Who's Questioning Whom?
2009-11-17 by Stephen Schuette
Here’s where what Jesus has been teaching and demonstrating out in Galilee is put to the test. And if we needed proof that Jesus believed in God and God’s enterprise of the Kingdom of God, if we needed proof that Jesus just wasn’t playing a role out in Galilee, well, here, before the “principalities and powers” of the world he remains clear and committed. Apparently Jesus really believes in God!
It brings to mind the very beginning of the journey, present in all the Gospels at least by suggestion since the call itself implies this moment, but given in detail in both Matthew and Luke. It brings to mind the temptation to be given all the kingdoms of the world if...if you worship another god. Jesus was clear then and is clear now about the God he worships and the kingdom which he trusts so much that he’s already living in it.
The tendency may be to interpret the conversation as a complete misunderstanding since Pilate represents political power and Jesus seems to represent a “spiritual” realm “not from this world.” But read that preposition carefully! It doesn’t say that God’s Kingdom has no relevance to this world or that political processes can go on blindly and unaffectedly or that there can be an easy solution so that Pilate can go on about his business and Jesus about his and all’s well. No, this conversation takes place at an intersection. And my hunch is that Jesus understands Pilate all too well. And Pilate even understands Jesus enough to make him uncomfortable. Pilate’s anxiousness seems almost palpable, especially in his defensive response to Jesus’ question in vs. 35. And Pilate ends this particular part of the conversation asking an appropriate question turned on himself in vs. 38.
Jesus, born in an age of heightened apocalyptic expectation proclaimed a radical thing: God’s Kingdom is here now. Then he invited others to join him in living in it already. Before Pilate Jesus does not back down on that belief or his ultimate trust. Jesus really believes! And he believes in the very nature of this Kingdom too: non-violence, peace, servanthood, a new community...
But maybe it’s neither Jesus or Pilate who are really being questioned. Maybe, after all, it’s the text questioning us, “What do you believe?” (I came to this independent of the previous offerings here, but apparently I'm second on this blog to consider this!)
Recognizing A King
2009-11-16 by Guy Kent
2 Samuel 23: 1-7
The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over men in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings the grass from the earth.’
David begins the “Last Words of David” with prophetic authority, an authority coming from one to whom God speaks. As such he rules “in righteousness” because he “rules in fear of the Lord.”
David speaks of more lofty things, but these words called to mind an incident in a local county commissioners meeting where I once served. The decision before the “local rulers” involved the distribution of services to various parts of the county. The issue became routing pipelines to the affluent areas first or follow a straight line to send them through an area of lower tax base, where dwelled immigrants - most legal but many not.
The youngest of those who “ruled” made the case all citizens were equal, the services should be provided without regard to status, political contribution, tax base, or whatever. “We should do what is right,” he said. “We should be Christians about this.” The raised eyebrows of the “more experienced” were evident.
Looking back on that scene, remembering the consternation of some and the open attempt at righteousness of others was a natural result, for some reason, of reading this passage.
I view that raised table behind which sat those commissioners in memory and am immediately sucked into David’s comparison of the righteous and the good-for-nothings, one who gives heat and light and beauty and the others who are like thorns to be discarded and burned.
Who is righteous? The “last words of David” in which he wraps himself with the cloak of righteousness must be contrasted with his reign, a reign that encompassed adultery, murder, assassination, and a host of sins. David seems to anticipate this by asserting his reign is a gift from God. Only God can provide success in the ruling over the kingdom.
And yet, it’s a bit difficult to equate David’s rule with righteousness, knowing what we do about him. And it’s a bit difficult for me to use the word righteous with those county commissioners that night, knowing what I knew about so many of them.
But on the screen of my memory I’m seeing those back-hoe diggers at work, going in a straight line through the community of those “have-nots.”
Psalm 132: 1-12 (13-18)
A Pilgrim Song
O God, remember David,
remember all his troubles!
And remember how he promised God,
Made a vow to the strong God of Jacob,
“I’m not going home,
and I’m not going to bed,
I’m not going to sleep,
Not even take time to rest,
Until I find a home for God,
a house for the strong God of Jacob.
Where is God’s home? There’s a scene that plays in my mind reading this. It’s a scene from real life.
Picture, if you will, a city park. The park is, more or less, on the side of a hill. At the bottom of the hill is a picnic pavilion. If you sit at the table of that pavilion and look up the hill your eyes are drawn to the standard brand Protestant church overlooking the park. The columns are stately. The steeple is prominent. The structure is massive.
On Sunday mornings, the members of the standard brand Protestant church gather in the pews of their sanctuary to sing their hymns accompanied by the massive organ. The sounds of their songs echo about the massive room. The preacher steps into the pulpit decked out in vestments to had down the Word to the saints.
On Sunday mornings, while the blessed are singing their hymns in the sanctuary, there are gathered about that pavilion in the park the participants in another worship. Many of these are the marginalized of society, many are rejected by society, many have no home but the sleeping bag they stored this morning in the various hiding places about the city. They, too, sing hymns. But their singing is, when they are lucky, accompanied only be a battery operated keyboard. Their pastor preaches too while robed in vestments. But they sit on the picnic table bench, or the rock wall, or on the ground. And on cold Sundays they are huddled about in clothing layered upon their bodies in a losing fight to keep out the chill. When they receive communion they come forward to be hugged by their pastor who then prays a special prayer for their souls, a prayer born of the pastor’s knowledge of their struggle.
“I’m not going to sleep, not even take time to rest, until I find a home for God.”
Revelation 1: 4b-8
The Master declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is, the God Who Was, The God About to Arrive. I’m the Sovereign Strong.” [The Message]
“The God About to Arrive,” is the God for whom we all wait in anxious anticipation. Is not our condition defined with these words, “The God About To Arrive”? Despite our best intentions, no matter the intensity of our prayers or the dedication of our lives, God always seems “The God About To Arrive.”
Is it possible for any of us to get any closer, to obtain any deeper understanding, other than that which is embraced in the words, “The God About To Arrive”?
John 18: 33-37
Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?” [The Message]
Has it occurred to you that this question of Jesus, addressed to Pilate, could be addressed to each of us? “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
I bow my head in shame when I’m honest with myself and realize how much my knowledge, my experience of, Jesus is based on what my Sunday school teachers and my pastors told me and how little of it is based on my own knowledge.
Pilate said, “Do I look like a Jew?
Actually, no Pilate, you don’t.
I’m hearing a question rattling about in my head. “Do I look like a Christian?”
Actually, no Guy, you don’t.
(Jesus says) Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.
The Statler Brothers sang a song once, “Would you recognize Jesus if you met him face to face? / Or would you wonder if he’s someone you couldn’t place?
2009-11-15 by David von Schlichten
Today I preached on the end of the world. I said that 2012 will probably not be the end but that, no matter when the end comes, we Christians have the assurance that God will give us eternal life and be with us through the disasters.
I also said that, in small ways, our worlds end all the time (death, divorce, etc.) but that God sends people and other blessings to help us rebuild.
The response to this sermon was highly positive. Many people said that the sermon was excellent and helpful.
How was your Sunday?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Sermon Feedback Sheet
2009-11-13 by David von Schlichten
How to Give the Pastor Feedback on the Sermon
A Guide for Parishioners
Most pastors are eager for feedback on their sermons. I sure am. Please let me know what works and what doesn’t.
Comments you can make at the door when shaking the pastor’s hand that the pastor would find helpful:
1. Tell the pastor how a part of the sermon relates to a specific part of your life.
2. Choose from one of the following descriptions:
Pastor, the sermon:
Made me happy
Made me think
Reminded me of a time when _______
Helped me to understand ______________
Inspired me to make a change in my life
Could have been better if you had done the following:________
3. Tell the pastor if the sermon was great, good, okay, or not one his better ones, and explain why.
4. Comments that are less helpful are: “Nice sermon.” “Interesting sermon.” “Your sermons are always good, Pastor.”
Other Parts of the Service
1. Was there a hymn you liked or disliked? Tell the pastor.
2. How was the music in general?
3. How were the prayers?
4. Come up with specific comments.
Pastor Talk To Me About...
2009-11-12 by David Howell
Our wonderful lay people are having some good things to say.
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