Stephen; Trinity and Juggling
2010-05-28 by David von Schlichten

Stephen Schuette is always helpful with his posts. Scroll down to read his contribution.

I'm going to end Sunday's sermon with a juggling routine that I will do with one of my recently confirmed parishioners, Katie, who will turn fourteen on Sunday. Juggling the three balls will represent the love of the Trinity. Katie will juggle and then toss the balls to me for me to juggle. This stunt will illustrate the sharing of the love of the Trinity. Once she has tossed me the balls, she will pick up three additional balls that she will juggle, thereby illustrating that sharing the love does not mean depriving oneself of it. We will each juggle three balls simultaneously. 

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

2010-05-25 by Stephen Schuette

We all have our stuff, don’t we?  You know what “stuff” I mean.  We all have that stuff that stands in the way of us being as complete and whole as we might otherwise be.  It’s the stuff that causes us to look away too soon, that causes us to overlook what we really need.  It’s what stands in the way of a larger wisdom.

Day to day there is a tendency to live expediently rather than wisely, relying on cleverness.  We buy shrimp before they become scarce.  That's clever!  So I’m not just talking about individual “stuff,” because in these ways our “stuff” flows over into cultural patterns.  It is about me, and concerns me greatly, but it’s not only about me.

Wisdom in the text is connected with something deeply imbedded in creation from the beginning, wiser than hills and earth and fields, in fact, so primordial that it is not just a part of creation but a part of the process that brought creation about…rejoicing and delighting.  I think of native spiritualities.  Or the writing of Kathleen Norris (Dakota) or Willa Cather:

"The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers...I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."  (My Antonia)

OK, to be honest, I follow Willa Cather until that last sentence.  Before you can get to that place of spiritual surrender that's like falling asleep I think Paul is more honest when he says that most often, in order to be free and clear (from our stuff) there is suffering involved.  We don’t tend to change easily or to give up our stuff easily.  William Sloan Coffin would say, “Improve the quality of your suffering.”  There’s something in it.

Paul even boasts about it.  I think he means that for the Christian this is what we boast about while others boast about other things.  Generals boast about conquests, nations boast of wealth and power, corporations boast about profits and market share.  Paul is being purposely provocative.  To boast about suffering is oddly Christian…to boast about what we’ve lost, how we’ve let go on the way to greater wholeness.  (Warning:  not that we artificially need to create suffering.  There’s enough suffering if we’re paying attention.  Don’t you hear even the earth itself crying out these days at how disconnected we are with a deeper wisdom?)

Creation comes out of chaos and wholeness comes out of suffering.  But finally a word about community.  For it’s good to know that we are not alone in the journey.  Creation itself, like God’s own self is a web of relationship.  We are all wounded, which is what it means that Jesus shares our suffering.  So in our journey we have good company.  There’s wisdom in realizing that.

Stop, look.  Calm the voices that are causing you to miss it.  Hear it?  Wisdom comesnot for all our chasing and effort but finally when we give ourselves over to it.

Juggling as Sermon Illustration for the Trinity
2010-05-25 by David von Schlichten

I have a teen parishioner who juggles well. I juggle a little, too, so we're going to do some sort of routine this Sunday that will involve three-ball juggling as an illustration of the Trinity.

I am having difficulty developing the idea, though, believe it or not. Any suggestions?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Festival of Homiletics; Holy Spirit and Creed's Third Article
2010-05-20 by David von Schlichten

I have heard exciting things about the Festival of Homiletics. Pastor Leah D. Schade, for example, reported that Barbara Lundblad's talk on same gender relations was outstanding. What else have people found edifying?

I am back in PA thinking about the sermon for Pentecost. I am turning over in my mind the third article of the Apostles' Creed, which pertains to the Holy Spirit. That article mentions the Spirit and then lists a bunch of other things that we believe. As Luther and others have argued, this list of other things is not some list of ideas left over that don't fit anywhere else in the Creed. Rather, this list has to do with the activity of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for the holy, catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. For Sunday, then, I might focus on one or more of these and expound on it.

For instance, I might preach on exactly how the Holy Spirit is responsible for the resurrection of the body (as well as on what the resurrection of the body is).

What are your thoughts?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Are You Talkin' to Me?
2010-05-18 by Stephen Schuette

I stand in awe of the way the seasons flow into one another.  All along the stories from Acts that we’ve been reading in Eastertide are seen as evidence of the continuing work of a Risen Christ.  But now, from Acts 2, we look back on these same stories and find them connected with a “violent wind” – a kind of uncontrollable, unmanageable, untamable force that, as John would say (through the voice of Jesus), “…blows where it wills.”

Why violent, including the violence in the prophecy of Joel that is quoted?  Because Luke can’t get away from the fact that it is disrupting and disorienting and radically undermines our assumptions about how the world works and who is in charge and even the nature of “power” itself.  Looking back, that’s what resurrection suggests.  Looking forward, it means we have to look at everything anew, imagine everything “in translation.”  And the lexicon which holds the key to the message or the prophecy is Jesus.

For instance, Borg and Crossan make clear that the early message about Jesus (as well as the words of Jesus himself) uses language that is co-opted from imperial Roman understandings. Words are translated.  Talk about transformation!  The very powers that attempted to derail the movement using Roman crucifixion are actually taken up to illustrate God’s new message of resurrection.  So there is Son of God/Son of God, peace/peace, empire/empire, cross/cross, slave/slave, heir/heir.  But without Jesus you can’t understand the language.  Without Jesus it’s just more Babel-producing noise.  In fact, the miracle of Pentecost may be that the listeners “heard” each in their own language and were able to pick it out and identify it rather than being confused by the din of all the comingled languages!

Notice how midway through the passage the pronouns switch from third person (they) to first person (we).  Luke verbalizes, in first person, the question of each in the crowd:  “How is it that we hear, each of us…?”  Or, from the other side, given God’s power to use language that’s understandable (God’s ability to create and speak a Word), how can we not hear?  What’s standing in the way of our truly hearing?

For God can use everything/anything.  The reality is pervasive.  It’s only our understanding that is short-sighted (or short of hearing??).  Tillich would say that a Christian who paints a tree paints a Christian tree.  In other words it is imbued with the language of faith.  And so the Christian who views the painting would recognize it and say, “Ok, I understand.  You were talkin’ to me afterall.”

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