ShortStop is dedicated to 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.
Proper 9 (14) Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
We hear the phrase, “a prophet isn’t accepted in his own country”. When I was in radio broadcasting it was an informal maxim that you couldn’t get an “on air” job in your home town unless you left for a few years and then came back. Jesus had the courage to keep on keeping on even in the face of public ridicule, incredulity and rejection. Creating a faithful life amidst spouse, children and close family is the most challenging and difficult task we can know. Sharing a deep spiritual moment in one’s life is often easier to share with a stranger than a spouse. The spouse knows me and how I measure up. He or she may hold me accountable and I will take it as criticism. Been there, done that. The preacher’s challenge may be personal rather than homiletic. Our lives speak.
We can flip this around, too. The interim pastor is the “stranger” in the community. Parker Palmer writes in his fascinating book, The Company of Strangers, that the strangers we meet – those who are different from us, speak another language, are from a different racial background or culture – are the very people who challenge our assumptions, make us think, change us. I am the interim “stranger” whose very presence may create some cognitive dissonance in the congregation’s life. How will I live and preach so that I can authentically witness the life of Christ to the community in the spiritual journey of leadership transition?
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Interestingly, for me at least, is that these two texts speak to more to me about the preacher than the sermon. I hate to admit it but I’m old enough to recall the day that the homiletics prof in seminary carefully warned us about the dangers of using our own “testimony” in a sermon. Personal stories, I was told, focused on the person of the preacher, not the person of Christ. There is truth in that, of course. However, my own story line, when woven into the Gospel can be an illuminating move at times.
Paul seems to be caught in the same dilemma here. The Corinthians were hungry for ecstatic experiences and the Apostle shares his own personal encounter with heaven. There probably no words available for him to say much and he doesn’t. His letter moves the reader, not to the “mountaintop of a spiritual high” but to weakness that is a gift from God. His authenticity and authority is not the power of ecstasy. Paul moves us to the end that a perspective that sees the power of the experience as “viewed through the cross, not power viewed through the cross, not the power of spectacle or domination, is the power that can make us whole. (Sally Brown, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=7/8/2012)
For an interim transition congregation, discovering God’s grace in the midst of transitional discontinuity (a thorn in the side of the congregation?) needs to be part of the interim pastor’s role as teaching elder and resident theologian.
Interim Ministry Specialist
Life Coach for Ministry Professionals