Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-09-07 by CJ Teets

William G. Carter.

Bill serves as the pastor and head of staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. He is also a highly regarded jazz pianist who frequently weaves his music into his ministry.

Learn more about Bill.





Dean Snyder and Anna Carter Florence
2008-09-05 by David von Schlichten

We are grateful to Dean Snyder for his blog entries this week. Please scroll down to swim around in his thoughts.

A highlight from this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics is Anna Carter Florence's “Preaching the Lesson” article, in which she argues that most of us, in quoting Jesus' statement about being with us, ignore or miss the context. The context is fighting. The pericope declares that there will always be some sort of fighting loose in the Church, but Christ will be with us anyway.

By the way, I dreamed the other night that Anna Carter Florence and I were working on a project together. Wouldn't that be marvelous?

My sermon is written and will be up shortly in the cafe.

Memorization

I have been experimenting with memorizing passages for Sunday as part of studying them. I find the exercise fun and nourishing. By the way, it's amazing to me how easy it has been to memorize passages.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Agreeing and Candidates
2008-09-04 by David von Schlichten

Dean,

Thank you for your blog entries. I find especially useful your thoughts about what it means to be in agreement.

I envision Barack Obama and Sarah Palin sitting in a church nave full of people. Swirling around them are arguments of various degrees, but Barack and Sarah, at least at this moment, are praying together for a healthful, constructive campaign and election. The Father hears their agreement and blesses them.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





To agree
2008-09-02 by Dean Snyder

I am brooding more and more on the question of what it means to agree. Jesus is quoted as saying: “[I]f two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”(vs 19) The agreement he is talking about is surely more than casual or superficial. It is sumfwnevw -- which means to speak with one harmonious voice. 

It is not agreement in the sense of compromise or casual agreement to avoid conflict or even agreeing to disagree but a working through of thoughts and feelings to a place of profound consesus and togetherness.  

It strikes me that profound agreement is a rare thing even in our most committed relationships, and it is especially rare in church. It requires vulnerability, the courage to face our differences patiently, honesty, a tolerance for difference combined with a conviction that differences can be worked through to a place of agreement and collaboration.

My leaning at this point is to focus this Sunday on agreeing and its power to transform the world. My congregation calls itself a reconciling congregation -- not just a welcoming or open congregation. The idea is that it is not enough just to accept our differences and disagreements but to work them through to a place a reconciliation and unity. The power is in the process of building true agreement that transcends our difference. It seems to me this requires a much deeper quality of relationship than most of us have the courage to develop. 





About disagreement and agreement in church
2008-08-31 by Dean Snyder

Matthew 18: 15-20

 

Hi. I’m Dean Snyder, pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, and I’ve been invited to blog in preparation for next Sunday. I am just back from a wonderful two weeks of vacation so I am peddling as fast as I can to get ready for Sunday.  

The Gospel for Sunday -- Matthew 18: 15-20 –- is a situational text for me. I have used it during times when I was either anticipating a period of intense conflict or in the process of recovering afterwards. As I prepare for Sunday I have been hoping to see it in some new ways, with some fresh insights. 

To me verses 15-17 are obviously Matthew’s post-resurrection instructions to the congregation he leads, probably the Gentile-Jewish congregation in Antioch. The verses outline a relatively straight-forward method for dealing with congregational discipline – how to handle sin in the life of congregational members. Matthew’s congregation would have included a diversity of ethnic backgrounds, cultural understandings of morality, and spiritual traditions where disagreements about theology and practice may have been particularly intense. He may have really needed a clear process for dealing with disagreements about behavior.    

The very earliest manuscripts refer only to how to handle church members who sin. Later manuscripts –and most manuscripts-- add “against you.” This might suggest that Matthew’s congregation learned over time that it needed to make it clear that this passage was not meant to encourage witch-hunting but only to deal with congregation members who harmed another member. The sin has to be an action that hurts another member, and it is the responsibility of the member who is injured to make an effort to repair the situation. 

Matthew’s process seems clear, orderly and fair. The purpose of the process is reconciliation. Matthew’s instructions about what to do if reconciliation is not achieved are fascinating. If the congregation agrees that the offending behavior is wrong and the offending congregation member refuses to listen to the congregation, “let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”   

Stanley Hauerwas in his commentary on Matthew in the Brazos series (Brazos Press, 2006) interprets this to mean excommunication. “[T]hey are to be treated as a tax collector or Gentile, that is, as someone who is no longer privileged to be a participant in the community of those called by Jesus. … Jesus clearly implies, just as he had with the analogy of our hands and feet, that his new people must excommunicate.” (p. 165) Hauerwas adds that ultimate purpose of even excommunication is reconciliation, but still the ultimate act of discipline is to treat the offender like those not accepted within the community – tax collectors and Gentiles. 

The irony here is that Matthew portrays Jesus as one who has a special mission to reach tax collectors and sinners (Mat. 9: 10-13) and as one who warned the superficially righteous that tax collectors and prostitutes would get into the kingdom of God before them. (Mat. 21: 31) In her  “Preaching the Lesson” column for next Sunday (http://www.goodpreacher.com/journalread.php?id=533) Anna Carter Florence uses this irony to suggest, if I read her correctly, that we ought not to give up on these folk. I wonder if there is any sermonic gold to be mined in this irony or does this twist Matthew’s meaning too much? 

My personal leaning, however, as I try to get a handle on next Sunday’s sermon is to focus on verses 19 and 20. One of the questions about these verses is their relationship with the previous discussion. W.F Albright and C. S. Mann in their Anchor Bible commentary on Matthew (Doubleday, 1971) believe verses 19 and 20 should not necessarily be understood in the context of the previous discussion. “It is unlikely that this verse is in its original context,’ they write about verse 19, “for while vs. 18 dealt with conduct on the part of the community’s members, vs. 19 is an exhortation to faithfulness in prayer.” 

They add; “Presumably this verse found its way to its present position because of the occurrence of earth and heaven in both verses.’ (p. 221) 

At this point in my rambling thinking I am fascinated by the emphasis in verse 19 on agreement. “[I]f two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Here are two questions I need to wrestle with next: 1) Is this statement to be understood only or primarily within the context of Matthew’s discussion on church discipline or is this meant to be a more global statement about the power of agreement among Jesus’ followers? and 2) Is it possible to understand agreement as actually having this kind of power?

Obviously I have lots more work to do before Sunday, some of which I intend to share here. I would be grateful for your thoughts on this passage.





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