07.14.2023 – I Knew I was Right

I like to be right, and there can be something wrong about that.

When I was in seminary, we were taught that maybe the best way to think about the Bible’s King David was as if he were some sort of ancient Middle Eastern Robin Hood – more legend than fact – but a great story and a nice message.  You know, take from the rich and give to the poor, face your giants, or “don’t worry, even people after God’s own heart get themselves into trouble.”

It looks like my professors were wrong.

The current edition of Christianity Today has an interesting article, How Archaeology Affirmed the Historic Stature of a Biblical King.  The subtitle is “Once, the House of David seemed like a folk tale. Now, the rocks testify to its historic significance.”  You can read the story, but the point is that there is there is good evidence of David being more than a legend and his kingdom extending far beyond Sherwood Forest.

My guess, however, is that the new archeological findings have not moved every scholar to considering more faithfully the one whose story begins “Once in Royal David’s City.” And my guess is that we’ll still get lots of bad sermons about facing our giants (and maybe a few about taking from the rich and giving to the poor). Continue reading

07.07.2023 – Jots and Tittles, Decency and Order

The minutes of Sunday’s meeting of the congregation have already been written. They show the call to the new pastor being approved and the meeting closed with prayer and thanksgiving to God.

Before any stated clerks, church polity wonks, or parliamentarians among you get too anxious or begin to file charges against me, let me explain.

The church I have been serving during a season between pastors is now ready to call a new pastor. This is a very good thing, and we perceive God’s gracious hand in bringing a wonderful candidate to what Becky and I have grown to know and love as a wonderful congregation.

Presbyterians like to say of ourselves that “we do everything decently and in order.” The phrase is mostly used self-mockingly and usually evokes a sense of mild (or forced) amusement when said at a presbytery meeting. In fact, the phrase comes from the Bible in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and at the end of a long discussion about the right and the wrong way to worship. Having reminded his readers that God is not a God of confusion but of peace, he writes, “All things should be done decently and in order.”  1 Corinthians 14:40 (ESV) Continue reading

06.30.2023 – In Favor of the Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

…I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

I’ve been thinking about the road less traveled by. In popular culture it is identified with our excessive and often destructive expressive individualism. But I get ahead of myself.

For over a year now, Becky and I have traveled a 40-mile trip to worship with the people of Ossian First Presbyterian Church where I am serving as the moderator of the session and most-of-the-time preacher. It has been a joy. On Sunday mornings and on those occasional trips to session and other committee meetings, we almost always take the road less traveled by. Continue reading

06.23.2023 – Bud Light Jesus

Yes, I am late to the Bud Light controversy.  In fact, I am so late that the party is almost over.  So, no culture war thoughts from me.  But just a recap.  Back in March, Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of Bud Light beer used a transgender social media influencer in an effort to sell more beer to people who follow social media influencers (okay, one culture war comment: the presence of “social influencers” of any sort – people who make fortunes from nothing more than posting selfies and Tik-Tock videos – are a sure sign of our complete lack of seriousness as a culture). The attempt to use the social influencer did not help them sell more beer, however. In fact, sales are down 20% since the attempt.

Enough said.

Culture wars aside, the Bud Light fiasco is becoming textbook material for would-be marketers.  Along with the Ford Edsel of two generations ago (or the Pontiac Aztek of one generation ago), the Bud Light affair is a potent illustration of what not to do.

It was the Edsel-like outcome of the beer campaign the Chief Marketing Officer of Bud’s parent company wanted to talk about earlier this week. Continue reading

06.16.2023 – Please Call My Life a Calling

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran an opinion column under the headline “Please Don’t Call My Job a Calling.”  The immediate context of the piece is the current screen writers guild strike and the statement by a Warner Brothers executive suggesting that those who write scripts for movies and Netflix series and jokes for late-night comics will come back to work soon enough because, after all, they love their jobs.

Forget loving what you do, says the columnist. “The rhetoric that a job is a passion or a ‘labor of love’ obfuscates the reality that a job is an economic contract.”  Later in his rant he mentions those who name teaching, nursing, or being a librarian a “calling” as a way of justifying paying such professionals low wages.

The writer is correct when he points out that loving your job or the joy of helping others doesn’t pay the bills.  Paul tells Timothy that the worker deserves his wage (1 Timothy 5:18). Continue reading