Friday, November 29, 2013

Willimon, 1984, chapter 6 "Giving the Word: Sermon Delivery"

Chapter 6 “Giving the Word: Sermon Delivery” pp. 77-89

Willimon now speaks about delivering the sermon. A sermon is ultimately not a literary piece, such as a written meditation or a scholarly commentary. He suggests that few lay people follow the sermon as a presentation of ideas. Rather, people follow the way the sermon is communicated. Willimon advocates capturing the way a biblical passage passes an idea to the hearer. The preacher can then imitate God’s delivery of the message. As an example he uses Matthew 7:24-27, observing that there is no ongoing explanation of the fall of the house built on sand. It falls down and the story is over. The listener is free to make application. Willimon also suggests listening to other sermons, critiquing one’s own work, and being very concrete and conscious of the congregation’s culture and language. He speaks briefly about delivery - voice, pacing, posture, and positioning in front of the congregation. In the end, he lets us out of class telling us to practice carefully, frequently, aloud, and in the worship space. By God’s grace, we can be faithful in delivering the Word of God to those who will hear.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Brueggemann 2001 Chapter 5 "Criticism and Pathos in Jesus of Nazareth"

Chapter 5 “Criticism and Pathos in Jesus of Nazareth” pp. 81-99

The work of the prophet is not criticism for its own sake but criticism which aims at a goal of breaking down inappropriate authority structures and allowing God’s rule in our community. In the life of Jesus this prophetic work is shown very clearly. By Jesus’ birth as presented in matthew the true king, Jesus, is born in humble circumstances and incurs the wrath of the established kingdom. In Luke’s account he is surrounded by humble people and heralded by angels and prophets. Jesus announces his kingdom which is unlike human kingdoms. It is based on forgiveness. The overturning of the Sabbath calls social order into question. Jesus holds court, or at least meals, with those who are usually shunned. He heals the unclean and casts out demons. He associates with women. he doesn’t resist taxes, though he corrects tax collectors. he considers the temple as a temporary, even expendable fixture. Jesus’ kingdom is built on compassion, particularly shown in his willingness to take the place of sinful men. Rather than a king who takes he is a king who gives. This radically reorients politics to be based on justice and compassion, not power and submission. Jesus introduces a new order.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"The Two Servants of Jahweh"

Chapter 4 “The Two Servants of Jahweh” pp. 29-33

Isaiah 41:21-26, 28-29
The gods of the nations are called to decide who is the true God. Jahweh is the true God of history.

History cries out today in a disturbing way. Yet the rulers of nations no not agree on the right future. There are no prophets of hope, only doom.

The darkness of our world is due to our failure to inquire of the true God. Instead, we look to the gods of our nations, our rulers.

The true God, Jahweh, is the God of all, over all history and culture. The people of Israel fall because they try to transform God into another national ruler.

It is the people who trust God through oppression and persecution who are God’s servants, not rulers who depend on statecraft.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"The Word in Worship: How to Construct a Biblical Sermon"

Chapter 5 “The Word in Worship: How to Construct a Biblical Sermon” pp. 63-75

Willimon approaches sermon construction in a quirky, possibly enigmatic way. I read this chapter and was left slightly uncertain as to his view of the sufficiency of Scripture. He begins by recommending preaching from a lectionary but asserts that the selected texts don’t tend to complement one another, an assertion I find quite false. He suggests that a sermon may be constructed for civic holidays rather than being dependent on biblical themes. He says a  congregation is more receptive of controversial contemporary issues if it thinks the ideas are in the Bible. These are not ideas that reflect a high view of Scripture.

Willimon does make some suggestions for biblical preaching: 1) read the book through, 2) establish the text, 3) do a detailed study (he suggests a word study, though those are rarely useful), 4) look for a main thrust, 5) develop a one-sentence theme, 6) decide on the form of the sermon, 7) decide what the congregation needs. He also points out as pitfalls some interpretive methods. Among them are some methods which SHOULD be used responsibly. But he rightly warns against allegorizing, psychologizing, and moralizing. he finally suggests writing a manuscript, editing carefully, and appearing in the pulpit with only an outline. Some of this may be of some use. Yet depending on one’s comfort with public speaking, many steps can be eliminated.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Prophetic Energizing and the Emergence of Amazement"

Chapter 4 “Prophetic Energizing and the Emergence of Amazement” pp. 59-79

Jeremiah’s work pointed out the futility of life under the status quo. He confronted a nation which had stripped its people of hope. Yet, counter to our expectations, Jeremiah gives little hope. He rather brings people to realize their hopelessness. The royal establishment desired to make promises but they were not open to change or vision. These promises would finally lead to despair. Yet jeremiah’s role was to awaken old memories, memories of freedom, in the people. In their memory of the past, the people of Israel could find desire and hope for the future. They could gradually be redirected toward new vision rooted in God’s faithfulness.

To find a prophet of hope and wonder at future conditions we turn our attention to Isaiah, or, as Brueggemann asserts, “second Isaiah.” Beginning in chapter 40 we read the message of comfort and hope, rooted in God’s care for and restoration of his people. This message reclaims the hopes and imagination of Israel. They see God’s mercy and the hopelessness of their world. They learn to rejoice in God. Their hope is re-born. They are fed with the imperishable food of heaven. The new hope is born to bear much fruit.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sermon for 11/24/13 Whatever Is Good - Philippians 4

Remember when you wanted . . .?
Remember when you wanted to give someone a gift?
This is a time for giving thanks, for receiving thanks, and for many, in the next month or so, for giving and receiving some presents as well.

From the introit - These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

How do we receive the gifts that our Lord has given us?
 gather it up?
 see the gifts as good?
 sometimes wonder what they are for?
   know someone who once thought she was given a light bulb as a present
   Why would you give me batteries? What do I want those for?
 some of what we receive, from this world, even ultimately from God, doesn’t look good
What does the Lord do through the good times and bad?
 Romans 8:29 - make us more like Jesus

Where’s the good?
 sometimes in the gift
 sometimes in Christ’s deliverance of us from the troubles we find
 sometimes in our relationships
 sometimes in Jesus’ redemption of our relationships

But our reaction?
 we are in bad situations and we say God must not be good
 we are in good situations and we say we deserved it
 we reject what the Lord has given us
 we receive what the Lord has given us and try to keep it to ourselves
 we turn the good gifts of God into something to be used for our selfish gain

Like the people of Israel in the wilderness we doubt, we fear, we backbite, we grumble.

This should not be. Learn from all nature - receives from God.
 He brings good gifts
 He rescues us from all evil
 He fills us with all we need - especially the greatest gifts given in Word and Sacrament

Give thanks to the Lord. He alone can rescue us from all sin and evil. He alone has sustained us through countless troubles. He alone will continue to be our rock, our fortress, our deliverer. None but Jesus could take away our sin. None but Jesus will ever present us faultless before the throne of God. Trusting in ourselves is no good. Trusting in Jesus brings life and salvation.

Friday, November 22, 2013

"The Paradox of the Beatitudes"

Chapter 3 “The Paradox of the Beatitudes” pp. 24-28
Luke 6:20-26
Jesus’ statements are very hard to express in our own words. They have many levels of meaning. Jesus has just given four beatitudes and four woes. People can expect the opposite of their condition.
1) What is promised?
2) To whom?
Matthew’s account makes commentary on the questions Luke does not. Is Matthew right? Jesus’ audience needed both spiritual and material help. Jesus doesn’t distinguish between the two.

Jesus is speaking to people who are in two worlds. We have an identity in this world and the one to come. We can never grasp the one to come. We dare not grasp this one. We look to the future for hope and blessing. Only as we let go of this world do we become the last who are, in fact, the first.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Table and the Font: Celebrating the Lord's Supper and Baptism

Chapter 4 “The Table and the Font: Celebrating the Lord’s Supper and Baptism” pp. 51-62

Actions speak louder than words. Jesus gave the actions of communion and baptism, in Willimon’s words, to “convey both God’s love for them [God’s people] and their love for God” (p. 52) Willimon is pleased with ecumenical agreement about baptism and communion. The Sacraments are being restored to a position of value, centrality, and corporate unity. The importance of the symbolism in eating, drinking, and washing is being recognized.

Willimon suggests that communion should be celebrated frequently, by which he means monthly and on additional important days. He also recommends both simplifying celebrations and making them more biblical as well as bringing more congregational participation in. Teaching about the Sacraments brings a great benefit.

Willimon shows some deep theological weaknesses in this chapter. not only does he affirm acumenical agreement, but he asserts a view that an ordinance is the same as a sacrament. He views communion and baptism primarily as our work rather than God’s work. This man-centered ecumenism robs the Sacraments of their power.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving - in all things

I don't usually fire off quick posts like this, but it's one of those days. We're approaching the Thanksgiving holiday in my country. It's a time for family togetherness, for giving thanks to God for what we have, and general jollity.

There's an element of thanksgiving that I don't think we always get. Two unwitting people underlined it to me. I won't identify them, and there's nothing embarrassing about what I'll tell, don't worry.

My daughter had not been feeling well. Nor had a lady I was going to visit. The daughter was resting at home. The lady I was going to visit was in the hospital. I think something like "Hello" came out of the mouth of the lady in the hospital when I walked into the room. Know what was next? "How is your daughter?" Something seemed odd here. I was coming to the hospital to bring comfort to someone who needed to be in the hospital. She wasn't well. Her first expressed concern to me was about one of my family members. May the Lord grant that I may have such care and concern about my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The other experience happened in a nursing home. It isn't uncommon for people to have a roommate in the facilities in this area. Sometimes roommates change rather quickly. I had been to visit a person not long ago and had met her roommate, who I found out went to another local church, one we are in fellowship with. Today after visiting with both people in the room, bringing them Scripture, prayers, and communion, the person from my congregation said, "Thank you for welcoming and caring for my friends." Again, may the Lord grant that we would care about the friends of our friends.

I give thanks for the experiences I have every day, those interactions that, often quietly, teach me how my Savior has had mercy upon me and can use me to bring his grace to this world. Especially I see that while I was not in God's family, he cared about me enough to call me to himself, to love me, even to give his life for me. This is reason for thanksgiving.

Chapter 3 “Prophetic Criticizing and the Embrace of Pathos”

Chapter 3 “Prophetic Criticizing and the Embrace of Pathos” pp. 39-57

As Brueggemann continues his argument he now begins to describe a prophetic voice which is able to rise above the “royal consciousness,” that is, above the conventional wisdom that an entrenched governmental/imperial wisdom is actually in the interest of God and His people. This royal consciousness has numbed us to the sorrows and griefs that surround us. As we counter it in God’s name, we ask not if it is practiced or possible to implement. We ask rather whether it is right and true in God’s eyes. We therefore look not to our own experience but to our Lord’s care for his world. What does God see? He sees a world which is broken and in torment, on which will only receive relief through His mercy. Our society does not want to cry out. It would prefer to trust in the royal ability to do something. Yet in God’s world what we need to do is cry out honestly through our pain. Jeremiah is our biblical example of this outcry. Against all odds, including the king’s will, he cries out to the Lord for deliverance which even the king cannot bring. Though we have no present relief, we can imagine the newness and change the Lord can bring. This is where we find the newness God has for us only in Christ and His mercy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chapter 2 “We Live in Two Orders”

Chapter 2 “We Live in Two Orders” pp. 12-23

Isaiah 40

How would the message of Isaiah 40 speak to the oppressed and troubled of our time? The prophet’s optimism would provoke our scorn. The exiles in Babylon were as hopeless as modern-day refugees. The prophet understood that our human situation is not one of chance or bad luck, but one of sin and its penalty upon us. After the prophet shows sorrow for sin he looks to the word of God. We have no fear since the Lord will come. He will act for our deliverance from the place of despair. This is beyond our understanding. Therefore we have two orders in life. There is the human and the divine. In the human order we grow, struggle and vanish. We live with sin and receive, even inflict, punishment. The human world is full of sin and consequences. When we despair, then we look to the divine order. God’s word breaks in and brings forgiveness. Here the weak becomes strong. The suffering one brings healing, the defeated one is victorious. Here we find the Christ. If we cling to the human order we have no hope. If we cling to the divine order we have great hope. Yet the two worlds seem quite separate. But even from the depths of our suffering we find the eternal is actually present within the temporal order. God in Christ has broken into history. We are not lost.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Public Prayer: Speaking and Listening to God

Chapter 3 “Public Prayer: Speaking and Listening to God” pp. 39-50

What is public prayer? Is it different from private prayer in some substantial way? If so, how? Willimon urges care and attention to how we pray in public. For those who need help and patterns, he suggests use of the Book of Common Prayer or the various Lutheran liturgies. How is public prayer different from private prayer? First, it is the job of hte pastor to gather the congregation and lead them together in prayer. Thus, public prayer by nature draws the concerns of a variety of people and presents those concerns in terms which the congregation would understand. Praying with patterns and known structures, with opportunities for the congregation to inject input and agreement is crucial. Use of language which is fitting to the setting and the congregation is important, as we develop vocabulary and style to express our cries to the Lord. We are a blessing to the congregation as we draw them along in the work God has presented to us.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sermon for 11/17/13 Signs of the Times Luke 21

Malachi 4:1-6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-28

We're used to looking for signs. "Turn right at the place where Widow Claxton's old barn used to be, you know? She always had the big haystack there." "When was that?" "Oh, forever. Remember? It burned down about a few years back, in '75."

Ever had that conversation with someone?
I'm new in town. Will I find the sign? Guess not.

We look for signs.
Signs of the times.
What are the signs of Jesus' coming?
 rumors of where to look for help
 nation against nation - wars
 earthquakes, typhoons, famines, floods
 What was that sign in the heavens? We aren't so interested in that these days.
What happens to people as Jesus prepares to return?
 Persecution of his people
 Religious, legal, criminal charges
   Religious - BBC recently minimized persecution of Christians artificially lowering estimates of people who die for their faith from about 100,000 per year to more like 7,000 per year. Still too many, more than the early Christians in the Roman empire would have ever imagined.
   Legal - U.S. military had a ban on chaplains performing their duties during the government shut-down. There's no forgiveness for military personnel, must be non-essential.  
     Conservative organizations attacked in legislation requiring them to violate their consciences.
     Christianity ends as soon as you start a business?
     Pro-life people marked as dangerous to society.
   Criminal - Where do we cross the line?
      protect life
      refuse to participate in government requirements that violate conscience
      "hate speech"

In Acts chapter 2 Peter the apostle identified us as being in the last days. None of what I've just spoken of is anything new. What happens to Christians?
 killed for expressing their faith - yet we fear rejection by our friends
 driven out of communities and into unemployment and poverty - yet we are upset when we are told to keep doing our work rather than talking about whatever we're interested in during work hours
 tried in religious courts - happening today but not in this country
 separated from educational opportunities - world tries to paint as a fringe group

We hear about the wars, the family conflict, we hope it's distant.
Yet when we fear to be public witnesses to Jesus we have given in to the pressure of our world.

What will we do?
 be hated by all for the sake of Jesus' name
 be imprisoned
 be killed

Our world says this is a very bad thing. What does Jesus say?

Is it pleasant living in these last days, in the time of persecution?
It's a time of danger. It's a time when God shows the sin and failure of human wisdom, of human care, of human institutions, of our goodness.
 God's people are trampled.
 There's a perfect time to flee and hide, but it is not at that point, not here, not now. I think it may be for some people in some of the areas where people listen to these sermons on the Internet, in East Timor, in China, in parts of Russia, in some areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
 great distress
 falling by the sword
 falling by fear

The end of the world is a time for terror.
 even if you're killed
 even if your town is surrounded by enemies who wish to kill you
 even if we have to have armed guards at church to try to prevent it from being blown up
 even if there is destruction and death all around
 even if your world is crumbling

If we have hope only in this world, we have no hope at all. It is only as we lift up our head and look to see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming to redeem us from this world, that we have life.

What's Jesus' promise to us, as we look to him? NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL PERISH!

Why do we gather then on Sundays, on Wednesdays, on other days when we have Bible studies planned?

Jesus has help and hope for those who are trusting in him. If we look anywhere else we find nothing but destruction. It is only in Jesus that we can find hope.

Look to Jesus
Repent of sin, distrust, fear, everything that stands in the way of his love
Receive his great and mighty promises.

We are in the last days. The time is soon to be fulfilled. We look, in these last days, to the coming Savior, who will come to redeem us from this world, from the curse of sin, from every evil. He alone is our hope and our salvation.

Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Performance Study in Service to the Spoken Word in Worship

Chapter 12, Charles L. Bartow, “Performance Study in Service to the Spoken Word in Worship” pp. 211-223

Bartow observes that performance study has been used to analyze all sorts of speech and other transmission of knowledge. While the analyses may or may not be of use we should not dismiss them too quickly. In considering preaching we must consider the text to which we are accountable. God has revealed himself in the Bible. Through this written Word of God and the living Word of God we are transformed. Thus we must be faithful to the Lord as revealed in Scripture. All our work reflects this reality. Preaching therefore draws attention not to itself but to God. All our use of presentations, rhetoric, and technology is to direct hearts and minds to Jesus as revealed in the Bible. As we do this we must remain sensitive to the tools we use.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Royal Consciousness: Countering the Counter-Culture"

Chapter 2 “Royal Consciousness: Countering the Counter-Culture” pp. 21-37

In chapter 2, Brueggemann compares prophetic activity in the time of Moses to that of the time of Solomon. In Moses’ work, the power of Egypt was undercut and God’s people established a free nation which lasted hundreds of years. By the time of Solomon conditions and societal vision had changed substantially. Under Solomon there existed a governmental power which was increasing in influence and centralizing its power. The royal harem allowed for strong political marriages. Taxes were collected, shifting the economy from the individual and community to the state. The bureaucracy was nearly immune to criticism as it had grown large and distant. A standing army was able to quell rebellion. Rationalistic teaching served to repackage and explain reality. Conscripted labor could dominate village life. As the government centralized its power it also domesticated the messages of God, robbing prophecy of its power. The government-created affluence, oppressive social policy, and servile religion allowed for a worldview which had no place for forceful prophecy. Eventually, without the prophetic voice, the kingdom divided and collapsed. This message strikes me as being prophetic in itself. Much of history has shown this as a pattern. I must ask if my world is headed that direction.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"The Shaking of the Foundations"

This volume is a collection of 22 sermons by Paul Tillich, mostly delivered at Union Theological Seminary. Tillich hopes they may be useful for those who would like to understand his theological thought as presented in the most clear form.

Chapter 1 “The Shaking of hte Foundations” pp. 1-11

Jeremiah 4:23-30; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 24:18-20

The words of the prophets are forceful. We need, now more than ever, to take them seriously.
When God founded the earth He bound the destructive heat inside, creating a habitable place.
Man has learned to use the forces of creation for his purpose - DESTRUCTION
God has spoken to us by giving man this power.
Destruction is bad, we try to restrain ourselves.
We hold a hope, a small hope, that we will not use our scientific prowess to destroy the world.
Yet our desire is to raise ourselves to God’s place.
In waging war we are rejecting our self-exaltation.
We dare not be silent when the foundations of civilization are being shaken.
The shaking will be expressed by some
The shaking will be rejected by others.
The prophets were transfixed by God, not by their surroundings. We also must look to the Lord who made all, including the foundations.

Tillich, Paul. The Shaking of the Foundations. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Musicality of Black Preaching: Performing the Word

Chapter 11, William C. Turner, Jr. “The Musicality of Black Preaching: Performing the Word” pp. 191-209

Turner surveys six elements of musicality which, he says, lend power to African American preaching. First, black preaching is by and large musical and performance-based, drawing a congregation into the performance. Second, musicality including rhythm and pitch are normally used in preaching, while in the white church this is rare. In African American preaching musicality serves deliberately to emphasize aspects of the preaching, to serve as not only punctuation but also a structural element. Turner views this musicality as rooted in native African practices which were brought into Christian expression as slaves converted. This preaching is seen as a means of God giving his power to people. It is aligned with foundational patterns of life. While Turner does make an attempt at distinctions between emotionality and emotionalism, he also seems eager to endorse a style of preaching which draws very heavily on emotion and community feeling. The sad fact, which Turner occasionally admits, is that sometimes the truth of Scripture can be obscured. Yet the high emotions are not a guarantee of departure from truth. We are well advised to treat various delivery styles as patterns from which all can benefit.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Service: Effective Liturgical Leadership

Chapter 2 “The Service: Effective Liturgical Leadership” pp. 27-38

In chapter two, Willimon addresses the structure and leadership of a church service. Speaking to an audience which is unfamiliar with historic liturgy, he suggests that Sunday services should follow a consistent pattern. This pattern includes gathering, proclamation of Scripture, praise to God, responses and offerings, and preferably communion. Willimon observes that in the time of the Reformation communion was normally celebrated weekly but has become less valued since then. In conducting a church service the pastor serves as a gracious host, welcoming people and encouraging them to worship freely. The leader’s attitudes and tone need to be appropriate to the setting and the audience. Remember, at all times, that actions speak volumes. Rising, sitting, reading, praying, the leader’s actions play the lead.

Willimon briefly describes various forms of vestment, leaving it entirely as a matter of preference. He closes the chapter by encouraging involvement of lay leaders, but emphasizing they should be trained and prepared adequately to serve just as the pastor would.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sermon for 11/10/13 Luke 10

Sermon for 11/10/13 Come on down, Zach

Today was the 50th anniversary of our church congregation's existence. They first met in the local public library on Sunday, November 10, Martin Luther's birthday. The church was formed after a congregation where many had attended in a nearby community was closing. They moved here, to the big city.

We had two of our former pastors participating in the service today. Over 30 years of the 50 year history was represented by the pastors present. We followed the divine service with a good time of fellowship over a dinner. Full house, with only a few open seats in the building.

I didn't preach as I normally do. But later in the day I did conduct my regular service at a local retirement community, with a congregation of 12. This is my sermon from that location. My brief, sketchy, hand-jotted outline that I had on my sheet of paper actually had very little relationship to the sermon which I ended  up preaching, so I'll spare you that piece of confusing serialization.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Alternative Community of Moses

Chapter 1 “The Alternative Community of Moses” pp. 1-19

Brueggemann introduces us to the work of a prophet by introducing us to Moses. As we consider the way Moses confronted Egypt we realize that God’s power is able to overcome any opponents. Yet as we look at the modern church we find that both liberalism and conservatism have lost the totality of the prophetic ministry. Liberalism through cultivation of doubt is left only with complaints about the culture. Conservatism with its acceptance of the status quo can give a vision of the future but without effective complaint or powerful articulation of a necessary change.

In contrast to the dominant culture, Moses brought God’s complaint against Egypt. He then articulated the promise of God and showed that this true God was the one who would systematically dismantle the tyranny of the Egyption state. In the criticizing and energizing work Moses not only showed the problems inherent in Egypt, but he showed the people of Israel the darkness in which they lived, the good and new reality which would emerge, and the freedom God would create. All this resulted in a community of praise, bringing glory to God.

If we are to recover a Mosaic prophetic ministry, says Brueggemann, we must recapture this world of criticism and energizing to bring God’s people out of darkness.

Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination (2nd Edition). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Comes Next? Performing Music and Proclaiming the Word

Chapter 10, Clayton J. Schmit, “What Comes Next? Performing Music and Proclaiming the Word” pp. 169-190

Schmit compares a sermon to a piece of music, observing that both are effectively intended for aural reception, are prepared, and follow typical conventions. How do the musicians and preacher prepare? Through thorough knowledge of the materials and the conventions of presenting their art form both the musician and preacher can grasp and remember the overall flow of the message. Most pieces of music (Schmit says all) follow a recognizable organizational pattern. They follow naturally to their conclusion. Likewise, the sermon will always have demands and resolution, the gospel promises. In different settings the preparatory style may vary, but the final product always shows familiarity with the style and patterns used.

Schmit’s analysis of music is not always adequate, as the notes on the page or what the musician conceptualized are actual music. But as far as the public performance and transmission of music are concerned he does draw insightful parallels to the world of preaching.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chapter 1 “Sunday Morning: Evaluating and Planning the Service

Chapter 1 “Sunday Morning: Evaluating and Planning the Service” pp. 13-25

The Sunday morning church service is the time and place where the most obvious and ongoing ministry in the congregation takes place. It is the pastor’s responsibility to treat this as a very valuable opportunity. Willimon suggests the pastor consider how every element of worship contributes. When innovation is necessary it should be coherent and accepted by most of the congregation. Some of this coherence can be established by basing work on the framework of the church calendar and Scripture selections from a lectionary. Care should also be given to the worship space, creation of opportunities to build friendships, and making the worship accessible to the congregation. As the congregation is able to enter into the singing, prayers, preaching and fellowship in an active way, more of the worshipers will receive God’s grace and retain what is being taught.

Willimon, William H. Preaching and Leading Worship. Louisville: The Westminster Press, 1984.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

God's Word Takes Form as His People Convey It to One Another

Chapter 9 “God’s Word Takes Form as His People Convey It to One Another” pp. 205-220

God has given a priceless gift in the Word. It is through the Word of God that his people receive new life and find their identity and purpose. Luther therefore recognized the teaching of the Word of God as being of critical importance. If God’s Word is something other than God’s way of communicating himself to us we have neglected God’s gift and cannot remain steadfast.

Luther and Melanchthon viewed God’s Word not as a series of doctrines but as one body of truth. Nothing can be removed or left idle. All must work together or the whole body suffers. It is all organically connected. When we communicate God’s Word, then, sometimes it takes the form of proclamation, while at other times it may take the form of explanation. But the power of God is primarily found in the proclaimed good news of forgiveness.

We rightly respond to God’s Word in prayer, trusting that our Lord can care for all our needs. The life of prayer benefits from both written and improvised prayers. God’s conversation also includes the structures of liturgy which keep us focused on Christ crucified for us. In all our Christian walk, God gives his Gospel and we respond by depending on him. This is the conversation we have with God.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Preacher's Creative Process

Chapter 9, Jana Childers, “The Preacher’s Creative Process” pp. 153-168

Childers discusses creativity in preaching. She asserts that finding “deep translation” as described on p. 154 is essential. Sadly it is not clear what “deep translation” might be. Childers then shifts focus to talk about studies of creativity. The subject has not been studied systematically until the late nineteenth century. Since then most theorists have articulated some form of definition of an issue, a period of stepping aside from the issue, emergence of an idea, and consideration or testing of the idea. Establishing time and space to step aside from the issue is critical for creativity, including that of art, literature, invention, and problem-solving. Finding the time and space, says Childers, is very difficult for preachers. However, she says the process is necessary, otherwise the Holy Spirit will never give the preacher understanding sufficient to order a powerful sermon.

Childers’ view is made suspect in her references to the Holy Spirit as “she” and her allegations that the Holy Spirit “needs an editor” (p. 165). Yet some of Childers’ suggestions may well be valid. No doubt creativity can and should be fueled by making space for subconscious problem solving. Spending tme in contemplation is of great value.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sermon for 11/3/13 Revelation 7

Picture of fear and terror in the life of Felix the paranoid cat

beloved? safe? terrified?

biblical tension
 law   gospel
 saint   sinner
 have nothing   have everything
 joy   sorrow
Here in Revelation 7 we have saints who have come from the great tribulation. They are people a lot like you and me. They are people a lot like the people whose funerals I’ve conducted this year. In fact, I guess those people are here in Revelation 7. Marlan Bruens, Marian Harms, Don Theesfeld, Lafe Milar, Marylyn St. Germain. Whenever I do something like that I’m always afraid I missed someone. I hope I didn’t.

These people, all who have died in Christ, have come out of the great tribulation. That’s another piece of biblical tension.
We’re in the tribulation.
 time of suffering
 time when people are killed for their faith
 time when some people simply die in Christ
 time when people die apart from Christ, which is the truly terrible thing in all of this
At the same time the we see we are in a millennial period.
 Christ is ruling in his kingdom.
 Sins are forgiven.
 The Holy Spirit is saving people.
 The Church of God goes forth to destroy the works of the devil.

Counter example - Left Behind series - tries to draw a picture of a future time of tribulation, tries to create a millennial reign of Christ but can’t work out the details. We can talk about that in Bible class if we need to. It doesn’t work. Throughout history the picture has been consistent. Jesus reigns in the lives of all believers. We are in a millennium, a thousand-year reign of peace, that time that is so big and wonderful we can’t count it. We’re in that time. At the same time, we’re in a world that is cursed by sin. We’re in a period of tribulation. The seven years suggests completion. It is a time when we endure hardship, even death, for the cause of Christ. We’re in both at once. Don’t look at popular attempts at writing a Christian thriller with a teaching point that says you have to believe well enough. That’s man-centered, works salvation. The Bible never gives us that.

We look around ourselves. Just like the Bible pictures it, we’re dying, one by one, day by day. And if the Lord waits for another hundred years, there’s not a one of us who will be here.

 surrounded by tribulation
 surrounded by trials
 tired of wrestling
 tired of losing
 tired of loneliness
 tired of pain

What will we do?

The day is coming, it will be at a different time for different people, when we are ushered out of this life, out of this life that’s full of joy and full of pain, this life that’s at the same time in the millennium and in the tribulation, into eternity.

For those who trust that Jesus is their savior . . .
 robes of white washed in the blood of the lamb
 we have given our lives to Jesus
 we have given our lives for Jesus
 we have confessed our sin
 he has given us his righteousness
 we have given filthy rags
 he has cleansed us and clothed us for eternity

Unlike the people who have to trust on how well they believe, we have true good news.

Are we scared sometimes? Discouraged sometimes? Yes. And no doubt, just like the differences between Felix the cat and myself, we’re bothered by different events. The way we view the world and our life is different. But the troubles are just as real for Felix as they are for me. The fear of ruin is just as great, maybe greater, for him, than for me.

Do we trust ourselves? If we do, we’d better run and hide somewhere.
Do we trust Jesus? His perfect love casts out all fear.

Jesus has accomplished salvation on our behalf. We trust on what he has done, not on how well we believe. He has taken care of our salvation. Trusting in him we will stand before his throne.
 come weak
 come weary
 come last, lost, least
Trust that Jesus is your redeemer. Know that he will deliver you from your tribulation. He will wipe every tear from your eye. He will present you before his throne.

Jesus has given himself - body and blood, life and all, for you.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Means of Grace as Forms of God's Word

Chapter 8 “The ‘Means of Grace’ as Forms of God’s Word.” pp. 175-203

God works in this world through words. He speaks and things happen. The Reformers saw that God also used material elements, especially clearly in the Old Testament, to accomplish His will. So God’s Word was often combined with a physical element as God gave grace. Luther therefore identified “means of grace” as ways God would use words and physical elements to accomplish his will. These means of grace are specifically recognized as baptism and communion, as well as the absolution which accompanies confession. These are all occasions when God’s words of forgiveness and life are proclaimed and a certain physicality is present. As opposed to a mystical or magical view, Luther saw the pastor as bearing responsibility, not merely power. There is also an interpersonal element in the means of grace, as in every case God’s Word is transferred from one person to another. As God’s Word is proclaimed, considered and shared the Lord speaks his power and grace into the believer. Against opponents in the Roman church and in the radical Reformation, Luther refused to address how God’s grace is imparted. He insisted rather that God be permitted to make his own rules of engagement, including imparting gifts via Word and Sacrament.