…despite all of my bitching, I do have good days here. Today was one of them. Some interesting discussions were held in my early classes (exegesis and gospels), but mostly I was blessed by my preaching class. I feel really privileged to hear my friends’/colleagues’ sermons. I’ve been amazed at their quality. My own sermon went very well today. I know it was the Holy Spirit because it felt very flat and uninspired on paper. I love that when we give God our best, even among our weakness, that grace makes things happen.
(It is hard to describe the joy that I feel seeing a friend in the pulpit, especially a friend I know well. I know what they are carrying up there with them; their joys, their pains, their pride, their insecurity… their joy. I know their sense of calling. I know their sense of finding themselves in the words of the text and the action of delivering those words. This began in seminary and continues to this day.
Every Sunday I offer up a prayer for my preacher friends and then post that I am praying for them on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t done it knows how terrifying, and exciting, and holy, and totally profane the act/art of preaching can be. We can certainly make of it more than it is, but it has potential to do so much good… and so much damage. It is a sacred responsibility. As I take this season away from the pulpit, I am keenly aware of the weight my friends carry with them into the pulpit and I trust that they will open themselves to the Spirit of Inspiration. I pray that they will let the best of themselves come out… and the worst, if that is what their people need. I pray for the soft hearts, open ears, and attentive eyes of those who will experience the sermon. And I pray for the families… the kids and spouses who were neglected while the pastor wrestled with some ancient text. You never go into the pulpit alone.
I miss preaching so much. It is a burden. It is a privilege. It is an art-form unlike any other. And I’m good at it. I miss feeling good at something…)
I want to post a quote from one of my textbooks. it is concerning the significance of the eucharist and the “cleansing of the temple”:
“The meaning of ‘last supper,’ then, actually evolved over a series of meals after Jesus’ occupation of the Temple. During that period, Jesus claimed that wine and bread were a better sacrifice than what was offered in the Temple (he’s referring to the animals being sold for sacrifice by the moneychangers): At least the wine and bread were Israel’s own, not tokens of priestly dominance. No wonder the opposition to him, even among the twelve (i.e. Judas), became deadly. In essence, Jesus made his meals into a rival altar, and we may call such a reading of his words a ritual or cultic interpretation”Bruce Chilton “Traditio-Historical Criticism and Study of Jesus” from Hearing the New TestamentChilton’s observations struck me as significant this morning. It’s a rethinking of two major Gospel events. It is ironic to me, however, that Jesus was challenging the oppressive control of the religious establishment in his time and to honor Him we created an oppressive religious establishment.
(Yes! This is why I loved seminary! There is so much more in the texts than we realize. There’s so much more to why certain texts are placed aside each other than we often notice. It’s so much more rich and complex than we give it credit for.
The end of Mark is Jesus leading an assault on Jerusalem. You have to read it that way. He is walking into enemy territory on a suicide mission. He is there to blow up the temple. But unlike other occupiers, Jesus actually has a transition plan in mind. The temple will be replaced with the table. There we will find the sacred stuff of life; bread, wine, conversation, fellowship, common story, laughter, tears. There we will find what has been forged with our own hands. There we let go of the day’s struggle. There is intimacy and love. The temple… the religious/political/economic control structure… what Borg and Crossan call in “The Last Week” the “domination system”… can’t provide these things. We need way more table in our faith communities and way less temple.)
Another interesting thought coming both through my exegesis class and gospels class is the idea of why Jesus needed to be baptized in the Gospel of Mark. From our reading of the Gospel, Jesus became the adopted son of God only at his baptism. You’ll note that Mark doesn’t include the virgin birth. So why did Jesus need to be baptized in Mark? The text makes it seem that Jesus had sins to repent of and to get baptized for. How does that sit? Could you preach that? If you were doing an adult ed. class on Mark, would you teach that? Those questions are kinda directed at me, but if you’ve got answers…
(I have preached this. I have taught this in adult ed. The sky didn’t fall.)