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Author Mike Smith

How might we introduce Advent to a congregation that has never observed the season? Based on experience with three such congregations, I offer the following general strategies. 1. Tell the congregation why Advent is important to you. Testimony matters in most of our congregations. I’ve found it useful to fashion and preach a sermon titled […] Read More

An anonymous letter arrived in the mail, mailed by a person in our town who clearly believes the Muslim community in our city ought not be allowed to build a new mosque. The writer feared the mosque was part of what he or she called “a long range plan to destroy Western Civilization as we […] Read More

Let’s start with a truth. Much of what passes for debate about health care amounts to nothing more than pundits and people shouting slogans at each other. Their talking points could not pass muster in a high school debate class, where one is required to build a case based on research, genuine engagement with the other person’s position […] Read More

The prospect of Easter prompts me to think about what resurrection means.   Resurrection means Jesus lives. Christians know and walk with a risen Lord. We encounter Jesus not only as a figure of history but as a present living reality. Frankly, we’re often startled by his presence, even as were the first Christians. Sometimes […] Read More

Know What Matters Most to You

What matters most? Recently, I endured a bit of “down time” as I recovered from surgery. My normal routine seldom provides much in the way of down time. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, but it did have an up side: With time on my hands, I began to reflect on what matters most […] Read More

Racism Is a Sin

Three older pastors took me aside to offer some well-intentioned advice. In summary, they told me I wouldn’t get far in ministry if I challenged racism. They defended their racist humor, insisting they meant no harm, declaring it was simply part of culture. Twenty five years ago I led worship for a local group of […] Read More

A strange thing happened while I was standing in line on the first day of early voting: Civility broke out among us.I took my place in line. An older white man, a young black woman and an elderly white woman stood just in front of me. Behind me, a middle-aged black woman and a twenty-something […] Read More

Once upon a time (say as late as 1948), the terms “liberal” and “conservative” actually held clearly defined meaning. Conservatives generally regarded change or experimentation via government to be dangerous. They, therefore, sought to slow the pace and scope of change. Liberals for the most part believed the challenges of the time required enormous shifts […] Read More

Church as Family

What do you think of when you hear the term church?As a child, I thought of a specific building, a small sanctuary at the intersection of two roads in the heart of my boyhood village. The building even had its name written on it in large, black letters. No doubt about it–the building was the […] Read More

Not too long ago, a friend from another religious tradition asked me to summarize my “take on Jesus.” This is the reply I shared. Jesus, ideally, is the center of my life. Traditionally, Christians speak of Jesus as “Lord,” “Master,” “Teacher,” “Savior” and the like. The simplest way I know to capture the essence of […] Read More