What Distracts us From Following Jesus?
2010-06-24 by David von Schlichten

Guy Kent raises this issue in one of his posts below. He is drawing from the gospel.

In the ELCA, we are arguing over whether the decision of the ELCA last summer to ordain openly gay people was following Jesus. I have several colleagues who are confident that it was not. I disagree. Allowing the ordination of openly gay people is faithful to the spirit of following Jesus, even if it goes against the letter of a half-dozen passages in Scripture.

What do we do in the Church when devoted people on both sides of an issue believe that the other side's way is a distraction from following Jesus?

Yours in the tub,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Distracted Discipleship
2010-06-21 by Guy Kent

Luke 9: 51-62

The committee sat in the room making the plans for projects that were assigned to them. Rodney sat in the room also. Rodney wasn’t on the committee, but there he sat. The pastor decided to go ahead with the meeting. No sooner had the “Amen” punctuated the opening prayer than Rodney said, “There’s a reason this church is not growing. There’s a reason people are not becoming closer to Jesus. That’s because you don’t ever give an altar call.”

Rodney was used to a more fiery approach to preaching. He wanted a service that ended with the singing of forty-seven verses of “Just As I Am” or a body at the altar, whichever came first. Rodney wanted the world roped, hogtied, and brought to Jesus. He would settle for nothing less.

A Charlie Brown cartoon once had Lucy proclaiming to Charlie Brown, “I would make a good evangelist.”

Charlie Brown responds, “And why do you think that?”

“Well, I convinced the boy who sits behind me in school that my religion is better than his religion.”

Now Charlie Brown is intrigued. “How did you do that?”

Lucy tells him, “I hit him over the head with my lunch box!”

Rodney would have loved to be engaged in Lucy’s brand of evangelism.

It’s the same thinking as that of the disciples when the Samaritans turned Jesus away: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

It’s a form of outreach with little call for discipleship. There’s only divine coercion. The vision of that form is restricted.

The church started a free soup kitchen when the economy tanked. Rodney came by to partake. After a few months, as Rodney saw how many were coming, Rodney made a suggestion. “This thing is going pretty good; we need to figure out a way to turn a profit.”

Discipleship is foremost a focused following of Jesus. “I will follow you wherever you go,” said the one. And Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“Follow me,” said Jesus. And another said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus replies, “Let the dead bury the dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Is Jesus saying we need not be distracted from the goal of discipleship?

As a boy I got to occasionally plow a few acres of an uncle’s farm. Sitting up on that tractor gave me a sense of power. Sometimes, I couldn’t resist the temptation to look back and see the furrows strung out behind me. When I did I inevitably moved off course and destroyed the symmetry of the plowed field.

“Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Maybe the simplest definition is discipleship is never turning away from the way and practices of Jesus.

Never On Our Own
2010-06-21 by Guy Kent

Never On Our Own

2 Kings 2: 1-2, 6-14

“Hey, Parson,” he asked me, “you know anything about this new pastor they’re sending to our church.

“I don’t know her personally,” I said. “But I know what she’s gone through to get where she is. “

“Well, I don’t know,” he countered. “We were kind of partial toward Reverend Martin. They should have left him here.”

Here in my corner of United Methodism this conversation, or variations of it, are taking place throughout our conference. This Sunday pastors who have been appointed to new charges will stand in their new pulpits for the first time. Pastors in hundreds of churches have laid down the mantle and now another is appointed to pick it up. Neither, putting the mantle down or picking one up, is necessarily an easy task.

Samuel Wells, Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, in his 2009 Baccalaureate Sermon to the Divinity School graduates began with that old story of the famous preacher who was a little short of ethical. He had an assistant who wrote his sermons, but he delivered them as his own with no attribution to the assistant and no sharing of the glory. The assistant finally grew tired of it. One Sunday the famous preacher was delivering his sermon to the thousands and read from his manuscript, “And this, my friends, takes us to the very heart of the book of Habakkuk, which is …” At this point he turned the page and on that next page saw the words, “You’re on your own now.”

He then reminded the graduates, “You’re on your own now.”

Let’s lift a prayer for those of our number stepping into new pulpits this Sunday. Let’s lift a prayer for they are on their own now. And yet, in a real sense, we’re all, every Sunday, on our own as we step into a new Sunday, a new effort, a new challenge.

We’re on our own, or are we?

We are never on our own for the one who laid down the mantle has gone before. Though we may vainly feel our gifts and talents are being assigned to this place to rectify the lack of the same in the one who went before, in actuality that one prepared the way. We are the recipients of the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us.

Note that in this story it is Elijah’s mantle that Elisha wears. The same mantle Elijah slapped upon the water to allow his passage on dry land is the same Elisha uses to accomplish the same.

Praise God for those who have laid down the mantle. And thank God for those who now pick it up.

Fathers and Demons
2010-06-18 by David von Schlichten

I may talk about my biological father and how his demons made him a father I vowed never to imitate, then go on to talk about how God has exorcised the demons from my life through a loving stepfather and through my own children, and conclude with emphasizing God as the greatest of fathers.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Jeffrey Nelson; Ecocritical Dilemma
2010-06-18 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to guest blogger Jeffrey Nelson for his posts this week, especially his reflections on 1 Kings 19, an enigmatic, rich, and problematic text. Scroll down to read his posts.

I am thinking about Luke 8 and the poor swine that perish to save a man possessed. I understand that the swine are symbolic of the unclean, and I praise God for saving this poor man from possession and for showing mercy even to demons.

However, the text still shows the rights of animals being minimized. Many people won't care and will accuse me of being over-sensitive, but we humans are to care for non-human creatures. Here we have a text in which everyone is shown mercy except for the non-human animals. Why does God choose to show mercy to demons but not to swine?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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