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bloomingcactus
Poughkeepsie, New York
Pastor at First Churches, Northampton writing about all things spiritual, looking for hope in tough times.
Interests: Theology, psychology, politics, mindful meditation, running, investing.
Recent Activity
Peace to you as well, and thanks for taking the time to write me a note. Todd
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Let’s play with the numbers in this parable. What if not just one sad little lamb is lost and restored to the 99, but rather half the sheep are lost? What does the shepherd do if only 20 sheep are in view, or 10? How can you get the flock together again? Now that would be a parable for 2016. How will the flock hold together among the wolves, feeding on brown pastures, and worried about the Zika virus? And what about the bees? How do we stop all the Zika carrying mosquitoes without killing all the bees? No matter... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2016 at bloomingcactus
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You can lose a lot of things. You can lose your mind, your memory or your marbles. Your confidence, self-esteem or your mojo. You may lose your way, your place or you can even lose face; Your reputation, self-respect, manhood or virginity. You can lose sleep, time or your prime. You may also fail, suffer defeat or take and licking and keep on ticking. You can lose an argument, a game or a war. And if you lose your wealth or your health, you then lose hope. You can be lost in space, lost without your love, Jesus said, You... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2016 at bloomingcactus
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"Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Yesterday our weekly Bible study focused on the word "joy." One member spoke for all of us, sharing the struggle of finding joy when things seem awful-violence in the streets, the dreary expectation of racism and homophobia being spouted in Cleveland all week, and on and on. How can we speak of joy in a time such as this? While doing research for the class, I came upon the phrase "rejoice in doing good." (Jeremiah 32:41) Can we find some joy in working for the world God intends?... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2016 at bloomingcactus
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As the Presidential primaries grind away, I have one conviction left. Despair is not the answer. I could spend my time ranting about the fear-mongering on the right, how big money corrupts the Democrats, and how poorly Sanders faired with minorities as the campaign trail reduced him to shouting slogans. I never expected anyone running for President to have all the answers. If I let the front page of the New York Times govern my mood and actions, I would not leave the house today. Thousands of people will leave their houses today to do hopeful things. Teachers will head... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2016 at bloomingcactus
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I had an important moment of clarity last Monday about how I understand myself as pastor and shepherd. Sarah and I were both attending the Massachusetts Western area “Day of Covenant,” which is annual gathering of pastors and Conference staff for mutual care and discussion about what we see as the big issues of the church. Every year they give us a rock and have a moment to share with the group a burden we would all like to lay down, so we can share our ministry burdens. I feel pretty good, we are doing great, no big conflicts, no... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2016 at bloomingcactus
Thanks Micki!
Toggle Commented Jan 25, 2016 on Luke 3:15-22 "Called and Loved" at bloomingcactus
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I Corinthians 12 is Paul’s theological grounding about how community and power works. I Cor. 12:7 is one of the most important verses in the Bible, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” For the full sermon go to my new website at bloomingcactus.me Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at bloomingcactus
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Scripture Lessons: Luke 4:15-21, Isaiah 61:1-2 What is your elevator speech? In 30 seconds or less, how would convince someone to embrace your core values and mission? It must be simple, memorable and exciting. A Mission Statement grounds you in being clear before you act, so every day you can ask, is this true to our mission statement. Organizations spend a great deal of time and money to get it right. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus spends 40 days out in the wilderness, fasting and praying, and being tempted by the devil. That is what it is like... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2016 at bloomingcactus
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Bloomingcactus is migrating to Wordpress over the next few months. I will post new material in both blogs through the Spring, but I encourage you to bookmark my new address at bloomingcactus.me. You can go to my Advent sermons for this lectionary cycle. I wish you all a blessed Advent season! Todd Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2015 at bloomingcactus
I'm glad to see NY Times conservative columnist engaging liberal Christianity. But there are a couple things he misses: "Douthat's title, "Springtime for Liberal Christianity" is more correct than his column. Most of his critique was true of the progressive churches a decade ago, but decline has brought reform. The most read progressive Christian voices like Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, Marcus Borg, Jon Dominic Crossan, are all doing biblical studies and touting a Christianity that is deeply spiritual as well as politically engaged. At the congregational level, there has been a renewal of liturgy, spiritual practices and prayer. Many... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2015 at bloomingcactus
Thanks Bill. I appreciate your comment. Todd - bloomingcactus
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2015 on Job 38:1-41 - Open Thread at bloomingcactus
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I have preached on this passage many times over the years and I realized this week that I have often missed the real point. This is a great passage to run out to the Indian grocer, buy some mustard seed for the children’s sermon, and talk about what a wondrous plant comes from humble beginnings. Therefore, if the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed, we can have hope when we feel our efforts are unremarkable compared to the world’s need, and trust that God is going to do great things from our small plantings, and spread the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2015 at bloomingcactus
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If there was just one verse in the Bible you wanted everyone to know by heart, which one would it be? If you grew up as a Bible Belt Baptist like me, John 3:16 was that verse. I could recite it from 4th grade on, until it could be said in one breath, like it was one word, “Godsolovedtheworldthathegavehisonlybegottensonthat whosoeverbelievesinhimshallnotparishbuthaveeternallife!” You may have noticed John 3:16 signs in public places, held up behind the football goalposts so people can see it when the extra point is kicked. “Its good! (John 3:16).” So I guess people are supposed to put down... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at bloomingcactus
This text was in my mind while watching news from Ferguson, and a young protestor was asked what his agenda was, and he said it was for racial justice and they were going to “shake the heavens.” I don’t know if he knew the lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent, Year B, but the words were unmistakably there. I pondered the parallels of how the Civil War is our nation’s great cataclysm, and how we struggle still with its legacy. The 90-second deadly encounter between Michael Brown and Officer Daren Wilson has exposed the nation’s conflicted soul once... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2014 at bloomingcactus
Chris Arnade wrote an interesting article in the Guardian with this title. I'm fascinated because Chris is an atheist who worked on Wall Street and then became a photographer of homeless people in the South Bronx. He reveals the humanity of his subjects and their beauty amidst the brokeness in their lives. In his conclusion he reveals his startling thought: They have their faith because what they believe in doesn't judge them. Who am I to tell them that what they believe is irrational? Who am I to tell them the one thing that gives them hope and allows them... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at bloomingcactus
Michael Moore and Bill Maher are still missing the point. Many of us are both liberals AND Christians or Jews or Muslims. We do take on the extremists in our sermons, and feed and house the homeless, fight for GLBTQ people, and yet Bill continues to paint all of us with the same brush. Maher's critique of Islam paints Malala Yousefzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, with the same brush as ISIS. Neither Moore or Maher seem to get that many of us act for love and justice BECAUSE of our religion. Here is Moore's full defense of Maher's argument... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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Life is so unfair! It starts the day we are born. One baby is born a girl in Lahore, Pakistan and another a boy in Palo Alto, CA. You already have in mind a picture of their destiny. Life gets more unfair as soon as your next sibling is born. We are hard wired to make sure the cookie gets divided down the middle. Some people are born short, you might think I was born to be tall, however I wanted to be 6’8” and play in the NBA, so I feel too short. Some people are born ahead of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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Sermon for September 14, 2014 @ First Churches The story opens with Peter’s question about how many times you should forgive a person. He is wondering if there is a time when forgiveness becomes absurd because someone keeps on hurting us. I imagine most of us have someone in our lives that is very difficult to forgive. They just don’t get it. They know where all our buttons are and they just keep on pressing them. We try to be Christian and pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors.” After several times of forgiveness... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” I love this text. I was excited to see it as the featured Gospel for Gathering Sunday, because today as we gather ourselves for a new beginning of the Fall Church Season; we hear the good news!-Christ is among us today! We missed out on meeting the real Jesus, hearing him preach and shaking hands with him at coffee hour, liking his stuff on Facebook. We were born too late. But don’t despair, because when we meet in his name, his spirit is here and we know him. So we are gathered, Jesus is alive among us-NOW WHAT? Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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uk.reuters.com - Page by Jeffrey Heller - A Palestinian woman runs carrying a girl following what police said was an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza city July 9, 2014. I am still debating my choices of scriptures to preach this week-the Gospel lesson about the Canaanite woman, Isaiah and the covenant extending beyond the normal boundries to eunuchs, or Joseph meeting his brothers in Egypt. They are all painfully relavent this week in a world of broken covenants, elusive truces and alienated people. Here is a quote from a sermon I preached in 2005 entitled "Overlooked and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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If you are looking for a late sermon illustration on Saturday, listen to Billy Joel's song "The Stranger" and think about in terms of Jacob's wrestling with a stranger. I only had a minor spot in my sermon for it. Let me know what you think about the about the connections. Below I have posted my draft for Sunday: This morning I would like to talk about wrestling. I don’t mean the kind where huge men bellow insults at each other and jump off the top ropes to maim their opponent, all by pre-designed script. (Which is much like watching... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2014 at bloomingcactus
John 20:22 "When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Just breath, folks! Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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It is too easy to pick on Thomas who forever has the word “doubting” attached to his name. I prefer to think of him as a skeptic, and there are many moments in church history the church could have used his questions and skepticism. I wish there had been a doubting Thomas around to say to the Spanish Inquisition, “I don’t think torturing people into doctrinal conformity is a good idea.” Lest we forget, Thomas was handpicked by Jesus to be one of the 12 for good reason, and it is not like the rest of the disciples were ultra-faithful... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2014 at bloomingcactus
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This is my 17th Easter Sermon, and I still find it tricky. We come to this moment each year with a crescendo of hope and excitement, but also with a great theological burden. What happened? Was the tomb of Jesus really empty? Was the resurrection a physical resuscitation of the body, or an apparition seen by his followers, perhaps even completely made up mythology? If we were there at the resurrection moment, would it have been a video recordable event? Stone rolls away, Jesus suddenly blinks, reaches for his Iphone and captures the moment with a selfie? Jesus, the man... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2014 at bloomingcactus