With lots of help from my buddy HL Arledge, and input from you (aka, my wonderful readers), here’s the cover for ANOTHER COMPANION FOR THE JOURNEY. Now, more work needs to be done to get it published . . .
Matthew 18:15-20 â€“ 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time â€“ for September 4, 2011
â€œIf another member of the church sins against youâ€¦â€ (Matthew 18:15
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20) has been a source of great strength for me. It reassures that a handful of people can make a difference.
When I attended seminary in the mid-1970s, I never heard the term â€œmegachurch.â€ By the 1990s, it seemed commonplace, a go-to description for congregations with 2,000 or more in weekly worship attendance. Megachurches were likened to shopping malls. Size matters. Choice matters. The bigger the better.
The bigger are better. Really?
Nearly every pastor Iâ€™ve known would love to preach to thousands on a Sunday morning. However, for many it doesnâ€™t matter how open they are to Godâ€™s guidance, their church wonâ€™t become a booming megachurch. Often the reasonâ€™s as simple as the old real estate mantra: location, location, location. Some churches were once perfectly positioned in a neighborhood . . . then a new freeway made access a maze of wrong turns and dead ends.
But nearly every pastor Iâ€™ve knownâ€”whether preaching to twenty or two thousandâ€”relishes moments in a hospital room or a supermarket aisle that become a transformational encounter with another. Christ is present! In the hospital, hands are held and prayers are whispered and honest fears are shared. In that supermarket aisle, a pastor learns from a woman about her miscarriage. It was her secret until that moment. Both had their shopping lists of juice and a loaf of bread and then, because two or three have gathered, Godâ€™s grace allows for a private hurt to become a burden shared and a hope to be glimpsed.
And yet thereâ€™s a raggedy edge to â€œwhere two or more are gathered.â€ The verses leading to Matthew 18:20 also trouble me. They are sharp fingernails on the chalkboard of the soul. When Jesus speaks in the 18th chapter, the Nazarene cautions about one person sinning against another. What you must do, so says Matthewâ€™s Jesus, is â€œgo and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.â€
Frankly, this suggestion scares the ______ out of me. (Every day I clean up something my dog deposits in the backyard and itâ€™s an awful lot like that blank space . . . see, I can be polite.)
Itâ€™s one thing to sit beside others and prayerfully support them. To listen to them, guessing theyâ€™ve rarely had anyone take the time to hear their story. To speak with them, giving them the simple gifts of honest praise and trusting support.
Where are you so â€œrightâ€ that itâ€™s hard for you to learn from and listen to another?
But how can I confront another when theyâ€™ve â€œsinnedâ€ against me? Continue reading →
Exodus 3:1-15 – The 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 28, 2011
â€œ. . . and they ask me, â€˜What is his name?â€™â€ (Exodus 3:13)
With sandals again strapped to his feet, did Moses gaze back toward the burning bush after his encounter with the Holy?
You know what happened in the fiery confrontation between Moses and God. Arenâ€™t we grateful Cecil B. DeMille happened to be there with his camera crew and Charlton Heston conveniently served as a body double for the handsome Jewish shepherd? (As an alternative to Mr. Heston, I’ve placed an interesting YouTube link at the end.)
Whether possessing deep faith or no belief, whether a Christian, Jew, Muslim or even if youâ€™re the solitary member of the church of Me-Myself-and-I, you know something about a desert shrub that flames couldnâ€™t consume.
The sacred chat between God and Moses wasnâ€™t short, covering most of chapters 3 and 4 in Exodus. Once Moses removed his sandals, his best and worst sides were revealed. Heâ€™s a clever enough fellow and talked God into revealing the divine name. And yet he also whined about how he couldnâ€™t speak wellâ€”even as he speaks well to the Holy Flameâ€”and implied the Lord God Almighty should choose a sweeter-tongued servant to deliver the Children of Israel from bondage.
You know this.
You can thumb through your Bible and â€œread all about it.â€ Or you can watch a clip from the TEN COMMANDMENTS, feel slightly guilty for taking the easy route, but could still convey the basics of the Holy/human chat beside a glowing plant.
What is a nickname you have (or had) that reveals something about you?
This is the moment of Mosesâ€™ call. What will he do when confronted with a new path, a new task, a new way of seeing himself? Will he acknowledge his gifts and Godâ€™s invitation? Moses in this moment is every person. This passage is not anchored to one religion or one period of time. Are you engaged in what brings you great joy? In my first year of seminary, a fellow student declared, â€œYou better feel the call to ministry. Do you really want to serve God?â€ He asked those questions with more conviction than any of the clergy who were on the endless committees guiding my ordination process. But itâ€™s not a question unique for clergy. You better feel the call to teach, fix cars, defend clients, drive a bus, raise a child, sell stocks, repair toilets, insert catheters. Whatever it is you do, do you want to do it? Have you seen the burning bush, or are you still wandering in the wilderness, eyes averted, life avoided? This question should haunt us. Honestly answering it dares us to declare who we are. Continue reading →