Proper 11 (16) Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
The shepherding theme catches my imagination this week. It runs through the Old Testament lesson in 2 Samuel or the alternate in Jeremiah. The Psalter carries the theme with Psalm 23.
The cry of God for a “home” marks a turning point in the history of God’s people. Up until this point the portable Tabernacle was the “home” of God’s Ark and holy presence. I’m reminded, believe it or not, of the Life Cycle of Congregations. Israel is moving from “adolescence” to adulthood and “Prime Time” at the top of the Life Cycle Bell Curve. Many of our historic stream of churches are on the dying side of the life cycle curve.
A sermon move doesn’t need to teach the life cycle of congregations. It could, however, work from the concept to speak of the seasons of a congregation’s history and life. Perhaps the liturgical seasons could become part of the expression of God’s faithfulness in the ebb and flow of our lives. We might ponder homiletically what questions God is asking of us today. A key point is that God is always about the new beginnings – the resurrections of our lives as God’s people.
Baaack to sheep (sorry, sometimes I can’t help myself). I can’t help but take this text out of the larger prophetic picture and make it personal. Reading the text, my reflections became intensely personal. What kind of shepherd am I? What’s the quality of my faithfulness? Which sheep get lost or left behind during the interim transition journey? I can also think about this as who gets left behind or is untended during my life changes of education, family, or moving about the country as an interim pastor?
In my practice of interim transition ministry, several congregations grappled with the reality that they needed to “clean” the membership rolls. The thought occurred to me that these “inactive” members may be the lost sheep of which Jeremiah speaks. They wander off during pastoral changes, building programs or capital campaigns. The older members are often among those lost sheep. Unable to attend regularly because of illness or disability these dear ones often “fall between the cracks” of pastoral changes, moves to retirement communities and more. When we do discover them in the hospital or the supermarket, they are quick to say, “I’m a member of your church”. Their sense of spiritual home, their “sheepfold” is our congregation – even though they haven’t been in worship for 20 years. I have to ask myself, what does Jeremiah say to me?
Interim Ministry Specialist
Life Coach for Ministry Professionals