Plunging Between the Numbered Verses

Acts 1:6-14 – The Seventh Sunday of Easter – for May 28, 2017

“They said, ‘Galileans, why are you standing here . . .” (Acts 1:11)

When first reading the lectionary’s four scripture lessons this week, boredom was my companion. Or is “bored” overly harsh? Still, the assigned passages were either too familiar or lacked inspiration.

I started with John 17:1-11. And then onto Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, and I Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11. Early morning by early morning, I sought one that tickled my fancy.

Near week’s end, my fancy remained tickle free.

If I were now serving a congregation, striving to be open to God’s guidance while trusting my homiletic cleverness, I’d be a tad panicked. After all, Sunday’s coming. What to preach? What to preach! Help . . .

However, when serving a church—even in the honeymoon phase as a newly appointed minister, when I hardly knew the members and couldn’t tell which key opened the sanctuary versus the storeroom—I was preaching to those people at that particular moment.

While listening to and learning from the ancient, living Biblical words, I was also alert to the here-and-now situations of real people with real experiences:

  • Had there been a recent death or birth in the congregation?
  • Was the church in serious debt or debating a serious issue?
  • Had there been a hate crime or a hopeful event in the city where the church was located?
  • Had a church member’s child, serving in the military, been hurt or killed while far from home?

Oh, the ways congregations—small or large, liberal or conservative, rural or urban, dying in the inner city or thriving in the suburbs—are alike! People hurt. People unwittingly (and wittingly) do stupid things. People argue. People tell you they’re fine when they’re not. People deceive, hoard, and outright cheat. However, they are also as beautiful as they are broken. Honest. Hopeful. Resilient. Tender. People delight, bless, and unexpectedly forgive. Continue reading →