2009-08-05 by Rina Terry

There's an interesting intersection where complaints-needs-temptation-grace all
collide.  How does the gospel lesson illuminate that intersection?
  submitted by Jack V.

 I'd love to give an answer as good as Jack's question but I think my reality is that I am tempted to manipulate the gospel to salve spots that have been rubbed raw by just the type of complaintants he mentioned.  When I'm able to clear my head, I realize that they do not want to be satisfied.  Their mission is to complain, stir things up, and draw attention to themselves in the way that's most effective for them. 

And, then, there are folks who have way too much time on their hands; believe they could do the job better than the pastor (Monday Morning Quarterbacks, yes--well, Monday Morning Pastors).  For the most part, I think they are to be pitied not appeased and invited to come up with solutions to their problems. 

 I had a boss once who told me never to bring him a problem to which I did not have at least three solutions.  Smart guy. 

So, I answer all complaints with questions which addresses someone's need for attention:

Maude, where do you see God working in this?

Harold, how do you believe Jesus is present with us in this?

Hortense, what has your prayerfulness revealed to you about this?

Perhaps that doesn't overtly offer grace but it's far more gracious than giving in to my temptation to say what's really roiling around on this flaming weapon called my tongue.

Do Not Complain Among Yourselves
2009-08-03 by Rina Terry

You tell 'em, Jesus!  And, while you're at it, come to my worship service on Sunday and tell my congregation!

As I read G. Lee Ramsey, Jr's Pastoral Implications, I remembered sermons I've heard in which the preacher took on the persona of Jesus and chastised the listeners as though (s)he were Jesus addressing the crowd.

While it's quite tempting, it's dangerous.  Who amongst us would not like to say, on occasion, "Just be quiet; stop complaining and let me do my job!  Don't you see that I'm the one Jesus called here."  When congregations question our authenticity as pastors, as preachers, it is difficult to suppress the urge to speak as though Jesus' words were naturally our words. 

Admittedly, reading this discourse, I felt the urge to go off on a little mind tangent toward the chronic complainers in my congregation.  Ramsey helped me focus on the text and not my own issue.  I was pointed to Jesus' action-- pointing beyond himself--and my focus shifted.  I am not meant to focus on myself but on the one who called me.

Now that I've cleared that hurdle, I can move myself out of the way and better engage the text. 

My Grandmother's Faith
2009-08-03 by Rina Terry

As I read Mary Lin Hudson's Preaching the Lesson article, I thought of the many injustices I've both experienced and watched.  But "Who's making supper?" immediately made me think of my grandmother's kitchen.  There was always a loaf of bread on the table and always a pot of something steamy on the stove.  My grandmother raised eleven children on what is called peasant food but it was filling and, I suppose, cheap. 

Some called her a simple-minded woman.  She never learned to speak English and I couldn't understand Italian so we communicated through food.  Mangia, mangia, I did understand.  So did anyone who walked through the door. 

One habit my grandmother had, and I always thought of it as odd, was the way she was about "bread."  That's right, bread.  She would kiss the bread before she gave it to me.  And, if bread accidentally dropped on the floor, visibly upset, she would snatch it up, mumble something that sounded like a prayer, wipe it off and set it back on the table.  I'll admit I thought that was just a bit simple.

When, as an adult in seminary, I began to explore the concept of "my theology," as was the vogue those three years, I realized that whatever else it all meant, I had a sacramental theology. 

It appears my grandmother did, as well.  To the extreme, perhaps, but nonetheless a living into the sacrament in the most ordinary everyday parts of her life.  The loaf of bread on the table was, for her, always, truly, the Bread of Life.  Her rosary beads either in her apron pocket, or in her hands, and the loaf of bread on the table--symbols for her of the divine presence.  She lived her life in an attitude of worship.  We should all be so simple minded, perhaps.


Revving The Exegetical Engine
2009-08-02 by Rina Terry

Tonight, I've begin the trek toward the August 9th service.  When a much younger woman, I used to drag race.  Part of the race strategy was intimidating the other racers by revving your engine.  Mine was a 327 cubic inch with a 4 barrel carburetor inside a '68 Grecian Green Chevelle Super Sport.  I still miss that car.

Well, not that we want to intimidate, but revving our engines as we begin our exegetical process helps put some passion in our preparation.

This week, I have written the Psalm into the Opening Prayer rather than include a Psalter in the Order of Worship.

OPENING PRAYER  (in unison) Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord.  Please hear us as we tell you what we need.  We know we are sinners and if you looked only at our sins we would be condemned, but there is forgiveness in you and we are grateful.  We wait for you, Lord, our souls wait and in your word we hope.  We watch for you like those who lay awake through the night, and can not wait for the morning.  Our hope is in you, O Lord for with you there is steadfast love and with you the power to redeem.  We lift up our praise to you, the one who redeems us! (based on Psalm 130)

I enjoyed that so much that I used the Ephesians text as a basis for the Prayer of Confession.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION  (In Unison) We do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit of God; yet, there are times when we do not speak the truth, when we allow our anger to make room for sin.  We need your help, Lord, to keep evil from coming out of our mouths.  We want what we say to be useful for building one another up.  We want to speak words of grace.  Help us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven us.  Help us imitate the love of Christ.  Amen. 

ASSURANCE OF PARDON  The Lord is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.            

So, my colleagues, rev your engines and get ready for the race to the pulpit.

Diana Butler Bass and The Bread of Life
2009-08-01 by Rina Terry

As I continue unpacking and getting oriented to my new location, I find books that I love.  We were privileged to have Diana Butler Bass as one of our presenters this year in Atlanta.  I love her book, The Practicing Congregation: Imaging A New Old Church

It has helped me sort out the tension I've been feeling between the gospel text for August 2nd and the tension in my new appointment.  I'm not certain if my sermon will inspire or offend--probably both given the nature of church, but it was challenging and uplifting to write. 

Bass' understanding of the differences between tradition and custom, routine, convention and endowment, were extremely helpful. As I engaged in my exegetical work, her treatment of the tensions that arise in congregational life helped me better reflect on how receiving Jesus, the Bread of Life, might put congregational tension, that confuses tradition with custom, convention, routine and endowment, at ease.

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