There's Tension In This Passage
2010-11-05 by Guy Kent

For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. (2Thessalonians 2: 14-15)

Sometimes I wonder how I got to this profession. Mama, my grandmother who raised me in my early years, was a devoted Christian who read her Bible every night. And when she told me she prayed for me every day, I know she did. I also know that when the door of the church opened my Mama was there and if I was visiting with her I was, too. And when a decade after her death the bishop appointed me Senior Pastor of her church all those memories came flooding back.

My grandfather, who was and still is my hero, didn't go to church with Mama. I'm sure there were special occasions when he did, but I wasn't there. He did show up the first time I preached a sermon. I must have met his muster because he encouraged me to follow my calling.

There was Mama, devout and earnest, standing firm and holding fast to the traditions.” There was my grandfather, not having any part of those traditions and seldom discussing his faith, and, yet, somehow he was so more devout than all of us, so in touch with the eternal in his attitudes and actions.

I was raised in a religious tension. And, surprise, surprise, ordination did nothing to lessen it. The church is the household of tension, the tension of what has been and that which will be, to say nothing of the tensions that always exist in the present moment.

A member of less than a year in my church said recently to a member of a half century or more, “It doesn't matter how 'we' always did it. What matters is how we're going to do it now.”

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ….” everybody has a personal take on it. My Mama did. My grandfather did. The new members of my church do. And the older members do. And there lies the tension.

Mama read her Bible and prayed for me. My grandfather didn't read his Bible as far as I know nor, to my knowledge, did he pray for me. But both brought me to this path, and both love our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of my members are so bound to the past I think if there were a nuclear attack they'd circle the wagons and put the women and children in the children. Some of my members are so liberal I think if they were honest their prayers would be directed “to whom it may concern.”

And maybe that's what keeps the traditions moving to meet the future. And maybe that's what forms the saints.

All Saints' Sunday and Politicians
2010-11-04 by David von Schlichten

That's what we will be observing this Sunday at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Youngstown, PA.

We are all saints because our baptism into Christ makes us so. The people of God are saints, not because of their merits, but because of God's magnanimity. In response, we are to strive to live up to the saint-status that God has conferred upon us. In addition, God enables us to do this and forgives us when we sin.

Given this status, given that we just had an election, and given the widespread scapegoating and cynicism we voters hurl at politicians, I may proclaim this Sunday that part of living our saint status perhaps is to spend less time griping about politicians and more time becoming the change we wish to see in the world (to borrow from Gandhi, who, by the way, was highly political).

That's what I have so far.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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.

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