On Being Changed
2008-03-31 by Allen Fisher
“Arrgghhh! What’s happening to me?” It’s the clichéd way to narrate a profound transformation in ‘B’ science fiction movies or TV shows where people were morphed, paralyzed or often slowly destroyed by alien rays, wizard’s spells or other extraordinary means.
I wonder if we have not become immune to the fruits of faith, especially to the changes of heart, life-orientation and behavior that so impressed the writers and disciples in the New Testament. Are we so domesticated by our over-familiarity with the texts that the living God behind them is fogged-off from us? Do our own layers of use and misuse of these particular pericopes mean that we are no longer changed?
Have we somehow reasserted the “futile ways inherited from (y)our ancestors?”
Or is the precious blood of Christ no longer efficacious for us? “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
‘I am waiting to have our child baptized until she is old enough to choose for herself.’ ‘I think that our son should be exposed to as many of the world’s great religions as possible so he can make his own way.’
Where do we get this particular sort of heartburn in our lives today? "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"
Has the ‘Road to Emmaus’ (never so-named in the text) become as predictable as the commute home after another mind-numbing day at the office?
When is the risen Christ near in our talking and discussing? In the culturally infected pseudo-theological debates of the church, we seem more changed by the politics of polarization (from the culture) than from the transforming intimate and personal encounter with our Lord. Perhaps it is only the ecclesial circles in which I travel, but living in reverent fear during our time of exile has very little evidence to support it.
But that may be the point. God has acted. God has chosen. God has redeemed. In the person of Christ Jesus whom God raised from the dead. If this is true, how can we ever remain the same?
Is it ever possible for Christians to love each other deeply from the heart (let alone loving neighbor as self) without standing in the transforming, life-altering light of the resurrected One?
“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!”
‘He’ll never change.’
‘She’ll always be the same.’
‘I know who I am.’ ...Or not?
Editor's Note: Welcome to Allen Fisher, a parish pastor in Virginia. With his wife of 27 years, he is parent of a son and three daughters whose life journeys do much to shape his. He served churches in Eastern Pennsylvania and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia prior to becoming pastor of The Presbyterian Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia more than a decade ago. A native of New Jersey, his undergraduate and seminary training were in the Garden State as well.
Doubting Thomas and Now Dawkins Too?!
2008-03-28 by Efrain Agosto
Oh, boy, I hope I haven't opened up a can of worms with all this doubt floating around - reading Richard Dawkins can be quite a challenge! My son gave me a Dawkins book for Christmas (of all things!) a few years ago and I started reading it and couldn't keep going. What was he (my twenty-something son) thinking? Yet, I think I will pick it up again. What come to mind is my experience at Hartford Seminary, a Christian seminary that does interfaith dialogue and education, especially Christian-Muslim dialogue. I have learned that engaging faithful Muslims in dialogue about faith pushes me to understand my own Christian faith even better. For how can I engage in genuine dialogue across faith if I don't have a firm and growing faith myself, even if at times I have my bouts with doubts? I need to be "locked up" and let the Holy Spirit teach me so I can grow and engage genuine dialogue. So I think I'll pick up Dawkins again and see about engaging my son in some faith dialogue, from the context of doubt. Thanks for blogging with me. Happy preaching!
Doors, Doubts, Dawkins
2008-03-28 by David von Schlichten
I am thinking I can combine the locked door image that Anna Carter Florence focuses on in "Preaching the Lesson" with Efrain Agosto's emphasis on the benefit of doubt. Perhaps doubt can be a locked door that does not keep Christ out but that the Holy Spirit uses to help a person's faith grow through Christ's resurrected, wise, breathing, healing presence.
Last year, after reading The God Delusion I found myself hiding behind the doubt-door. I have contemplated, prayed about, and read about the idea of God as a result of that doubt. Through the process, the risen Christ has appeared, breathed on me, announced peace, fed me, and shown me his holey hands, feet and side.
Now, my understanding of God is richer, my faith stronger. Thank you, Richard Dawkins, for sparking my doubt, and thanks be to God for strengthening my faith through the process.
No sermon yet. I'm just blogging and unclogging as preparation.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2008-03-27 by Efrain Agosto
David Howell was kind enough to send me a link to a Garrison Keillor piece about doubt and Easter. How Keillor manages to sing in the Easter choir of his church when he is going through a bout with doubt is quite instructive. He too sees the benefit of doubt, like I suggested in my previous blog, although, of course, Keillor says it much more elegantly: "Skepticism is a stimulant, not to be repressed. It is an antidote to smugness and the great glow of satisfaction one gains from being right." Peter the disciple, even after all he had seen and heard from Jesus, renounced his connection to Jesus when the going got tough during the trial, but he later repented. Keillor was ready to repent from his skepticism, he writes, "but not quite yet." He decided to "sit in the doubter's chair for a while and see what is to be learned back there." A serious challenge from a marvelous humorist. Check out the entire piece for yourself at:
It may help you address the weary worshippers this coming Second Sunday of Easter.
(Editor's note: Attendees at the Festival of Homiletics will receive a real treat in Garrison Keillor's Preaching in Lake Wobegon. Go to Homepage and Festival of Homiletics to register. Over 2000 pastors are already registered.)
Doubt is Good
2008-03-27 by Efrain Agosto
I am struck by the number of sermons I have read and listened to over the years that actually give Thomas some kudos. Maybe wanting to see some evidence is not so bad. After all, Thomas is not the only "bad guy" here. The disciples are hidden away, afraid to come out the door and "live out the new resurrection life," as one of the preachers I read points out. Thomas misses the first meeting with Jesus, and there the disciples get all excited. He wants his own experience of the risen Lord before he will buy into any renewed excitement. Not a bad thing to ask. One's own experience of God.
I remember one of the first chapel sermons I heard when I started seminary way back in 1979, in fact it was for the opening convocation and it was offered by the dean of the seminary, was about doubt as a resource for faith. The dean encouraged us to have doubts, to ask questions, to challenge our professors, to have our own experience of the truth before we grasped it for ourselves and for our walk with God. Perhaps this is what Thomas is after - his own experience of the truth so it could be imbedded in his soul forever!
Not a bad fellow, after all, this Thomas, and perhaps as we come down from the mountain of Easter, all weary and tired from the excitement, and wondering what's next, questions and doubts can fuel us into adopting the resurrection life for the long haul, another theme in one of the sermons I read for this week's Lectionary Homilectics.
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