Flocking Together
2008-08-25 by Lin Smallwood

 Romans 12:9-12

A mixed-species feeding flock, mixed-species foraging flock or mixed hunting party is a flock of birds of different species that join each other to search for food.

A proverb says, "Birds of a feather flock together," but how do we live in this world with so many different types of people?  How can we tolerate people who are annoying and irritating or people who are mean spirited and spiteful?   How do we share our habitat and tolerate each other while sharing our resources? Yet we must.

Revenge is counter productive. An old Chinese proverb says “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”     
How could we love everyone without reservations?  How can we forgive those who get on our last nerve?

We must follow the example of our Lord, who loves us and also loves them.  I often think of my enemy as unloving yet God must love my enemy.
We must forgive our enemy and of course this is hard. To become on a level playing field with all persons is counter cultural. This kind of love and behavior as we see outlined in Roman's 12 is basically impossible without the power of God.

To deny ourselves and follow God's way must be our livelong struggle.  To answer God's call upon our lives and become those who get along with everyone, those who leave revenge to God, those who are generous and good, is to love and live with the heart of God.

May our hearts be colored with deep colorful crayons of God's love for us and others.

Empty Handed and Unworthy
2008-08-25 by Lin Smallwood

Exodus 3:1-15 

What do we really know about Moses from this passage? Moses sees God in the Burning Bush and God calls him to a task. God begins all of this activity. What a privilege to be called by God into God’s purposes!

Can we judge those who are called by our own standards ? Isn’t that God ‘s business? Who are we to suggest that we don’t think some people are really called by God ?

Even Moses thinks its strange that God has chosen him. His objections are quickly mentioned. I am sure that Moses wasn’t good at any of those things. Pastoral leadership needs to have God ‘s activity behind it or it isn’t really God’s call. Over and over candidates in ministry are asked to explain their call. I heard a beginning Pastor saying she was tired of being asked about her call. I told her that she needs to get over that. The call to ministry is tremendously important, hugely important. Just as God promises Moses that God will give him what he needs I think that God gives those God choses what they need. God’s choices are not clear to the human eye. God’s plans are not always knowable. It’s about God though, not about us. God says "You shall not go empty-handed." But so many of us are empty handed and unworthy. All of us in fact. We stand on holy ground only because God has made it so by God’s presence.

God can and does call the most unlikely people. Those called by God are not the beautiful people. Paul, Jacob, Amos, Jeremiah did not appear as born leaders. Calling persons without skills to great tasks is contrary to our modern views of succes.  A call is given, a call heard and received and a person is called out. The result of that process is a person who can become God’s instrument in the world.

In the Gospel lesson this week Jesus also calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. The movement is coming from God and we are to receive it.

"You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last ..." (John 15:16a).

 Mother Theresa heard her call and received and it she gave up her worldly life and personal life. She dedicated all to God.She writes:
Why must we give ourselves fully to God? Because God has given Himself to us. If God who owes nothing to us is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves? To give ourselves fully to God is a means of receiving God Himself. I for God and God for me. I live for God and give up my own self, and in this way induce God to live for me. Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our soul. ” p. 29 Mother Theresa Come Be My Light, The Private Writing of the “Saint of Calcutta " Doubleday 2007.

Exodus 3 makes only one characteristic essential, the call and authorization of God. We are empty handed and unworthy but we are called.

Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-08-25 by CJ Teets

Caroline Smallwood: "I have been a pastor for ten years and was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church in June of 2007. This is my fifth year serving the Sergeantsville United Methodist Church in Sergeantsville, New Jersey. This is my fourth small country church that I have served over the last 10 years. Sergeantsville is an active congregation reaching out to the community in a multitude of ways. I am especially interested in the Lay Speaking Ministry of the church and we are blessed to have 15 Lay Speakers at Sergeantsville. I believe developing and empowering the congregation is critical for the spiritual growth of the members. Also I am a member of the Order of St. Luke, which is dedicated to sacramental and liturgical scholarship, teaching, and practice. The Order of St. Luke is a group of dispersed women and men, lay and clergy, from many different denominations, seeking to live the sacramental life. Being a pastor is a second career for me, my first career was as an educator in the Department of Corrections in New Jersey. I graduated from New Brunswick Theological Seminary with an M.Div, Rutgers the State University with a M.Ed.,and Ohio Wesleyan University with a B.A."

Tom, Rosemary, and "Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-08-22 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to guest blogger Tom Steagald for bobbing in the tub. Scroll down to read his gold-medal thoughts on these week's readings, as well as a contribution from Rosemary Beales.

Below are highlights from some of the articles for this week in Lectionary Homiletics.

Pastoral Implications”

Carol J. Cook writes of the importance of names, averring that naming, according to Genesis, is “an extension of creation itself” (p.35). Carol recalls Erik Homberger renaming himself Erikson, meaning “son of himself.” Names are intimate with identity and, the Bible teaches, even grants access to one's power. Cook adds the point that Christ, in a sense, gives the disciples the power to “name” him.

Sermon Reviews”

Brandy H. Mullins summarizes a sermon by John Jewell that lifts up the following about Jesus: that he has physical stamina, that he has emotional vitality, and that he has spiritual passion. Who is Jesus? Jewell's sermon sparkles with some of Jesus' facets.

Preaching the Lesson”

Anna Carter Florence asks, “How do make the move from what people say . . . to what you say about Jesus?” (p.39).

A Sermon”

Scott Cowdell underlines in his sermon “No Christ without His Church” that the Church needs Christ to survive. “We never really get the one free of the other,” he writes, adding, “Today's Gospel links the Church's life to Jesus' life [ . . . ]” (pp.39, 40).

My sermon is at the cafe. I hope you'll drink it and offer your review.

Wishing I were Eric Liddell, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

I think you are right
2008-08-22 by Tom Steagald

Kathleen Norris says something to the effect that God is not obliged to appear when we call, but the least we can do is put ourselves in position should God decide to show-up. I think--though you would know better than I--that this corresponds to a Puritan idea, "getting in the way of holiness," or something like that.

It might be worth discussing as to whether "by the renewing of your minds" is active or passive... that is, if transformation is God's work while "renewing" is ours, that by--as I said maybe in the first blog--"thinking on these things," or doing the spiritual practices to "fit us" for the holiness that only God can make happen. Jesus, for his part, went up the mountain, which is an allusion to Sinai, of course, and a metaphor for us of doing what we need to do to approach God (in hopes God will do that generative or regenerative work of displacing us!).


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