Year A THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
May 4, 2014
This blog is an extension of ShortStop a site committed to providing ideas and resources for interim/transition ministry professionals (http://shortstopblog.blogspot.com/) Lectionary Preaching in Times of Change and Transition is dedicated to exploring the lectionary preaching texts as a "lens" on life's transitions experienced in congregations, personal life, and families. Transitions and what churches call "interim ministry" are "short stops" on the journey to new beginnings. The ShortStop Lectionary Blog is one way to help preachers in the transition times to find ideas from the Revised Common Lectionary. Each text will be considered but the focus each week will be on the text(s) that will be most helpful for preaching during an interim transition time. The preacher will be able to "connect the dots" creatively with themes of the lections.
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
One of the early interim ministry books published by Alban Institute was William A. Yon’s small book, Prime time for Renewal (1977). He noted and many interim/transitional leaders have concurred over the years, that congregations in a time of change and transition For the preacher in the interim transition congregation. Peter’s sermon underscores one of the realities of transitions in people’s lives: When discontinuity threatens our stability, most of us become much more spiritually open.
Life challenges will often drive people of faith to explore more deeply how their faith will support them with hope and spiritual resources. This has been my experience and Peter’s sermon in this week’s text reminds me of several very special moves of God in the life of interim/transition congregations.
The remainder of Peter’s sermon from last week is picked up this week. Peter speaks again of a transition that is spiritual in nature. In this case, the transition is about repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ results in forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is an entirely new faith chapter for these Hebrew followers of Jesus. Last week’s text in Acts 2 had a larger view of faith transition while this week’s text gets close and personal. I’m wondering what it would like to preach this with the call to personal commitment, or the call to renew/refresh our personal commitment to our faith? These same themes are also reinforces in the Epistle text for Sunday, 1 Peter 1:17-23.
The road to Emmaus is a well-traveled path for preachers. In this text the endings of Jesus death are present but so too are the future story of new beginnings. Verse 21 has a little phrase that is easily overlooked, we had hoped. Richard Swanson of workingpreacher.com writes this: “ . . . the thing that catches my eye is that little imperfect tense verb: “we had hoped.” I have heard families use that phrase when they were packing up the things they had brought with them to the ICU. “We had hoped … ,” they say, and then they go home alone. I have heard families use this phrase when addictions return, or jobs go away. Although theologies of hope focus on a dawning future, the moment that catches me is that moment of deep disappointment, when only a painfully imperfect verb tense will express what needs to be said. (https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1992)
Congregations struggling with the loss of a pastoral leader will easily run toward any sign of hope, any glint of light at the end of the tunnel. This Sunday may be one to address the “we had hoped” thinking in the congregation: We had hoped that the pastor would stay until retirement; we had hoped that we could solve our disagreements; we had hoped that she wouldn’t be tempted by a larger church; we had hoped that the good preaching would grow our church. You can add many more.
It is in these dark times that the Gospel surprises us. Luke reminds us that the future is about eyes being opened to realities that are around us but we can’t see until grace opens our eyes. In short, the future is not about solving a problem, but about our “becoming” part of a process of God’s heavenly work on earth.