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Big Bang-Last Straw
By Lucien Dulfan
This week in Sermon Feedback Cafe (as you read the sermons and sip on the coffee), please enjoy the art of Lucien Dulfan from Gallery5 in Richmond, Virginia. Gallery5 is a community oriented, socially aware art gallery and performing art center located in Historic Jackson Ward. Click on the link below.
By David von Schlichten
I'm glad that my comments were on target.
I can certainly relate to time constraints. All Saints Sunday (11/4) is one of our busiest Sundays here at St. James. We have Holy Communion and a few other things going on.
I tend to think of my sermons in terms of word count. Tomorrow's sermon will be in the 500-600-word range, when normally I preach in the 700-900-word range.
God-luck with it all, Rick. Keep up the great work.
Yours in Christ,
By rick brand
David, Thank you. That is almost always my down fall. The stories and illustrations are usually lacking or brief one sentence reference to stories. The need for more stories is exactly right.
In our worship on Communion Sundays the time for preaching gets very constricted and so even if I had good stories on Communion Sundays, they would get left out. Three pages is the limit of time in our place.
Rick's Psalm 119 Sermon
By David von Schlichten
Thanks for sharing your communion meditation, Rick. It's great to talk with you here at the cafe.
The sermon is rich with sound, intelligent theology and explication of the glorious Psalm 119. Thanks.
What if there were more in the way of story and imagery to help the ideas of the sermon take root in the consciousness of hearers?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Psalm 119 - Communion Meditation
By rick brand
As I am working with the Psalms until Advent, it seemed to me that this ends up going along the lines of David's series on the Bible. So I thought maybe it would be fun to share it.
Text: Psalm 119
November 4, 2007
First Presbyterian Church of Henderson, NC
Rick Brand, Pastor
You just cannot get the full impact of Psalm 119 in translation. This is not just a very long Psalm. This is an incredible piece of creative writing. The Poet who composed this Psalm began with the idea of taking all of the consonants in the Hebrew language, 22 of them, and using them as the structure of the poem. He will take the letter and then write eight lines of praise for the Word of God, each line beginning with that letter. Eight lines that start with A talking about the Word of God. Then eight lines that start with B talking about the Word of God. On and on through all 22 letters. The poet does allow a certain freedom in that there are eight terms that are permitted to describe the Word of God. The Poet may use law, decrees, statues, commandments, ordinances, word, precepts, and promises.
Look at the passage we read for the morning. There is judgments, testimonies, words, promise, precepts, law, commandments, and testimonies again. Each line of these eight verses starts with a Sade. This is a creative work of literary skill that is consumed with a passion for the Word of God.
Our lives and our future, our joy and our hope are centered in the Word of God. It is our delight to meditate upon God Word day and night. The Word of the Lord is not presented to us as a simple thing. It is not always obvious. It is not easy. To receive and to be sustained by the Word of God expects constant and faithful study and reflection upon the Word of God. The Psalmist knows that we are always looking for a way to make life easy. Jesus was asked to reduce the Law down to just one commandment. What is the greatest of the commandments, and Jesus could only get it down to two. Still we keep seeking the easy answer. We want a Prayer of Jabez, or Sowing faith seeds, or accept Jesus as Your personal Lord and savior and it is all ok. This Psalm with its 167 lines knows that to open oneself up before the Law of the Lord, to be transformed into the will and purpose of God, to put our lives into a congruent way with God's precepts is a life time of prayer, study and meditation upon the Word of the Lord. For the Psalmist having read parts of the Bible once is not enough.
Because the Word of the Lord comes to us through so many different ways. The commandments of God, the testimonies of Moses, of Joshua, of the Prophets, of the Priest, the stories of the People of Israel, the covenants of David, the judgments and punishments of the Exile, the marvels of creation, the movements of history, the writings of scripture, they are all voices and vehicles through which the Word of God comes to his people. The Voice of God is heard from an amazing number of different mouths. One has to be rooted and grounded in the Word of God as it has come in the past to be attuned to the Voice of God speaking a new Word to a new people.
We are invited to meditate and to listen to the Word of God in all of its many forms and through all of its many voices because the Word of God continues to speak and to express the precepts and purposes of God's love for us today. The Word of God is not over. The Word of God is not frozen in the past. We are driven to the places where God has spoken in the past, to the sources where the Word of God has been received before in order that we might hear the Word of God address our new and different situation. The Word of God is the voice of Holy Love for the blessings of all creation, but the realities into which that word is spoken is always new and different. Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and now we are struggling as people on how do we help people love each other without harming each other on the internet. Here there are lots and lots, 48 million on MyFace, who are putting on their pages more and more personal stuff than they will share with their parents or teachers. Recording for an impersonal public their most private hopes and dreams which makes them terribly vulnerable and exposed. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves in such a new world?
One of the ways that the Voice of God is heard for us is at this table. For there is a place for this Table of the Last Supper in this Psalm. There is in this talk about the Commandments of God, the testimonies of the believers, the purposes of God, a dark side of our lives as well. This table is one of the places we come to now to listen for the Word of God. The Psalm and the table bring us to the hard part of the Word of God that we are not eager to talk about. For there is a great deal within our lives that is hard and dark and difficult for us to talk about. There is the pain and the feelings of insignificance. There are the times we are worried and feel threatened and in danger. There are within the lives of people we know violence, pain, and suffering that nobody talks about. There is sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, there is child abuse and domestic violence, there is drug abuse and irresponsible spending.
There is that hard part of the Word of God that is found in the Psalm and at this table, that the closer we get to the Will and Word of God for creation the more open and involved in the pain and suffering of the world we will be drawn. The Word of God does not keep silent about the places where life is not as it should be. The voice of God love speaks out and acts out in the dark and dangerous places of our lives. That is why love of God is the power which brings redemption and hope. It will not cover over or run away from the painful moments and events in our lives. The Psalmist declares when I am oppressed by trouble and anxiety Thy commandments, O Lord, are my continual delight." The more we are transformed and renewed by the Word of God in our lives the more we are opened and enabled to bear testimony in the places where pain and darkness exist. The Psalm and the table declare that God's Word and God's Love are strong in the broken places of our lives. The Commandments of God as we open ourselves to them give us the courage and the strength to live in hope and confidence.
Come then to this table.
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