2010-11-04 by Rina Terry
This week, I have been called to offer pastoral care to a 35-year-old facing breast cancer, a 77-year-old who has had six colon cancer surgeries and has been told it is back, a 90-year-old with more energy than someone half her age who has lost her sight in one eye, a man whose girlfriend is being held emotional hostage by her angry teen daughter, a family who lost one son to suicide and the other to alcoholism and prison bids.
I have read this week's lectionary passages, read some commentary, pondered and meditated, asked questions. In other words, I've done my exegetical process. Yet, I'm still sitting here in the silence and, as of yet, do not know what I will preach.
I want to tell them that "The latter splendor of [their] house shall be greater than the former," but I do not think that would be the best thing to say right now.
I want to tell them, "The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings." I'm not certain they would believe me right now.
Sometimes, I think we have to abandon lectionary passages, the proof-text scripture verses that we pull our of our pastoral care hats for difficult moments, and listen for the voice of God in the moment. Still speaking, still revealing, still comforting, still offering us safe harbor in life's tsunami moments.
It is then that the ministry of presence counts the most. Simply sitting in silence and concern when there are no sufficient words. God's promises, I believe, are most evident in the silence.
Welcome, Guy Kent!
2010-11-03 by David Howell
Guy Kent is a retired elder of the United Methodist Church serving as a supply pastor for a congregation in Northwest Georgia. He is known in the internet circles as The Questing Parson through his blog.
What's Left But Praise?
2010-11-02 by Guy Kent
Psalm 145: 1-5, 17-21
People who write really good poems are special individuals. But to write a poem in the form of Psalm 145 is beyond my comprehension. We learned in seminary it's an “acrostic” poem with each verse beginning with a successive letter of the alphabet. That's what I learned in seminary, and, to be honest, that's probably the extent of my ability to critically examine this piece of literature.
But my limitations do not take away from the power of the verses. The power of the words only grow with the understanding of the acrostic nature of the psalm.
Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at McAfee School of Theology, in her examination of the psalm quotes Adele Berlin's article Festschrif where she shares, “The poet praises God with everything from A to Z: his praise is all inclusive. More than that, the entire alphabet, the source of all words, is marshaled praise of God. One cannot actually use all of the words in a language, but by using the alphabet one uses all potential words.”
I read this Psalm again and again with that observation in mind. The magnificence of the poem grew within me.
Maybe in our world we have become so jaded, so perplexed at the forces reshaping our society that we cannot control, so confused and seemingly ill-equipped to adequately serve in a world of declining church influence we forget to praise God, to “marshal” our praise of God.
We fill our services with “praise songs” and such, but do we truly praise God, marshal our praise of God?
It is not only the style of poetry that has become lost; the subject matter of the poem has become lost. And when you think about it, when all our arguments are feebly made, when all our sermons are preached, when all the horizons are reached, the only thing we have left is our praise of God.
Words of Life
2010-11-02 by Stephen Schuette
Luke 20:27-38 (or to 40). The first step for me in coming to terms with the meaning of this passage is to be clear about what Jesus did not intend. Viewing it through modern eyes I bring some assumptions to it. Of course, from a modern social point of view it is ridiculous for people to marry again and again based on a levirate injunction (Deut. 25:5-6). Of course, projecting forward beyond this life to marriage in a future life makes no sense. Of course, given our “advanced” sensibilities about individual identity, civil rights, and personal choice in marriage these traditions are all anachronistic. But I don’t think Jesus intended to address the question from a modern, individualistic point of view.
It’s impressive how mired the question is in death. You can imagine seven graves next to each other and finally one more for the woman herself. You can imagine hopes for children that never materialized, perhaps understanding that through couples who struggle with fertility. It’s difficult to picture the mounting marriages being occasions of joy but rather necessities coming from death. Mourning and sorrow virtually drips from every word. Yet the Sadducees offer just a cold and clinical description of the situation, the facts of life, betraying no compassion about it whatsoever.
So it’s not so much the facts of the debate itself that I find of interest. It’s the tone and message that speaks, speaks not only to the human situation but also to the identity of God for the Sadducees and Jesus. That may be the real heart of the matter which Jesus poses back: is your God the God of the dead or the living? It’s clear the Sadducees have no answer for their own question, or perhaps even more important, for the sorrow and grief of the entire situation. That’s where I think Jesus, and the God of Jesus, part company with them.
Jesus’ answer is not to engage in the circumstances of the situation. Nor does he debate the ridiculousness of the rules that led to it. Rather he speaks hope to the despair. And isn’t the God of hope the God that was known and revealed through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of both Pharisee and Sadducee?
Perhaps this story is for me and the part of me that is mired in death more than I know and like the Sadducees I am so mired in it I am oblivious to it. So I need to hear again those wonderful words of life. Whether sung or spoken, I need them.
Ask a silly question....?
2010-11-01 by Rina Terry
How many times have I asked God a silly question? If we all pooled our "Silly Questions I've Asked God," we might have a bestseller on our hands.
Though the Sadducees' question seems absurd in our day, perhaps it had more legitimacy in Jesus' day. Yet, back in vs 20, "They watched for their opportunity...in order to catch him in his speech." We can't help but think that this is one more attempt to trip up Jesus. Yet, he gets a bit of affirmation where we least expect it.
Such a premise for a sermon approach opens up lots of opportunity to talk about how we can find moments when we can affirm even those with whom we generally disagree.
Jesus doesn't get sarcastic, he doesn't try to dazzle, he doesn't set out to discredit. Jesus just gives a straightforward answer and some of his hearers admit it was a good answer.
There are times though when I fire God a laundry list of questions on a particular issue.
When I am incensed at the ongoing perversion of justice in our criminal "justice" system, those niggling questions come doing its Tigger bounce in my brain: "God, don't you give a damn that this is happening? Don't you care that we are in desperate need of sentencing reform? Can't you do anything about the blatant racism in the system? Do you truly want developmentally disturbed people executed in the name of justice? How did you let our greed create a prison industrial complex?" I'm not doing a rhetorical tirade here. I really want to know the answer.
The people in the pews must be full of their own extended questions. The old, "There are no silly questions." approach will preach just fine here.
These are my first thoughts as I walk with the gospel into the week.
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