|inner stillness: when everything is all the same to you, and you live for the day, and you are not dreaming and waiting
books I've been reading
Communion, Community, Commonweal: Readings for Spiritual Leadership, by John S. Mogabgab
The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath
The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley
Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century: Faith Stories of the Protestant Reformers
Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Dallas Willard
movies I'd like to see
Lost in Translation
The Station Agent
sermons in process
Ruth 1:1-18--"Why Go with Me?"
Mark 12:38-44--"Abundance and Poverty"
1 Samuel 1:4-20--"The Desperation of Hannah"
John 18:33-37--"An Interrogation"
Malachi 3:1-4--"Messages and Messengers"
lectures on tape in my car
Introduction to Renaissance Literature
Dante's Life and Times
Dante's Literary Antecedents
Erasmus, In Praise of Folly
Introduction to Shakespeare
|Sunday, March 17
I always find it interesting to discover how different it is to preach a text than to simply
read it aloud. One of the texts I regularly read at funeral services is Ezekiel 37, about a
vision of a valley filled with dry bones. But to actually get inside the text, to try to
experience what Ezekiel was experiencing, is another matter. I entitled my sermon for this
morning, “Can These Bones Live?” And I found myself wishing that my parishioners could
hear that question applied to them. It’s easy enough for us to find fault with others and to
see the weaknesses in others. When I preached this, folks could probably understand how
this applied to the Israelites. But did they have the slightest suspicion that maybe that text
applied to them? And, I suppose I could ask the same about myself. “Can these bones
live?” Is it possible for me to get excited again? About something? Excitement comes
easily to the young, because the world is new. The young readily experience novelty. But
what happens to us as we grow older? As the novelty fades? Does apathy and lethargy set
it? Do we get comfortable and not WANT anything new in our lives? I noticed that in
delivering a sermon recently at one point in my delivery folks in the sanctuary broke into
laughter. Well, they did that in the first two congregations. In the third congregation, there
was not a sound. It was--by accident?--the oldest of the three congregations. Maybe we
get tired. Maybe it is too much work to laugh. Or maybe nothing is funny any more. In the
vision of the valley of the dry bones, God brought the bones back to life. God breathed life
into them. But what does it take for this to happen? And does God ever decide that in some
cases re-birth is not worth it? A parishioner once asked me what I thought of new churches
that were being built of metal instead of brick or wood. She was concerned with how well
those building would last. And I asked her if it had occurred to her that many buildings
outlive the congregations that inhabit them? Indeed, I have served two congregations
whose buildings outlasted them. The congregations were discontinued, the buildings were
sold, and new congregations of other denominations bought them. In the case of those
discontinued congregations, the answer to the question, “Can these bones live?” was “No.”
So, do we blame God for that? or the congregations? or does it really matter? We know that
all humans are mortal. We will all experience physical death. But can the same be said for
institutions? I once heard my bishop say to my congregations, “God did not bring you [this
church] this far to let you die.” So, what about all the churches to which Paul wrote letters?
Are they still around? No, they aren’t. So, do we blame that on God? Did God let them die?
And why? posted by
John Harrison at 12:43 PM