What a River!
2009-05-21 by David von Schlichten

Wow, the lectures, sermons and music this week have been gushing with wisdom, beauty and grace. I think I'm in love.

The venerable, down-to-earth yet eloquent Fred Craddock challenged us to respond to the Gift with "must needs go." He was wise and concrete in gospelic ways. Amazing. Poignant. Miraculous.

Brian Blount called us to reach out to "else" people elsewhere. We are to dare to venture beyond the same people we always minister to, the people in our pews who are a lot like us. Reach to else people in else places.

It occurred to me that "else" is an anagram for "See L," as in "See Elohim" and "See Lord."

Diana Butler Bass gave an uplifting lecture about misperceptions of the Church in the main culture and media. The Church is not in decline but is shifting. We need to learn and re-view our history, challenging the old meta-narrative.

In addition, Bass suggested the image of Church as river, on which we all flow together, helping each other not drown. And God is in the rapids.

Thanks be to God for Bass in the River!

Tonight: more music. What balm.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

The Implications and Side B
2009-05-20 by David von Schlichten

Mark Hanson challenged us this morning to consider what implications we want our sermons to have for our hearers. What did you come up with?

I want my parishioners to hear the goodness of the Good News in a way that compels them to do more and greater acts of love toward God and other people, including acts that overcome divisions through Christ. 

Otis Moss, III. gave us a stunning sermon this afternoon in which he called us to be patient when we are on Side B, that is, those times of difficulty and obscurity. Moss noted that Jesus spent most of his life, i.e., the first thirty or so years, on Side B. We are to be patient on Side B, open to the blessings God gives us on that side as he prepares us for Side A.

What a challenge that is. As I listen with gnawing envy to Moss's brilliant talent as a preacher, I find myself longing to be on Side A, that is, a renowned and virtuoso preacher. God grant me patience on Side B and to be open to the possibility that Side A may end up being something other than what I expect.

I'd love to hear from others. Jump in!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Unity and The Festival
2009-05-20 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Stephen Schuette for his reflections about the theme of unity for this Sunday. He is indeed correct that one of the Church's greatest challenges is dealing with internal struggles in a way that "answers" Christ's prayer for us to be one.

Unity - overcoming division - is the theme of this year's festival, and many of our speakers have addressed this theme in exciting ways.

Tuesday morning, for instance, Tom Long, with his usual brilliance, spoke about the economics of the gospel of Luke and how that gospel challenges us toward radical unity.

According to Luke's economics, Long contends, we are to care for the poor in radical, far-reaching ways. Then, when the Kingdom comes in that great, final way at the End, we will not have to hang our heads in shame when those same poor, now exalted and seated at the head table, welcome us.

To underline this vision, Long told the story of a man and his son giving all their change to a homeless man. The father and son then realized that they needed a coin in order to use a pay phone, so they called after the homeless man.

"Could you give us a coin to make a phone call?"

The homeless man held out the money he had just received from them and said, "Here, take what you need."

That is Luke's Christo-economics, and it is an economics of unity. Alleluia.

I hope others will post. Also, you can sign up at the Festival to be a blogger for one week during the coming months. Give blogging a try. You'll find it fulfilling and, well, unifying.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

2009-05-19 by Stephen Schuette

    As a collection of texts the selections of this week have to be some of the most challenging of all the lections to address as a group.  The tension between the rupture of community in the actions of Judas and the need for unity certainly presented a challenge to the early church.  One answer given in Acts is to draft a replacement for Judas to preserve the wholeness of the witness.  There was another answer from the Coptic community in the Gospel of Judas suggesting that Judas was about genuinely “fulfilling the scriptures” in a way that was in harmony with rather than in opposition to Jesus and God’s plan.

     While not entirely resolving these tensions – which is perhaps the genius of scripture – it’s impossible to engage these texts without being keenly aware of the present context.  Looking at it from another perspective, perhaps it was important for the story to suggest that the real challenge to the Church lies not outside the community but within.  Isn’t that true today?  And wasn’t it true from the very beginning in the Letters of Paul?  Even when there were “outsiders” trying to confuse the followers (in Galatia), Paul’s interest is in re-establishing the unity of the Church from within and drawing them together.  He didn’t suggest using a sword to rid the world of the “circumcizers.”  Paul’s earlier life was about persecuting others.  But now he is about building strength from within.

     Read the book UnChristian by David Kinnaman and you understand the skepticism about the Church that exists.  Every pastor knows there are always, at any moment, a thousand things that can cause people to go spinning off in all kinds of directions.  Sometimes we even participate in the “spinning.”  But there is only One Thing that can hold us together.  That this One Thing is stronger than the thousand is an act of faith and witness that is sorely needed if Jesus’ prayer is to be fulfilled among us.

Blogging in Atlanta!
2009-05-19 by David von Schlichten

It is exhilarating being at the Festival of Homiletics. Even my twelve-hour drive from Pennsylvania was kind-of exhilarating (kind-of). In any case, I will be blogging about the Festival all week, and I encourage others to post about the festival, as well.

Of course, if folks want to blog about this Sunday's lessons, that would be great, too. Bring on the blogging!

I am thinking that I might preach on Ascension Day this Sunday. Tonight Desmond Tutu said that, because Christ is ascended and at the Father's right hand, we are, as well.

I've never heard that point, and it strikes me as important to proclaim to parishioners. After all, many of us feel powerless, but if we are, in a sense, at the right hand (the place of power), then we are powerful indeed. The divine-dynamos makes us so.

Part of that divine-dynamos is found in prayer, which is not powerful because of us but because of God (how often we forget this point). Tonight Desmond Tutu lifted up prayer, which he says contributed to the fall of Apartheid. Alleluia!

What would you like to share? Please plunge into the hot tub. The water's fantastic!

Yours in Christ (in Atlanta),

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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