Casting Parts in a Play
2008-08-04 by Deb Mechler

This fall I’ll be directing the music for “Annie Get Your Gun” in our local community theater.  We have auditions this week.  It makes me think about Peter and Jesus.  If I were to cast these two characters in the drama of Matthew 14:22-33, what would I be looking for in each person?

            I am also reminded of one of the rules of acting: never upstage the character who is the focus of the scene.  Don’t draw attention to yourself and away from them, or make them turn their back on the audience to talk to you.  Peter has a way of violating that rule!





Faith and Doubt Share the Same Host
2008-08-04 by Deb Mechler

Matthew 14:22-33 

My sermons in the past few months, off and on, have been about what a disciple looks like.  My congregation’s stated mission is “to make disciples for Jesus Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds,” so it made sense to think about what that means.  The goal is not to be perfect people or spiritual giants, just folks who believe what Jesus says and try to do what he asks.

            Most of the time, anyway.  If we set the bar too high, nobody qualifies.  Which is ironic, because Jesus set the bar really high in his “sermon on the mount,” but grace covers that, thank God.  And grace allows us to be called God’s own, even though both faith and doubt (not to mention fear) coexist within each of us even on our best days.  If we ever wonder whether we deserve to be called Jesus’ disciples, Peter gives us all hope.  He is impulsive and stubborn, but also inquisitive and earnest. The resident king of drama. I like him because he is paying attention, which is what Frederick Buechner says is the most important quality of faith. (Secrets in the Dark, p. 183) 

It is the conclusion I have also come to over the years.  Faith is demonstrated by living out the Great Commandment as much as possible.  Paying attention helps me more than anything else in a life of loving God and loving other people.  I might stumble quite a bit, even fail miserably and publicly like Peter, but God forgives and loves and reminds me to remain aware.  The opportunities and discoveries that ensue prevent a lot of remorse over the past. 

            Buechner compares faith to writing fiction in his essay “Faith and Fiction.” (ibid., p. 168-183)  We have far less control over either one than we might assume before we get into the thick of them.  They are more about what happens to you and how you see those events than about what you conjure up on your own mind. 

            He describes faith as “Less a position on than movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch.” (p. 173)  “To have faith is to respond to what we see by longing for it the rest of our days; by trying to live up to it and toward it through all the wonderful and terrible things; by breathing it in like air and growing strong on it; by looking to see it again and see it better.  To lose faith is to stop looking.” (p. 178) 

            The only reason Jesus could say that Peter had any “little faith” at all was because Peter knew where to look for help when he was sinking.  If he had forgotten which one of them actually possessed the power to walk on water, he was reminded in a hurry that his name meant “rock,” and it was Jesus whose name means “save.”  So he made his greatest confession while he was flailing in the water: “Lord, save me!” 

In spite of your impulsiveness and doubt, Peter, you are still a beloved disciple, and so am I, conflicted as I am. 





Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-08-04 by CJ Teets

The Reverend Deb Mechler, a pastor in the Reformed Church in America serving the Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Royal, Iowa.  Her past vocations as an education and youth ministry director, Christian education and family ministry consultant, and five years of nursing home chaplaincy have given her a rich background for ministry in the parish.  Her M. Div. was earned through Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Deb derives pleasure from observing God's sense of humor, as her husband was raised in the Lutheran church and is now an elder in his RCA church, while she was born and bred RCA and is now happily serving her beloved friends in the ELCA!




"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights, Rosemary and Tom
2008-08-01 by David von Schlichten

(My title for this entry reminds me of "Scarborough Fair.") 

Thank you to guest blogger Rosemary Beales and also for yeasty contributions to chew on from Tom Steagald. Scroll down to read both.

I find stimulating the idea of connecting the temptation narrative with this feeding miracle. I'll have to think on that.

Below are some highlights from "Lectionary Homiletics" for this week:

"Exegesis"

Osvaldo D. Vena points out that no one is surprised by Jesus' ability to feed over five-thousand people. Jesus is the liberator, so it is natural for him to provide food.

"Theological Themes"

Lewis A. Parks stresses hospitality and challenges us toward greater hospitality, borrowing from Douglas John Hall to do so.

"Pastoral Implications"

Carol J. Cook recalls the poignant and profound Raymond Carver short story, "A Small, Good Thing," which features bread-eating and the power of community and food in the face of grief.

I recommend you take the time to read that marvelous short story, as well as Carver's story, "Cathedral." Salubrious.

I'm off to Gettysburg (talk about nourishment). I'll be back Saturday night, then and now and always

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Matthew being Matthew
2008-07-31 by Tom Steagald

I don't know what that title means, except I have been reading about the intrigue with the Red Sox and "Manny being Manny"...

I do find it interesting that that in both Luke and Matthew the first of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness have to do with the making of bread. I am guessing it is not only Jesus' personal post-fasting hunger, but also the hunger of oppressed multitudes that is the fulcrum of the Temptor's seduction. "Since you are the Son of God, turn the very many stones into very many loaves and feed the very many masses."

People still do not live by bread alone, these 11 chapters later, but here he feeds them. Now, the prospect of his death (except by starvation) is not yet on the radar... but in today's lesson it is via the death of the Baptizer. Does that make a difference.

Also, now there is little with which Jesus can work (whereas in the wilderness there were plenteous stones). Does "Matthew being Matthew" implicitly or explicitly tie these stories together at all? Empty wilderness, crowded sea shore, plenty/scarcity, no/yes?

Another thought: pasturing the people here, providing still water in the next episode--could this be a part of a midrash on Psalm 23? Just a thought. 

 





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