Bread and Indigestion
2009-07-30 by Rina Terry

Having just come to a new appointment, I am fully aware of the "don't scare the people by making any changes!" 

That's a sad-ass rule given the current state of mainline churches.  We should be outright fired if we don't make changes.  Yet, on my first Communion Sunday in a new appointment, as we UMers say, it seemed right to stick to the standard liturgy in the Book of Worship, available to the congregation in the Hymnal. 

Little did I know I was about to make an egregious error.  No one had "informed" the new pastor that they are "used to" receiving the bread and cup in one way only and that I should have put on my omniscient cleric so that I would know their Only One Way To Do It.  It is, after all, inscribed as the 11th Commandment. 

Bread.  Give us the bread we want, the way we want it, when we want it.  Don't get too theological on us.  Don't remind us that it's all about God, what God did and how God did it.  It was for our good, for heaven's sake, so why shouldn't we have it our way. 

And, while you're at it, make sure you choose one of the twelve hymns we know and don't make us learn any new ones. 

You know, white bread cut in perfect-sized cubes, purple juice not filled too full so I don't get any on my fingers (sticky), followed by that heart-warming, chest-swelling, all time favorite, "In The Garden." 

All that stuff Jesus said, it was all mystical and divine.  We really aren't supposed to understand any of that.

 





Thou art the Man
2009-07-30 by Roger Talbott

As John 6 and Ephesians 4 lead me to the conclusion that the “calling to which we have been called . . . to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” at the very least requires us to share our gifts (including, literally, our bread, with each other), I find myself more and more uncomfortable with Nathan’s story about the rich man who stole the poor man’s ewe.

 

As a chocoholic, I ponder a New York Times article about the economics and politics of cacao growing in Venezuela. It’s complicated. The same could be said for the cup of coffee that I’m drinking. Yes, these crops can produce exports that could improve the overall economy of the world’s poorest nations. But, corporate growers of the crops coveted by North Americans and Europeans drive small farmers off land that their corrupt governments have never allowed them to title. The land that could be growing food for local people, instead, grows luxuries for someone like me whose waistline proclaims that I already have too much to eat.

 

I am the man, indeed. 





Lectionary Homiletics Exegesis for John 6:24-35
2009-07-28 by Rina Terry

As I read the exegetical article in Lectionary Homiletics today, I thought a great deal about what it means to be "under occupation."  In some senses, pastors often find themeselves under the occupation of congregational factions that wish to maintain their power and control or bolster the in-crowd's status and decision-making power.  

When this happens, the body of Christ can become impoverished.  Over time, people will begin to show signs of spiritual starvation.  If the pastor and members of the congregation have the courage to begin to implement change, or restore focus to the things of God, actual war can break out and, while there may not be bloodshed, there can be the kind of vindictiveness or maliciousness that does great violence.  Such perpetrators have, as Mitzie Minor points out, taken the "bread without renewing their way of living..."

As I read, the article's emphasis on the four verbs characterizing the responses of authentic disciples:  seeing, believing, knowing and receiving began to do a dance in my mind's eye.  As we teach, preach, disciple members of the congregation, we would do well to remember those verbs.  I am considering how I can make this a very "verby" sermon that leads into receiving the elements of the sacrament.





Intro
2009-07-28 by Rina Terry

Should have introduced myself.  I am a UM pastor appointed at Cape May UMC in Cape May, NJ.  I've been involved with the Festival of Homiletics for the past seven years and have met many of you. 

 I spent seven years as Supervisor of Religious Services at Bayside State Prison, an adult male facility. 

 Yesterday I spent the day just living with the texts.  I read them periodically or think on them throughout the day.  I try to find the connections between living my faith, living into and through the texts.





Holes that Must be Filled
2009-07-28 by Stephen Schuette

John’s Gospel is filled with dialogue in which the communication never quite happens.  It’s clear, too, that the problem isn’t with Jesus.  It’s John’s way of inviting us into the depth of this mystery that is beyond our typical way of “seeing.”

            It reminded one colleague of this seminary exchange…  The student, in frustration, confronted the teacher, “I keep trying to get a straight answer from you.  Why can’t you just give me a straight answer?”  The teacher responded, “I’ll give you a straight answer when you ask the right questions.”

            OK, so we’ve got a big hole in us.  Everyone has it.  And we keep trying to fill it.  It’s there in the child who is in the store and doesn’t understand why they can’t get something and the longing for it brings tears from a deeply injured self, even though the injury is only in the child’s perception.  It’s in the dementia resident who travels from room to room in the institution in which they live collecting this and that.  I think it was there in one who embezzled funds after losing a brother in Vietnam and a child to teen cancer.  It’s there when we confuse what we merely want with what we think we need.

            And we can hoard even more than money or things.  Some may hoard “rights and wrongs,” that competitive scorecard that is an attempt to buttress a weak self-image.  People can also hoard the injuries they’ve experienced, locking them in victimhood because at least that’s something that identifies them.

            I stand in awe of the claim that Jesus makes.  “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”





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