Posts Tagged With: clergy

Narrative Lectionary: Glory, then Guts (Luke 9:28-45)

Like eating a big pile of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, we gorge on glory before we enter the somber season of Lent.  The Transfiguration story fills us up with mystery before the Lent’s fare of sacrifice and approaching death.

Read the text here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary here.

Death and glory mingle together in this story, as Jesus moves toward the end of his life.  “About eight days after these sayings,” our story begins, making us wonder…what sayings.  Before this, Jesus has announced that his death is coming, and that following him involves more sacrifice than anyone really wants.  Then he says, “But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”  The glory at the top of the mountain foretells the glory to come, but I have to wonder if the disciples thought they were dying right then and there, on the mountain.  Looking at the glory of God embodied in Jesus, they do get a taste of death, as promised.

They’re surrounded by the cloud of God’s presence, and it overshadows them.  When the angel announces to Mary that she will have a child, the angel uses the same word — the power of God will overshadow her.  The word overshadow shows up only four times in the Christians scriptures, and two of the four are in Luke (plus another in Acts.)  Each time, there is a sense of power being transferred.  The three disciples are being prepared for the sacrifice and death ahead, but they are also being covered by the power of God.

The deep mystery of God’s presence is always fleeting, giving way to the concerns of ordinary life.  Just a day after they hear God’s voice, Jesus and the three disciples hear another voice, this time a desperate father, begging for help.  With Jesus away, the other disciples haven’t been able to heal the man’s son.  The unclean spirit within him has triumphed.   Jesus has a strong rebuke before he heals the boy, and we can’t tell if he’s talking to the father, the disciples or the whole crowd gathered around.   He announces his coming betrayal again, but the disciples don’t understand.  Perhaps they’re still stinging from being called  a “faithless and perverse generation,” and they’re afraid to ask Jesus what he means.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all preserve this Transfiguration story, with the healing story following it, but only Luke has the detail about James, John and Peter being sleepy.  Their fatigue here evokes their sleepiness with Jesus in the garden at the end of his life.  Here they manage to stay awake and see Jesus in his glory, but there in the garden they fall asleep and leave him alone in his distress.  On both occasions, Jesus sets out to pray, and from that intention, dramatic things happen.

Just like our own lives, the Transfiguration story holds a mixture of mystery, grandeur and sleepiness, followed by human need and our inability to meet it fully.  At the edge of Lent, Jesus calls us to wakefulness and prayer, and we follow him into a way of sacrifice, looking for glimpses of transcendence along the way.

Sermon possibilities:

  • As Jesus prays on the mountain, some of the disciples are left behind. The drama below starts as they fail in their efforts to heal the boy.  Jesus says later that their failure is related to prayer – this kind of work can only be done through prayer.  The sermon might look at the connection between prayer and the work we hope to do in God’s name.
  • The sermon might explore the theme of being sleepy or awake. To which parts of God are we asleep?  Where are we awake to what God is doing?   Is God waking us up, or do we need to wake ourselves up?
  • In a season of deep personal distress, Pastor and public theologian Jennifer Bailey recalls that the pain was so great that she “folded into myself: my arms wrapped tightly around my knees and found their rest on my heaving chest. Yet, as I opened my mouth to cry out to God, as I often do in moments of hopelessness, no sound emerged…Rocking back and forth on the cool linoleum floor, I finally uttered the only words that I could find, “I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe.” Like a gust of wind, I could suddenly feel the soulful presence of my ancestors surround me, holding me and bearing witness to my pain. Then I heard my mama’s spirit whisper gently, gently in my ear, “Baby, we ain’t never been safe”.  In a similar way, in a time when Jesus has announced that there is no safety for those who follow him, Jesus and the disciples experience the presence of Moses and Elijah, their ancestors in faith.  The sermon might look at how we find our ancestors’ presence and strength in difficult days.
  • Tracy Cochran writes “In Buddhism, a definition of faith is the ability to keep our hearts open in the darkness of the unknown. The root of the word patience is a Latin verb for “suffer,” which in the ancient sense meant to hold, not to grasp but to bear, to tolerate without pushing away. Being patient doesn’t mean being passive. It means being attentive, willing to be available to what is happening, going on seeing, noticing how things change. When we aren’t wishing for something to be over, or when we aren’t freezing around an idea about what it is we are seeing, we see and hear more.” How do the disciples keep their faith at the bottom of the mountain, as well as at the top?  How do we?

Where are your thoughts taking you this week?  Let us know in the comments section below.  We look forward to a conversation with you!

 

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Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church, a diverse Presbyterian church in the city of Detroit.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time about her Detroit adventures at Stained Glass in the City. The image above is from the Jesus MAFA series from Cameroon, and is from the Vanderbilt Library of Art in the Christian Tradition.  See more: http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/diglib-fulldisplay.pl

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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The Pastoral Is Political: We Shine Brighter Together

A dozen candles of various shapes, sizes, amd colors

©2017 Cindi Knox. Used by permission.

I serve a tiny church. It was once a center of activity for a German immigrant community. Later, it was a neighborhood center.

Now it is a small band of committed people.

There is diversity in these people. We have people whose ancestors come from Africa, Europe, East Asia, and also the Caribbean and Central America – which have a diversity all their own.  We have mostly older members, but some young as well. We have gay and straight members, cisgender and transgender members. We have members with economic security, and members who are homeless.

Continue reading

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Monday Prayer

crocuses

crocuses in the manse garden. JRen17

O Precious Holy
how marvellous is your world
the land lays dormant; brown fields, bare trees
and yet, somewhere the season is advancing; somewhere
autumn is creeping,
How magnificent – that in every hour of every day, new life begins
old life wanes
the weary sleep
the dormant rise…

Holy One
may we take a moment today
to marvel at your creation
to be thankful for this world
to remember, other voices, other lands,
all yours, all known and loved by you

May we pause
Take breath
and wonder
Holy, holy, holy,
amen


Julie Rennick is a Church of Scotland minister, serving a rural community in the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders. She blogs at A Country Girl, writes for Spill the Beans and contributed to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Festival: Desires

February is the month of longing.

In a long winter, we long for sunshine.  In unusual political times, we long for clarity.  Valentine’s Day can leave us longing for love, companionship, or just a really fantastic cupcake.  If we raced straight from Advent to preparations for Lent, we long for quiet, and a moment to breathe.  If surgery has been on the schedule, we long to move without pain, and to feel energetic again.

Our wise bloggers write about different desires this week.

New mom Traci Smith is longing for us all to have some sense when we talk to pregnant women.  We’ve all learned not to pat pregnant women on the belly (we have, haven’t we?) but we haven’t learned what to say.  Smith says that people still say things like “Wow, you’re enormous!”  Or, perhaps, “Wow, I hope you don’t have the baby right here!” “Are you sure there’s only one baby in there?” “You’re gigantic!” “You look like you’re about to pop!”  Smith adds, “Unsolicited comments about the size of one’s belly are never welcome, but for some reason, people feel like pregnancy is an exception to this rule. Few people would walk up to an overweight person and say “Wow, you’re ENORMOUS!” Yet to pregnant women, it happens all the time. Baffling.”

Spoiler alert:  Smith advises that the proper comment, for all situations, even when something else pops into our minds, is: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

Valentine’s Day can be blissful – or hard.  Tara Ulrich longs for a wider understanding of the day, and for us all to see our worth outside of traditional romantic pairs.  She reminds us, “today especially I need each of you to continually remind me that I am one of God’s beloved. I need to know that my life isn’t wrapped up in my singleness. I need to be reminded continually that I’m not past my prime. I also need to be reminded that there is even beauty in the uncertainty of it all. (So much easier said than done)…I’m single. Not sick, not a problem and not past my prime. So please don’t pity me on Valentine’s Day, because today of all days, I need your help to remember that my value doesn’t rest in a relationship status, in a box of chocolates or in a red rose. It rests in the fact that no matter what lies ahead of me, I am God’s beloved and His plans for me far exceed the feelings of a day.”

A longing for certainty leads us to interpret some scriptures as fixed, set as guidance for all times and places.  Professor Wil Gafney sets that aside and begins with the provocative title “Jesus Rewrites Scripture and So Can We.”  Looking at the scriptures from Matthew 5 where Jesus says things like, “You have heard it said…but I say…” Gafney reminds us that Rabbi Jesus is interpreting the scriptures as he teaches.

She adds: “Jesus is our example in all things. He is out teacher, our rabbi. We are to do what he did to the best of our ability. In this case, that means we are to wrestle with scripture, wrestle with the meaning, and when necessary, wrestle a blessing out of it, which means wrestling with those bruising passages that have been used to hurt us and so many others. That includes some of today’s lesson, verses of which have been used to keep folk in unsafe marriages, or ostracize other marriages, even in church.”

A longing for perfection leads Rachael Keefe to reflect on her lack of singing ability, and then to realize that the desire to sing is part of a deeper issue.  She shares with us that “It was the desire to be perfect that was my personal demon. If I’m honest, it still is on occasion. During my teen years, I was so enamored with the idea of perfection that I nearly traded my life for it. I was driven by the idea that if I were perfect, then I would not feel pain and I would be loved.”

In a stable job, we long for room to be creative.  As freelancers, we long for stability.  MaryAnn McKibben Dana explores the different joys of being, as she calls it, “a free-range pastor.”  For anyone pondering a change of vocation, she says, “I love my quirky unofficial parish. I’ve been called upon to pastor people in a whole range of settings: walking the kids home from school with a gaggle of parents, via Facebook message, and even while running—trying to explain the Reformation while running a hilly eleven-miler was a special challenge.”

What are you longing for in these February days?  Let us know, and share your hopes, in the comments section below.

 

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Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Thursday Prayer

When it all gets to be too much,

When the worries large and small wash over us,

When the last straw happens and keeps happening,

When we don’t have a chance to catch our breath,

Be our deep breath.

Be our persistence.

Be our burden-shoulder-er.

Be our holder-upper.

Thank you.

Amen.img_0187

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as stated supply pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Luling, TX. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com

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Wednesday Prayer

img_1866

I believe
in spite of all that is laying around everywhere in the world,
the “can’t make this up” stuff,
the angry shouts and accusations and confusion and LOUD CACOPHONY
that threatens the peace of everything,

that You are weathering this with us.
You wrap us up in your Heart.
and then You nudge us off
to do the work,
to go many extra miles in these extra ordinary times,
to persist, resist,
to heal, to listen
to give, to offer,
to welcome,
to FACE whatever,
knowing we wear Your face…
and when we are tired,

You wrap us up in your Heart
and hold us,
and we weather this together.

Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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RCL: You Shall Be Holy

Sometimes Scripture gets a little obvious (even heavy-handed), as it does in this coming Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary texts:

“You shall not deal falsely.
You shall not lie to one another.”
(Leviticus 19:11)

#guilty

“Do not boast about human leaders.”
(1 Corinthians 3:21)

#beentheredonethat

“You shall not profit
by the blood of your neighbor.
You shall not hate your own kin.”
(Leviticus 19:16-17)

#colonialism #capitalism
#whiteprivilege #racism

“Give to everyone who begs from you,
and do not refuse anyone
who wants to borrow from you.”
(Matthew 5:42)

#godblessthechild

“Do not deceive yourself…
for the wisdom of this world
is foolishness with God.”
(1 Corinthians 3:18-19)

#everydaystruggle

“Love your enemies.”
(Matthew 5:44)

#notevenclose

…and this doozy…

“Be perfect therefore as
your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Matthew 5:48)

#goingbacktobed

236a8-holyHow’s that going for you, the whole “perfection” commandment? How’s it working out in your ministry to “love your enemies”? What are you experiencing in the world’s inclination to “boast in leaders” and its preference to “profit from the blood of your neighbor?”

Let’s consider those questions momentarily rhetorical.

Try this one instead:

When Scripture is so obvious, do you preach an equally straightforward sermon?

#notmycontext

However you preach such ethical admonitions as these, let’s backtrack to their theological foundation:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
“Speak to all the congregation of the people
of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy
for I the LORD your God am holy.”
(Leviticus 19:1-2)

breath windowYou shall be holy — not by your own merit, not as an individual, not for the purposes of self-righteousness — but holy because you belong to God who is holy. Or, to borrow from John 15, you are within God who is holy, therefore you shall be holy because God is within you.

You shall be holy, and holiness looks like:

love of enemies,
foolishness for holy wisdom,
hearts set on God more than fear,
spirits of humility and honesty,
abundance for the poor
and welcome of the
foreigner.

#anyquestions

You shall be holy, because holiness is the way of God; holiness is Supreme Love and Divine Justice in action.

How will your sermon this week call people to model God’s holy ways? What other strains of God’s story are singing to you from this week’s RCL texts? Please add your reflections in the comments to share the work & wonder of preparing this coming Sunday’s sermon.


Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Tuesday Prayer

broken-heart

Dear Friend,

On this day when some celebrate love with chocolate and flowers and diamonds, I am thinking of hard love

love that really listens

love that cries together at a death

love that does the rough work of agreeing to disagree

love that looks forward to an uncertain future

love that works, apart and together

love that doesn’t have a tidy boundary of marriage or label

love that brings the bandages

You modeled that love for us.

We thank you.

Amen.

Mary Beth Butler is an Episcopal layperson in North Texas. She is a retired university administrator, paving contractor, hospice volunteer and occasional blogger. She is leading her parish’s refugee ministry. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Monday Prayer

Holy One
Thank you for the gift of persistence
now more than ever,
today, and always…
Amen

persistent

 

 


Julie Rennick is a Church of Scotland minister, serving a rural community in the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders. She blogs at A Country Girl, writes for Spill the Beans and contributed to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

 

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11th Hour Preacher Party: Choosing Edition

An inconsequential party game to start off:

  • Would you rather eat Valentine’s conversation hearts or marshmallows? 
  • Would you rather take a 30 minute nap in the morning or just go to bed 30 minutes earlier that night?
  • Would you rather vacuum or dust?
o3etgcu

These are the Valentine conversation hearts referred to in the question. 

As you may surmise, I’m pondering the Deuteronomy passage from the Revised Common Lectionary, wherein the Israelites are asked to “choose life!” The other RCL lectionary texts include a third week in the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 3. A discussion of those text can be found at the RGBP Tuesday post. Or if you’re a Narrative Lectionary preacher, you are working on John’s question to Jesus: are you the one? Conversation about that is at this post.

What are your choices as you ponder your sermon? What do you need help with? What help can you offer? That’s what the 11th Hour Preacher Party is here for, so let’s share our ideas and resources.


Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as stated supply pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Luling, TX. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com

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