I preached this past Sunday, and due to certain circumstances I started writing my sermon on paper. My wife Alicia was interviewing on Friday for a residency next year and I went with her (mostly for the free meals). There were four separate interviews scheduled, so I thought that would give me some good time by myself. I took with me the notes I had made about the text for the week and some paper and a pen so I could write my sermon while she was in her interviews.
Usually, I write my sermons (like most people, I ‘d expect) on the computer. Computers are so much more efficient, right? You can cut and paste, move things around, look up a verse real quick and insert it into the sermon with just a few clicks. So, I wasn’t looking forward to writing my sermon on paper last friday, but I wasn’t going to lug my computer around all day.
When Alicia went into her first interview, I put my head down and started writing my sermon. Her first interview ended up being really short, probably 20 minutes, but in that period of time I wrote, mostly in outline form, over half of my sermon. There was something about putting the pen on the paper with no distractions–no internet, no email, no twitter–that allowed me to focus and think clearly. I wasn’t able to finish the sermon while I was there, so I took what I had written home.
I decided that I would finish writing the sermon on paper, even though I was at home. So, I sat down and cranked out the rest of the sermon in almost no time. Later, I transcribed what I had written to the computer and made a few minor edits, but for the most part I really enjoyed writing a sermon on paper. I’ve heard it said that poets should never write poetry on a computer; it makes the process too technological and removes the organic creativity that comes when stroking a pen across a sheet of paper. Perhaps sermon writing is the same way.
Have you tried writing a sermon in a different method than normal? What were the results?
“With the vote today, there was no ontological change in the church catholic or the ELCA”
I am going to reveal my voting record pertaining to the resolutions regarding sexuality at this year’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly in order to hopefully offer some helpful perspective. I expect that my friends on both sides of the issue will be surprised with the way in which I voted. In a later post, I will explain in a bit more detail regarding why I voted the way I did, since it will likely seem irrational to many.
- Social Statement on Sexuality: Against
- Resolution 1 (originally resolution 3, regarding respecting the bound conscience of all parties): For
- Resolution 2 (regarding a desire to support and hold publicly accountable those in monogamous, lifelong same-gendered relationships): Against
- Resolution 3 (regarding a desire to roster those in such relationships): Against
- Resolution 4 (the practical outcome of rostering such persons): For
As many can see, in general, I was not in favor of the resolutions being brought before this assembly in relation to human sexuality. I voted in favor of Resolution 4 as a symbolic gesture to affirm my desire to stay within the ELCA even though I disagree with the actions taken by the assembly. An additional amendment was added to Resolution 4 that strengthened the protection of those in the minority on this matter. Because of this, I was compelled to stand alongside those with whom I disagree and say that I am willing to continue to be a church together with them and to offer my voice to them.
Some, both individuals and churches, will leave the the ELCA over this assembly’s actions, and I think that is unfortunate. On Twitter, someone said that, “The true Church is neither constituted or destroyed because of a vote. Where Christ is – there is the Church.” And I agree. With the vote today, there was no ontological change in the church catholic or the ELCA. This vote simply turned into “official” church policy that which was already taking place within the ELCA. Yes, there will be practical implications of this decision today. But Hope Lutheran Church, where I serve, can continue to preach with conviction our interpretation of scripture, to feed the hungry, to worship God, to minister to and with our youth, and every other good work of mission and ministry that we are already doing. At this point, we are not being asked to act contrary to our deeply held convictions, and I believe we should stay within this national church body.
Martin Luther himself remained within the Roman Catholic church until it was clear to him that his ability to proclaim the gospel was being hindered by remaining within that body. I would admonish those in the ELCA who are now on the side of the minority on this issue to do the same.
CNNMoney.com has an interesting feature on 11 companies with 11 ideas that will drastically alter the way we live our lives and could potentially hurt some majoy corporations. All eleven are quite interesting. One of the ideas that caught my brain and got me thinking was an automobile power source that:
- Uses no gasoline
- Uses electricity, but is not a battery
- Will use $9 worth of electricity to drive 500 miles
- It will charge completely in 5 minutes
- Power will cost the eqivalent of $.45 a gallon
Lots of promise here, but the technology is so top-secret they can’t disclose information about how this not-battery works. The thing that caught my eye was the fact that it claims it can go 500 miles for $9. My question is: what will happen to the price of electricity when it is used to power automobiles? Sure, it’s equivalent to $.45 a gallon now, but what about when the demand goes up? Do we have enough coal to produce all this power? Are we willing to create nuclear powerplants to keep up with demand? And, as with any alternative fuels, how easily will we be able to change the infrastructure already in place to refuel our automobiles?
Just a few thoughts. I hope this works out, though.
I’ve been trying to come up with a good day to start posting again (in addition to finding the proper motivation). Since graduating in May, I haven’t had a chance to do much writing, and I’ve been missing it noticeably. So, blogging is a good avenue for me to hopefully keep my writing skills sharp. I guess there is no better day to begin posting than on “Blog Day.” From Jason Clark:
“Sometime in June 2005 Israeli blogger Nir Ofir had a realization: the date 3108 (or August 31st) looks suspiciously like the word “Blog.” He also wanted to do something about the fact that despite the notion of blogging being something available to so many, what happens is a few people link to the same blogs, all the time, and most new blogs never get an audience.
Just as church circles are self referencing, blogging is largely the same. So Nir started Blog Day on 31st August 2005.”
So, here are my five blogs to reference (a day late), even though no one will likely read this post:
David Fitch: The Great Giveaway
Dixson Kinser: So Indie It’s Embarassing
A Youth Pastor
Dan Edelen: Cerulean Sanctum
I decided I wanted to use the ESV version next to read through Galatians and found a website that had the ESV in audio format, so I listened to the book of Galatians today. It was nice to hear the word out loud and not be distracted by footnotes, verse numbers, and section heading. Since this was the way most people originally heard the letter to the Galatians, I think it was a worthwhile exercise. I may go back and do some of the other versions over again in audio format if I can find them online. A few things that stuck out to me while listening to Galatians in the ESV:
1:16 – The ESV talks about God revealing Christ to Paul, not in Paul, as the HCSB did. Quite a significant difference.
Chapter 3 – For some reason I never noticed what Paul was saying here. It appears that he is saying that grace preceded law in God’s promise to Abraham and was not nullified when the law was given. Indeed, God did fulfill his promise to Abraham through Jesus. So, the inheritance is still by the promise given to Abraham, not by the keeping of the law. Paul says the law was “added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary” (3:19).
Chapter four still seems to be saying that we were children of God and under “guardians and managers” until the date set by the Father, even though there was no difference in between us as children and a slave.
A few random observations as I read through Galatians using the Holman Christian Standard Bible:
1:1 – Paul is an apostle not ordained by men, but by God. In fact, later in chapter 1 he goes on to mention that he did not seek out the other apostles after Christ reveals himself to Paul. I wonder if this tells us anything about the ordination of people and how this differs from other NT passages that seem to support the ordination of elders through the laying on of hands. Perhaps here the emphasis is that ordination is a community affirming and recognizing that a person has been called an apostle by God and is thus putting their “seal of approval” upon him or her.
1:6ff – No other “gospel.” The key to really understanding this whole book seems to lie in figuring out what a.) the original gospel Paul preached was and b.) what the new “gospel” involved. More research will be necessary here.
1:15 – Paul was set apart in the womb. Clearly Paul was not what we would consider a Christian until after his conversion, yet he was set apart from birth. Again, interesting implications for the doctrine of election. The same can be said for v. 16 where Paul talks about how God decided in his own time to reveal his Son in Paul, not to Paul, as if Christ was always in Paul, he just hadn’t been revealed yet. It’s amazing how much predestination can be found in the language of Paul that I had not noticed for the majority of my life simply because I was raised a good Pelagian.
Chapter 4 – I’m still getting the feeling that Paul is saying on one hand that we were children of God, but were no different than a slave, but then he says we were both slaves and children. A closer look at the words used might clarify this some more. Based off of Paul’s language in chapter 1, it appears that my initial hypothesis might still be correct.
5:12 – The HCSB is the only one to translate “castration” so far. The NIV and NASB both say circumcision, I believe.
5:23 – “Against such things there is no law.” Put into the context of the whole book, this phrase has new meaning compared to most decontextualized references to the verse.
In addition to all of my Galatians writing, I plan on doing some general writing as well, so this post falls into this category.
I was sitting in class today wondering why it is that academia has such an influential role in the church when I realized that your average pastor doesn’t have close to the amount of time necessary to do what most academics do. Most pastors can’t just spend hours researching and writing except what is necessary to preach on Sunday morning and keep their heads above water. It is the academic who is often able to sit back, make observations, research information, and then synthesize that information in order to write a highly influential book.
The problem with that is that they are academics and not practitioners, and oftentimes their audience of influence is that of the practitioner, a.k.a. the pastor. So, while a lot of their input might be theologically grounded, I wonder how often they are in touch with reality. How can someone who has never been a pastor tell a pastor how to better and more theologically consistently use his office for the benefit of the body of Christ? I would bet that many academics miss the mark.
It was in thinking about this dilemma that I came up with a great solution: the retired pastor who has “retired” to academia. Hopefully these men are immersed in scripture, after preaching sermon after sermon after sermon for many years. Undoubtedly, they have done much research and study to prepare those sermons. And of course, they have actually been there, done that, and know what it is like to be a pastor. But, after they retire, they are able to take a step back from the pastor’s office and think about the lessons learned and the things that could be done differently.
With this in mind, it is hard to describe the anticipation with which I look forward to reading Eugene Peterson’s new six-part (or is it five? I don’t remember) magnum opus on spiritual theology. I have the first book in the series on my shelf, waiting for me to dig into it. Unfortunately, I have 2 books I am currently reading for pleasure that I am forcing myself to finish before I pick up Peterson’s book. On top of that, I have a ton of reading that I must do simply for classes, which means it is quite possible that I won’t get to read Peterson’s book until after graduation. I found out that the second book of the series came out recently, which means that I’m quite behind. I’d like to get the first two read before the third comes out.
I have a deep respect for Peterson having read Working the Angles a few years ago and then more recently reading an interview with him in Christianity Today. I also know that he had a successful pastorate that was immersed in the study of scripture (hello, The Message?). I can’t wait to see what this wise man has to say. I hope there are many more like him.
The style of the NASB, which I appreciate for intense study and exegesis, doesn’t make for good reading when consuming mass quantities of scripture. I found myself having to go back and reread a lot of verses because of the odd wording of some sentences. Nevertheless, it was a good experience, and I will try to read some more “literal” translations as I complete my practice of reading through the entire book of Galatians multiple times.
What stood out to me today were two things. The first occurred in 1:12 – “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” How often is it that we become proud when imparting the gospel to someone? How often do we heed the words of the preacher? How often are we impressed by the influence a preacher may have? Here Paul tells us that we are mistaken when we give credit to anyone other than Jesus Christ. It is Christ who reveals the gospel. We do not reveal it, nor can we teach it, but it is Christ who reveals. This verse also seems to be a basis for Barth’s approach to scripture, that it is a revelation that ultimately points to Jesus Christ who Himself is the most perfect and ultimate revelation of God. Even though the Bible is useful for telling the story of the Christian faith, it most importantly is the revelation of Jesus Christ, available only to those who are willing to receive it.
Secondly, I was struck by chapter 4. It appears to me that Paul is saying that those who are in Christ were sons of Christ, while those who were not were slaves. However, we could not tell ourselves apart because there is no difference, except for our inheritance. When Christ came, he claimed us as sons and gave us our inheritance, which is what sets us apart from those who are not in Christ. This is from a cursory reading and not from close examination, so my thoughts might need to be clarified, but that’s the overall point it seems like Paul is trying to make. It reminds me of the quote in the Torrance book I read that when asked when he was converted to Christianity, a minister replied, “Nineteen hundred years ago.” If this is indeed what Paul is saying in this passage, then this is a key passage in support of a doctrine of election and predestination. More reading and study will hopefully bring out the true emphasis of the passage.