2010-02-08 by Jack Vanderplate

Blogs for the week of February 8-13, 2010

Introduction – Bio 

I'm Jack VanderPlate, pastor of Bethel Church in Zeeland, MI.  I love being a Christian and a grandparent (and everything in between).  I play the piano, organ, violin and trumpet – mostly classical and jazz.  I'm an avid tennis player, runner and stock market investor.  I also enjoy golf and fishing. 

I'm from the Reformed tradition (Calvinist), but very much appreciate the way other traditions enlarge and illuminate the themes of the faith.  Our common Christian faith is far too big to live under any one roof!  Maybe that's why I enjoy the "Festival of Homiletics" so much.  So I was excited when invited me to do another "Hot Tub" blog.  I really do love hot tubs - but even more, the cross-pollination of ideas through collegial interaction around the lectionary texts.  I hope you enjoy this week's exchange too! 


Towards February 14, 2010;

Sunday of the Transfiguration /

Last Sunday of Epiphany 

Monday "Hot Tub" February 8, 2010 

This week may be one of the more interesting of the year for us preachers.  We ready ourselves to preach in the wake of the Saints having marched triumphantly in.  This coming Sunday is more popularly known as Valentine's Day than the Sunday of the Transfiguration.  It also occurs to me that most of our parishioners probably spent more time preparing for and enjoying the Super Bowl, and will spend more effort getting something sweet for their honey on Valentine's Day than preparing for, thinking about, or otherwise caring about the transfiguration of our Lord.   

So there's a challenge for this week! 

My first impulse is to see if I can find common denominators in each of these events.  There's certainly a "glory" theme in the Super Bowl just past.  Two very fine teams played a thoroughly entertaining game, and to have the underdog come out on top just adds to the excitement.  The New Orleans Saints now enjoy bragging rights for the year, proudly wear Super Bowl rings, and count fatter bank balances along with their enhanced status as gridiron warriors.  Pretty glorious stuff. 

I also see a common denominator of sorts between the love theme of Valentine's Day and the love of God seen in Jesus who came bring a new day to his people.  But the contrasts are even more compelling...  Our loves tend to be exclusive, God's love is inclusive.  Our loves contain elements self-interest, God's agape love is thoroughly creative.  We involve ourselves in the lives of those we love with appropriate boundaries, God's love is unparalleled in self-giving. 

Love even has its own glory.  Last week I saw a couple sitting together on a park bench out in the freezing Michigan cold—something this Florida boy would never do!  They were talking together, occasionally caressing, obviously "glorying" in each other's company and totally oblivious to anything else going on around them.  Anyone could see that they loved each other. 

That couple's "loving glory" did not seek any attention.  But neither did it avoid notice.  There's a powerful contrast, isn't there, between that glory and the glory of the Super Bowl champions.  Does the difference have to do with the "loving?"   

Notice that the glory of our Lord seen in his transfiguration on the mountaintop with his beloved disciples was not meant for a thronging multitude of adoring fans.  The transfiguration of Jesus was a "loving glory" meant by God for the encouragement of his Son whose humiliation was just ahead.  Perhaps that "loving glory" was even intended by the glorified Jesus to be an encouragement to the disciples who would soon enough forget about their love and loyalty to Jesus and worry instead about saving their own backsides. 

Which leads to thoughts about our own loves, our own glory, our own commitments to each other.  Can the interplay of these themes lead us to some helpful insights as we consider the texts of this week?  

Thanks; "Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight
2010-02-05 by David von Schlichten

I am grateful to Guy Kent and Stephen Schuette for providing edifying blog posts once again.

Lectionary Homiletics Highlight:

Troy Messenger, in "Lesson and the Arts," describes the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which features common folk in a way that reveals their flaws but also their greatness. The paintings remind us of how God uses ordinary people to do great things.

I'm heading to Mississippi to spend a week helping Katrina victims. I don't know if I'll get to do postings next week. I will do my best.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Can…Can Not…Can too!
2010-02-02 by Stephen Schuette

In every instance the circumstances seem to be stacked against them.  For Isaiah the King has died and he personally lacks the credentials and attributes to inspire.  Furthermore, the times are just against it (v. 5).  For Paul, he is “last,” “least,” and “unfit” – a persecutor of the Church.

And Peter from the beginning is full of doubts, and he will face these doubts again and again.  The word of God that Jesus has just shared is still hanging in the air.  Practical Peter has been cleaning his nets, half listening while getting on with his work.  Maybe Jesus, the great Teacher, knows that Peter is a kinetic learner, has to feel it in his bones?  When Jesus tells them to put out and let down their nets Peter’s got no reason to believe…believe that the words that Jesus has shared will affect the reality of a whole night of chasing nothing.  And all the while Peter is thinking, “This son of a carpenter, what does he know about fishing?  Maybe he’ll just see it’s not so easy…”

But over and over again in scripture it’s been proved that all God needs is just a little room, just a little crack in the door, just the smallest of openings.  In Isaiah it’s the little word “yet” in vs. 5.  For Paul it’s that little inkling of light that grew into conviction, which is even now a conviction he cannot claim as his own but a conviction he continues to experience as God’s gift of grace.  And for Peter it’s the willingness to move in spite of doubt, the willingness to say, “Ok, if you say so,” making just enough room for God.

For if I can’t do it, how can it be possible?  In the settled, manufactured world of predictable expectations we remain convinced of what the limits are.  God says, “Can,” and we say, “Can not.”  And the crucial moment comes when God says, “Can too!”  In that exchange, if we’re able to listen even a little, to resist digging in our heels just a little, to give up just a small measure of resistance then God will find a way to leverage that.  Don’t you know that most of ministry is about getting out of the way just enough?

Jesus In the Boat
2010-02-01 by Guy Kent

Toward the end of the first half of the last century I went fishing. It was my first fishing trip. The trip wasn’t down the street. It was up in the mountains, way up in the mountains. It was my first trip, as least in my present memory, overnight, away from home without my parents. My grandfather was the guide.

We woke early the morning after our arrival. The lake seemed so inviting as I peered out the window into the chilly day.  But first there was breakfast. I was not treated as the child I was. I sat upon the stool beside my grandfather in that diner and beheld the eggs, sunny side up, the grits with butter melting in the middle, the sausage and bacon, the biscuits and the coffee, saturated with milk but coffee nevertheless, in the thick, white, heavy coffee mug. I can smell that breakfast to this day.

Actually that breakfast was the highlight of my first fishing trip. The rest of the day we spent in the boat, a small flat bottom rowboat. My line was in the water, stretched below the bouncing cork, with a worm on the hook. My grandfather’s line went into the water and then out as he would cast this way and then that. 

What stands out in my memory of the time in the boat was my grandfather saying, “Don’t rock the boat, boy. You’ll scare the fish. I must have rocked the boat quite a bit. I didn’t catch any fish and neither did my grandfather.

I love the fish stories that revolve around Jesus. Maybe it’s because since that day I seemingly rocked the boat, I’ve been in a perpetual hope of catching a real stringer full of fish. I’m a champion amateur at it, but the art of fishing fascinates me.

“Put out into the deep water,” Jesus told the disciples. 

I don’t think my grandfather and I were very far from the shore. Maybe that’s because I was along and we stayed close to the familiar shore for my “safety.” We certainly were not in the deep. Could my grandfather swim?

Jesus said, “Put out into the deep.” 

The deep is a scary place. It’s where the waves grow tall, the wind blows fiercely, and the little boat gets tossed about like a cork. The deep is where we do not want to be. The deep is unfamiliar. Eugene Peterson has Peter saying, “I’m a sinner and I can’t handle this holiness.”

I wonder if we’d have had better luck if my grandfather had ventured further away from the shore.

William Willimon, in his Christian Century article, “Get Out of Here!”  (1) points out this takes place following  Jesus’ sermon following his preaching in his hometown synagogue. Both of them, Willimon, observes were great sermons. And now Jesus demonstrates he is “master not only of the word of God, but also of fish.”

Is there symbolism in the fish of this story?

Bishop Willimon continues his article with a story. He was unable to attend the Finance Committee meeting. The Chairperson called the next day to let him know the committee had unanimously approved a budget for the upcoming year that was ten percent beyond the current year’s. He informed the Chairperson it would never work. The current budget was five percent behind. At a church service following the campaign, the Chairperson stood before the church and announced the budget had been fully subscribed for the first time in the church’s history. “Now, as I remember, there was somebody who said, ‘You will never pledge that budget’. Who said that?” she asked the assembled.

The bishop adds: “Sometimes I despise the anticlericalism of the lay people as much as I fear the unwanted intrusions of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t when are fishing with Jesus. Get out of here, Jesus.”


Post-Sermon Reflection
2010-01-31 by David von Schlichten

I preached on how God's love cares for us and sustains us, even in the face of horrible misfortune. I listed ways God's love does this. Read my sermon at the cafe.

I didn't receive much feedback. A few people said that the sermon was good.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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