Power and the Implications of Miracles
2010-06-04 by David von Schlichten

Stephen Schuette provides some fertile comments about conventional views of power and God. Scroll down to read Stephen's work.

For Sunday, I will preach on how Jesus' raising of the widow of Nain's son is a miracle with socio-economic implications and on how miracles in general tend to have such implications.

Praying for the Gulf, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Spiritual Power
2010-06-02 by Stephen Schuette

A prophet is not a fortune teller.  A prophet is not even a person of personal power.  In fact most prophets are reluctant prophets, all too aware of their weakness…

On the surface it might seem that each of the readings has to do with the authenticity of the credentials/call/personal gifts of a prophet.  Supporting that view at the end of each reading there is affirmation of each one.  Elijah is identified as a “man of God.”  Others “glorified God” because of Paul.  The “word” about Jesus spreads throughout all Judea.  There’s no way any of them could do what they did and not draw attention to themselves.

But inside the prophet’s own heart and spirit I think it’s an entirely different matter.  For them it’s not about what they’re doing but about what God is doing.  They just seem to be in tune with where God’s Spirit is moving, living into God’s plan and design.  So it’s not so much that they themselves have a power, but they are in touch with a greater power, seeing and interpreting God’s intention.  What appears on the outside is not what it is at all on the inside.  The lineage of the prophets attested to in these stories is actually through persons who point beyond themselves.  In other words neither Elijah nor Jesus could revive the young men on their own unless it were God’s will.

Spiritual power is different than the typical way we think of power.  Usually we think of it as the ability to control or determine something, in other words, “power over.”  And part of what makes us feel so helpless in the Gulf oil disaster is our powerlessness in traditional terms.  We tinker without effect.  We listen to the most powerful man in the world take responsibility, but he cannot solve it.

Primitive religion was about controlling God, offering sacrifices, etc., to sway God to do what we want.  That’s power over God.  It’s about bending God to our will.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t pray to God for what we would like, including daily bread, forgiveness, and being spared temptation.  But faithful prayer in the end trusts God with the answer.

So if this power to which scripture points is different, dependent upon living into what God wants of us and open to God’s future then my attitude is what needs to adjust to God, not God to me.  This may be a profound moment when deep listening is called for, listening also being a part of faithful prayer.  These stories ought to get our attention, not for what they provide which we can then expect, quid pro quo, God to provide for us too, but for what they say about God in whom we live and move and have our being.

May these prophets open our eyes to this truth of God!

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

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