Author Archives: Rich Neal

A God named Fred

My barber once kept in his shop a goldfish named Fred. Being given a name did nothing to identify Fred’s nature or reveal his character. (I assume Fred was male only because of his name, not because anyone knowledgeable about such things had sexed him.) Certainly it did nothing to change his experience of being […]

Passing the baton

[For two years I have served as transition pastor for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Tonawanda, New York, as the congregation searched for its next regularly installed pastor. Most of these ruminations are messages I shared with them during worship on Sunday mornings. A new pastor set to begin ministry on May 17. This is […]

A true Mother’s Day

Twenty billion dollars, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s roughly the amount Americans are expected to spend this year for Mother’s Day. No other holiday is as popular for dining out; Hallmark reports it generates the third highest number of card sales, behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day; and only on Christmas are more gifts […]

Brief encounter

The season for commencement addresses is approaching. In a single event at high schools, colleges, and universities all around us, a door will close, a door will open, and speakers – class valedictorians and distinguished guests – will try to make sense of the bittersweet stew of farewells and new beginnings. “For everything there is […]

Celebrating creation

Wednesday, April 21, was the birthday in 1838 of the man known both as “John of the Mountains” and “Father of the National Parks,” the man who wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” John […]

Questions

Answers in life matter less than answering. The process of responding to questions, of responding to life itself, is more important than any particular response. As an old railroad song puts it – if you’ve taken a trip on an old railroad, steam-powered locomotive and all, you’ll know this – “Isn’t it the going and […]

Don’t be alarmed

“Do not be alarmed.” Usually the first words we hear in the Easter liturgy are, “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” – welcome words of exuberance after six long weeks of Lent, the deepening darkness of Holy Week, and the utter emptiness of Holy Saturday. But those words don’t appear in the first resurrection experience (Mark 16:1-8). […]

Telling the story

Today I’m wondering how many of us find in Maundy Thursday an experience like E.B. White described in an old issue of The New Yorker. He described a cowboy who commuted by plane between New York and Chicago. His job was to throw steers in the rodeos of both cities. The steers didn’t need to […]

To go the distance

Lent takes us not to Easter but to Palm Sunday. Easter is in God’s hands; Palm Sunday is in ours. In Easter, we celebrate what God has done; on Palm Sunday we must choose what we will do. Will we commit to taking the last decisive step to fulfill our part of the covenant God […]

Let your heart sing

One of my gifts to the church, I sometimes joke, is that I don’t sing, but it’s not true. I sing frequently – a hymn or gospel song, a folk song or a song popular in my youth, something from a musical – sometimes aloud, sometimes only in my head. Most of the songs have […]