Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Year B Proper 8 (13) Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

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. 

Year B  Proper 8 (13) Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 130

“I wait for the Lord…”  Waiting and interim ministry are a matched set.  The congregation awaits the pastor’s final day, it awaits the arrival of the interim pastor, it waits through the pastor search process and waits still for the new pastoral leader to arrive onsite.  They wait in expectant hope like the watchman for the dawn.  The promise of God is as sure as the sunrise.
The Psalm creates a spiritual context for the interim transition congregation. Waiting becomes a spiritual practice that examines the past and lays it aside in forgiveness with hope for a new future.  Waiting becomes contemplative and active.  Waiting is active when full of hope and expectancy.  Waiting is a womb where the future is conceived and born in the right time.
Sue Monk Kidd in her reflective book, When the Heart Waits, creates another kind of word picture for this Psalm: 

I had tended to view waiting as mere passivity. When I looked it up in my dictionary however, I found that the words passive and passion come from the same Latin root, pati, which means "to endure." Waiting is thus both passive and passionate. It's a vibrant, contemplative work. It means descending into self, into God, into the deeper labyrinths of prayer. It involves listening to disinherited voices within, facing the wounded holes in the soul, the denied and undiscovered, the places one lives falsely. It means struggling with the vision of who we really are in God and molding the courage to live that vision.( SUE MONK KIDD, When the Heart Waits)

The Psalm is rich with images and metaphors.  Consider the Psalm as the “frame” for the flow of worship – Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession and so forth.  I used the following in one setting: 

Prayers for the Waiting Place

May I begin, O God – merely begin, and begin
Again to wait, be still, to listen ….
Be still . . . and know that I am God . . .
Teach me to wait before acting, to catch glimpses of your hand forming a Holy People.
Be still . . . and know that I am God . . .
Deliver me from the temptation to fix problems when you are forging new paths of faith,
Be still . . . and know that I am God . . .
Open my eyes to your wonders so that I may slow down and watch you plant the seeds of tomorrow.
Be still . . . and know that I am God . . .
Keep me calm when I stand in anxiety that is but your catalyst for miracles.
Be still . . . and know that I am God . . .
Let us all be open to the new thing God is doing in all our life and world:
        [Name our needs… persons… institutions.. places…]
Let us leave the attachments of our lives so that our hearts are clear to . . .
Be still . . . and know that I am God . . . Amen

(October, 2010, Rev. Robert Charles Anderson, D.Min. Permission to use with credit).

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

This is a tried and true text for Stewardship Sundays and it seems strange being a text for  the season of Pentecost.  After several readings, I realized the depth of the spiritual synergy and life of the Spirit that the pericope contains.  Paul’s appeal to complete the Macedonian offering for the Jerusalem poor is full of rich theological language.  I wonder what would happen if we used the text to frame the theological understanding that drives any of our congregation’s endeavors, including pastoral transitions?  The text then takes on a new vision of how the congregation is living into the purpose and vision of their life as the people of God.

For context, we will need to use all of chapters 8 and 9 to complete his thought.  Given that, what might it be like for the interim preacher to hold up the transitional process as one that was a gift of grace in which to excel, 8:7 (“charis”).  It is a time of blessing, 9:6, (“eulogia”) and also priestly service, 9.12 (“leitourgia”).  Just before this section, Paul calls on the Macedonians’ fellowship, 8.4 (“koinonia) and service (diakonia).  The offering is also an act of inclusive love between Gentiles and Jews in 8:8.  The transitional congregation welcomes a new leader from “outside”, a new future, new leaders, new mission – all as an act of love.  Use your preaching imagination to create connections for the work of the congregation in your setting.  (Here I must give credit to  Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll’s article 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 6646). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition).

Bob Anderson

Interim Ministry Specialist
Life Coach for Ministry Professionals
Toledo, OH

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