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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - "Just as I am" again...

This week's lections are here
In my parishes we'll be celebrating the arrival of a new deacon, ordained just 2 days ago - and so our readings are quite a gift.

I have quite a dodgy relationship with Paul, but I think this time we'll be working with the Epistle.
Though the glories of the ordination service (16 new deacons presented to a packed Cathedral whose ancient stones have seen such celebrations countless times before) might have seemed like a foretaste of heaven - even they can't really compare with the experience that Paul describes (or rather, tries not to).
But the pattern is the same...An experience of intense and awe-inspiring holiness, and then.......woomph.........down to earth with a bump.

We don't know what Paul's thorn is, whether a physical defect of some kind or an individual who made his life miserable, - but we do know that his appeals for relief were denied.
God told him, in as many words, that this was a gift...a way of ensuring that he, Paul, does not become a celebrity himself but relies for his vindication on God alone.
"My power is made perfect in weakness"
That's the same agenda that we find in the gospel, as the twelve are sent out, empty-handed, to begin their ministry.
If I'm feeling very brave I might use these texts to issue a gentle challenge to my congregations, loaded as we are with buildings, committees and structures of all kinds.
Would we dare to just go - depending on God?
Would you?

There's another clear track in the gospel, of course;the question of familiarity breeding contempt. My curate has been moved from the parishes where he grew up, so that he can engage in a new way with fresh people. The system protects him from becoming a prophet without honour in his own country...but as we dig roots down deep into our faith communities, as we become known by those to whom we minister, I wonder if we find our prophetic edge dulled - by what they know of us, as well as what we know of them. There's a challenge for pastors - to be fully known and yet to be heard and respected...

Early musings on a very muggy Tuesday...I'm longing to hear where you're heading this week.


  1. I'll be preaching to a no doubt small congregation on this 4th of July weekend, especially since the church does a huge and tiring fundraiser before, during and after the parade on Saturday. Those who come will be in the mood for happy talk, but there isn't much that's happy to say to them. (In fact, I'm pretty angry with some of the lay leadership at the moment.) The likelihood of tourist visitors also feels like a limitation. So I'm not sure where I'll go. I look forward to reading the discussion here and am off to my IRL lectionary group this morning! I'll check in again later when I have (hopefully) formed some thoughts.

  2. I am beyond happy not to have the 4th of July weekend to preach. I'll mention freedom in the communion prayer, and I'll mean the freedom we find in Christ and that is renewed at the table, and some will hear it as a political gift from God to us and I'm okay with that.

    I don't think I've ever thought of Paul's thorn as a person who won't go away, but at this exact moment in my life that REALLY REALLY resonates with me. Except that in my anger, frustration, and defensiveness I haven't bothered to pray about the situation or the person (not even a "make them go away" prayer, let alone something probably more worthwhile). Maybe I should try that. If nothing else, perhaps I (like Paul) will become reconciled to having the thorn and will find ways to work around it....

  3. Blessings to all of you preparing to preach or lead worship this Sunday! I will be on vacation with my family, and so I'll get to be an anonymous face in the pew at the UMC we visit on vacation in OC, NJ.

  4. I'll be doing a 3 part nearly narrative thing. First two sections will be 'done' by some folks in the congregation: 'Villager, Nazareth' and 'Peter, pondering' [yup, Peter finishes with the almost obligatory 'I would never reject him' comment].
    The 3rd part is a wrap up 'Beware: tall poppy syndrome' You can find this bit over here

    Funeral all put together for Thursday now... so perhaps there aren't any more distractions and I'll have to get back to the dissertation. Pity.
    Look forward to hearing what you all come up with over the week re. readings - enjoy :)

  5. I was struck by the fact that when JEsus finds that he is not being well-received he knows it is time to try another tack. ANd so my sermon will be about Knowing When to Quit...

    Later yesterday, after I had posted those thoughts I was struck by the need to know when to try a new thing and yet not get sucked into the whirlwind of trends. The disciples were told to share the message and stay on message. Even as we look for new ways to engage we have to "stay on target" (channelling Star WArs for a moment there)

  6. I wasn't sure what I was going to say until I read all of your good ideas. Never have I tied Independence Day into my sermon on this weekend but I think the Paul text might lend itself to that, how the lead up to the Declaration was hard work but mostly glorious as was the demand for independence. But the war was all the things Paul endured for the sake of what he knew to be right.
    Gord's notion of knowing when to quit also speaks to those times, I think, although I'm still mulling that one over.
    And now back to visiting with my niece and entertaining my great nephews. I had forgotten how tiring little boys can be. It's a good feeling!

  7. I am planning to look at the way the people have rejected Jesus. When we are completely shut off to a new idea, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and inspire us; in the same way, the people had already made up their minds about Jesus and so there was no way his work among them could be effective. In the church we often show up to meetings knowing what our opinion is, but if we don't allow ourselves to be open to God's work in our lives, are we really being faithful to God's will for us?

  8. I'm on deck for Sunday -- like others here I am expecting a very thin crowd -- I am leaning toward what I referred to on Facebook this morning as "Who does homeboy think he is?" as a sermon theme. I think our little community -- the entire community, not just our congregation -- often labors under the burden of lowered expectations for itself; a kind of individual and collective inferiority complex that can manifest itself in various dysfunctional ways. Maybe the word needing to be heard is that God can be up to something new and exciting even in Rhodes, Michigan.

  9. Am I the only lucky one who has a Saturday night service and thus gets to preach ON the very day of July 4? I have typically ignored secular holidays in my preaching, perhaps mentioning them in the pastoral prayer. But it seems as though it would not be prudent to ignore this one. I am working with the theme of listening to God - how do we know it is God we are listening to? based on the gospel passage...but my thoughts are VERY unformed at the moment. Of course, I wonder who will actually be there on Saturday to hear them...

  10. No preaching this week, but a devotion for tomorrow morning and Bible study Fri. I'm using the first half of the Mark pericope--6:1-6.

    Blessings to all in your proclamation.

  11. I'm on week three of a sermon series, so Inviting / Evangelism is the faith practice up to bat. So, trying to think of engaging and helpful ways to talk about the faith that is in us with others. 'Cause generally speaking, we Lutherans definitely don't do that very well!

  12. Last week was my first week back after two weeks off for vacay and cont ed. I didn't preach, per se, since we had a less traditional worship service ending in the dedication of our new labyrinth.

    I had hoped to spend time during my cont. ed planning out my preaching themes for the rest of the summer, but I never quite got around to that. Feeling less than inspired about jumping back into the lectionary even now, I think I'm going to sermonize on some of the topics/ideas from the continuing education event.

    It was very music-based, and the idea of the songs we sing in worship being the soundtrack of our church's life together really struck me. I want to incorporate some of what I experienced at this particular conference into more of our worship life to rejuvenate some of our singing together. I think I'll tackle some of this on Sunday while it is all still fresh in my mind.

    I also have a funny feeling that the hymn sing I use to open worship on non-choir weeks in the summer months will likely take a patriotic turn this week. Instead of worry about that and get all caught up in it with my own mis-givings I think I'll expect it and incorporate it into what I will do later in the service with questions about how these songs make us feel? Why do we need them in our civic life together? What do they drive us to be and do? Then move into similar quesions with our hymns and spiritual songs.

    I'm also looking forward to playing a "Name that Tune" style game during worship, but have it be a "Name that Movie" with soundtrack songs.

    Might end the whole sermon time with some silent meditation and then sharing of what our congregation soundtrack might be.

    I'll try to nail down more details tomorrow, then go back to planning for the rest of the summer, then get REAL serious about it on Saturday. Our town's fireworks are actually on Friday, so other than the town parade on Saturday, I don't have huge plans for the 4th itself.

  13. "But the pattern is the same...An experience of intense and awe-inspiring holiness, and then.......woomph.........down to earth with a bump."

    Wow! I love the way you put that, Katherine!

    Wish I was preaching this Sunday. :-) Blessings to all as you ponder and plan and then preach.

  14. Gee She Rev,
    I love the name that tune idea, but
    You should just come to my church. I have had to deal with the dude that wants to sing American Trilogy for July 4th weekend. He has the tape!
    I kid you not. American Trilogy Elvis style. And this guy is an elder.

  15. Thanks for these thoughts, friends - so many things to follow up on.
    My biggest problem is that I'm looking for a way to speak to people who are not usually part of the church family and yet these readings feel very 'internal' if you know what I mean.
    I think I want to talk about how we hear God, respond to what we hear, how we meet even become prophets. God is speaking in the lives of people in the congregation: how can I help to make them realise that & be ready to listen (not to me, but to God!).

    Thinking developing here:

  16. 1-4 Grace, I hear ya!

    Man lined up for special music called this morning. He will sing, in his uniform, a patriotic medley that is 9 minutes long. I can't fight this, so I'm placing it in the very beginning, before the Call to Worship. He wanted to make sure they songs in his medley didn't interfere with the hymns I had selected for worship. No worries there ...

    I'm thinking about going with an evangelism theme and the second half of Mark.

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  18. I have been reading The First Paul, another of the offerings of Borg and Crossens. I am caught up with the image of Paul as a revolutionary Christian mystic. It is Borg's idea that the thorn was malaria. It seems to work, that reoccurring fever and shakes.

    SB, I can certainly relate--it is hard to be prophet when no one will listen. But usually, when that happens to me, I have to pay more attention to my pastoring and less to my preaching.

    I preach extemporaneously--from a prepared heart. But I have been getting long-winded of late. It is time to write a prepared sermon for discipline. Hmmmm.

  19. Sunday's Gospel on sent out two by two & Jesus out and about teaching rolling around my head... & some statistics from a review on Amazon by Daniel B. Clendenin for the book "UnChristian" by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.

    "According to Kinnaman's Barna study, here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:

    * antihomosexual 91%
    * judgmental 87%
    * hypocritical 85%
    * old-fashioned 78%
    * too political 75%
    * out of touch with reality 72%
    * insensitive to others 70%
    * boring 68%

    It would be hard to overestimate, says Kinnaman, "how firmly people reject-- and feel rejected by-- Christians" (19)."

    Has me pondering if people have this perception of me, us, the church, what does that mean for when we're out and about in the village and out 2 by 2? How do we
    go out, where, to who? Is there a way to do this in a way that we be welcomed or at least tolerated and heard with a bit of an open mind rather than avoided or rejected? so we shake the dust off less? (maybe we need Catherine Zeta
    Jones like that phone commercial where the doors keep closing til she shows up *grin* j/k)

    No new questions, issues, ideas but something drawing me today...

  20. Dancing,
    You have topped the cake with your uniform wearing-patriotic singer!
    Bythesea, wow, suprising stats, but so sadly true.

  21. I'm sure this is right - many outside the church see Christians as homophobic, hate-filled intolerant, etc.
    I sigh too.
    Then I try to think - how do we counteract that? - and continue to try to encourage the churches I know to offer radical hospitality, or at the very least to open the doors and stop frowning.
    "Let hope keep you joyful", sisters.


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