Discord and Division
2010-08-11 by Rina Terry

David von Schlichten’s analysis of Do The Right Thing, in this week’s Lectionary Homiletics entry, was of great interest to me.  Since coming to a congregation that claims the Mason-Dixon Line to be on the bridge one crosses to enter their small city, I have been astounded at the blatant and the latent racism I have noticed and encountered.Recently, a rumor circulated through the congregation and the community that I had been married to someone of another race.  While it was not true, I was appalled that anyone would think spreading such a rumor might “discredit” the relatively new pastor.  In my mind, it should not have been an issue in a Christian congregation even if it were true.   At first, I was angry and then devastatingly sad.  Actually, I began to yearn for retirement.  Now, I feel God has given me an opportunity to bring a different sensibility both to this community and this congregation.   My passion for restorative justice ministry may be an oddity here, and my comfort level may never go beyond that of a spiritual stomach ache; yet, as long as my Bishop chooses to appoint me here, I will gladly remain. 

Often, I have heard pastor’s say they were being moved because it wasn’t a good fit.  I spent my first few months here lamenting that it might not be such a “good fit.”  Perhaps God does not always intend a neat fit.  After all, we hear the Lucan text say quite plainly that there are times when discord and division are divine will.

Perhaps a bit of discord and division are occasionally necessary to put the Body of Christ, the church, back in line with all that God wills.

 



Thank you, Rev. Rina Terry
2010-08-11 by David Howell

The Reverend Rina Terry is currently pastor of Cape May United Methodist Church in Cape May, New Jersey.  That's Exit Zero on the Garden State Parkway.  She is a published author and former college administrator.

She spent much of her clergy career as Supervisor of Religious Services at Bayside State Prison, an adult male facility with a population of 2,400 men.

Jazz is Rev. Terry's primary spiritual discipline. 





Magnificat and Ecofeminism
2010-08-10 by David von Schlichten

As I vaction in Cape May (Hi, Rina!), I think of Mary's song that promises liberation for the oppressed and how the natural world is often the oppressed at the hands of humanity. Can Mary's song also apply to the liberation of nature?

Yours in Christ on the Beach,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





The Struggle to Trust
2010-08-10 by Stephen Schuette

Jeremiah is the “get real” prophet, and this small passage certainly bears that out.  He identifies the then popular temple-king theology as a “dream.”  In other words, it’s no good to make up your own covenant with God or attempt to push your own deal:  we’ll worship you and you give us national security.  God’s covenant is not magic.  It requires hard choices in the real world and a continual search for the way.  Not that God leaves us without openings.  But the opening may be different than might be assumed out of an easy God-n’-me coziness.  One wonders if those who assume “God and America” or believe a resettlement of Israel in Palestine will automatically lead to fulfillment (however you may define that) have ever taken Jeremiah seriously?  (…even in their supposed biblical seriousness)

And the suggestion of faith as struggle continues through the other readings.  Not that the struggle is without redemption, but it involves struggle nevertheless.

Before you go to that beautiful and familiar section in Heb. 12:1ff., linger in this waterfall of remembrance of those who struggled for faith against the odds.  And notice, too, that transitional sentence that links their struggle and ours in 11:40:  “…that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.”  In other words, their struggle is ours and ours is theirs.  Their history of struggle for faith is given meaning in the present situation by our faith, a faith that 12:2 suggests is connected with the cross.  History and future come into focus in the present moment with us.  Not that we’re alone, but there’s much riding here in this “present time” (Lk 12:56) and a larger meaning that refracts the light of past and future into this present time and place.

I’d be careful of trying to read the Luke passage in a way that emphasizes us-them divisions with us on the “right” side and so there’s struggle with those in our families, or otherwise, who are not with us and God.  That seems too superficial or even dangerous.  Instead I’m going to focus on this division and struggle that runs right through the center of every Christian who is an odd mixture of faithfulness and faithlessness, including me.  After all if Jesus himself is under stress (vs. 50) then how can I honestly avoid this in my own faith journey?  Jesus is certainly taking the baptism of John seriously, a baptism that will require his very life.  It means a struggle within Jesus as all the people and powers who are pressing this forward come together and in that he seeks to live out his calling faithfully.

So the “race” of Hebrews is not a competitive race with other runners but a race of perseverance within oneself to engage all of oneself complete and whole in relationship with God.  Runners know about the need to run through the point of resistance (casting aside the weight and sin) before they know the joy – not so much the joy of winning over others which only comes at the end of a race but the pure joy of running in the moment.

My dog is a beautiful runner as she thrusts her long legs both forward and behind giving herself over to a kind of suspended flight through midair.  What she does naturally I must work at – to fully trust God.





Watching the Bird Bath
2010-08-10 by Rina Terry

Watching the Bird Bath 

From my kitchen window, I can see the small cement birdbath in my side yard.  There is nothing fancy about it.  I am not a great gardener and the parsonage yard is in desperate need of a landscaper’s professional skill.

 

Yet, it just takes a small pool of water and an inexpensive bird feeder to attract many birds.  I have noticed the relationship between the larger and smaller birds.  The large birds:  grackles, ravens, jays and crows , due to size, use on demand.  On occasion though, I notice a smaller bird fluttering to the edge of the bath anyway and when the larger birds make their hostile gestures, the small birds flutter to the trees and wait their turn.  They are patient and they always come back.

 

The dominant birds ultimately tire themselves out and go off and preen on a limb while they dry.   Later, I go back to the window and the finches, Eastern Meadowlarks, cardinals, Fox Sparrows and occasional Red-winged blackbirds take their turns. 

 

Finally, the deep, thick hush of evening comes and there is a stillness and silence that resists any evidence of wing-flapping and splashing that went before.  The heat of the day gives way to ocean breeze and starry sky and the bird bath, the feeders, are no longer visible.

 

All of this I can see, identify, interpret—yet what do I know of this present time?

I enter my own sanctuary, my private space—

 

we breathe by faith and trust there will be a sunrise. 

 Singing In An Empty Sanctuary

No candles to light, no offering
taken. Hymnals and Bibles poised
in their racks. The dust murmuring on the altar never makes
a distinct sound. Then an eruption—

something praise-like, a song meant
as both please and thank you,
hard questions repeating themselves
inside the whole notes. Fear sings
its own lyrics no matter the melody.

 



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