.” The Mother shakes her head, grabs his hand and says: “OK. Let’s go up the stairs together.” And they walk up the stairs into the dark. Wouldn’t it be something if liberals and conservatives denounced all those that fan our fears. Let’s join hands. Let’s walk into the unknown darkness together. We don’t need to make American great again. It’s already here. And the dragons are nowhere in sight.

photo by Morgan Burke / flickr

--Roger Lovette /