December 11th, 2012 | No Comments »

Today, we return to the pen of Walter Breuggemann and his wondeful book of prayers, Prayers for a Privileged People

Newborn Beginning…after Caesar

The Christ Child is about to be born,
the one promised by the angel.
Mary’s “fullness of time” has arrived.
Except that the birth is scheduled
according to the emperor:
A decree went out that all should be numbered.

Caesar decreed a census, everyone counted;
Caesar intended to have up-to-date for the tax rolls;
Caesar intended to have current lists of draft eligibility;
Caesar intended taxes to support armies,
because the emperor, in whatever era,
is always about money and power,
about power and force,
about force and control,
and eventually violence.

And while we wait for the Christ Child,
we are enthralled by the things of Caesar –
money…power…control,
and all the well-being that comes from
such control, even if it requires a little violence.

But in the midst of the decree
will come this long-expected Jesus
innocent, vulnerable,
full of grace and truth,
grace and not power,
truth and not money,
mercy and not control.

We also dwell in the land of Caesar;
we pray for the gift of your spirit,
that we may loosen our grip on the things of Caesar,
that we may turn our eyes toward the baby,
our ears toward the newness,
our hearts toward the gentleness,
our power and money and control
toward your new governance.

We crave the newness.
And while the decree of the emperor
Rings in our ears with such authority,
give us newness that we may start again
at the beginning,
that the innocence of the baby may
intrude upon our ambiguity,
that the vulnerability of the child may
veto our lust for control,
that we may be filled with wonder
and so less of anxiety,
in the blessed name of the baby we pray.

—————

What are you and your family reading this Advent?

Posted in Christmas, missional, prayer
June 22nd, 2012 | 3 Comments »

As a congregant you have a significant role to play in helping your preacher preach better. In the last post, we talked about time and the effect lack of time can have on sermon preparation. Think about this: After Seinfeld went off television, Jerry Seinfeld decided to retire all his old stand-up material (watch the movie, “Comedian”). He spent the next year crafting a new act. After a year, Seinfeld had 30-minutes worth of material.

ONE YEAR! 30 MINUTES!

Guess what? Your preacher does 30 minutes every week!

Could he or she speak shorter? Probably. But here’s my point: Many of us have been in church so long that we’ve forgotten or never understood what we were asking of our preacher in terms of the speech act itself. Your preacher, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, can’t simply use the same “material” over and over again and be effective. Read the sermons in the book of Acts. They are strikingly similar and mercifully short. Churches asks their minister to speak a fresh word every week and sometimes to speak multiple fresh words throughout the week. Hear me correctly, this isn’t a preacher complaining about his job. Complaining is fruitless. It is, however, one preacher asking you to help your preacher preach better by understanding what they are up against.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 5th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

“The Holy Spirit orchestrates the events of our lives with the single aim of making us disciples of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives in subtle ways, ways we cannot often discern. But the Spirit is at work nonetheless.” – James Bryan Smith, The Good & Beautiful God

 

 

January 30th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

This past Friday my wife, Rochelle, took a big step for her and was the guest blogger here. She was beautifully open and honest about her life as a pastor’s wife, a mother, and Christian. Most importantly, she wanted to shine a spot light on a resource that has blessed her. It’s a ministry to, for, and through pastor’s wives called Leading & Loving It!

I want to thank our friends and this blog community for the way you embraced her words, shared them on Facebook, and cast her reflections widely across Twitter. It was great! It was also a powerful reminder that she (and we) are not alone as we endeavor to live out the true and full calling of Jesus. It is an honor.

Before the post went live, I told Rochelle, “Most people will understand and be supportive and encouraging, but there will always be someone whose reaction will be unthoughtful, ungracious and critical.”

There was one blogger, who linked to the page, who decided to write a rebuttal to Friday’s post. The writer, instead of leaving a comment here and allowing for discussion and understanding, decided to respond to the post but not let anyone here know she was responding.

But this is no surprise.

If Rochelle and I have learned one thing about life it’s this: You can’t get out of bed without someone criticizing you. It comes with the territory. It’s not exclusive to ministry. If you lead anything there will be critics. In every country or company roughly half the people think you’re doing it wrong and the half that think you’re doing it right have “suggestions” for how you can do it better. That’s life.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 10th, 2010 | No Comments »

A few posts ago, I commented, “Preaching naively believes that preaching can help” this troubled world. What I mean by this is that preaching, the act of speaking to an audience who will likely soon forget what was said, on the face, appears to be fairly anemic, but the preacher believes it is not. Jesus seems to think that preaching does something that nothing else can do. As His cousin, John, sits in prison, Jesus chooses not to visit or set John free. Rather, Jesus preaches. And it’s important to pay attention to exactly what Jesus preaches.

In Mark, as Jesus begins His public ministry, the apostle tells us that Jesus announces, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.” Again, each word here could produce a book in it’s own right, but I want to highlight a few things that I think are generally important for preacher’s (and listeners) to keep in mind as we examine how preaching can help.

  1. “The Time is fulfilled.” Jesus is announcing a present reality. This reality is associated with both His presence and person, as well as heralding an eschatological vision. Therefore, the faithful do not simply await a future occurrence, but a reality that is being inaugurated. For the preacher, this means drawing the ears of the listener to God’s activity in the world today, rather than merely encouraging them to hang onto earth until we enjoy pie-in-the-sky. Weekly preaching needs immediacy! In short, the end has begun; we are caught between the now and the not yet.
  2. “The Kingdom of God has come near.” Christ announces a new system of both politics and living. We are invited, then, to live within this kingdom and assuage the narrow-mindedness of American left/right political polarities –or any other political system, for that matter – to see a vision of the kingdom of God. This is true of all systems or philosophies that cultures may offer. The kingdom of God upends all other kingdoms – American, financial, scientific, theological or personal. The preacher then must be certain not to loan the preaching event to alternative kingdoms; to spare the pulpit of his or her personal feeling about “Proposition Whatever” and call both all people – those with whom he or she aggress and/or disagrees with – to participation in the only governing that matters – God’s.
  3. “Repent and believe the good news.” After having told us that the kingdom of God was near, the Lord now instructs us regarding what to do about it. First, says Jesus, “repent,” literally to “change your mind.” He means to tell us to abandon alternative kingdoms, philosophies, politics, and epistemologies and believe the good news, which is, in short, Jesus Himself and not a theological system (Calvinism, Restoration, Methodism, etc…). Though many would like to reduce “the good news” only to the Passion narrative, this alone cannot be true, since Jesus is calling people to the good news BEFORE the Passion events. In large, Jesus proclaims that salvation hope can be found in Him; that there is a path back to wholeness for those who repent. Every pronouncement concerning God, then, should announce the good news. It matters little to beat up people about our estrangement from the Creator without a vocalization of the way back to God.

These 3 moves shape the fundamental message of Jesus’ ministry. You will notice here that Jesus’ preaching – both here and other places – lack the kinds of specifics and steps that contemporary preaching has devolved into. Jesus’ preaching is about a particular vision of the world. It is not nuggets, principles, helpful hints, or good advice. Those who reduce preaching to sound bites cut against the grain of how Jesus preached.  Sound bites, we should now have learned from the political world, don’t change the world. Preaching should aim for more.

To be continued…

Skip to toolbar