Decide For Yourself What Is Right
2010-08-14 by Rina Terry
Well, my exegetical process does include some commentary time. My favorite is Sacra Pagina. Luke Timothy Johnson is the author of the volume The Gospel of Luke. In his interpretation of Luke 12:49-59, he focuses on it as “A Call for Decision.”
Ultimately, my sermon title became “Decide For Yourself What Is Right.” That is the daily challenge isn’t it—a constant series of decisions.
Shall I hit the snooze button and doze ten more minutes?
What should I wear today?
What should I have for breakfast or should I just get going?
Which of the tasks before me should be my priority?
Should I put off that call to a family member one more day or do it now?
Is that visit to Mabel essential today or should I spend a bit more time
preparing that report for the Church Conference?
Can I skip that meeting tonight and spend some time with my own family?
We make our decisions; we deal with the consequences—favorable and not so favorable.
We become so caught up in the press of daily decisions before us that often we do not realize that the attention we give them distracts us from the most important decision before us:
I have a personal decision to make concerning to whom and to what I will commit myself. My decision will divide me from others, perhaps even my own family members.
Johnson says, “The division is created by the diverse decisions made in response to the prophet himself and his message about he kingdom of God. Is he, are his works of healing, the signal from God that a rule more powerful than that of Satan has come to free humans? Or is he a minion of Satan, a charlatan, a deceiver of the people? Those who see him must not have blinders, so that ‘the light in them turns to darkness’ (11:35); those who hear him must ‘watch how they hear’ (8:18). They must discern the signs and decide.”
The larger decision before me on Sunday morning is:
Will I make the decision to preach with the fire that divides or will I give the people what they want?
Will I challenge God’s people to take off their blinders and unstop their ears or will I IPod their ears with the familiar, pre-programmed platitudes that comfort?
Will I ease toward retirement, for which I admit I have begun to yearn, and schedule more visitations which will endear me to the people, or will wear out my shoes walking in my community and “try to make things up with him while still on the road?”
Rejoice in your proclamation tomorrow!
An Insatiable Desire For Dejavu
2010-08-13 by Rina Terry
This is the title of my friend, Bebe Cook's first collection of poetry: An Insatiable Desire For Dejavu. I fell in love with the title. I love the way the words roll around in my mouth. I love the provocative nudge toward memory. I love the back-of-the-neck prickle that comes with ghost-like wisps of dejavu.
Today, I concentrated on the Psalter (Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19) and Bebe’s title surged ashore. Christian witness is a rehearsal of God’s faithfulness, goodness, might and grace. It is a powerful testimony and exciting to hear. In its most essential and lasting effect, for me, I have those dejavu spiritual moments born of a life of experiencing God’s presence.
In times of tragedy, loss, fear, despair—we get that insatiable desire for dejavu. Ah, yes, we feel it; we hear it; we see it. I’ve been here before, experienced this before, known this before, beheld your Spirit in just this way before. If you journal, you have recorded such moments. If you are a daydreamer, you have encountered them in your reverie. If you are a lamenter, they have come to relieve you. If you are one who cried out, “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” Remember the one who is “enthroned upon the cherubim,” and your vine will not wither. You will feel that insatiable desire for dejavu as the vine is restored.(If you would like a copy of Bebe’s book, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
2010-08-12 by Rina Terry
Each Christmas morning, during my years in prison ministry, it became the tradition that I would rap at the close of the worship service. No one outside the wall seemed to understand why I would spend Christmas morning doing worship services when I was not required to work that day. Actually, it was my gift from God and I unwrapped it, admired it, savored it, was humbled by it and felt incredibly thankful for it.
There were always new men who had not had the dubious pleasure of hearing that “old white lady preacher” rap. So, each year, it was a well circulated secret and the chapel was packed on Christmas morning. The tradition began because I wanted the men to leave the chapel laughing and have something to distract them their gloom on Christmas morning. I tried to make it something fun and with a message but really didn’t take it too seriously that first year. The praise band rolled their eyes, looked at one another with that OH NO look when I told them and said, “Come on, Rev, you can’t rap.”
Undaunted, I wrote the lyrics—there was a Christian message at the end, revised and perfected, and then the praise band put music to it and we rehearsed until we had it down.
They were a bit embarrassed, I think, but I was the boss. The first year, we were waiting for the hoots, the laughs, the head shakes, but God had a different plan. I got through the first few phrases and suddenly, the entire 150+ inmates were on their feet, moving to the music, and chanting, “Go Rev, Go Rev, Go Rev.” I turned around and looked incredulously at the men in the praise band, and they were lovin’ it. “Keep going,” they yelled; “just keep going!” Who knows why this became such a powerful thing.God calls us to people and places and situations for which no seminary education can prepare us. God equips us for those callings. By faith, the people passed through….By faith the walls fell….by faith a prostitute does not perish….And what more should I say?By faith, Rina rapped.
Just A Guess
2010-08-12 by Rina Terry
For several weeks, I have been printing consecutive phrases of the UM Social Creed in our worship bulletin. On the back of the bulletin has been a paragraph or two of something relevant to that phrase. This week, it will appear in its entirety and, next week, be part of the worship liturgy. The hope is that folks will genuinely reflect on each phrase and consider how they might live into it as those called by God.The final phrase is: We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
This is an enormous statement. When we are honest with ourselves, how much confidence actually do we have in the PRESENT triumph of God’s Word in human affairs? We may believe it with respect to the kingdom coming in its fullness—that eschatological pay dirt date; yet, how strong and deep is our conviction that it is happening, let alone that it will happen.
From time to time, I believe each of us needs to settle in, go deep, meditate on the here and now presence of God. Keeping silent before God and asking to be touched, inspired, equipped and motivated according to God’s will so that we might “gladly accept” our vineyard employment. We accept it with trepidation and pray for younger parishioners, a miraculous big giver, a resurgence of religious interest, a renewal of the American economy. We have perfected faithful waiting…. to a fault!
The texts this week are throbbing with “Don’t wait!” They are pulsating with “I Have Loved You and Love You Still.” They are booming the gospel made manifest by such a “great cloud of witnesses.” If we tire of waiting for others to join us that does not mean that we are justified jogging in place. Pick up the torch and move forward with a fiery hope. Yes, perhaps you will create some controversy. Yes, it may be that you will be unjustly maligned. No, it most assuredly will not advance your institutional church career. No, you probably will not be asked to speak at the annual community prayer luncheon. Just a guess, but I believe God prefers turmoil over stasis.
Take Me Out To The Ballgame
2010-08-11 by Rina Terry
Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to sit in a Hall of Fame seat at the Phillies game. And, yes, I am one of those—a Philadelphia Fan. I had on my World Series jersey and I was primed for the game. Actually, it was the worst game the Phils have played all season and the end score sounded more like a football game than a baseball game. I had a great seat for a terrible game.
There is no better seat for a Christian than in a fruit-filled vineyard. What if ones seat is in not in a flourishing vineyard? In Todd Blake’s sermon in Lectionary Homiletics this week, he speaks of the church’s calling to bear sweet fruit. How many times, when people learn that you are a pastor, do they tell you why the church puts a bitter taste in their mouths? There are times when the complaint are legitimate and other times when the lamenter has never even tasted the fruit yet declares it bitter.
At the ballgame, my generous Hall of Fame season-ticket holder host kiddingly told me that I shouldn’t drop a cursing bomb as that is no longer tolerated even at Phillies games.
Just about that time, the fan to my right, in frustration over Kendrick’s seeming inability to throw a strike, took Jesus Christ’s name in vain. Without even thinking, I told my host that I was better able to tolerate four-letter flamers than hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain. The man next to me didn’t curse for the rest of the evening.
By the sixth inning, with little for a Phils fan to cheer about, the man asked if I worked for the church. I told him I was a Methodist minister and we had a lovely conversation. We talked baseball mostly, not church, but it was a “sweet” conversation.There is a children’s song, I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. All God’s people, all around the world, we are the church together.
We carry the vineyard within ourselves wherever we go. It’s a sweet calling and we can bear fruit individually and corporately just about anywhere. I had a great seat at a terrible game. I think Christians can have lousy seats and still enjoy a good game. Play ball!
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