Mountain High, Valley Low

Sabbath Day Thoughts — “Mountain High, Valley Low,” Luke 9:28-43a

When Heidi Neumark was called to pastor the Transfiguration Lutheran Church in the South Bronx, she was in for a challenge.  The recent seminary graduate came to a parish that faced daunting, even toxic, realities.  The community was New York City’s dumping ground.  Waste treatment plants managed the city’s sewage.  A giant incinerator burned hazardous medical waste from area hospitals.  A massive dump received the city’s refuse.  The air was filled with toxins that fueled New York’s highest incidence of asthma.  Arriving on Sunday mornings, Neumark would often have to clear away garbage.  Broken furniture, old appliances, and boxes of worn-out household items were left at the church under the cover of darkness to avoid paying dump fees.

The social difficulties of Transfiguration Lutheran Church were every bit as daunting.  60% of neighborhood families got by on government assistance.  80% of children lived in poverty.  Unemployment for the South Bronx was 70%.  20% of adults suffered from HIV.  28% of deaths each year were attributable to drugs, AIDS, and violence.  The church’s neighbors were the extreme poor, those left behind when others moved away: addicts, prostitutes, abused women, single mothers and their children, and gangs.  Those were overwhelming realities for a church that had seen its heyday in the 19th century and experienced a hundred years of decline. 

When Neumark arrived, church doors were locked, except on Sunday mornings. A faithful corps of members persevered, gathering to worship God in the midst of that blighted community.  Although it was a tough call for a new pastor, Neumark found hope in the church’s name: Transfiguration Lutheran Church.  In Breathing Space, Heidi Neumark’s spiritual memoir of twenty years of service to that church, she writes that the transfiguration of Jesus could be “a vision to carry us down, a glimpse of unimagined possibility at ground level.”  The spiritual mountaintop of Transfiguration Lutheran Church was being called to the needs that awaited them in the valley of the South Bronx.

On Transfiguration Sunday, we join the disciples on the mountaintop with Jesus and watch as he is revealed in heavenly glory.  Flanked by those titans of the Hebrew scriptures, Moses and Elijah, Jesus is transformed.  His face shines.  His clothes dazzle.  This clearly is no ordinary rabbi and healer.  This is no prophet.  Jesus is the Holy One of God.  Peter may have wanted to enshrine the moment with three permanent dwelling places, but God had other plans.  In a theophany, a heavenly proclamation, God instructed Peter, James, and John, “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him.”

Transfiguration Sunday also takes us to the valley.  There another father calls for special attention for his beloved son.  Although Jesus had given his disciples the power and authority to cast out demons and heal the sick, they have failed to provide relief for this boy.  The anger and frustration that Jesus feels as he learns of the child’s suffering suggest that the disciples’ failure had nothing to do with ability and everything to do with willingness.  Those disciples may have been daunted by the power of the oppressive spirit.  Or, perhaps they feared the boy’s violent seizures.  Or, it could be that they had been too busy.  Or, maybe they doubted the very abilities that Jesus had entrusted to them.  These disciples may have not been listening to Jesus, but the demon that possessed the child does.  As the demon convulses the boy in a violent fit, Jesus steps in, rebukes the spirit, and casts it out.  Freed from his suffering, the cured boy is returned to his father.  Jesus’s healing and restoration transfigure the lives of father and son who are no longer held captive by the power of destructive evil.

Those two very different stories: the shining moment on the mountain and the convulsed chaos of the valley belong together.  In reflecting on our transfiguration reading, Prof. Sharon Ringe, a New Testament scholar at Wesley Seminary, writes that “the glory of God’s presence and the pain of a broken world cannot be separated.”  That’s a powerful, world changing statement, “the glory of God’s presence and the pain of a broken world cannot be separated.” 

Indeed, in Jesus God enters into the world’s suffering and suffuses it with God’s presence.  That’s what we see on the mountain high.  And Jesus has the power to meet the world’s suffering head-on with healing, compassion, and love.  That’s what we see in the valley low.  The Lord hopes that his disciples will make his glory known, not just on the mountaintop of reverence, worship, and praise, but also in the valleys of sickness, powerlessness, and despair.  When we listen to Jesus, when we bring his power and authority, compassion and love, to our neighbors, transfiguration happens.  The world begins to change and so do we.

At the Transfiguration Lutheran Church in the South Bronx, profound change began to happen for the church and the community when members brought the glory of God’s presence to meet the pain of their broken world.  They began by listening to their neighbors and pondering how they could respond to some of their most pressing needs.  Then, they moved beyond Sunday morning worship, unlocked the church doors, and welcomed the community in.  The church launched a food pantry which serves between 130 and 140 families weekly.  They opened up their hall to twelve-step fellowships to support folks seeking recovery from addiction.  They pondered how they could best help local youth and established the Community Life Center, an after-school tutoring program and job training center.  They provided resources and healing groups to address domestic violence and help folks living with HIV.  They even partnered with local police to host a gun buyback program to get illegal handguns out of homes and off the streets.  Pastor Heidi got other churches involved, too, working to establish South Bronx Churches.  This ecumenical fellowship provides mutual support and collaboration for pastors and churches as they seek to address the community’s needs.

As the church brought the glory of God’s presence to meet the pain of their broken community, it wasn’t just the community that was transfigured.  Transfiguration Lutheran Church changed, too.  They attracted new people, some of whom had never set foot in a church before.  They came for programs but got passionate about the church.  They worshipped, prayed, and found the love of Jesus.  They got busy cleaning and refurbishing.  They tackled long-deferred maintenance.  They stepped into leadership.  Burnice was an addict who came to the church to pick up a Christmas gift at a give-away.  She intended to trade the gift for enough drugs to take her own life.  But she didn’t.  There was something about the church that kept her coming back.  With encouragement from the church, she got into recovery, earned her GED, and found a job.  Once a neighbor to be feared and avoided, Burnice is now a pillar of the church and a community leader. 

Despite their real challenges and personal tragedies, church members have worked together to help one another and their neighborhood.  In shining Christ’s glory for others, they have been richly blessed with that glory themselves.  Heidi Neumark writes, “I have learned that grace cleaves to the depths, attends to the losses, and there slowly works her defiant transfiguration.”

On Transfiguration Sunday, we hear a renewed call to bring the glory of God’s presence to meet the pain of a broken world.  We spend our Sunday mornings on the mountaintop.  We encounter Jesus in prayer and music, scripture and the word proclaimed.  It’s glorious.  Yet Jesus always sends us back down into the valley.  We go forth to fathers who worry about their ill children and mothers who struggle to put food on the table.  We go forth to a community where sisters and brothers wrestle with the oppressive spirits of addiction.  We live in a place of middle-class homes, multi-million-dollar seasonal camps, tumble-down cabins, rusted out trailers, and hardcore generational poverty. 

We may feel daunted by the power of those oppressive spirits.  We may fear all that need.  We may doubt the very abilities that Jesus has entrusted to us.  But God’s transfiguration hope is that the glory of Christ may meet the suffering of the world through disciples like us.  Transfiguration Sunday finds its fulfillment when we move from reverence to action.  The world gets transfigured, and so do we.  May it be so.  Amen.


Heidi B. Neumark. Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.  “A Review of Breathing Space” in Spirituality and Practice, 2004.  Accessed online at

Lori Brandt Hale. “Theological Perspective on Luke 9:28-43a” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1, 2009.

Sharon Ringe. “Exegetical Perspective on Luke 9:28-43a” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1, 2009.

Kimberly Miller Van Driel. Homiletical Perspective on Luke 9:28-43a” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1, 2009.

Luke 9:28-43a

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. 37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Photo by Lera Nekrashevich on

Caesarea Maritima

On this snowy North Country Friday, I thought you might enjoy a little Mediterranean sunshine. This is the view from the site of Pilate’s compound at Caesarea Maritima. It’s within eyeshot of the Hippodrome where troops drilled, around the corner from the amphitheater, and featured saltwater and freshwater pools for exercise and relaxation.

Caesarea Maritima National Park, Israel


Poem for a Tuesday — “Requiem” by Kwame Dawes

“I sing requiem
for the dead, caught in that
mercantilistic madness.

We have not built lasting
monuments of severe stone
facing the sea, the watery tomb,

so I call these songs
shrines of remembrance
where faithful descendants

may stand and watch the smoke
curl into the sky
in memory of those

devoured by the cold Atlantic.
In every blues I hear
riding the dank swamp

I see the bones
picked clean in the belly
of the implacable sea.

Do not tell me
it is not right to lament,
do not tell me it is tired.

If we don’t, who will
recall in requiem
the scattering of my tribe?

In every reggae chant
stepping proud against Babylon
I hear a blue note

of lament, sweet requiem
for the countless dead,
skanking feet among shell,

coral, rainbow adze,
webbed feet, making as if

to lift, soar, fly into new days.”

from Requiem by Kwame Dawes, Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 1996.

Poet, professor, and Pulitzer Prize winner Kwame Dawes was born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica. Dawes’s work in reporting on the HIV AIDS crisis in Haiti after the earthquake for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting won the National Press Club Joan Friedenberg Award for Online Journalism. He says that his spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music is a central influence in his poetry. He is a foremost scholar of the work of Bob Marley. Dawes is the Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.

Photo by Blaque X on

The Good Measure

Sabbath Day Thoughts — Luke 6:27-38 “The Good Measure”

On October 2, 2006, milk truck driver Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside the one-room West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster County, PA.  He had taken ten Amish girls, aged 6-13, hostage.  He lined them up and bound their feet.  As police sought to breach the schoolhouse, Roberts opened fire, killing five children and wounding five others before taking his own life.  Later that day, when the parents of Charles Carl Roberts learned that their son had been the shooter, they were shocked.  The husband Charlie turned to his wife Terri and said, “I will never face my Amish neighbors again.” 

But face them he did.  After the private funeral that the Roberts family held for their son, their Amish neighbors surprised them at the gravesite.  About thirty Amish, some of whom had buried their daughters the day before, showed up, arriving in their buggies and walking across the fields.  They surrounded the Roberts family in a crescent, as a sign of forgiveness and love.  Charlie Roberts’s Amish neighbor came to his home and spent an hour with his arm around him, offering comfort.  Ten months after the tragic attack, the Amish shocked the Roberts and the world again.  Community members had contributed money to create the Roberts Family Fund to support the widow and three young children of the man who had taken the lives of five of their own.

Those gestures of mercy from the Amish may have humbled, puzzled, or even outraged us.  We may have shaken our heads and thought, “Those people are better than I am.  There’s no way I could have put myself at that gravesite.”  Or we could have asked ourselves, “What’s up with that?  How could you hold in your heart both the anguish of untimely, tragic grief and the possibility of compassion for a stone-cold killer?”  Or we may just not have believed it.  Vocal critics at the time argued that the Amish didn’t forgive.  They simply went through the motions of mercy that had been imprinted upon them by their culture.  Yet on the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the Amish girls turned his family away from hate, saying, “We must not think evil of this man.”  Another father said, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he is standing before a just God.”

“Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  The forgiveness and mercy of the Amish in the wake of the West Nickel Mines school shooting put hands and feet and hearts to those tough words that Jesus spoke to listeners when he delivered that Sermon on the Plain.  For the disciples and others who had gathered to hear Jesus preach, those words would have felt impractical and unthinkable. 

The Ancient Near East was a world driven by retributive violence.  An accidental death could readily explode into the murder of an entire family.  Blood feuds pitted neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation for generations.  If you’d like to read a story of this sort of explosive, escalating, unstoppable violence, take some time to read Genesis 34.  The sons of Jacob took retribution against Shechem, who had sexually assaulted and married their sister Dinah.  To exact revenge, Levi and Simon came upon Shechem and his kin unawares and slaughtered all the men.  Then, Jacob’s other ten sons plundered the community, taking for themselves all the valuables, livestock, children, and wives.

The covenant of the Torah, the Jewish law, tried to limit this escalating cycle of blood violence by teaching a tit-for-tat justice.  Exodus 21 instructs that vengeance must be measured and reciprocal, “If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound.”  To help the people move away from blood vengeance, six cities of refuge were designated in Israel. There the perpetrators of accidental manslaughter could claim the right of asylum and await appropriate justice.

Yet Jesus broke even with this moderate teaching of measured retaliation by insisting that his followers exceed the standards of the Torah.  Instead of pulling out their opponent’s teeth and blacking their eyes, Jesus’s friends were to love, do good for, bless, and pray for their enemies.  It was a completely new ethic that flew in the face of everything that his followers knew and experienced.  The love that Jesus enjoined his disciples to practice is agape, the love that God practices.  Agape chooses to act for the good of the other, regardless of what our hearts might be telling us. 

Love your enemies?  Love / agape is a tough choice that we learn to make.  We can only find the ability to practice agape when we consider the mercy of God to us.  Those of you who studied the ten commandments with me a number of years ago will remember that disobeying the moral code that Moses imparted to us carries a death penalty.  We are all deserving of Yahweh’s judgment, and yet God is shockingly merciful.  Instead of judgment and death, God became flesh and entered into this world’s darkness.  In Jesus, God chose to live for us and show to us the way of agape.  Traditional enemies like Romans, Samaritans, and Canaanites were welcomed, helped, and healed.  Clueless, fickle disciples and merciless executioners were prayed for and forgiven.  In the ultimate act of agape, on a merciless cross, flanked by common criminals, Jesus revealed that God loves us enough to die for us.

It is in the enormity of God’s costly love for us that we begin to see another way.  We begin to think that maybe we can move away from demanding an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  We begin to see that only love can heal hearts, transform an enemy into a friend, and make a changed future possible.  With frail and feeble efforts, we begin to choose love.  We fail often.  And yet, we trust that God’s mercy is there to catch us when we fall.  The grace of Christ is sufficient for us. 

What might this transformational ethic of agape look like for us?  It might be letting go of a long-held grudge.  It could be letting bygones be bygones in a family feud.  It might be giving a second chance to a friend who betrayed a confidence.  It could be working hard together to mend a marriage that has endured infidelity.  It is choosing to act always in the best interest of the other and knowing that we can borrow some of God’s love when ours is in short supply.

Jesus described the fruit of a life lived in agape.  He called it the “good measure.”  When you went to a first century marketplace for grain, the merchant filled a measure to the brim and then gave it a good shake to ensure that every nook and cranny was filled.  The merchant then poured that overflowing measure into your apron to carry home.  It’s a beautiful earthy metaphor for a life that abounds with goodness.  When we practice and experience agape, the world gets blessed and so do we.  As we haltingly live into agape, we show God’s Kingdom to the world and in some immeasurable and hopeful way, that Kingdom comes.

In the days following the terrible events at the West Nickel Mines School, Terri and Charlie Roberts, the parents of the shooter, considered leaving the area.  Their grief, shame, and pain were so immense that they couldn’t imagine a way forward, but the Amish did more than forgive the couple, they embraced them as part of the community.  That generous agape prompted the Roberts to host a summer picnic in their backyard for their Amish neighbors, nine months after the attack.  They all came, including a little girl named Rosanna King, wheelchair bound, unable to speak or feed herself, the youngest of their son’s victims. 

A few months later, Terri Roberts asked Rosanna’s mother if she could help with the girl’s care.  Until her death from breast cancer in 2017, Terri spent nearly every Thursday evening at the King Family farm, bathing, reading, and attending to Rosanna until her bedtime.  Terri Roberts remembered the evening that a father said to her, ‘None of us would have ever chosen this.  But the relationships that we have built through it, you cannot put a price on that.”  Terri believed that the Amish choice for agape, the decision to allow life to move forward with love, was profoundly healing for her and her family.  Terri said that is “a message the world needs.” 

“Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . .  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”


Colby Itkowitz. “Her Son Shot Their Daughters 10 Years Ago, Then These Amish Families Embraced Her as a Friend” in The Washington Post, October 1, 2016.  Accessed online at

Story Corps. “A Decade After Amish School Shooting, Gunman’s Mother Talks of Forgiveness” in Morning Edition, Sept. 20, 2016.  Accessed online at

Sarah Henrick. “Commentary on Luke 6:27-38” in Preaching This Week, Feb. 20, 2022.  Accessed online at

Ronald Allen. “Commentary on Luke 6:27-38” in Preaching This Week, Feb. 24, 2019.  Accessed online at

Susan E. Hylen. “Theological Perspective on Luke 6:27-38” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Charles Bugg. “Pastoral Perspective on Luke 6:27-38” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Luke 6:27-38

27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

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We Too

Clergy Women Speak out about Their Experience

The nation may be having a “Me Too” moment, but sexual harassment is alive and well in the church.  The target?  Women clergy.

It starts early.  As a student pastor, I noticed that my sermon feedback forms sometimes contained unsolicited, inappropriate comments. “Nice legs.” “Love your dress.” “Easy on the eyes.” “How do you keep that figure?”  When asked if he had similar experiences, my colleague and supervisor Jeff was red-faced with shock. “No!  Never!”

Pastor Laurena served two small yoked churches in rural New York.  While still a newcomer to the ministry, she made a pastoral visit to a widower to plan his wife’s funeral.  He greeted her at the door in his bathrobe and slippers. “Please pardon my appearance.  I haven’t been feeling well.  I thought, for sure, my wife would outlive me. Can you come in?”

Laurena did.  After planning the funeral at the kitchen table, her elderly host opened his robe and flashed her.  She ran.  “The worst thing,” Laurena laughs, “was that I still had to do the funeral!”

Harassment is often expressed more subtly as parishioners refer to their women pastors as sweetie, sweetheart, honey, kiddo, girl, girlfriend, and in one case, “the witch.”  In a particularly newsworthy case, Rev. Dr. Amy K. Butler, who pastored Riverside Church in New York City, one of the pre-eminent Protestant congregations in the country, received a bottle of wine and a tee-shirt from a former member of the church’s governing council.  Both bore the label “Sweet Bitch.”  When confronted about sexist labels and names, most parishioners will stop, but some persist.

Misconduct is experienced by even the most respected and experienced of women religious professionals.  A female seminary professor relates that one day, while she was making copies in a common area, an older, influential, married male colleague stopped by and stood close behind.  “Mmmm,” he purred, rubbing her shoulders and back.  She also shared about incipient sexism.  For example, male faculty members regularly expect her to take notes and minutes for meetings.  Pastor, professor, and secretary?

Beyond the sexualized comments and behaviors, women clergy experience spectacular, gender-based, public challenges to authority that their male colleagues do not.  An Episcopal priest, Anne, reminisced about her earliest days in ministry at a multi-staff church.  One Sunday, a woman colleague served communion, a first for the church. The members didn’t like it.  Indeed, some refused to receive the sacrament.  Anne relates that the matter was resolved after the fact by a male priest, who took the most influential complainant aside, explaining to him that he was “not rejecting the woman celebrant, but he was rejecting Jesus. Those were sobering words, and the woman priest had no trouble from then on.”

Not all women clergy have the support of male colleagues.  A smalltown pastor shares that she participated in an annual ecumenical community festival.  All clergy were invited to preach, but when she took the pulpit, the men walked out and the women turned their backs.  “I was grateful to the congregation I served who defended my role before their fellow townspeople. Still, it was a lonely place to be.”

Women clergy express disappointment that some of the most persistent challenges to their authority come from other women.  A number of clergywomen indicated that they had been targeted by gossip within church women’s circles, a grapevine that critiqued everything: weight, hairstyle, clothing, parenting, and marriages.  Sadly, female parishioners are sometimes the most vocal in rejecting a woman’s calling to ministry and place in the pulpit.

One pastor recalls the day that a local woman worshiped with her rural church for the first time.  After the service was over, the woman berated her.  “Women are not supposed to preach.  We are to learn from men in submission and silence.”

In reflecting on their experiences of misconduct, many clergywomen report that they are unclear how to respond.  Those who entered the ministry decades ago simply found that harassment “goes with the territory.” 

Even if women wish to take action, they may not have a process or a support network that can assist them.  Mennonite pastor Melissa Florer-Bixler reports that although churches have publicly embraced the “Safe Sanctuaries” movement that guards church members against sexual misconduct, few denominations have developed policies or procedures to address sexual harassment and bullying of women clergy.  It’s problematic that the people who harass may also be the people who hold the purse strings and control compensation.  Also, church personnel matters are typically handled by member volunteers who are untrained in matters of misconduct and bullying.

The harassment that clergywomen experience reveals an underlying ethos of gender bias that is pervasive, even among the progressive mainline protestant churches that have been ordaining women for more than sixty years.  Female pastors are paid less than men.  The 2019 Presbyterian Church (USA) salary survey (the most recent data available) indicates that women have lower effective salaries in every region of the country and in every ministerial capacity.  Female pastors make on average thirteen percent or $8,503 less than their male counterparts.  The General Assembly of the PC(USA) resolved in 2018 to urge their 166 constituent Presbyteries to “act decisively and embrace a goal of gender equity for all ministers.”  Even with decisive action, the gap won’t be bridged any time soon.

An Alabama Methodist clergywoman relates that even when churches are willing to change, forces within denominations sometimes are not. “I was offered a significant raise by my church when I became the senior pastor.  But the bishop at the time had the church reduce my salary by $5,000.  The bishop told me it could be bad for my husband’s self-esteem if I made so much money since my husband was clergy as well, it might be hard on our marriage.”

Yet the problem is more than pay.  The Hartford Institute for Religion and Research reports that only twenty percent of mainline congregations are led by women.  Female pastors are much more likely to serve in smaller congregations, often with limited finances and big problems.  Indeed, only a handful of large, high-steeple churches have women serving as heads of staff. 

Lee Hinson-Hasty of the Committee on Theological Education has an insider’s perspective on the dynamics of gender as men and women respond to God’s call.  In a blog post, Hinson-Hasty suggests that churches—and the committees that prepare candidates for ministry—still give priority to men, even as more women are ordained.  On average, it takes women longer to move through the ordination process.  Upon graduation from seminary, men are more likely to have been offered jobs.  Once ordained, women not only are paid less, they are also fifteen percent less likely to have benefits like healthcare, pension, and insurance.

Increasingly, denominations realize that, if change is to come, action is needed.  Both the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have taken creative initiatives to raise awareness of the experience of clergywomen with videos that show male pastors reading aloud the outrageous, sexist comments that are routinely said to their female counterparts. 

Imagine a grey-haired pastor in a clerical collar stating, “Now that you’re pregnant, your belly sticks out further than your boobs,” or a bearded, young, hipster pastor saying, “I keep picturing you naked under your robe.”  The spontaneous shock and discomfort of the men highlights the seriousness of the problem.  They were incredulous, demoralized, angered.  One male pastor said afterward, “My heart is broken.”

The resulting short films, “#HerTruth” and “Seriously? Actual Things Said to Female Pastors in the NC Synod,” aired at the conferences’ annual meetings and were greeted with standing ovations.  According to the UMC Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the object of the videos was to make church members uncomfortable with the sexism that female pastors routinely experience. The Rev. Chrysti Dye, who chairs the North Carolina commission, said “There’s a collective hope that you’re lifting the veil on a culture in society and in the church of demeaning women, sexualizing them and objectifying them.  We want to wake up everyone.”

Despite the harassment, sexism, and gender bias, women clergy persist.  They do so because God has called them to ministry.  That holy purpose counter balances the hardship.  Some women even affirm that their church work is uniquely rewarding in gender-specific ways.

Jane, who specialized in pastoral care as a minister with a multi-staff church, feels that her identity as a woman allowed her to make a healing difference in the lives of her female parishioners, especially women over sixty. 

A 75-year-old woman made an appointment to see Jane.  “Her husband had been dead a good ten years. She confessed that she had an affair when she was in her 20s and her husband was in the service. It had paralyzed her for years. I was able to put a priestly hat on and offer her God’s forgiveness through prayer.  She wept and said it was a gift to be able to let this burden go.  She said she never would have said this to a male pastor.”

Katrina echoes Jane’s belief in the special ability of women clergy to help and heal.  She has a memory that she deeply cherishes.  She was pastoring an elderly woman, widowed for over 40 years, who one day offhandedly mentioned that she always accepted hugs because she didn’t get enough physical touch in her life.  “After I learned that,” Katrina says, “anytime we’d happen to sit next to each other at coffee hour I’d reach for her hand under the table.  We would carry on regular conversation above the table while secretly holding hands below.  Her eyes would shine at me, overflowing with love in these brief moments of physical connection and care.”  It was an act of caring that would be off limits to male clergy, whose handholding might be construed as a sexual advance.

Woman clergy also find blessing in their special capacity to balance mothering and pastoring.

Melodie remembers the Sunday morning that she was charged with leading worship and caring for her two-year-old granddaughter, “In the middle of the sermon she stripped off all her clothes, stood on the front pew, and announced, ‘Memama, I’m naked!’ That was the end of worship that day! Everyone laughed!”

I’ve had those special moments, too.  In a program with children, I asked each of them to write their name on a piece of white paper.  The other kids were then invited to add the gifts and special abilities that they saw in one another.  On my paper, someone scrawled, “A good Mom.”  I don’t have children.  Not long before, we had gone through a miscarriage. “A good Mom” felt like a blow to the gut.  I learned that it was written by four-year-old Lizzie with the help of her older brother Matt.  Lizzie had decided—and told her parents—that if anything happened to them, she wanted me to be her Mom.  I kept that paper taped to the door of the pastor’s study for years.

Clergymen may not have the same experiences of harassment and gender bias.  They may be paid more.  They may serve larger churches with bigger bank accounts.  They may have better benefits.  But I bet that never happened to a male pastor.

Thank you to the many clergy women who shared their experiences with me.


Melissa Florer-Bixler. “When Your Sexual Harassers Sit in Your Pews” in Sojourners, July 11, 2019.  Accessed online at

Sam Hodges. “New Video Calls Out Harassment of Women Clergy” in United Methodist News, June 25, 2019.  Accessed online at

Hinson-Hasty, Lee. “More Presbyterian Women Ordained than Men 2001-2016” in Theological Education Matters, August 13, 2018.  Accessed on-line at

North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. #HerTruth, Nov. 10, 2016.  Accessed online at

North Carolina Synod of the ELCA. Seriously? Actual Things Said to Female Pastors in the NC Synod, October 10, 2018.  Accessed online at

Presbyterian Church (USA). Living by the Gospel: A Guide to Structuring Ministers’ Terms of Call as Authorized by the 223rd General Assembly. Louisville: Office of the General Assembly, 2019 (updated 2021).  Accessed online at

Rick Rojas. “Pastor’s Exit Exposes Cultural Rifts at a Leading Liberal Church, July 11, 2019 in The New York Times.  Accessed online at

Yonat Shimron. “New Video Captures Sexist Comments to Women—Read by Male Counterparts” in Religion News Service, June 20, 2019.  Accessed online at

Photo by Shamia Casiano on


Poem for a Tuesday — “Passage” by Elizabeth Alexander

“Henry Porter wore good clothes for his journey,

the best his wife could make from leftover

cambric, shoes stolen from the master. They

bit his feet, but if he took them off he feared

he’d never get them on again. He needed

to look like a free man when he got there.

Still in a box in the jostling heat,

nostrils to a board pried to a vent,

(a peephole, too, he’d hoped, but there was only

black to see) there was nothing to do

but sleep and dream and weep. Sometime the dreams

were frantic, frantic loneliness an acid

in his heart. Freedom was near but un-

imaginable. Anxiety roiled inside

of him, a brew which corroded his stomach,

whose fumes clamped his lungs and his throat.

When the salt-pork and corn bread were finished

he dreamed of ice cream and eggs but the dreams

made him sick.  He soiled himself and each time

was ashamed.  He invented games tried to

remember everything his mother

ever told, every word he hadn’t

understood, every vegetable he’d ever

eaten (which was easy: kale, okra, corn,

carrots, beans, chard, yams, dandelion greens),

remember everyone’s name who had ever

been taken away.  The journey went that way.

When he got there, his suit was chalky

with his salt, and soiled, the shoes waxy with blood.

The air smelled of a surfeit of mackerel.

Too tired to weep, too tired to look through

the peephole and see what freedom looked like,

he waited for the man to whom he’d shipped

himself: Mister William Still, Undertaker,

Philadelphia.  He repeated the last

words he’d spoken to anyone: goodbye

wife Clothilde, daughter Eliza,

 best friend Luke.  Goodbye, everyone, goodbye.

When I can, I’ll come for you. I swear,

I’ll come for you.”

in Furious Flower, ed. Joanne V. Gabbin. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004.

Elizabeth Alexander is a Black writer, poet, and educator. Born in Harlem and raised in Washington, DC, Alexander studied at Yale, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania. She is a gifted educator, who has taught at Haverford College, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Smith College. Her father served as the United States Secretary of the Army. Her mother was a distinguished professor of African American Women’s History. She was just a toddler when her parents took to the March on Washington in August 1963. In 2009, she recited her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at President Barack Obama’s first Presidential Inauguration.

Blessing and Woe

Sabbath Day Thoughts — “Blessing and Woe” Luke 6:17-26

They weren’t sure what to do with a female minister, so it was decided that I could make some pastoral calls.  My first visit was to the oldest couple in the village of El Estor.  “Just how old are they?” I wanted to know.  My interpreter shrugged.  She looked at her hands as if considering counting the years, but gave up.  “Old” she said, “At least 100.  Maybe more.”

Their home was tiny, a 10- by 15-foot wooden frame.  Dried cornstalks had been woven into mats for the exterior walls.  The roof was a thatch of palm fronds, grass, and more corn stalks.  Blue sky shone through in spots.  There was no door, no glass for windows, no electricity, no bathroom, no kitchen.  The only furnishings were two plastic mesh hammocks, where my hosts clearly spent their nights, and two plastic chairs, the cheap patio kind, where they clearly spent their days.  A round plastic wall clock with a long-dead battery proclaimed that it was always 11:15.  A few long-outdated calendars with bright pictures of kittens and flowers adorned the walls.

My hosts were white haired and wizened.  When they smiled, which was pretty much all the time, I could see they had about three teeth between the two of them.  I thought my visit was going to be bleak, but they regaled me with an hour’s-worth of stories about how God had blessed them with children and grandchildren, a home of their own, and long life.  When I offered to pray with them as I prepared to leave, they asked if they could pray for me.

My next stop was a fifteen-minute walk away, down a rutted dirt road.  Pigs and hens rooted and scratched in the yard.  Children in various states of cleanliness and clothedness spied from the edge of the wood.  A naked toddler squatted to relieve herself in the dust.  This house had a kitchen.  In the middle of the single room, an earthen platform smoldered with the remains of the morning cookfire.  Overhead, a big hole in the thatch allowed smoke to escape. 

My host, a stick-thin man of indeterminate age, could barely walk, due to neuropathy in his feet from uncontrolled diabetes.  His vision was failing, so he came up close to greet me and peer into my face.  He had been widowed about a year ago and in that macho culture was still trying to figure out how to be mother and father to his children.  I expected to hear the lamentation of mourning and the heavy burdens of failing health and single parenting, but that isn’t what I heard.  I learned what was special about each of his children.  I discovered how generous and kind his equally impoverished neighbors were.  I heard about the promised miracle of healing with the help of medication that the pastor had procured.  He felt blessed.

In our reading from Luke’s gospel, Jesus challenges us to see the blessedness of those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and persecuted.  Jesus paired those four blessings with four woes, four matching statements of prophetic judgment, that targeted the rich, the satisfied, the laughing, and those who are the object of public admiration.  Jesus’s words are hard for us to hear because, let’s face it, compared to places like El Estor, Guatemala, even the poorest people among us are comfortable and well-fed.  We have plenty to laugh about.  We receive our “atta’ boys” and accolades.  We can congratulate ourselves on our accomplishments and thank God for life’s sweetness.

Jesus’s uncomfortable statements of blessing and woe were just as disturbing for his first audience as they are for us.  In Jesus’s day, suffering and affliction were often seen as a sign of God’s punishment.  To be poor, hungry, mourning, and persecuted suggested that something had gone terribly wrong in your relationship with God.  Remember when Jesus healed the blind man outside the Temple (John 9)?  The disciples wanted to know who had sinned to cause that blindness in the first place—the man or his parents.  Likewise, material wealth was seen as a sign of divine favor.  That’s why it was so scandalous of Jesus to praise the miniscule offering that a poor widow brought to the Temple, just a couple of small copper coins (Matt. 12:41-44).  Those people in the crowd who came to Jesus for healing, they were the most marginal, vulnerable neighbors in the Galilee.  The disciples, who were right there watching Jesus at work, might have thought a lot of things about that crowd, but they would not have called them blessed as Jesus did.

When New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan teaches about Luke’s beatitudes, he likes to point out who the “poor” are.  Jesus used the Greek word ptoxoi.  The ptoxoi are those who are reduced to begging because they have no other resources.  The ptoxoi are the lepers, the lame, the childless widows who must either sell themselves or beg.  In Crossan’s words, the ptoxoi are “the utterly reviled and expendable of the human family, the wretched of the earth.”

In today’s parlance, the ptoxoi are persecuted Rohingya refugees, who languish in the no-mans-land of camps, hoping for a home.  The ptoxoi are the starving people of drought-stricken Somalia, with the bloated bellies, ashy skin, and dull hair of malnutrition.  The ptoxoi are unaccompanied child migrants, maimed, molested, and enslaved by traffickers.  The ptoxoi are the people of El Estor.  The ptoxoi are blessed because they see things as they truly are.  The abject, destitute poor know they are utterly reliant upon God.  To be the blessed of God is to accept the stark reality that in the end we have absolutely nothing but God.  This is the hard truth, whether we come from El Estor, Guatemala or Saranac Lake, New York.

The trouble with our affluence, the trouble with our plenty, the trouble with our non-stop laughter, the trouble with our playing for the court of public opinion is that we can lose all perspective.  Instead of acknowledging our utter dependence upon God, we trust in our bank accounts, our stockpile of possessions, and all that good press we get. Woe to us when we believe money or things can solve all our problems.  Woe to us when we laugh while the world wails.  Woe to us when we find ourselves saying and doing unconscionable things to please the court of public opinion.

Back in Guatemala, I worshipped that evening with my new friends in their cinderblock church.  It was floored with a slab of unfinished concrete and topped with corrugated tin.  There were no stained-glass windows, just open holes where the wind blew through.  In place of pews, we sat on simple benches.  The walls were painted a bright, watery, turquoise blue.  A primitive mural of Noah, his ark, the dove, and the rainbow spanned the chancel.  There was no pipe organ, no choir.  Instead, a small praise band, powered by a noisy generator, played hymns at ear-ringing volume on well-weathered instruments.  Worshippers sang along with a wholehearted joy that I have never seen in any American Presbyterian church—and they did that whether they could or couldn’t carry a tune.

Next to me in worship, a young mother in flipflops, threadbare jeans, and a brightly embroidered huipil sang her heart out.  The little boy bouncing on her hip, flirted with me, batting his big brown eyes and then shyly hiding his face in his mother’s neck.  When I was invited forward to lead the church in prayer, every head bowed in humility and every voice echoed my words with the utter conviction that God was listening and Jesus was right there among us.  Those people were dirt poor, but as they lived and worshipped with such fervent, heartfelt faith, I saw they were blessed in ways that my affluent congregation at the time, back in Wilmington, Delaware, probably couldn’t imagine.

After worship, my supervising pastor, the mission team, and I were invited to share a celebratory meal.  The table was decked with more food than most of our hosts saw in a month: whole fish cooked on a charcoal fire, freshly made corn tortillas, a scrawny chicken stewed with savory spices, a salad of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and onions dressed with lemon juice, sticky-sweet mangoes split with a machete; cups of syrupy sweet home-made lemonade.  Our translator told us not to eat it, cautioning that the food would make us sick.  Most of my fellow travelers looked panicked and just pushed the food around their plates.

After dinner, we visited with our hosts and asked how we could grow the partnership between the El Estor Church and our home church in Delaware.  We were ready to write a big check.  But our new friends surprised us.  “Come be with us,” they said.  “Move to El Estor for a little while.  Be our neighbor.  Worship with us.  Know us.”  It was a surprising invitation.  We needed time to think about it.  We said our goodnights and wandered back to our inn.

We talked about it a lot.  We imagined what it would be like to live there, to rough it without reliable electricity, without internet, without hot showers, without Starbucks.  We wondered which one of us would be the best to stay—a teenager taking a gap year before college, a pastor to minister to the spiritual needs, a nurse to tend their everyday illnesses?  In the end, it felt impossible.  We were too important, too responsible, too committed.  Their request, it was too hard, too much to ask.  No one stayed.

Woe to us.


Gay L. Byron. “Exegetical Perspective on Luke 4:21-30” in Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 1.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Peter Eaton. “Homiletical Perspective on Luke 4:21-30” in Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 1.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Howard K. Gregory. “Pastoral Perspective on Luke 4:21-30” in Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 1.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Luke 6:17-26

17 After coming down with them, He stood on a level place with a large crowd of His disciples and a great number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those tormented by unclean spirits were made well. 19 The whole crowd was trying to touch Him, because power was coming out from Him and healing them all.

20 Then looking up at His disciples, He said:

You who are poor are blessed,
because the kingdom of God is yours.
21 You who are now hungry are blessed,
because you will be filled.
You who now weep are blessed,
because you will laugh.
22 You are blessed when people hate you,
when they exclude you, insult you,
and slander your name as evil
because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! Take note—your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.

24 But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are now full,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are now laughing,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you
when all people speak well of you,
for this is the way their ancestors
used to treat the false prophets.

Monumento Emblematico, El Estor, Guatemala

Facing It

Poem for a Tuesday — “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa

“My black face fades,   

hiding inside the black granite.   

I said I wouldn’t  

dammit: No tears.   

I’m stone. I’m flesh.   

My clouded reflection eyes me   

like a bird of prey, the profile of night   

slanted against morning. I turn   

this way—the stone lets me go.   

I turn that way—I’m inside   

the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

again, depending on the light   

to make a difference.   

I go down the 58,022 names,   

half-expecting to find   

my own in letters like smoke.   

I touch the name Andrew Johnson;   

I see the booby trap’s white flash.   

Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse   

but when she walks away   

the names stay on the wall.   

Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s   

wings cutting across my stare.   

The sky. A plane in the sky.   

A white vet’s image floats   

closer to me, then his pale eyes   

look through mine. I’m a window.   

He’s lost his right arm   

inside the stone. In the black mirror   

a woman’s trying to erase names:   

No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.”

in Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001)

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He served as a war correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star. His poetry reflects the cadences and influence of jazz and his grandparents, who were church people: “the sound of the Old Testament informed the cadences of their speech.” He takes on complex moral issues: the Vietnam War, his experience as a black man, and the underside of life in America. He lives in New York City where he is Distinguished Senior Poet in NYU’s graduate creative writing program.

Vietnam War Memorial — Washington, DC

Slow Call

Sabbath Day Thoughts — “Slow Call” Luke 5:1-11

When Matthew and Mark remembered the day that Jesus called those first disciples, it was an all-at-once experience.  Jesus saw the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, on the lakeshore.  He invited them to a life of discipleship with the words, “Follow me.”  Then, the four mariners embarked on a new life of discipleship, leaving Father Zebedee behind in the boat.

Luke remembered things differently.  About once every six years, the lectionary brings us today’s reading to expand our understanding of Jesus’s call and the disciples’ response.  According to Luke, that transformation from fisherman to disciple didn’t happen all-at-once.  It took the better part of a day and required some persistent effort on the part of the Lord.

Peter and his friends had been out on the lake at night and into the early morning hours, casting their drag nets in the hope of an abundant catch.  In Peter’s day, fishing on the Sea of Galilee was strictly monitored.  People like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, whose families had plied these waters for generations, purchased an annual imperial fishing license.  That fee was significant—equivalent to about one-third of their average annual catch.  A series of fishless nights, like the one they had just had, meant hardship for hard-working people like Simon Peter.

The men were mending their nets and dreaming of breakfast and a nap, when Jesus came along.  Last week, Jesus may have been preaching in the backwater of Nazareth, but this week, Jesus was followed by a large crowd.  There was so much pushing, jostling, and vying for position that preaching from the lakeshore was proving to be hazardous.  A boat was needed to push out into the shallows where Jesus could safely preach while the multitude took a seat along the breakwater.

That’s where Simon Peter came in.  Just the other week, Jesus had impressed Peter by healing his mother-in-law.  Despite that, we can imagine the inner struggle as Simon Peter weighed committing his day and his boat to Jesus against heading home for some much-needed rest.  Perhaps feeling like he was doing Rabbi Jesus a favor, the fisherman invited Jesus onboard.

That back-and-forth of request and response continued.  As Jesus finished his preaching and dispersed the crowd, he made a second, questionable request of Simon Peter.  “Put out into deep water and let down your nets.”  In Peter’s response, we hear exasperation.  Who was the expert on fishing?  It wasn’t Jesus.  In fact, the Lord had a lot of nerve, expecting Peter to gather his crew, load his nets, and row halfway across the lake.  This time when Peter complied, he made it clear that he was half-heartedly following orders, simply out of respect for Jesus as a rabbi.

It wasn’t until Peter was standing knee-deep in a miraculous haul of fish that he changed his mind about Jesus and decided that the Lord was worth following.  That improbable catch confounded every law of nature on the Sea of Galilee.  All those fish in that place at that time of day made it clear to the fishermen that God Almighty was in their midst and in need of their service.  The third time was the charm.

This story with its growing awareness of who Jesus is and the claim that he has upon our lives feels authentic.  It definitely feels more in keeping with our own faith journeys than that spectacular, all-at-once, wholehearted commitment that Matthew and Mark described the disciples making.  Most of us aren’t pastors or missionaries, who quickly discern the call to walk away from what is comfortable and familiar to live a radical life of discipleship.  For most of us, our calling takes time—and persistence on the part of the Lord.

Our journey to discipleship often begins at the initiative of someone else.  As infants, our parents or grandparents make the choice for Jesus for us and we are baptized or dedicated.  All we have to do is look cute and not put up too much fuss when the water starts to fly.  Our family, congregation, and pastor make the promises for us.  We may be placed on the way to Jesus as little ones, but we are no disciples.

A second calling to obedience and discipleship may come our way at confirmation.  With the pastor, our mentor, and our classmates, we read scripture, ponder what it would mean for us to be followers of Jesus, and even begin to wrap our own language around our faith.  But that doesn’t make us disciples.  Indeed, according to the statisticians at Lifeway Research, 66% of young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two will drop out of church.  Relocation, college, or the increasing demands of the workplace cause them to lose their connection to the church and the community that formed their faith.

Sometimes, like Peter, we need to be knee-deep in a miracle before we will make Jesus our priority.  Do any of these quiet miracles sound familiar?

We find the blessing of love and we realize that, if that love is going to last, we will need God at the very heart of the relationship.  We know we need the Lord.

Our first child is born and in the wonder of that perfect little life entrusted to our care, we dedicate ourselves to the Lord.

We are broken by grief, illness, or hardship, and Jesus touches us with grace and strength that bring us on through and we want more of that.

We see ourselves as we truly are, unclean lips and all.  Yet as we break the bread and lift the cup, we learn that the Lord loves us enough to die for us and we are truly forgiven. We come to the Lord in humility and gratitude.

One day, knee-deep in those everyday wonders, we hitched our wagon to Jesus, and we’ve been following him along the Way ever since.  When did you choose to truly follow Jesus?

We may not leave everything behind—family, community, and possessions—to follow Jesus, but our choice for discipleship changes us.  Jesus takes a central place in our lives.  He shapes what we do on Sunday mornings.  He directs the way we relate to our families.  He determines how we conduct ourselves in the community.  Our behavior changes.  We dare to forgive as we have been forgiven.  We stop attaching strings to our love.  We begin to notice at-risk neighbors and we seek to make a caring difference.  We start to hunger for worship, prayer, the Word, and Christian fellowship.

One day, we realize that Jesus has done it.  We have become his disciples.  The Lord has worn us down with that back and forth, call and response, that he once shared with Simon Peter, all those years ago on the shores of Galilee.  Thanks be to God for that slow call to discipleship and the Lord’s patience with people like Simon Peter, with people like us.  Amen.


Gay L. Byron. “Exegetical Perspective on Luke 4:21-30” in Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 1.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Aaron Earls. “Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church When They Become Young Adults” in Lifeway Research, January 15, 2019. Accessed online at

Howard K. Gregory. “Pastoral Perspective on Luke 4:21-30” in Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 1.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Luke 5:1-11

As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, He was standing by Lake Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then He sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down[c] your nets for a catch.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.” 6 When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets[e] began to tear. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they took, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people!” 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed Him.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on

Spring Beauties

Friday Photos

Here are some Adirondack spring beauties for all you folks who are tired of shoveling snow. These photos were taken on Lyon Mountain in May.

“I will be like the dew to the people of Israel. They will blossom like flowers. They will be firmly rooted like cedars from Lebanon. They will be like growing branches. They will be beautiful like olive trees. They will be fragrant like cedars from Lebanon.” — Hosea 14:5-6