Our First Week Together

Chris, Rosie and I have lived in Brooklyn Heights for a week. In a way, this week has flashed by in the form of whirling suitcases, teetering moving boxes, and multiple trips to the market for yet another household item. In another way, this week has felt as though God has stretched out the days and filled them with moments of grace. From experiencing the hospitality of Plymouth’s finest cooks and gracious hosts, to hearing the testimonies of God’s faithfulness from parishioners and coworkers, to watching my daughter joyfully recount her experience seeing Aladdin on Broadway, I can confidently say that our family has been profoundly blessed these past seven days.

Chris and I feel like we are in a good dream. We keep looking at each other, and saying “I can’t believe we get to live here!” Every night we walk the Promenade as a family. We look out at the amazing view of Manhattan and breathe in God’s overwhelming gifts. We have been praying for so long to feel a sense of “home” in our lives, and so far (at least in the past seven days), I celebrate that I feel a sense of belonging. Plymouth is an amazing community, in an amazing neighborhood, in an amazing borough, in an amazing city. Your generous call inviting me to serve as your Assistant Minister allows me and my family to experience this Holy place.

In Life Together, Deitrich Bonhoeffer writes:

“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing vital between us.”

Diversity is important in a church, as it leads to learning new wonders of God’s grace. I am glad that Plymouth has a strong tradition of welcoming new people. There are many who have been a part of Plymouth Church for decades, those who have followed the call of God to lay a beautiful foundation of ministry and mission. For those church mothers and fathers, I am grateful for your dedication and work in this community. And there are those who are newcomers, those who didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, but felt God’s presence here and decided to join in the worship and work of the church. For those new pilgrims, I am grateful for your courage to take the risk of sharing life together and trusting that God is in this place.

Thank you, Plymouth, for calling us here and for providing excellent soil for our family to plant our roots. I look forward to living genuinely and deeply with you. May Christ be the one and only thing vital between us.


Trump is Lying, and We Have to Keep Listening

We cannot live in community if lies carry the same weight as truth, if bad words are allowed to destroy good ones.  We cannot get used to the President’s lies.  We cannot accept alternative facts.  We cannot stop insisting on honesty.

Lots of people who have the Ten Commandments hanging on their wall are tempted to ignore the ninth one, but we have to keep paying attention.  Presidents have been dishonest for a long time, but it has always been our job to hold them accountable.  Our work is harder now, because no president of either party has had so little regard for reality.  Presidents need to get in trouble when they lie.

Trump lies about the tremendous size of his electoral victory, the amazing number of people at his inauguration, and the huge number of times he has been on the cover of Time.  He lies about health care, voter fraud, wiretapping, his tax returns, trade deficits, vetting for immigrants, terror attacks in Sweden, and a non-existent apology from The New York Times.  He lies about things that are easily checked—like a non-existent phone call from Mexico’s president calling to praise Trump’s immigration policy.

If Donald Trump had been our first president, he would claim the cherry tree is still standing while holding an ax and eating cherries.  Kellyanne Conway would roll her eyes and back him up.

We cannot say, “That’s Trump being Trump.”  We cannot believe that truth does not matter, because truth is bigger than the presidency.

Conventional wisdom is that the lies are hurting Trump and his policies, but the truth is that lies set everyone’s pants on fire.  Trump may have been elected president not in spite of his lies, but because of them.  His presidency may be the result of our lack of integrity.

We have to understand that justice depends on people telling the truth.  Lies are matches that destroy forests that have been growing for decades.  Lies turn harmony into hatred.  Lies makes us forget how good honesty is.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no God higher than truth.”  Lying hurts everyone by distancing us from the higher truth.  When our leaders love partisan politics more than truth, the whole country loses its way.

We need to be indignant when the President lies.  We cannot let untruths pass unchallenged without damage to our souls.  We need to defend truth, because truth is our best defense.

The words we hear affect our hearts—even when we wish they did not.  We are what we hear.  We need leaders who know how to bless us with what they say.  We need words that heal.  We need words that make us better.

We need to make America honest again.