Sabbatical Notes, Week 7: Eleven Years of WheretheWind.com

At the beginning of June eleven years ago, I was sitting in the guest bedroom at my parents house. Graduation from seminary was a few weeks in the past, and ordination to the priesthood was a week in the future. I was existing in an in-between space for those few weeks. The end of my formal academic life was giving way to the start of my professional life. As you can see from the words below, I was a bit at loose ends. On the advice of my seminary thesis reader (and all around awesome person) Brian McLaren, I started WheretheWind.com. Eleven years later, the site is still going strong as a place for my sermons and other musings.

I’ve always known that as one of the first Millennials to be ordained a priest, part of God’s call on my life would happen online. Being on sabbatical these last few weeks has given me some time to ponder what that looks like. I’ve been a faithful blogger for over a decade, but I’m not much a fan of social media. I don’t put myself out there. I tweet mostly articles I’ve found helpful. I do love YouTube, so there may be something there to explore going forward.

As for now, I want to share with you the third post ever to appear on WheretheWind. I wrote it a week before my ordination to the priesthood. (I also wrote it about two years after a tough break-up and about two years before meeting my wife Leah. That context is important.) I published the post eleven years ago yesterday, and I think it displays my mental state pretty well.

Here’s the line that always strikes me when I re-read this one.

Faith is about remembering to remember.

Right now I am in Israel on pilgrimage, so expect the balance of my sabbatical notes to be about this once in a life time journey. In the meantime, enjoy some of my writing from the dark ages of 2008. Here’s “What Size Straightjacket?”


I have had quite a bit of downtime in this month between graduation from seminary and ordination to the priesthood. While this has been a happy occasion to catch up on sleep and Law & Order:SVU, it has also produced a surplus of mental energy that is no longer being poured into my thesis and papers. Any of my friends could tell you that I think too much, especially about relationships. And when I have the time to think too much, my mind develops every choice, every scenario, every possible combination of what could go right and will go wrong to every logical and illogical conclusion.

In the last two years of seminary, I had few opportunities and even less time for my brain to engage in such frivolous and ultimately useless exercises. But now that formal studies have concluded, my mind wondered what to do with the extra horsepower. Without a relationship with a woman to examine, deconstruct, extrapolate, and fret about, my mind turned to my relationship with God.

As such, in the last month, I have had a few minor anxiety attacks, a couple small bouts of existential dread, and even a dark afternoon of the soul.* Am I ready? Is this really what I want to devote my life to? What about all the other things I could do? How huge is this commitment? Am I committed? Should I be committed? I wonder what size straightjacket I’d wear? My mind climbed the ladders to these lofty questions, and then it found a chute and jumped headfirst. The lofty questions mingled with the old set of relationship questions, and my mind ventured down all the well worn paths it has trod before, all the parallel universes in which I didn’t say this or did recognize that warning sign or missed an opportunity or or or…

Then I realized that all my dread and neuroses were misplaced. When did my relationship with God start mirroring my relationships with women? Now, this is nothing new: the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures often compared God’s relationship with Israel to a marriage, sometimes favorably, sometimes not so much. But, in those comparisons, God was always faithful–it was the people of Israel who broke the covenant and went after false gods. My dread came from confusing mine and God’s parts in the story. In my neurotic imaginings, God played the part of the leaver in the relationship. I was the faithful one, the stalwart. But that’s not how it is. The only thing that keeps me going in a world that seems full of leavings, full of broken relationships, is the faith that God will never leave, will never break a relationship. What a revelation.

My ordination is in five days. You might think it strange that someone about to be ordained to the priesthood seems just to be figuring out that God is here to stay. Well, it’s not the first time I’ve realized it, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I need to. But faith is about remembering to remember. It’s easy to lose sight of God’s promises because life is built on those promises. Over time, they blend into the landscape. Small bouts of existential dread and dark afternoons of the soul jar me into remembering to remember those promises.

At the end of the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Lord, help me remember that you are in this relationship for good. Help me remember that my neuroses aren’t going to scare you away. Help me be in this relationship with you.

Sabbatical Notes, Week 3: The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Last week I wrote a brief summary of my initial reactions to the pilgrimage I took with other local clergy to Montgomery, Tuskegee, and Birmingham, Alabama. You can read that essay here. Today, I would like to dwell on the centerpiece of the pilgrimage, the year-old National Memorial for Peace and Justice (sometimes called the Lynching Memorial).

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Both Miner and the Vein of Gold

Sermon for Sunday, April 21, 2019 || Easter Day C || JOHN 20:1-18

Here we are at long last: Easter Sunday, a long wait this year, two-thirds of the way through the month of April. But it could have been longer. April 25th is the latest Easter can be, but that hasn’t happened since 1943 and won’t happen again until 2038, which coincidentally is the year I’ll be eligible to retire. Unlike most holidays, which are fixed on a particular date or day of the month, the date of Easter (and the Jewish Passover) springs from something much grander – the motion of celestial bodies. We start with the vernal equinox, the day in March when the earth is tilted just so in relation to the sun to make day and night the same exact length. Then we find the next full moon, and the Sunday following is this day of Resurrection.

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Goodness

Sermon for Sunday, April 14, 2019 || Palm/Passion Sunday C || LUKE 19:28-40

“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Jesus says these words to some Pharisees, who want him to corral his exuberant disciples. If we lived anywhere else in the world besides New England, I would be tempted to take these words of Jesus merely as metaphor, as a turn of phrase intended to illustrate the remarkable nature of the event taking place. But if you’ve ever walked a New England beach then you’ve heard the sound of the stones singing – small stones that used to be boulders and aren’t yet sand. The stones sing with a quavering voice, a thousand violins playing the same note but each with unique rhythm and tempo. As the waves flow out, the stone symphony plays the chords of creation, joining the great company of the myriad instruments in God’s terrestrial orchestra.

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The House of the Lord

Sermon for Sunday, March 17, 2019 || Lent 2C || PSALM 27; LUKE 13:31-35

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” These words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are the only adequate ones I can find to say this morning in the wake of the white supremacist terrorist attack on two Muslim mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. After writing that sentence yesterday morning, I stared at my computer screen for a long, long time because I had no adequate words of my own to add. All I have left are the inadequate ones, written through the fog of my own tears.

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Eye on the Sparrow

Sermon for Sunday, March 3, 2019 || Last Epiphany C || Exodus 34:29-35

There are people in our lives who so fully embrace the love of God that we can’t help but feel closer to God when we’re around them. They live and breathe the Way of Love so fully that half a smile or a touch on the shoulder or a quick word is more than enough for you to reorient yourself on that Way of Love as well. God has blessed me with relationships with a few such people over the years, and I’ve noticed they all have one thing in common – one thing that makes their connection to God’s love even more special. They have no idea just how amazing their connection is. If you compliment them for their incredible generosity of spirit or their welcoming manner, they will wave away the comment as undeserved. Or they will shine the compliment back on you because they have no desire to stand in the limelight.

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A Moment with God

Sermon for Sunday, December 23, 2018 || Advent 4C || Luke 1:39-45

I told a brief story last Sunday to the folks attending the adult forum hour, and the story has been lodged in my heart since then, so I thought I would share it with everyone. This is a story about an intense moment with God, and I wrestled with whether or not to share it today because I do not want you to go home thinking you are any less a believer or a beloved child of God if you have never experienced what I’m about to describe.

So I begin this sermon with a disclaimer: what follows is one way among many that God encounters us. As followers of Jesus, we aspire to be transformed over the course of our lifetimes into people who more closely reflect the love, peace, and justice of God. God invites us to participate in our own transformation and thus the renewal of our broken world. What follows is the special moment in my life when God pushed me onto the path of that participation. I’m sharing this with you today because of our Gospel lesson when Mary rushes off to see her cousin Elizabeth, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
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Here and Now

Sermon for Sunday, December 9, 2018 || Advent 2C || Luke 3:1-6

God calls each one of us into relationship. God calls us because God love us. And God calls us to love. In love God calls us to take part in God’s mission of healing and reconciliation in this world. In love God calls us to serve others, to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, and to speak the good news of Jesus Christ. God calls us. God calls you and me.

In today’s Gospel lesson, God calls John, a person who lives out in the wilderness, a person whose birth bewildered many, a person who willed others to remember the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” We call him John the Baptist because he prepared the way of the Lord by ritually washing people in the River Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Continue reading “Here and Now”

The Posture of Belief

Sermon for Sunday, November 18, 2018 || Proper 28B || Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25

We were talking theology over pizza last week at confirmation class, and one of the teens asked a question that was so thought-provoking, I spent the next several days thinking about it. Because the question was on my mind this week, my response to it ended up being this sermon. The question went something like this: “Adam, how do you believe all the time? Are there any times when you don’t really know about all this God stuff?” Continue reading “The Posture of Belief”

I Had a Choice

Sermon for Sunday, October 7, 2018 || Proper 22B || Mark 10:2-16

When this set of readings came around three years ago, I focused my sermon on Jesus’ words about divorce. I’m choosing not to do that today, so if you are curious about my understanding of them, I’d invite you to head into the archives of my website. I’ll provide a link in the written version of this sermon online. Today, I’d like to look at the final scene in today’s Gospel lesson, in which Jesus’ disciples try to stop people from bringing their little children to Jesus to receive a blessing. Continue reading “I Had a Choice”