Monthly Archives: January 2012

Spinach Bread

This bread makes a tasty toasted cheese sandwich.

1 1/2 lb Loaf for Bread Machine:
1 cup + 1 Tbl Warm Water
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 Tbl Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Chopped Spinach, if frozen, thaw and drain; do not press
1 cup Whole wheat flour
1 cup Bread Flour
1 cup Rye Flour
2 Tbl Active Wheat Gluten
1/2 cup Cheese: Feta or Cheddar
1 1/2 tsp Active dry yeast

February 5th: “Being A Chameleon for God”

This Week’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Highlights: “Paul goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. … But becoming all things to all people does not involve losing or giving up one’s own center, becoming gelatin-molded to whatever form appears, or losing track of what is truly important.” How do we free and contextualize the gospel so that Christ might win all people?

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, February 5thin Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

17 In which category are pastors: volunteers or discharging a trust? I suppose some Sunday’s we are commissioned to preaching (c.f. joke about mother reminding her son (the senior pastor) to get up and go to church). Most Sundays, the sermon is the high point of my week.

18 Our Terms of Call start with the statement: “So that you may be free to devote yourself full time to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, we promise and obligate ourselves to …” Thus our pay is not a reward for preaching, but a stipend to free Teaching Elders from the constraints of living to devote all of their time to promoting the gospel.

19 In church service, those more involved, demonstrate greater the servanthood. As a Synod Commissioner I recall correcting the Synod Executive that I was not a volunteer, but a conscriptee.

20-22 How can we be more like those around us who do not come to Church? First we must understand those around us.

23 Sharing the gospel must take precedence to, must inform, and must infuse all other forms of service and duties.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • If considering payments to church professionals, the passage should be expanded to at least verse 11 if not to verse 3. These verses address the right of preachers to participate in the fruit of their labors.
  • Alternately, the passage might be divided between verses 18 & 19. Verses 1-18 deal with payment of a preacher and 19-27 with how to proclaim the gospel to others.
  • Focusing on 17-23 would allow a preacher to address how congregants support one another to share the gospel at all times and with all people.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Paul answered a variety of questions from the Corinthians.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

Question: Paul answered why he did not demand payment for preaching and his style of preaching.

Music: “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • How can one appear to be under or outside of the law and model a consistent life giving relationship with God?
  • Need to recognize that Paul was defending his tent-making so his preaching would not be under the control of the wealthy members of the congregation. It is from those people that Paul is free.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

Without vv 3-16, some hearers may question the need to pay the preacher, if the preacher is compelled by God to preach.

Verses 19-22 need translation to modern culture.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy A Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary: I Corinthians, 1987) opines: “There was more afoot in Corinth than dismemberment of the congregation through party spirit, more than laying claim to a superior knowledge which spurns corporeal alignment, more than libertinism. … went a challenge to his apostleship, thus to his authority.” He translates the closing phrase of verse 15 (“no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting!”) as “No one shall rob me of my thanks!” Emphasizing that he did not require payment for preaching despite his apostleship. He cautions against misusing verses 19-22 to rationalize separate but equal status.

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “First Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2002) cautions that Paul did not give up his freedom and rights, but chose not to exercise them. He notes Paul use of commercial terms in verses 15- 18 to convey his profiting by preaching. In verses 19-23 Paul continues using kerdaino (win / make a profit). “Paul knows that it is not he who saves, but God.” He reflects: “Paul relates one of the secrets of his evangelistic prowess: He goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. … But becoming all things to all people does not involve losing or giving up one’s own center, becoming gelatin-molded to whatever form appears, or losing track of what is truly important.”

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, 1980) notes that Paul demonstrated his willingness to become weak by giving up his right to eat meat sacrificed to idols (8:13). He believes “that winning the weak means to save them from the arrogance of those who can destroy (8:11).”

Craig Blomberg (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians. Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.) divides the chapter into two passages 1-18 & 19-27. He states (citing Acts 18:1-4) that refused to accept money from powerful patrons in Corinth, implying freedom from deferring to and politically supporting these patrons resulting in these patrons charging he was less of an apostle because he refused payment for his preaching. He sees Paul contextualizing the gospel – changing the forms of the message precisely in order to preserve its content. “Sadly, Christians of many eras have instead tended to be more sensitive to the legalism of fellow church members and have too quickly censured contemporary social customs, alienating themselves from the very people they should have been trying to win to Christ.” “Paul’s model far more closely approximates ‘friendship evangelism’ – coming alongside and getting to know unbelievers, valuing them as God’s creation in his image in and of themselves, and not just as potential objects of conversion.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

“Paul goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. … But becoming all things to all people does not involve losing or giving up one’s own center, becoming gelatin-molded to whatever form appears, or losing track of what is truly important.”

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

How should we free and contextualize the gospel so that Christ might win all people?

Church Tech

Unplugged - no computer, no internet, possible?
Get Connected

I proposed video teleconferencing so congregations could connect with their coaches. To me, this would be a simple solution to higher gas prices and long distances separating coaches from congregations. But I was quickly reminded: “Some of our congregations do not even have phone service in their buildings.” “Some rural county libraries do not offer internet access.”

After much passionate discussion, the team tasked me with coordinating a series of workshops on equipping churches. Those workshops would:

  • Hosted in three or four locations within the Presbytery of Wabash Valley (northern Indiana);
  • Demonstrate the benefits of technology to congregations by:
    • linking with distant leaders or experts,
    • communicating with participants, and
    • promoting a congregation’s mission to their neighbors;
  • Allow a local internet service provider to present installation solutions and costs,
    • Each site would host one provider based on local coverage;
    • Limited display space could be provided for alternate providers;
  • Provide solutions for obtaining low-cost/free computers and software; and
  • Send attendees home with a new skill. Skills classes could include:
    • Using video teleconferencing tools: e.g. Skype or GoToMeeting;
    • Creating and maintaining a church website using WordPress;
    • Communicating with members via email (MailChimp, ConstantContact, …);
    • Using social media to promote mission (Twitter, Facebook, …).

How can you help us prepare these workshops?
What skill does your congregation’s leaders need to learn?

Please use your real name and include your church affiliation in your comment.

How to Frame a Pastor: A Novel

Overview

Pastor Ashley Greeley had longed to serve St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, a large urban congregation. But a body found in the women’s restroom during his interview and threats involving the flamboyant organist make Greeley anxious to leave.

One antagonist frames Rev. Greeley while another eliminates problem people.

Ashley and Joan long to consummate the relationship they had begun when they had worked together at Clarington, (see How to Fire a Pastor: A Novel) but allegations against Ashley interrupt their wedding plans.

Status

Having prepared a storyboard for this book, I have begun writing the text.

Theological Issue

Theodicy: Since God is love, how do we reconcile the existence evil?

  • As Pastor Greeley’s interview concludes, a body is found in the women’s room at the church.
  • The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 gives Ashley and the congregation a better perspective on their problems.
  • An associate pastor is forced to marry to save her job.
  • When a member of the church staff is found dead, Greeley is framed with his murder.
  • By the end of the book, Pastor Greeley sees how God uses several events, although intended for evil, for a long term good.

Ashes to Ashley: A Novel

Overview

The old Clarington church building

One parishioner burns for their interim pastor. Another wants him burnt like their last pastor.

As ashes from a church fire settle, the narrator believes he need only minister with this congregation while they grieve losing their former pastor in an “accidental” fire. Fearing rumors of arson will keep him in this rural American community beyond the year 2000, he works closely with the local detective, a single woman, to learn the truth. But his past ignites one parishioner’s ire, fueling the pastor’s romantic relationship with the detective.

You will have fun sorting the sinners from the saints before the arsonist “fires” a second pastor.

Pastor Greeley adds a Protestant perspective to a genre began by Rabbi Small (Harry Kemelman) and expanded by Father Dowling (Ralph McInerny). Like his mentors, Pastor Greeley helps his parishioners recognize grace in their lives. But he has much to learn about forgiving connections between details that form a fuse touching the arsonist’s match.

Theological Issue

Forgiveness of sins:

  • The antagonist’s rigid response to the sins of others prevents her from seeing the evil of her ways.
  • Pastor Greeley’s ex-wife demonstrates that repentance is like turning a dial while unseen hands try to turn it back rather than flipping a switch once for all time.
  • Only when Pastor Greeley is able to forgive his ex-wife’s indiscretions is he able to engage a relationship with Joan Campbell.

Chapter 1
Ashley’s Interview

An ungodly stench drifted up from the ruins of the fire, reaching my nose even before I opened my car door. I had anticipated my stomach knotting on seeing the charred and partially collapsed granite walls where the church had once stood, but I was not prepared for the bile rising in my throat from the smokey haze. Nearly three weeks had elapsed since Trinity Presbyterian Church burned to the ground. More than sufficient time I had thought for the fire to be fully extinguished and for the fumes to have cleared. Instead decaying debris added their acrid odors to three thin blue spirals rising from the jumbles of stone blocks.

I had arrived in Clarington hours before my interview, hoping to see the small town as a typical visitor might see it, before people ignored me for my title. I had navigated my car to Main Street and into the first open parking space, which happened to be directly in front of the ruins of the old church.

“Would you be the Reverend Ashley Greeley?” a large, gray haired man said squinting at me as I shut the car door behind me.

“Yes, but how did you know?” I blinked, immediately scanning my jacket for a name tag lingering from some previous meeting. As he stepped towards me I glanced at his face and saw the sun-toughened skin of a man who had not spent his career behind a desk.

“I’ve been looking at your file all afternoon, preparing to grill you over dinner tonight. So when I saw that your car’s from the same place as this,” — he paused to shake several sheets of paper in his hand — “I put two and two together. I suppose you wanted to see what’s left of our old church. Hardly a day goes by that someone don’t stop and stare at it.” He swept his free hand towards the ruins, rolling his head from side to side.

“I am very sorry about your tragic loss,” I said, frowning and nodding thoughtfully. A glance at the rear of my car revealed the hole in my camouflage, a bumper sticker proclaiming: “Follow me to Mountain View Church.”

“Used to be a grand church standing here,” the man was saying, spreading his arms out over the ruins. “Atop this hill, you could see it from nearly anywhere in the county. But now it’s mostly ashes.” He hung his head, inhaled deeply, and sighed.

I swallowed hard to avoid throwing up. How he could stand the stench was beyond my imagination.

Three stairs led from the street toward two fire-blackened columns, which now framed blue sky instead of wooden doors. Guided by old photographs, which the search committee had sent to me, my imagination cleaned and rebuilt the sooty, partially collapsed wall before me, restoring it to sparkling granite, and the columns to glistening white limestone. The blackened blobs on the limestone windowsills became the lead between the pieces of stained glass, decorating each of the windows.

Then, looking between the blackened limestone columns that no longer supported carefully lacquered oak doors, I peered into the bowels of the church. Once rows of lovingly polished wooden pews had flanked a long aisle; now ashes swirled in the wind below where the floor should have been. Once glistening granite had soared high above the street to a peaked roof and tower; now blackened walls staggered to remain erect. Once there had been a social hall and classrooms down a flight of stairs from the front foyer; now the back third of the building had been thoroughly demolished and scrapped flush with a parking lot down the hill and behind the ruins.

A demolition crew steadily lifted blackened stone blocks from the remaining walls and sorted the rubble into various piles, stacking the smoke-stained granite neatly while a small bulldozer plowed and heaped ashes and debris into a dump truck that waited patiently to haul the remains away for burial.

Seeking a better view, I risked soiling my gray slacks and blue blazer and leaned against the yellow tape surrounding the ruins. I longed to loosen my tie as the sun quickly warmed what had started as a cool June day. But as this excursion had now become part of my job interview, I decided maintaining my professional image was more important than momentary comfort and merely unbuttoned my blazer.

The man standing alongside me folded and stuffed the sheaf of papers into a rear pocket of his dungarees. His sensible tan short-sleeve knit shirt was embroidered in green letters with “Norman’s Hardware Store” and the name “Bill.”

“They’re working in what used to be the basement,” Bill said, outlining with his finger where the walls of the old church had once stood. “After the fire, everything ended up in the basement. It was an awful hot fire. It even destroyed the cement between the granite blocks, causing our bell tower to collapse.” His hands rose as if holding the tower, then dropped into the pit. “The fire really embarrassed the town. People are laughing at our police department because the station is almost next door.” I flinched backward as his finger shot past me, pointing beyond the hardware store, down the street, toward a dull brick building bearing the title: City of Clarington.

“The whole downtown would have gone up if Harry Rawls hadn’t sounded the alarm.” My eyes followed Bill’s arm as it swung out over the ruins toward a barn on a distant hillside surrounded by fields sprouting with new crops. “When he went out to milk his cows, flames were shooting out our bell tower like sparks from a roman candle. And worse, though the firehouse is just three blocks away,” — his fingers counted the blocks to the fire station pausing briefly first at the stop sign just beyond the town hall then twice at stop signs I could not see as his finger drove left — “we had to wait for an engine from Fulton.” His outstretched arm arced upward then south drawing my eyes beyond the next hill, “ ‘cause we didn’t have a man sober enough to even run a hose up the street. The town picnic had been the day before and the fire company was pouring beer ‘til long after I went home at midnight.” He patted his belly and smiled. “And once Fulton’s engine got here, they mostly sprayed water at my place and them buildings across the street.” He waggled his fingers at each of the buildings like water spraying from a loose hose. “Our old church was nearly burnt out before it got any water.” He shook his head and frowned. “It was a rough way for it to end, but our insurance will pay us most of what we would’ve sold it for.”

“What about Pastor Brogan?” I asked.

“He was last seen up in his study around midnight.” With his finger, Bill pointed to where the tower had once extended upward into the blue sky. “About four hours before Harry sounded the alarm was the last anyone had seen him. Haven’t found him in the ruins neither. Don’t much matter to me. Either he’s standing before his Maker or he ran away. Either way we need us a new preacher. Some of us decided we needed a new preacher before the fire. But that don’t matter much now do it?”

Bill smiled, jutting his jaw at me. His tight lipped grin drove a chill up my spine.

Immediately he turned away and jerked his head for me to follow him down what had once been an alley between the hardware store and the church.

The bile in my stomach churned as a fresh dose of the malodorous fumes filled my nose.

We stopped where the church wall had collapsed, giving us a good view inside the ruins.

“Does the buyer still want the property?” I asked, thinking the stench alone would cause a sane person to reconsider.

“Nope. He’s got some land now a few miles north of town where he’s going to build from scratch.” Bill pointed up the road far beyond the town hall. “But he’s buying our charred granite and bricks. Wants them for decoration I hear.” Bill shook his head. “I wish the insurance company would have just pushed the walls in and covered everything with dirt,” his arms flailed in the air simulating the work of an imaginary bulldozer, “rather than that –that pimp getting our blocks. Excuse me, pastor. There just ain’t no good words for the likes of Tim Draven!”

I stiffened reflexively on seeing his fist clench and face redden, as anger swelled in his voice. Although I figured Bill was over three decades of wear and tear beyond my thirty-three years, he looked fit enough to defend himself against many men half his age. Furthermore, Bill stood a few inches taller and a few inches broader than my slender frame. Although his belly lapped over his belt, I suspected he could lift his fair share and then some.

“Is this Draven a local person?” I asked, hoping he was not a member of the Trinity Church.

“Thank God, no! He runs a smutty club over in Springfield and one or two other joints around about. And now he’s going to build one north of town. At least it ain’t going to be here in our town and especially not in our old church. Someone ought to stop him from getting our granite blocks. I’d do it myself, but I’ve done enough already to drive him out of town.”

With Bill’s face still flushed with anger, I decided not to ask how he had contributed to driving Draven out of town.

Amid the men of the demolition crew, in their gray-and black-stained coveralls, a woman stood wearing crisply ironed dark blue overalls. Both sides of her white hard hat bore the word ”Police.“ The officer’s broad shoulders and firm chest suggested a man, but the shape of her hips and the tip of a blond pony tail escaping from under her hard hat told otherwise, hinting that an armored vest veiled her figure.

Bill and I watched her direct the equipment operators as they removed large pieces of debris before she ran a small rake through the freshly exposed ashes. Once, we saw her scoop up an item and drop it into a plastic bag.

Bill pointed at the police officer and said, “That’s Joan Campbell. She’s a member of our church. She only comes now and then. I know she’s busy an occasional Sunday or two each month being our detective, but don’t expect to see her except for Christmas and Easter. I suppose it’s her generation. My son George, our police chief, isn’t much better. Do you have any ideas how we can get ’em to come more often?”

“Some,” I said, hoping he would not press me for details.

The police officer turned toward us.

“Joan!” Bill called, gesturing for her to come closer.

Although she tipped her head up toward us, her hard hat hid her face, except for a narrow chin and a pleasant smile. I rubbed the third finger of my left hand with my thumb, a habit I had developed while I had briefly worn a ring there, and wondered when I might start dating again.

When she came near, Bill said, “Let me introduce you to Reverend Ashley Greeley. He’s going to be our pastor until we can find someone permanent.”

“Let’s not jump the gun,” I said, raising my hand gesturing for Bill to slow down. “Even if the rest of the search committee agrees, the elders on your board, and the elders and ministers at Presbytery still get to vote. And just because I came to an interview does not mean I will accept an offer, if your board chooses to make one.” Given Bill’s earlier remarks about Brogan, I said nothing about the search committee only being authorized by the Presbytery to find someone to provide support the congregation until Brogan is found.

“He’s just being modest, Joan. You should see this resume!” Bill said, pulling the sheaf of papers from his back pocket and waving it in the air. “I’m sure everyone else will agree to hire him. And who would not leap at being the first pastor in our new church? We’ll finally dedicate it the same Sunday he starts.”

I rolled my eyes heavenward and sighed. I looked at Detective Campbell and said: “Is there anything I should know? About the fire I mean.”

Bill interrupted, saying, “You won’t have to worry about a fire in our new church. We’ve got sprinklers in every room; and, after the fire, the building committee installed a state-of-the-art fire and security system to boot. You can’t so much as light a candle any place except in the sanctuary or the social hall. And I’d bet if you lit more than two in either of those rooms, the alarm would go off!”

The detective nodded. “It’s taken weeks to carefully move the granite blocks that covered the site after the walls collapsed. We’re working slowly so we won’t disturb any evidence. Plus, taking down the remaining walls so no one gets hurt, slows us even more. So we’re only just now getting to where I think the fire started, the corner where Brogan was last seen praying. I’ve been here at least a couple of hours every day since the fire looking for clues of arson or faulty wiring. And,” she paused to frown, “for human remains.” After a long silence, she said with a deep frown: “We found his keys this morning.” Then with a half frown she said: “But he frequently misplaced his keys.”

“Detective! Over here!” A workman yelled.

Bill and I remained behind the yellow police tape while Detective Campbell strode hastily across the floor toward what had once been the front of the church. The workers had a chunk of mangled rusty metal hanging by a chain from the bucket of their tractor.

Bill shook his head and said, “I warned Brogan about burning candles in our church more than once. He was a fire waiting to happen. Soon after he came here, he was waving his arms over the communion table when his robe caught fire from a candle.” Bill waved his arms, simulating what I recognized as breaking the bread and pouring the wine for communion. “Cost us a pretty penny to replace it.”

I nodded pensively.

“And once, during a wedding rehearsal, he knocked over a candle stand,” — I jumped to avoid his arms — “igniting a silk flower arrangement that had been in our church for nearly fifty years. My money’s on him starting the fire by knocking over one of those candles people had lit or by dropping his oil lamp. And with no one around to put out the fire, he went up with it.” He started to point upwards, then pointing among the ashes said, “Some of us think he’s down there.”

“Do you have any idea why Detective Campbell could not rule out Pastor Brogan escaping the fire?” I asked.

Bill sighed, then said, “It’s because no one wants to admit he died in a building everyone knew was a firetrap and because some want to believe he started the fire and because no one wants to think about the enemies he made. Well let’s just say a few people hoped Brogan shared their hatred of Draven getting our building. And then he ran away rather than face arson charges. They think we might even find a few of his things, like his keys, so people will think he’s dead. Then if everyone thinks he’s dead, his widow gets his insurance money, but if he’s in jail, she’ll stuck with his legal fees. Well that’s the reasoning behind saying he ran away. But I know Brogan. He didn’t care a whit about who we sold the building to as long as they had big bucks. And I doubt he understood the consequences of burning the building and running away. And a few of us thought he was in cahoots with Draven. And some of his enemies … Well, it’s like this. People in these parts aren’t known for their patience with hypocrites.”

I gave Bill a quizzical look and he said, “Let’s say he ‘accidentally’,” — he made quotation marks in the air with his fingers — “started the fire, assuming he wanted to keep our building from Draven. If he had lived to tell about it, he would have blabbed to anyone who would listen to him. We’ve lost a bunch of long standing members because he blabbed something he wasn’t supposed to. And him trying to stay awake all night, by himself, with them prayer candles and that oil lamp of his burning in that small room …” He pointed across the ruins and upward towards where the church tower had once stood but only sky remained. “Well, he was an accident waiting to happen.”

He frowned and looked at his shoes with his arms hanging loosely by his sides. After a long silence he said, “I’m just sorry for his wife and kid.”

Perhaps it was the stench of the fire that made me uncomfortable, and not Bill. None the less I allowed him as much time as he wanted to reflect silently about Dave Brogan’s death.

He lifted his head, looked me hard in the eye, and said, “I don’t want you leaving here thinking everyone wanted Brogan dead. He did some good. In the seven years he’s been here, church attendance has more than doubled. I don’t like a lot of the people he picked to lead committees and such — too many women who’ll do whatever he wanted — but we’re raising a ton of money and doing a lot of good for this town. A lot of traditional churches around here can barely pay the minimum. Them independent churches don’t even pay that much. But thanks to Brogan we can afford to give our pastor about what school teachers make.”

Several long minutes later, Detective Campbell plodded back to us as the workers left the site.

She said: “When they lifted the old bell out of the ashes, they found a shoe with pieces of bone protruding. The bell probably fell early in the fire, when the tower roof blew out. I’m guessing that when the bell fell it must have trapped and protected his foot.”

I frowned rocking my head from side to side then said, “At least we will have something to bury. As gruesome as this is, it will eventually bring closure. Would you like to pray with me?”

“Pray for us, Pastor,” Bill said. “And pray for his widow and for his daughter. But Brogan got what he deserved.”

Detective Campbell nodded her head more in agreement than reverence.

In that moment, I sensed I would be their pastor, despite the knot in my belly that told me I should run away.

Anadama Oatmeal Bread

This recipe adapts a traditional bread made with oatmeal and cornmeal mush. Whole wheat flour and molasses add to the wonderful textures and rich taste.

Loaf Size: 1 1/2 lb 2 lb
Heat to near boiling:
Skim milk 1 cup 1 1/3 cup
Stir into hot milk:
Oatmeal 1/4 cup 3/8 cup
Cornmeal 2 Tbl 3 Tbl
Olive Oil 2 Tbl 3 Tbl
Honey 2 Tbl 3 Tbl
Salt 1 1/2 tsp 2 tsp
Stir frequently, to prevent lumping, while allowing to cool until warm. Then add more cold milk to prevent over heating the yeast.
Skim milk 1/2 cup 2/3 cup
Pour milk mixture into bread machine. Add on top of milk:
Whole wheat flour 2 cup 2 1/2 cup
Bread Flour 1 cup 1 1/2 cup
Active Wheat Gluten 2 Tbl 3 Tbl
Active dry yeast 1 1/2 tsp 2 tsp
Start bread machine. Avoid delayed start, as warm milk spoils quickly.

Useful Appications and Services

The following applications and services have facilitated my work and I hope they help yours.

OpenOffice.Org

This freely distributed productivity software suite satisfies general demands for Word processing, Spreadsheet calculations, Presentation development and display, Graphics, and Data Base management. Its file format conforms to international standards and it imports and exports to most other file formats including MicroSoft Office formats. The community of developers continually adds new features and capabilities.

GIMP

This freely distributed Image Manipulation Program is great for occasional photograph editing and other drawing tasks.

Dropbox

Dropbox provides effortless backup of critical files with encryption or unencrypted to shared or to public folders. Any file copied or saved into a Dropbox folder on your computer is uploaded automatically to their servers for data protection or sharing.

For example, I save worship bulletins into a Dropbox folder that I shared with our church secretary, musician, and tech room. Any changes made by any of us are visible to all of us.

This is a free service for up to 2 Gigabytes of data.

Mail Chimp

Do you email newsletters? This service provides a convenient user interface to freely email  up to 1000 subscribers. Because images are sent separately, each message is small enough to be delivered to users still on dial-up.

Mail Chimp maintains your old newsletters so your readers can lookup back issues.

Doodle

Need to get a diverse group of people together? Doodle provides a convenient poll to find the date and time when everyone can attend. This service can also be used for voting.

January 29th: “Church Building”

This Week’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Highlights: In answering a question about eating meat offered to idols, Paul gave the church a method for resolving theological conundrums: Does it merely puff up those who know what is right, or does it build up the whole church?

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday January 29thin Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1-3 The opening phrase alludes that Paul is about to answer a question from the Corinthians. The preamble about knowledge puffing up hints that Paul is about to give a nuanced answer to the presenting problem by declaring that love trumps knowledge of right from wrong.

4-6 This follows the rhetoric style of the previous sentences, yet agrees with the presenting premise.

7-9 Could a modern theological conundrum be inserted for “food offered to idols;” e.g. abortion or homosexuality? I perceived both sides could use this pericope to support their position. Would the Corinthians have found Paul’s answer equally vexing?

10-13 Paul opts to err towards abstaining from eating, as doing so might be perceived by new believers as worshiping pagan idols. Yet, does not eating meat validate the pagan ritual, as atheists would also eat meat, even in the temple? And if the pagan ritual is validated, does not eating meat deny the supremacy of Christ?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is the entire chapter. Adjacent chapters address unrelated topics.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • Some translations add quotation marks to delineate possible phrases from the Corinthians’ letter. There is little agreement among the translators as to how much Paul has used keywords or loaded phrases from the Corinthians’ letter. Some credit all or none of verse 8 to the Corinthians with some affect on the intended meaning.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Meat offered to idols was readily available and cheap following pagan rituals. Although left-overs from the ritual were sold in the market place, consuming meat could connote participation in or at least approval of the ritual.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Paul uses buzz words and phrases from the Corinthians in his reply to highlight weaknesses in their theology.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Believers must look beyond theological right/wrong and consider how new believers and unbelievers would perceive a behavior.
  • Emotional Center: Our love for a new believers should trump our concern for theological purity.
  • Music: “Help Us Accept Each Other”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • A cursory reading of the passage obscures the complexities potential of Eating/Not eating.
  • Would the faction supporting eating note that the lower cost of this meat was a loving support of believers?

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • A broader discussion of the complexities would help readers unfamiliar with the Corinthian community apply this to other theological conundrums.
  • An authoritative solution allowed the Corinthians to set aside this issue aside so they might focus on making disciples.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Paul demonstrates a method for dispensing theological conundrums: Look for what encourages those with weak faith/conscience in right behavior, rather than merely balancing theological points. A moral decision must be weighed out with the ramifications on all of life including the lives of the affected community.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy A Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary: I Corinthians, 1987) adds a complexity to the decision of eating or not eating by noting that only the viscera were preserved for the Greek gods, while the muscles were sent to the market for human consumption. He clarifies the conflict as not between knowing and love but between types of knowing: Human knowing that requires and object to be loved, and Divine knowing that creates the object of its love. He places the conflict between the libertarian party, who knew that idols are meaningless and what was sold was only meat thus each could do as they saw fit, and the the fellowship party, who were concerned that new believers might be mislead into idolatry. He looks to Romans 14:3-4 & 17 for the conclusion of this conflict where Paul admonished those who eat not to despise those who abstain, and those who abstain were not to despise those who eat, for the kingdom of God is more than food and drink.

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “First Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2002) notes that Paul uses the larger section (chapters 8 – 11) to address how a believer should conduct oneself among a community of non-believers while honoring having been set apart as a Christian. He notes that Paul confronts the maxim proposed by the Corinthians with three of his own maxims. By this point in the letter, Paul has already pointed eight times to their puff boastfulness. He reflects that “Love builds up” is Paul’s most important concept in describing how believers relate to one another. Sampley assigns all of verse 8 to Paul’s expanding of the question from meat offered to idols to all food. When love is properly applied, it encourages appropriate behavior.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, 1980) hints that the issue of eating meat may have affected Corinthian worship as their celebration of the Lord’s Supper included a meal (see 11:21). He concludes: “In Christian ethics, persons are more important than precepts. … Why is the brother or sister important? – because he or she is the person “for whom Christ died” (v. 11).”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Paul proposed a method for resolving theological conundrums: Does it merely puff up the one who knows what is right, or does it build up the church?

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Those who love God, build up their neighbors.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Moral decisions must be consider implications for all of life, including the lives of the community.

January 22nd: “Immediately!”

This Week’s Passage: Mark 1:14-20

Highlights: Meeting Christ is a life changing experience resulting in an urgent desire to tell someone else of what Christ has done for us. Get caught up in the urgency of the gospel.

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for January 22ndSunday in Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

14a Mark does not explain this until 6:16-29. Was this generally known by Mark’s audience? Or perhaps it demonstrates John’s following! Perhaps Mark includes this to show a shift of mantel from John to Jesus. Although the Fourth Gospel does this smoother having John’s disciples follow Jesus.

15 Note difference from John’s announcement of the good news. Both preach repentance, but John says: “One is coming mightier than I.”

16 Jesus meets us where we are. Like Moses saying the law is not far away (Deut 30:11 ff).

17 Is “fishers of men” a call to be powerful over others?

20 Would we leave behind all as quickly to follow Jesus?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This passage marks the institution of Jesus ministry.
  • Prior to this Jesus is baptized and tested in the wilderness, here he calls a staff for his ministry.
  • Should the passage start at 14b, thus avoiding the distractions of John the Baptizer: Which John? Why arrested? Why tell us?
  • It is followed by a series of healings which establish his authority and initiate the doing ministry.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Traditionally ascribed to a follower of Peter who wrote down a collection of stories about Jesus from Peter. Peter’s arrest and impending trial (or that of other followers) would have given urgency to the spreading of the gospel.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Matt 4:18-22 – Essentially the same as Mark.
  • Luke 5:1-11 – Luke places Jesus as using a boat of Peter, James and John to teach from. When Jesus tells them where the fish are they are surprised and make a Christological statement.
  • John 1:40-42 – John makes a statement of who Jesus is; where as Mark conveys an urgency of spreading the gospel.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Mark FREQUENTLY uses /kai euqus/ (and immediately) to convey the urgency of the gospel. This phrase appears twice in these 7 verses.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • The narrative gives a quick pace to the story.
  • Verse 19 slows this pace only slightly, giving the detail that they were preparing their nets to go fishing. But even this detail underscores the urgency of their mission, because they dropped their plans to follow Jesus.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

The participants in this narrative do not interact with one another nor with the events. Events envelope the disciples. Jesus is the point about which the events swirl.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Drop what you are doing and come and follow me NOW!
  • Music: “Jesus Call Us”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Did they really just drop their nets and follow Jesus with but one word? We might say that we would do likewise, but we live after the Crucifixion.
  • When Jesus called these men, he was only a popular teacher. Granted there are today charismatic people who gather people about them, but these men had jobs and family responsibilities.
  • What might have pushed these men to be open to following Jesus? Were they experiencing relationship difficulties at home? Have an unmet desire for adventure/ministry? Had fishing become unprofitable?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Pheme Perkins (New Interpreter’s Bible, “Mark”. Abingdon) notes the similarity of these calls to the call of Elisha who was plowing his field. She notes at least James and John were well off in being able to have hired hands and that the sudden departure of the sons may have put the entire family at risk. Also Peter was married (1:30) and presumably the abandoning of fishing put his wife at risk. She contrasts the OT use of nets and hooks to depict destruction with “fishers of men” indicating fulfillment, paralleling the shift from John the Baptizer’s emphasis on judgment to Jesus’ emphasis on fulfillment. Under reflections she notes the disquieting parallel with modern young people leaving family and occupation to join cults.

Ralph Martin, in (Knox Preaching Guides. John Knox Press), suggests this sermon outline: a “relationship to Christ is (1) personal; (2) life transforming; yet (3) societal, beckoning us to join Christ’s people whose motto is service for others (‘fishers of men’).”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Meeting Christ is a life changing experience resulting in an urgent desire to tell someone else of what Christ has done for us.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Although we have our daily tasks in life, Christ interrupts us and invites us to share his ministry, inviting others to be transformed as well.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Get caught up in the urgency of the gospel.

The End of the Line?

Is this worthwhile?

As an interim pastor I learned to continually evaluate each ministry program asking: Why are we doing this? Is it building the Kingdom of God, or is this simply something we have always done?

Recently I have asked those questions about this blog.

Initially I started this blog as a personal exercise, to intentionally muse each week on the intersection of current events and Scripture. Along the way, the number of people viewing my entries via this blog rose to an average of 10 views per week, peaking in April of 2011 at 104 views. (28 on one day!) Since then the number of views has dropped to 3 times a week.

Starting this week I will be shifting my effort to encourage comments on my sermon notes which are posted each week at: www.ChristWinfield.org/scroll/ Currently that blog generates about 200 hits/week. I will be adding tags to those entries to facilitate finding passages. I will also be adding entries for our contemporary worship service.

This blog was also being published via the weekly email from Christ Presbyterian Church. Starting this week, excerpts from my sermon notes will be distributed in that space.

Thank you for reading my reflections.
Yours in Christ, Robert