Archives for October 2017
Text: Exodus 34:1-12
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
The poet more often says what the preacher wishes she could say. I must confess to you this day that I am in a reflective mood, not so much a preaching mood. Death came to our community this week and I was not ready. Sunday, Gerald and Lynda Smith’s son, Gerry, died after a short journey with cancer. And although Gerry was not a part of our church, Gerald and Lynda are which made Gerry was a part of us. On Monday, our beloved Deborah Steely died after a nearly two-year journey with cancer. For over three decades, Deborah’s theological thirst, curiosity, and insight inspired others to that same thirst, curiosity, and insight. Possibly never have we known another biblical teacher with her insight and wisdom. Then on Tuesday, our gentle and strong friend Phil Letsinger died after a very short illness. Next Sunday, November 5 Phil would have marked his 50th anniversary of being a member of this church, Pullen Church. There would be no way to calculate the number of hours that Phil Letsinger volunteered at this church. And no instrument on earth could measure the depth of his commitment to care for and maintain the beauty of this sanctuary—this place. Death came this week and took away two of the brightest coins in our community.
The biblical story from the Hebrew scriptures included in the lectionary for this week is that of the death of Moses. His life has spanned the last four biblical books: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. He has been the prominent figure in these books, leading the Israelites for 40 years, out of slavery in Egypt, to Mt. Sinai, through many trials and tribulations and wilderness wanderings, and now they stand at the cusp of the Promised Land, about to enter into the promise God made so many generations ago to Abraham and Sarah. There on Mount Nebo, the Israelites must, too, have felt that one of their brightest coins had been taken from their purse.
Text: Matthew 22:15-22
A rule of etiquette in business and at the dinner table is: “never talk about religion or politics.” “Do not discuss politics or religion in general company” is from 1879. Some rules of business etiquette have changed over time, but this well-known adage from Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms, a guide to writing and etiquette from 1879, is still a common standard. The rule reads: “Do not discuss politics or religion in general company. You probably would not convert your opponent, and he/she will not convert you. To discuss those topics is to arouse feeling without any good result.” Common etiquette has extended a bit further to say, that in addition to politics and religion, you should never talk about sex or money, at least around the family holiday dinner table. But as the saying goes, “these are the most interesting things to discuss.”
Our brother Jesus never was one to follow a rule of etiquette. He ate with sinners, touched the untouchables, and traveled with the outcasts. And in Matthew 22 he talked about money, politics, and religion all in one fell swoop. If only he had mentioned the fourth hot topic, sex, there is no telling what fun the Baptists might have had all these years. But he didn’t, not at least in Matthew 22, so we will stay with money, politics, and religion as our focus this morning.
“We are at the point in Matthew’s story about Jesus where things are getting pretty tense. Earlier in the week, Jesus has entered Jerusalem and been greeted by adoring crowds. Riding this wave of popular acclaim, he immediately enters the Temple and overthrows the tables of the money-changers, challenging both the political and religious powers that be. Confronted by the religious leaders regarding the authority behind his actions, Jesus tells several provocative, even threatening parables calling into question their own authority and, indeed standing before God.” (David Lose, Working Preacher) [Read more…]
Text: Isaiah 25:1-9
What would you count among your best days? The day you got married. The day you landed your dream job. The day you completed your first half marathon. The first day of retirement. Or the day your child was born. Really, how would you describe your best days? For me, some of my very best days are when I have the privilege to hold a baby in my arms and walk them around this sanctuary introducing them to their faith community. My best days are when I walk into Wednesday night dinner and one of our Pullen children greets me with a spaghetti hug. My best days are when I get to pick up one of our Pullen children or youth and take them to get ice cream because they have a story they want to share with me. My best days are when I perform a wedding for a Pullen young adult whose second birthday party I attended years earlier. My best days are the Sunday mornings when I take 3 minutes to stop in on the 2 and 3 year-olds Sunday school class to say hello before heading upstairs to prepare for worship. My best days are when I march and engage in civil disobedience and went to jail for the welfare and well-being of our children.
Moving Forward with Hope: Love and Justice for Every Child is the theme for this year’s Children’s Sabbath. If ever I have felt the weight of interpreting a theme it is this one. [Read more…]