Called To Serve
2008-06-11 by Daniel Hale
What does it mean to be Christian? Jesus, in our Gospel lesson, noted the harvest is ready, but those who are to help reap are few. This is simply a metaphor for there are many out there who need to hear the Good News proclaimed so that they can be brought into the Kingdom of Heaven. Since there are few helpers, Jesus calls his 12 apostles who are to be witnesses to Jesus and he gave them authority to cast out demons and to heal the sick. These signs are not just “proofs” of Christ’s Messiah-ship, but they are evidence that the healing Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near. His instructions are simple: don’t take anything extra, not even any money, but trust God and the provisions that you need, will be provided as you go about witnessing to the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus also gave them a “heads up,” warning. Expect opposition; expect persecution; expect to be brought before courts, both ecclesiastical and judicial; expect to be flogged and punished. This is how Jesus was to be treated, the followers, the students should not expect anything different.Yet don’t worry, the Holy Spirit will give you what you need to say when you are brought before the authorities. One needed not prepare what to say. Jesus warned that this will hurt the families; brother will be at odds with brother, and so on. Everyone will hate you because of your belief in Jesus as the Messiah. So, I ask again the question: what does it mean to be Christian? What are we supposed to do as Christians? The late Rev. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German pastor during the Third Reich. For him, to be a Christian meant to stand in opposition to Hitler and how he was trying to change the church into a Nazi institution. He stood in opposition to anything that would replace Jesus Christ as first loyalty. The result of his faithfulness was that he was arrested, imprisoned, and executed. The lesson for today was written for all followers of Jesus Christ. We are to be open with our faith in Jesus. We are not to deny it; but to share it where opportunity arises. The other day, as I was parking at the church, there were three people standing around outside waiting for the beginning of the AA meeting. One asked me if I was the pastor. When I answered, “Yes,” he continued to ask, “What does the word, Presbyterian, mean.” I answered his question. This continued into a discussion about Bibles, which ones are the best to read, and so on. Rather than come inside and begin “work” at my desk, I spent a good 10 minutes with some strangers (only to me) talking about the Bible and faith. To proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ does not mean we have to have the Bible memorized. It does mean that we take our faith seriously, that we study the Bible and pray regularly. It does mean that, like Jesus said, we trust the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to speak when the opportunity arises. When we die and face our Lord, I believe that I will be more comfortable saying I tried, even if I failed, than I was afraid to try at all. Even when we do “fail” (whatever that means) we can usually learn a valuable lesson that will help us to spiritually grow.
Mutual Hospitality in Genesis 18
2008-06-10 by Tom Steagald
I am wondering how long it would take for Sarah to prepare the bread, for the servant to prepare the calf (from the herd to the slaughter to the oven/spit)... which is to say that while Abraham's hospitality has always been championed here (and Sarah's too), the guests also display a kind of hospitality in terms of their patience with Abraham. If activity can be seen as hospitable, cannot patience be seen the same way? The strangers allow him time to do all he has pledged/promised.
I wonder what they looked like, what they did, there at the tree, while Abraham was off securing them food, etc.
The promise of God comes in the words of the strangers; indeed, there is a potent point of reference in debates about immigrants, etc. But that promise comes after Abraham has busied himself and his family with the tasks of hospitality, and as a benediction of sorts to that work. I wonder if the strangers among us are waiting for us to do all we have pledged before they pronounce a blessing upon us...or will the blessing be withheld because we did not do what we promised?
The Last Laugh
2008-06-09 by Daniel Hale
Recently I was reading my uncle’s autobiography. He, my mother, and their siblings grew up in Korea during its occupation by Japan. In his autobiography there was a picture of Japanese soldiers patrolling through rail cars that were crowded, standing room only. He reported that the soldiers were rude to the Koreans. What struck me as odd was that the Koreans on the train were all laughing. My uncle wrote that that was their response to the fear and humiliation they were suffering at the hand of the Japanese. Fear and laughter are related. Sometimes we laugh when we are anxious and afraid.
Abraham laughed when the LORD told him (Gen 17:17) that he was to have a son by Sarah. It seemed absurd to him that this could happen. After that Sarah was in the tent when the three visitors met Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre. There, again, the Lord stated that Sarah was to conceive and bear a son. Sarah was listening from inside the ten; she laughed at the prediction made by the visitors. A year later Sarah gave birth to her son, whose name was Isaac. Isaac means “He laughs.” Abraham had laughed; Sarah had laughed. Their laughter represented their lack of faith, even in the midst of their faith. Now the Lord laughed; He had the last laugh. What was impossible and absurd happened; a child was born to a woman who was too old to have a child. Every time they called, or thought about Isaac’s name, Abraham and Sarah could rejoice over the fact that the Lord had the last laugh.
I love humor. I love to laugh at a funny joke. I really like to laugh, also, because life sometimes becomes too serious for me. I will avoid most movies that try to make serious statements about a topic. When I go to the movies, it is to get away from the seriousness of life, at least for a little while. I would rather watch Looney Tunes, Firehouse Dog, The Chipmunks, or something in that movie genre.
Perhaps things aren’t so funny when we observe the pain and suffering that encompasses the entire world. We have the tragedy created by human evil. We have the tragedy that comes from natural events, such as earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, and so on. We have the tragedy in humanity such as birth defects, diseases, mental illness, etc.
What’s the best way to face and endure such injustice and pain? From a Christian perspective the best way to face it is by our trust in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ holds out the promise that we, too, shall be resurrected and transformed. Right now life is too often not a very funny matter, except as an expression of human anxiety. But the resurrection is the last laugh; again, it was created by a loving God. As we say in the Eucharist: “Christ has died for us; Christ has risen; Christ will come again” (PCUSA Book of Common Worship, page 71). Do we dare trust that the Lord will bring to pass this last laugh?
Our guest blogger this week is
2008-06-08 by CJ Teets
Daniel Hale, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, VA. He received his D. Min. and Th. M degrees from UTS/PSCE in which he majored in Pastoral Counseling. His two main areas of interest are Personality Disorders and using Family Systems theory in congregations. He is certified as Diplomate in the A. A. P. C. After nearly 20 years in full time counseling ministry Daniel returned to the pastorate. He is married to Marcia, and they have a 14 year old daughter.
Kate Crawford; "Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-06-06 by David von Schlichten
Guest blogger Kate Crawford and I have been enjoying an effervescent exchange here in the hot tub. Scroll down to read our entries, and then add one of your own.
Click on Share It! and then Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics to soak up David F. Watson's “Exegesis” article.
Below are highlights from some of the other articles for this week in Lectionary Homiletics.
Douglas M. Koskela writes a bit on differences between Eastern and Western Christianity. He explains that, in the West, salvation has been understood primarily as being about the forgiveness of sin, whereas, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, salvation has been thought of primarily in terms of healing. For the East, sin is a disease afflicting humanity. Jesus cures us by becoming us.
Koskela underlines that these differences are emphases only and that a comprehensive understanding of salvation will include both aspects.
Among other points, Elizabeth Johnson Walker writes that, in this text, there are three “distinct witnesses to what happens when one dares to have faith in Jesus' teachings” (p.18): 1. Matthew the tax collector, who leaves behind mammon to become a disciple; 2. the ruler who, to save his daughter, humbles himself before the Ruler; and 3. the woman who believes that Jesus can heal her.
Walker also makes the important point that we are not to use our faith to dominate others but, among other things, for stability.
“Preaching the Lesson”
Anna Carter Florence writes, “The tension between what we do and who we are is at the heart of human existence” (p.22). She lifts up that the religious leaders in the text tend not to look at people as people but tend to define them in terms of what they do. For instance, the Pharisees don't even call Jesus by name at one point but simply refer to him as “your teacher.” However, Jesus sees people as people first.
Florence concludes by recalling a congregation in which members were not allowed to ask new members what they did for a living until the new members had been at the congregation for six months.
Frances Taylor Gench: In Back to the Well: Women's Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels (Westminster John Knox, 2004), Frances provides stimulating insights about the Markan version of this text. Especially notable is that, at least in Mark's account, the hemorrhaging woman prefigures the Passion. Terms used here to describe the woman, such as “suffering” and “affliction,” are also used to describe Jesus' suffering. Even more striking is that, in Mark's account, the only references to blood are found here and at the Last Supper. Wow.
I will post my sermon shortly. It deals with healing by meditating upon that full, heavy statement, “Your faith has made you well.”
Hands getting pruny as I grow wiser in the tub, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
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