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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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core longings

At the Formational Prayer Essentials Seminar Part 2

If we resemble Jesus enough to allow the woman of ill repute to break the bottle of perfume at His feet (Luke 7:36-50), soon others like her will be lined up around the block, each bearing their own bottle of perfume to break as they cry their hearts out for gratitude at the mercy of Jesus we are showing them.

If we are instead like the Pharisees who are around Jesus trying to prevent the woman from approaching Him and breaking the bottle, others who may have brought their own bottles to break will learn that they will be shamed if they do so.  They will keep those bottles hidden and, perhaps, stop coming altogether.

If we receive the broken and the breakers, the wounded and the wounders into the church with the mercy of Jesus, soon word will get out and others will come bearing their own sins and wounds and brokenness, knowing that here is a place where they can receive healing and forgiveness.

If we insist on public shaming of the broken and the breakers, public condemnation of church leaders who “fall” or “fail,” soon word will get out and others who have their own sins and wounds and brokenness will learn to keep their sins and wounds and brokenness to themselves.  The church will not be a safe place for them to be, and eventually, perhaps, they will stop coming altogether.

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SermonSeeds: The Father Voice in blessing

A Formational Pastor Post

Ephesians 3:14-21 – RCL New Testament reading for July 29, 2012 (Proper 12 / 9th Sunday after Pentecost

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The people of God over whom we pastor come to us Sunday after Sunday (and sometimes in between) having made it through another week – sometimes just barely.  Some make it by the skin of their teeth.  Some have been beaten up by life, and come licking their wounds.  Some of the wounds are decades old, and they’re still limping from the effects.  We acknowledge their wounds, and sometimes look for the cause so they can be treated appropriately.  But the people of God don’t need us to beat them more with shame or blame or accusations or “shoulda – woulda – couldas” – they’ve already had enough wounding from the rest of the world.  What they need from us is medicine, healing, and caring.  The kind of caring that only Jesus gives.

They come to us again and again not needing to hear our thoughts on the latest movies or TV shows or politics or issues.  They come to us again and again needing to hear words like Saint Paul writes here:  Regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world and the rest of your life, I love you.  I’m praying for you.  I know that God cares for you.  I know that He has riches He is giving you now, that you can’t even see.  If you find it hard to hear the voice of the Father through the noise of the world, listen to it here in these words.  This is the Father’s voice of prodigal love.  Come, soak in it – bask in it – and receive His healing.

So I’m thinking about not preaching this text this Sunday.  This text doesn’t call for exegesis.  Instead, it’s calling “use me to bless the people of God!”  I think I will.

Caring for the Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:1-6 – “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing, ” declares the Lord.

This is the Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday for many of us.  It’s kind of a warning for us preachers and pastors, isn’t it?  “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”  Kind of makes me want to pull in my head and glance around:  “You talkin’ to me?”  Because here God is upset on behalf of His sheep.  He’s left them under the care of some shepherds, but He’s come to find out His sheep are uncared-for, they are scattered, far away, afraid, terrified, and missing.  He’s steaming, now, and will replace those shepherds with new ones who will care for His flock properly.

So what if you and I, my brothers and sisters in the ministry, are these new shepherds?  Often we wonder about whether we’ll “do the job well” so we also won’t be replaced.  But we’re not only shepherds but sheep, too.  So as we assume the task and role of shepherding God’s sheep, who tends the shepherds?  Who cares for them?  What if the shepherds themselves are uncared-for, scattered, disconnected, afraid, terrified, or even missing / AWOL?  

Does your administrative structure care for you like a shepherd cares for the flock?  Does it try to provide connection and collection, a place of peace and grace and consolation for the shepherds?  

Do the shepherds around you mostly tend each other without outside help?  Do you have a group of fellow-shepherds that care for one another, lift one another up, create and atmosphere of forgiveness and consolation among yourselves, and speak the precious Gospel to each other frequently?

Or do you mostly go it alone?  Is God’s tending enough for you?  It may well be, and certainly we want to learn to depend on Him to fill all our core longings.  I’m not saying that shepherds should look to other shepherds to fill the longings that only God can fill.  I am suggesting, though, that He provides fellow-shepherds, small groups of pastors, regional conferences, even judicatory officials as vessels of His mercy and grace for your strengthening, refreshment, and care as you go about your work as His shepherds.

Drop me a comment or send me an email to continue this conversation.

SermonSeeds: Belonging

A post from The Formational Pastor

Ephesians 2:11-12 / RCL Proper 11, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 22 2012

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Let’s talk about the Core Longing of Belonging today, shall we?  Paul reminds the Ephesians (and us) that there was a time when we did not belong to the people of God – and such “not belonging” meant we were without hope, too.  But in Jesus Christ God has eliminated every barrier to our belonging to Him.  He has totally filled that Core Longing through His Son.

What words do you want to use to describe what God has done to meet that longing?  “No longer two, but one” means that you who belong to God cannot be counted separately anymore.  “One body” means that you are united to all the others who belong to Him, you draw life from each other and give life to each other through mutual encouragement and forgiveness in Jesus’ Name.  “He preached peace” not only means that He announced peace, but since His Word has creative power He also created peace between you and all believers, as He did between you and God.  “You are fellow citizens with God’s people” with all the rights and privileges we accord to citizens – and you know how the political debate rages over immigration these days.  No such debate over your status!  “You are members of God’s household.”  Not just a next-door-neighbor citizen, but a member of God’s family, with a seat at His dinner table and a place always in His house and home.  “Being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit,” so that if those who are not citizens of God’s Kingdom and outside His family, who are still far away from Him and separated from Him should be looking for directions to Him, for guidance to Jerusalem, for the presence of the Temple where God truly dwells among His people, they need look no farther than to you and the believers around you.

Core Longings / SermonSeeds for July 15, 2012

A post from The Formational Pastor

Revised Common Lectionary:  Amos 7:7-15, Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

 

Seed A:  Though John’s murder was truly ghastly, this might be an opportunity to spend a little time looking at Herod’s actions not only self-aggrandizing but also self-protective.  It’s easy to see the bravado with which he made the promise to Herodias’ daughter, wanting to impress all his banquet guests with his magnificent generosity.  It’s also possible to see that his follow-through was face-saving – he didn’t want those same guests to think he was a piker, now did he?  So to protect both his reputation and himself he gave the order to have John beheaded.

Perhaps this could be an opportunity to examine our own hearts and lives to see what kinds of self-protective, face-saving actions we’ve taken recently.  No, they don’t have to have the same ghastly consequences as Herod’s, but yes, they have the same root – some deep core longing that remains unsatisfied, that somehow we think we have to take care of ourselves.  What’s the better solution?  See the next paragraph.

Seed B:  Look at Saint Paul’s list in Ephesians of all the things that the Lord has done for His people – make that, for you.  Go ahead, put your name in there wherever he writes “us” – He chose you, He predestined you, He adopted you, and on and on.  Now connect each one of these things with one or more of the Core Longings we’ve learned – Belonging, Purpose, Love, Understanding, Safety / Security, Significance.  See how each God has richly met your core longings already, filling them to the brim with Himself?  Where else should we go to have them met but in Him?

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