Thursday, February 28, 2008


"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." But I do want.
On good days, I try to want what God wants. Perhaps the contentment of sheep is merely that of being close to the shepherd and wanting what the shepherd wants. Psalm 23 seems unrelated to John 9's story of the man blind from birth. Did the blind man want his sight? It is assumed so in the story and of course he would, wouldn't he? But I wonder if it was his primary 'want'? If you were blind from birth, would sight be what you wanted? Or would you have the same desires as we do today; security, safety and comfort, a good meal and shelter, hope for tomorrow? Did his new vision provide for any of those wants?
Jesus, as a good shepherd, doesn't ask the blind man what he wants. (Look to other stories where that question comes before the healing, not here.) Jesus gives him what he needs; new sight, a new vision and then exits the story. We get to watch as the no-longer-blind-man is enlightened as to who Jesus is, and the real identity of the Pharisees who question him. After the man has come to 'see' the truth, Jesus returns. The man is now ready to 'see' Jesus and does.
Our question revolves around our wants. We want security. What does security look like to Jesus? (Mt. 10:9). We want safety. Jesus disregards what we call safety and calls us to take up the cross (Mt. 10:38). We want to see God. The blind man first sees a prophet, then one who leads disciples, and finally a Messiah. He enters the journey to the 'light of the world' who came that "those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind."
Examining the contrast between our wants and God's, do we dare 'want' to see?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Women and Wells

Need, thirst and hunger feature prominently this week in the lectionary texts. In the gospel text we visit Jesus and and a woman at Jacob's well. Since the disciples bow out of the scene so quickly, the focus is on the man and the woman. Shades of Rebecca, Rachel, and Zipporah. I most appreciate Sandra Schneider's allegorical interpretation:

Jesus could be the bridegroom coming to claim Samaria as an integral part of the New Israel which he inaugurates; the Christian community. The Samaritan woman’s history parallels Samaritan national history. Assyrians conquer in 721 BC and bring colonists from FIVE foreign nations into Samaria. Schneiders asks, are the 5 husbands symbolic of Samaria’s intermarriage with foreign people and the acceptance of their false gods? And is the 6th ‘man’ who is not a husband, Rome?
In Frances Taylor Gench Back to the Well (Louisville:Westminster John Knox 2004)

There are so many layers to investigate in John's gospel that heading down any path can provide avenues for sermon writing. I am always surprised by another consideration that I hadn't seen. New Proclamation (Dale Andrews) compares the thirst conversation with the woman alongside the hunger conversation with the disciples. One can look at the comparison of the woman, an ultimate outsider with Nicodemus in chapter 3, the ultimate insider. Reading John's gospel is like doing a Sudoku puzzle, there's always another line or layer to consider.

The focus on need is most interesting. Someone recently shared with me a workshop exercise that had individuals chart their lifelines with highs and lows and then chart their spiritual journeys. For everyone, the low points in life coincided with high points in spirituality. When God was most needed, God's presence was most near. Carlo Carretto wrote that nothing propels us towards tomorrow more effectively than suffering. (
Why Oh Lord?) Paul points out the direct connection among suffering, endurance, character and hope. Looking back at my own life, I'd have to agree and even echo Paul's words, "hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Rom. 5:5) There is no shortcut to character and hope, but God's presence journeys with us all the way providing for our hunger and thirst.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gotta have faith

I have watched a few episodes of Eli Stone since the writers strike. He began hearing George Michael sing at strange times during his day. Turns out he has a deep brain aneurysm which gives him visions. But there seems to be a purpose for each vision and as he follows vision clues, he finds that he is in a place to help someone. So does he have 'faith'?

In Hebrews we read, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (11:1) How does one acquire faith? It seems the answer is the same for all spiritual disciplines. We acquire faith by practicing it. John Wesley wrote to those who "overvalue reason" saying it (reason) "is utterly incapable of giving either faith, hope or love, and consequently of producing either real virtue or substantial happiness. Expect these from a higher source, even from the Father of the spirits of all flesh. Seek and receive them, not as your own acquisition, but as the gift of God."

As much as we desire greater faith, we cannot produce it, only ask for it, live it and trust that we are living in it. George Michael is right, 'you gotta have faith.'

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Honor

I have been told that my comment about the honor of preaching sounded sharp. That was hardly my meaning. I believe that preaching the gospel IS an honor and it is one that I'm working on currently as it is my honor to preach this Sunday. Using the lectionary texts is a great challenge and a discipline as each group of texts is handed to the preacher as a challenge to delve deeply into the Bible and listen. Genesis 12 begins this week's texts and is the call of Abram to a place: tbd. Wow, that takes some serious discernment and he did not have the Psalms to turn to for reassurance and comfort. I suspect he "lifted his eyes to the hills" (Ps. 121) on more than one occasion. "Nic at Night" is the gospel lesson (Jn. 3) and is full of great light and dark images. Romans 4 rounds out the group as Paul recounts Abraham's journey of faith. So many gifts lie within these scriptures. I pray that I may share faithfully from them.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Today I'm reading about temptation, which is the subject of tomorrow's lectionary texts. Altho, I'm not preaching, -it is my colleague's privilege- I consider preparation for worship equally important. The temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 is an interesting text to which I've been drawn in the last several years. In Christian Century's January 29, ( Living The Word, Christian Coon engages the question as to whether God tests us? Jesus indicates we should pray for deliverance from testing. It is an interesting question.
Perhaps more engaging is the experience itself. No matter from where it comes, temptations are part of life and they are not always the expected vices of immorality, or even gluttony. It seems to me the temptation is often for us to react in kind. To simply "be human" in some words and to give back what is given; to meet the opposing force with equal and opposite force. It's close to a Newtonian law, but is not the way Jesus taught it.
Whether we turn the other cheek and refuse to engage in violence, or we meet the violence with love of equal intensity, the opposing forces are not equal. Looking in from the outside it seems that violent forces are overwhelmingly more powerful than those the Christian has at one's disposal. Yet when engaged in the experience itself, one can see that the options of love are far more powerful than anything the world can dish out. Perhaps you really 'have to be there.'
Christian Coon says, "Jesus doesn't race around calling out the devil so they can fight. . .he waits and prepares, fasting and praying. he doesn't procrastinate; he confronts the tempter. He doesn't overanalyze the situation by thinking it to death; he uses the right amount of reason and faith to refute the devil. Intentional preparation and courageous confrontation are powerful tools. (my emphasis) In the Christian faith, these are the Lenten disciplines that we can utilize when life's test are before us." Thank you Rev. Coon, ( you are right on the mark.
Is temptation real? From where does it come? All interesting intellectual questions, but more important to our daily living is the preparation for the moment when it does come. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." amen, let it be so!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The First Pastor's Post

Welcome, at least to me! for who else will read the ramblings of a preacher's kid turned preacher? I have much to learn about the blog-a-sphere, but how exciting to have the opportunity. What would St. Paul have done with a blog?
"Grace and peace to you. I think of you always in my about the behavior that has been reported to me..."
Well, in that vein, what do you make of youth multi-tasking during Sunday class time and youth program time? I'd love to hear some opinions and policy. Sunday, we will begin to look at what a youth leader would want from other youth when speaking or leading the class. Then we will contemplate what type of covenant we will institute for the remainder of the year. I am a texter and it is a hard habit to give up. But, i suppose I could stop for a limited time. If anyone happens to read this, please tell me what boundaries you place on your own texting, cell use, and MP3 player use. It will help me.
And now, good night, from the blogging pastor and the initial post. Grace and peace to you.