Saturday, June 9, 2012

Proper 7 (12) Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Year B

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. 

Power and authority are themes in these three selections. The dynamics of transition (five developmental tasks) includes “shifts of power/new leadership”.  This transition dynamic is evident here.  The interim transition preacher may want to ponder the way power is used, abused, shared in her congregation.

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

David’s story is about physical and national power used to wage war.  The least likely, the “smallest” and most ill equipped, David, wins over the giant, Goliath.  Faith in God and God’s power is at the core of the story.  

 The preacher’s challenge will be to track with the narrative in a way that moves the listener from Sunday School Bible story to something deeper.  This narrative seems to mix David as a smaller youth with one who also must be older since it was many years after Samuel’s anointing.  Nevertheless, it is of the genre of story that teaches us that God can do a lot with a little – Gideon (Judges 6) and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) come to mind.  God’s power is demonstrated through the leader's faith: “the battle is not yours, but the Lord’s” (2 Chron. 20:15). 

In these accounts of warfare and plunder, there is also the ugly reality of power’s misuse and ability to kill and maim. Power in our relationships and congregations too often runs amok. What does it mean for us in a faith community to say, “the battle (of misused power, special interest groups, schism, enmity) is not ours, but the Lord’s”?

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Power and authority are a constant struggle for the Apostle Paul and the Corinthian congregation. Paul’s words in this pericope are best understood in the context of his larger argument that threads through the letter.  Paul’s apostolic authority is rooted in the power of God, particularly at the intersection of the cross.  Interim transition ministry is an eschatological ministry as was Paul's – the new is here and is breaking out now, pushing away the old orders (2 Corinthians 5).  This is a key foundation for his authority that is rooted in the power of the cross and resurrection.    

 Celia Hahn’s, Growing in Authority, Relinquishing Control(Alban) is a helpful reference.  Dan Hotchiss of Alban Institute has an up to date perspective on power, authority, and leadership with a connection to the Heifetz volume, Leadership with No Easy Answers. ( 

For a look at the Corinthian pericope in its larger context see the Garret Green article for this Sunday in  Bartlett, David L. and Taylor, Barbara Brown (2011-05-31). Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 3, Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16) (Kindle Location 5700). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

Mark 4:35-41

Mark’s Gospel has a string of “power and authority of Jesus” stories. This one finds Jesus and the disciples in a boat when a fierce storm threatened to swamp them. They found Jesus peacefully sleeping.  For the interim minister, this might be a fine example of Edward Friedman’s “non-anxious” presence"!  Jesus awoke, rebuked the storm and the winds abated.  Jesus authority and power are demonstrated.  In this instance, Jesus exercised authority over the principalities and powers (he “rebuked” the storm).  Jesus use of power was never “power over” another but always “power with”.  This “power with” may be the root of “authority in leadership during times of chaotic change and transition. 

Bob Anderson
Interim Ministry Specialist
Toledo, OH

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