you who know me know I’m a calendar/ reading of the day/ devotional junkie. Or
at least, when I buy such books I imagine that I would use them regularly if I just had the right one. I know this
is just another form of consumer fantasy, but I can’t help myself.
OK, this one is old, but Tom Wright is one of the most
accessible serious exegetes around, someone who manages to bridge the evangelical/liberal
gap and really digs into the text. Although this book fits well into the
Lenten/ Easter cycle, it doesn’t have to be read that way.
I’m excited about this resource because of the authors
compiled here: G.K. Chesterton, Madeleine L’Engle, Dorothy Day, and a few 20th
century authors who are still living, like Frederick Buechner. Rather than
arranged around days, this one is organized by theme, moving from passion to
resurrection. More than 40 reflections, fewer than ninety, so it won't take you all the way through the Easter season.
My favorite Obamaniac posted a question over the weekend
about Obama’s reference in his South Carolina victory speech about a woman who sent a money order for $3.01. Read the
responses. . .it’s a great commentary on what happens when “compulsive textual
critics” meet people who actually have to get money orders at a grocery store.
I'm actually taking this Transfiguration Sunday off, in order to participate in the City of Lakes Loppet on Sunday. For me it's an annual glimpse of the kingdom, being able to SKI from the suburbs into Uptown! This year we might have a kid skiing with us instead of being hauled behind us. . .another milestone.
Those of you looking for a preaching image or two, I'll refer you back to my essay from last year at Journey with Jesus. Matthew's account is a little different, yes, but the larger image of the lights going on still holds true.
At ECLC, we're going to have a surprise transfiguration of a different kind. You'll just have to show up to see what it is.
I've noticed, both in my own preaching and when I teach preaching, that it is very easy to describe the problem, and all too easy to neglect a robust exposition of the Good News. In Lutheran terms, we spend four days of the week working on the Law, and then tack on some Gospel on Saturday night. When we work on human need, sin, or "the problem," we can be specific, tactile, story-filled and relevant. When we get to Grace, we lapse into cliche, jargon and past tense.
So my new discipline is to work out the end of my sermon first. Where am I headed? What is the Good News, for now, today, in terms people can understand and hear? I'm not sure I got as specific as I'd like in yesterday's sermon, but here's where it ended:
In this place, as we’ve had conversations about what it
means to follow, there will be unanswered questions. Some of them may be
answered along the way. Some of them, to be honest, won’t be answered until we
live into the answers. Some maybe aren’t the right questions in the first
But what we do know is that Jesus is calling us, from this
place, from where we are, exactly as we are, with all our anxieties and
worries, all our pride and certainty that we have it right, all our distractions
and concerns about everything But God.
That’s OK. Jesus doesn’t need us to know what we want.
He wants to change what we want. He wants us to seek God’s
kingdom, to follow, and everything else, everything, will follow from that.
Never let it be said that children are too young to pick up something in church.
We were at our favorite restaurant recently, the Italian one Johann refers to as the "olive oil store." The place was packed, and the table next to us appeared to be a grandmother's birthday party complete with other small children. Johann looks over that direction halfway through the meal and declares,
Johann: "I want to pee-suh-ga "
Parents: "Excuse me? You just went potty" (public restrooms are a big attraction for this kid).
Johann: "No, I want to pee-suh-ga"
Us (still clueless) "You want pizza? But you asked for noodles."
Johann: "No, I want to peace of God!!"
Oh, of course. Several generations (albeit perfect strangers) are gathered around the table. Surely we can go over and greet them with the the peace of the Lord.
As I've mentioned before, I'm going on sabbatical this spring. I'm having a real hard time right now not letting the planning of the sabbatical detract from the restful purpose of the sabbatical. I enjoy exploring all the options more than most J's (myers-briggs), but golly, it's time to make some decisions!
Anyhow, we're narrowing in on the area around Freiburg as a home base (near France and Switzerland, a great unversity town, lots of vineyards nearby . . .), but we're still open to other suggestions. If anyone knows of the perfect kid-friendly town in Germany or another German-speaking area that has plentiful public transit and won't break the bank, let us know!
Our goal is not to travel all the time but to settle into a new rhythm of life, spend time writing (me), doing photography (Will), and playing (all of us). Anyone who makes a perfect suggestion, we'll take you out to dinner (there, or here).
The makers of the lectionary must have chuckled to themselves, knowing that their choices for this Sunday would usually fall around the time of many congregational annual meetings.
Here's Isaiah promising that the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light (just in case we've forgotten all those warm feelings we had back at Christmas time).
Here's Paul, writing with astonishment, "What's this that I hear? Divisions among you!!"
And Matthew's gospel, reminding us again that the disciples didn't get a job description or an estimate of volunteer hours or even, apparently, a lot of "time to pray about it," when they were called to follow. We'd like to fill in the gaps of the story with some very modern tale of existential angst and dissatisfaction with fishing, but Matthew doesn't care about that at all.
Maybe the question we should ask ourselves at annual meetings is, "What do we have to leave behind in order to follow?"
Years ago, as I was just starting out in ministry, I read an
article in which a veteran pastor suggested that one of the best practices to keep one’s
sense of calling fresh was to attend the ordinations and installations of
others. I think I was in the New Jersey Synod at the time, so that was an easy
suggestion to follow – ordinations usually happened en masse at the Synod
It’s still a good suggestion, but one that is harder to
follow in this Midwestern church climate, where everything is much more congregational
and, since Lutherans are so dense, one could spend an awful lot of weekends
attending such services. I tend to go only to the services for people I know
really well, and even then the demands of parenting often take precedence over
an extra church obligation on a Saturday or Sunday.
Today was a reminder, though, of how true that pastor’s
advice was. I suited up for an “extraordinary” ordination, meaning one that the ELCA
roster will not recognize because the person in question is in a same-sex
partnership. She is extraordinary in many other ways as well, particularly her
commitment to mission and her grace under pressure. Unlike most Minnesota
ordinations, which can feel very much like small family affairs, this one had
pew after pew of clergy from many states attending, all of us decked out in
albs and red stoles, including many people who are not connected to the daily
life of this particular pastor or congregation. But we were there, because a
sister’s ministry is being recognized by her congregation for what it is – Word
and Sacrament for the sake of the world.
Since the first “extraordinary” ordination I attended about
ten years ago, these services have become less unusual, which is, on the whole,
a very good thing for the church. On the other hand, I think it is voices from
‘outside’ the sanctioned roads to ministry that are reminding those of us who
are called how precious this calling is, and what joy it is to share in it. I hope that, one
day, it will be “no big deal,” if a GLBT person is ordained to ministry; and yet I
hope it will still be a very big deal because God has called, and they have
answered, "send me."