I Want To Sing You A Tough-Love Song...
2010-08-09 by Rina Terry

Many years ago, Anne Murray recorded I Want To Sing You A Love Song, written by Kenny Loggins and D.L. George.  As I read the first few words of the Isaiah text for this week, I wondered how many other Baby Boomer pastors began singing that tune.  Well, none of us sang it for very long as we engaged the prophet's indictment.  It is our task, as pastors, to share God's love with our parishioners and to magnify the image of God as love so they might be filled with the power of that holy love for the world.  This week, it calls for tough love, indeed.  The Lucan text simply reinforces that tough love approach. Yet, to be honest, many times it is buildings and traditions and rituals which infatuate us far more than God's purposeful call born of divine love.  Do we dare, in a day when shrinking mainline churches have made church-growth training the rallying cry of denominational leaders, to proclaim a prophetic word?  Are we willing to deal with the consequences of prophetic preaching in middle-class social club congregations?  As with me, you may be inspired by persons whose prophetic voices do speak up and out.  Yet, they largely are not parish pastors and not in positions that can be damaged by angry or hostile congregational committees or tunnel-visioned M&M (money and members) leaders. At a time when the unemployment rate is nearly 10%, why would a congregation that is having difficulty meeting its annual budget engage in a major stained glass restoration project rather than shine the light of God’s love on those in need?  In a political climate that has unmasked, and unsheeted, the latent racism in our country, how can congregations called Christian refuse to welcome the stranger?  When our planet is heaving, and hemorrhaging, and fracturing, why are churches such poor stewards when it comes to the greening of our buildings and habits? As we meditate, pray and exegete this week, may we hear God’s cry for justice and dare claiming the prophet’s voice. 

 





Where your treasure is...
2010-08-05 by Adam Grosch

The order of clause in verse 34 is very important.  The common phrase I have heard is "where your heart is, there your treasure will be."  I don't know if that line comes from this verse - but if it does, it totally misrepresents the meaning behind this passage.  The line is "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 

 The first version suggests that whatever our heart longs for and whatever we are focused on - THAT is our treasure.  In the second  version - the treasure is constant, it never changes.  Our heart follows us to our treasure - and we are told that are true treasure is our "unfailing treasure in heaven." 

Well, what if our heart isn't there?  That is why we are told to do all of the things that are previous to this line - we are not meant to worry and consume ourselves with the things of this world - we are even to sell our possessions, and give alms, making a purse for ourselves that does not wear out.

In this way, even if our heart is not yet with the kingdom, we should still be investing our lives knowing that this is our true treasure.  When we invest our lives into the kingdom then our heart will be there...eventually.  What a pastoral word for the many new comers in our congregation who are not yet sure what their hearts believe about God, let alone Jesus Christ.  Invest in the kingdom, invest where our treasure is and you will soon find your heart there as well.   

 Adam





Theology of Failure
2010-08-04 by Adam Grosch

I was reading an article on here that talked about the need for us to have a "theology of failure."

It recalled a quote that I have remembered but not sure who said it or where I first heard it.  It goes something like this: "It is better to fail at something that will ultimately succeed than to succeed at something that will ultimately fail."  (A quick google search gives a version of the quote to Peter Marshall - a Scottish pastor from early 20th century and/or Woodrow Wilson).

We don't do very well at failure in our society.  We are so results driven.  I am thinking about some of our NBA players.  LeBron James recently had tons of publicity switching to Miami Heat - abandoning Cleveland for the simple reason "I want to win."  It seems like this reasoning is completely acceptable to us.  NBA star Chris Paul talks similarly.  He plays for the Hornets which didn't even make it to the playoffs .  He was recently quoted,  "I would love to be here. I want to win many, many championships here, I just want to make sure we're committed to winning. ... I love everything about the city, but at the end of the day, I want to win and I don't want to win years from now. I want to win now.''  For now his commitment to them may be more related to the fact that he is stuck under contract with them for at least two more seasons.

 For these players it isn't even about the money so much as it is about winning - about success.  I am sure this is true probably for most players even if they don't voice it so blatantly as the ones above have.  I hear Shaq may be headed to the Celtics - certianly a winning team - but he also may be an example to lift up in a discussion on the theology of failure.  I noticed for the first time last night a TV series titled "Shaq vs."  Shaq who is talked about as one of the best athletes in the world is placed in a competition against the experts in other sports.  The two examples last night included him going up against the national spelling bee winner in a spelling contest and against Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a nascar race.  In both cases the "experts" were given handicaps to give Shaq a fighting chance but nevertheless, it seemed like the cards were stacked against him.  He never stood a chance in either of the competitions.  Shaq, who is a competitor at heart, was such a gracious player and loser.  The fact that he is willing to compete against such ridiculous odds and the way that he lost so graciously are certainly examples of how it doesn't always have to be about "winning."  Sometimes it is just about getting out there and playing the game. 

Is playing for the kindgom seen as a winning game or a losing game in our society today?  With the decline of the institutional church - there is certainly the anxiety in our pews that the church is losing.  How prophetic it may be to lift up losing as a kingdom value as well as the quote "It is better to fail at something that will ultimately succeed than to succeed at something that will ultimately fail."  v.40 promises that Jesus will indeed return.  In the end God will bring all things together under Christ - fully redeemed.  This may seem like a far away impossibility to some and choosing it in today's world may look like we are joining the losing side but we can be assured that the kingdom is indeed the only treasure worth investing in (even if it leads us to a life of failure in this lifetime). 

Adam





The Thief and Death
2010-08-04 by Adam Grosch

Yesterday I was considering how each of the three sections were connected to each other especially why verses 32-34 were included as they seemed more closely tied to the "do not worry" section.  Today I noticed that both 32-34 and 39-40 mention a thief.  The image of a thief seems to be one way that these two sections can be connected.  In the first case, if we are striving after the kingdom of heaven the suggestion is that the thief will not be able to reach us.  The treasures of heaven are not susceptible to being stolen.  If we are invested in heavenly treasures they cannot be taken away from us.  I was reading in an article on this site about how we are so invested in our consumer culture in America.  Speaking against consumerism may be one of the biggest challenges that the church is called to do today.  This passage certainly gives us a jumping off point.

But lets look at the second use of thief.  If we consider ourselves to be the house owner in 39-40  then a thief may come in and steal our posessions.  If we knew when the thief would arrive then we wouldn't leave our house and we could stand guard.  We don't know when the thief might arrive - so what are we suppose to do, never leave our houses?  I think this would be missing the point.  If we connect it back to the first thief - if we are totally invested in the kingdom then there may be nothing for the thief to steal when he breaks in.  Jut like we don't know when a thief may come we don't know when the Son of Man will arrive.  If we knew when the Son of Man was going to arrive then we could make sure we are fully invested in the kingdom just like if we knew the thief was coming we wouldn't leave our house.  But since we don't know these things - we can only be ready for them to happen.  Being ready for either would mean striving and investing in the kingdom and not worrying about values that are other than the kingdom.  This then brings us back to the "do not worry" section.  Do not worry and have anxiety about non-kingdom issues. 

Verse 39 took on new meaning for me tonight as I just returned from an emergency call where I was at the house of a member of the church.  Her husband who was not a church goer or a believer had just committed suicide.  I had only met him a few times.  She had left the house in order to go for a walk and it was an hour after she returned before she discovered him.  If she had known this was going to happen - she most certainly would not have left the house.  But of course, she had no idea that the "thief" would arrive and take her husband's life.  How ever could she be prepared for a death like this?  How could her husband do something like this to her? 

 "You must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."  The chances are that we will not probably see the second coming in each of our lifetimes...I mean it certainly is possible - but tonight I am realizing that death often comes to us at an unexpected hour as well.  Are we ready for death?  For the death of our spouse, family member, or friend?  If we are invested in kingdom values vs. consumer values does it make us more ready to face death?  I hope so.  How I am be too tired to articulate right now.

 Adam





Introduction
2010-08-02 by Adam Grosch

Hi my name is Adam Grosch, your guest blogger for this week.  It is a sunny day here in Salem Oregon.  It is beautiful, breezy and in the low 80s.  We are certainly in the heart of summer as a majority of our staff here at Westminster Presbyterian Church is out on vacation.  Worship was even a little thin yesterday.  Our high school mission team just left for New Orleans and I imagine there are a lot of others in the congregation who are traveling as well.

 

For some reason, when I was outlining my sermons for the summer I chose the lectionary passage from Isaiah.  I think I probably chose it because at the time I had been working on Micah 6.  Now I feel like anything I offer on Isaiah would just be a stale regurgitation of Micah so with the informality of the summer, I think I may choose to focus on the gospel this week instead.

 

I know why I shied away from the gospel when I first looked at the lectionary choices for this week.  I was afraid of it, which is probably a good reason why I should preach on it.  That last verse is a tough one, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”  I don’t really understand what this means.  Is it a reference to the second coming of Christ?  I have a fairly orthodox understanding of Christian eschatology – that our true hope rests in resurrection on the day of our Lord and that a new age will be inaugurated when heaven and earth become one.  Is all this related to this verse?  Whenever I talk about the second coming with my congregation, they always get a glazed look in their eyes.  I am not sure why – it may be because I haven’t done a good job of explaining true Christian hope and they only have some quasi-Christian understanding of “going to heaven when I die.”  The one time that I can get away with talking about the second coming is when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper – “whenever we eat this bread or drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.”  Too bad we just celebrated communion yesterday.  The other problem I run into when talking about Jesus’ return is that it seems like an event that is so far away that it really doesn’t have any practical application for today.  I can understand the feeling.  But there must be some implication for us today – even if it is an event of the distant future.

        

The other thing I am wondering is the boundaries of the pericope for the gospel lection.  There really seems to be three distinct sections: 32 through 34; 35 through 38; and 39 through 40.  I wonder why they are all put together.  32 through 34 I always thought was more related to the verses that come before it, Luke’s version of “do not worry” found in Matthew 6, rather than the verses that come after it.  As I begin my study of this passage, I will have to look more closely at this.

                                   

Well, I certianly have more questions than answers for you.  Maybe you have questions to.  Feel free to send them to me.  The more questions the better - especially for a Monday.  Questions are a pretty good thing to have for a sermon that has all week to come together.

                                              

Adam Grosch

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Salem, Oregon





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