Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Year B - Easter - Day of Pentecost : Revised Common Lectionary

Day of Pentecost, May 27, 2012

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The valley of dry bones is one that most of us encounter at some time in our lives.  My long ago transition between being a radio drive time "on air" personality (which supplemented church salary) to the commitment to follow in ministry was such a valley for me.  I lived “in between” the two. That “in between” time needed a commitment from me to stay in the past or to move forward to new life. I don’t recall the exact sequence but the General Manager of a large station in the city heard my afternoon drive show. He called me while I was on air waiting for the network news to finish.  He offered me a job with his top FM regional station. I was tempted big time - a big station, union shop, residuals on voice-overs. I was in the wilderness and needed a prophet.

 I don’t recall who it was or the context, but God did send a prophet.  Someone I respected “prophesied” to me saying simply, “where has God called you? That's your answer.”   Those words were the wind of  prophetic breath that rattled my bones. The brittle became strong, the weak faith muscles bulked up, I began to think what I had never thought, say what I had never said and did what I had never done. 

Interim process congregations will often feel like they are in the valley of dry bones, waiting for the breath of fresh Spirit breath of my interim pastor leadership, preaching or conversation.  The sermon approach I am going to take this Pentecost is “listening for and speaking the prophetic word”.  And that’s when we will start to “rock and roll”.   

 Acts 2:1-21

This classic narrative may get too familiar over time. Reading through the "lens" of transitional ministry gave me a couple new thoughts.

Every interim ministry joins a congregational system that has it's own customs, rituals, patterns. I will say that these add up to a unique congregational "language".  The interim leader joins this system as an outsider with her own "language".   Pentecost drives home the importance of Holy Spirit passion and power of communicating good news in a time of congregational discontinuity. The challenge of one preaching approach might be to focus on what it takes to understand one another in times of turmoil. How can we experience anew the Pentecost Spirit for those moments?

Romans 8:22-27

 Our ancient faith ancestors were deeply torn by the transition to the new work of God through the Spirit. Gatherings of believers formed. The Holy Spirit witnessed to the all embracing love of God by being manifest in the lives of Jews and Gentiles alike. Their conflict stories abound in Acts and the early epistles of the New Testament.  

God's new work in our interim congregations can often elicit much the same response of "maybe", "not now", "no".  The latter is most difficult and troublesome for the pastor's own life as we seek to faithfully lead the people of God.  Dr. James E. Dittes, whose life once adorned Yale Theological Seminary proposed that the "no" of God's people was the "groaning of the Spirit" (Romans 8: 26) who was praying and birthing the new in the midst of the old (When the People Say No, 2004 by Wipf & Stock Publishers - older versions are available from used book sellers ). This perspective puts an element of hope into the transitions of life.  I admit to working without a direct quote and page number but the Amazon link is      Dr. David Sawyer of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary picks up this same theme in his very insightful volume, Hope in Conflict (Pilgrim Press, 2007). Using Moltmann's theology of hope, David puts together an energizing methodology for life in times of conflict.

It now occurs to me that Pentecost is a watershed moment in the life of God's people.  As such, it is bound to create conflict and turmoil as the new life shatters the earthen clay jar of my life and that of the congregation.

 Bob Anderson
Interim Ministry Specialist
Leadership Coach of Ministry Professionals
Toledo, OH

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