a poem by Jennie Gordon
2010-09-04 by Laurie McKnight
Luke 14:25-33my arms embrace
a lifetime collection
of necessary nothings
but each thing connects
and recollects the other
recounting who I am as daughter
sister, friend and wife and mother
each day adds another
vital verse to the anthology
of completed works - by me
that no one else
will ever read, while I persist
denying or defying dying
and then there’s all that substance
I’ve hoarded for tomorrow
the ‘one day’ that I know will come
it fills my head, my dreams,
what would it mean
to loose the hold
let go, put down, give up
and walk with empty arms
save for the cross of life-affirming death
that has been ours
since first baptismal breath
© Jennie Gordon 2010
Two Sermons in Cafe
2010-09-03 by David Howell
Text: Jeremiah 18:1-11
LIKE A LUMP OF CLAY
September 5, 2010
Young Memorial and Brookston Presbyterian Churches, Vance County
Rick Brand, Supply
Sermon on Philemon
At St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, Youngstown, PA
On Sunday, September 5, 2010,
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C,
The Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten
Laurie McKnight; Preaching on Philemon
2010-09-03 by David von Schlichten
Our guest blogger has done a smart job of providing extensive reflections on each pericope for this week. Scroll down to enjoy.
I am focusing on Philemon. Laurie writes about the letter dealing with letting go and restored relationships. That's a salient theme, to be sure, and one people need to hear.
On a related note, I will be preaching on the idea of Christ making us into brothers and sisters and the implications of this new relationship. My sermon is up at the cafe. I welcome feedback, ever
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten
Thoughts on Luke 14:25-33
2010-09-03 by Laurie McKnight
Jesus is talking about who CANNOT become his disciple. Aren’t we more familiar with religious (and other) movements where there is a constant membership drive? I belong to service organizations, to women’s groups, to sisterhoods, to cultural groups – and always one topic on every meeting agenda is: How can we get more members? In fact, often we tend to relax the “membership requirements” – oh, you don’t have to attend every meeting; you just come when you can. Oh, if you don’t have time to participate in a service project, that’s OK – just be sure to send in your dues. And if you know of anyone else who would be good for our membership, please let us know…. Even our church nominating committees are beginning to operate in this way. Jesus does not seem to have this concern about getting more “members” – more people – to follow him. Jesus seems to want to do the opposite in this pericope – not recruit more members, but make sure that those who follow him are truly following HIM – are truly on The Way – have made a commitment that will last through the weekend, that will last beyond the first doubt and the first persecution – and the next, and the next, and the next….
Jesus is being followed by crowds everywhere he goes, but all the people in those crowds are not his followers. Many are curious bystanders, onlookers, those wait-and-see kinds of people. Jesus is the most exciting thing to have come along in quite awhile – stories about him will circulate for days, weeks, months, even years (if only they knew!) – people will be talking about him for quite awhile. But for now, people are watching; not many are disciples. And that’s OK with Jesus. He is throwing up roadblocks, being radical again (he does that so well), giving a list of shalt’s and shalt-not’s to become one of his true followers. First, you have to hate your family. You have to leave them and maybe never see them again. Second, you have to carry a cross, a burden, when you walk with me. Third, you have to give up all your possessions; you have to get rid of everything you own. Still want to be a part of this party? Following me, Jesus says, is like building a complicated, expensive structure. Following me, Jesus says, is like going into a war you are sure to lose. Still want to come?
Maybe Jesus was not that callous and blunt when talking to the crowds. Maybe. But the idea of laying everything aside and following only Jesus is the goal. It’s a difficult choice; it’s a costly choice – which is why so many bibles call this section “The Cost of Discipleship.” It’s costly to walk with Jesus. Even today, in the 21st century, being faithful will cost some of us relationships with family and friends. It will cause us discomfort as we consider environmental and fiscal stewardship – trying to live green and not follow polluting, wasteful, consumerist trends, shopping at one store and not another, choosing where and how we spend our money. Following Jesus may cause us to rebel against our government’s policies and the powers that be. We may alienate ourselves from the world. It’s not easy, this following Jesus. It’s easy to say it’s rewarding. It’s easy to talk about the benefits of discipleship instead of the costs. But what do we feel?
I think we often feel lost in our lives today, which is why we pursue membership in all those other organizations. I think we sometimes feel out of sorts with our earthly family (and friends) and there comes a point when we ask, Is that all there is? The answer is No. Jesus is all there is. Jesus is all we need. God loved us so much that Jesus was sent to live among us and to die for us and our sins that we might live more abundantly and experience life eternal. Jesus invites us repeatedly to follow him, to experience God’s love, and to give that love away as we form a new family with all believers, an ongoing and ever-growing family, and as we act as the arms and legs, the hands and feet of God in the world, bringing the Kingdom to earth right here and right now. What other choice do we have but to follow Jesus? What other decision can we make? No turning back. No turning back.
Thoughts on Philemon 1-21
2010-09-02 by Laurie McKnight
This is a brief letter from the Apostle Paul to a friend and former slave owner, about his former slave, who is a new Christian and indeed, a brother in Christ to Paul. Images of usefulness crowd my mind (how are we useful to one another and to the kingdom?) – and what does it mean when one person works for another? Does one own the other? Is payment fair for the jobs performed? What is the nature of the employer-employee relationship?
Paul talks about commanding – versus requesting out of love. Paul bases his request, and also his advice, on the love he feels for both former slave owner and former slave. Paul advocates the brotherly relationship between the three men involved (himself included), and says he will pay reparations if any are needed. Paul is confident that Philemon, the former slave owner, will do the right thing by welcoming Onesimus, the former slave, back into his home. Paul is confident that Onesimus, the runaway slave, will return to his previous place of employment (his previous home) like the prodigal son, ready to be welcomed like a brother and a true friend in Christ. It’s a story about restored relationships. Paul is confident Philemon and Onesimus will do more than what he tells them to do. They will go "above and beyond."
My colleague and friend, Tim Haut (UCC pastor from Deep River, CT) has written this:“Among other things, this letter to Philemon is all about letting go, the ultimate task of our lives. It's about releasing the people we love into the care of others, and most of all, into the care of God, in the earnest hope that something will come back to us, that something will be there to fill the empty place. Ultimately the greatest letting go will be of life itself.” Can we let go of old lives – and new – and go to the place where we are loved and needed? Can we forgive when necessary? Can we receive/allow forgiveness when necessary? Can we allow a different persona to emerge in ourselves and others?
We don’t know how this story ends – if Onesimus goes back, and if Philemon welcomes him back. We don’t know if their relationships return to what they were, or if they are forged new. We don’t know if Paul ever sees these two again, so he can judge for himself the success of the forgiveness, the restoration, the relationship. We know the three of them, Christ-followers all, have now been united with all the saints – and there is the restored relationship we too can seek and we too will one day know.
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