March 6, 2011, 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 9th Sunday after Epiphany, Trans Sun
No Extra Illustrations
March 13, 2011, 1st Sunday of Lent
No Extra Illustrations
March 20, 2011, 2nd Sunday of Lent
No Extra Illustrations
March 27, 2011, 3rd Sunday of Lent
No Extra Illustrations
April 3, 2011, 4th Sunday in Lent
A blind man encounters Jesus and is given his sight. The dead-end box canyon
called life is escaped. The grave now has had both ends kicked out of it and
is not longer a grave, but the Way. Doctors and preachers get into contests that
aren’t pretty. A doctor can’t say, “You’re going to die
from this disease”. Some whom they say this to recover. A preacher can’t
say, “You’re going to live”. Because they know that some will
die. Where is the truth? It is God’s to speak. He uses medicine and faith,
but He is sovereign over both.
The final word is always Jesus’. He is always looking to speak to us on our journeys through life.
Spiritual blindness is sad. Albert Camus wrote, “It is Europe’s mystery that life is no longer loved”. In Afghanistan Mullah Omar told western journalists, “You love life—we love death”. Christians love life, for God is love, and with Christ the loved, the true and eternal life has come into this world of death. Elie Wiesel was right, “In order to praise God one must live. In order to live one must love life—in spite of everything.” (Jurgen Moltmann, A Broad Place [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008], pp.347-348)
April 10, 2011, 5th Sunday in Lent
Before one dies values should be passed on to one’s children. “Make
me a Father, O Lord, who will show my children the strength to face weakness
and the gentleness to accept victory. Teach them to reach into the future without
forgetting the past. I pray for the wisdom to show them the dubious value of
titles, positions, money, and material gain; and the eternal values of prayer,
the Holy bible, a Christian Home, and a saving relationship with Your Son Jesus
Christ. Then I, their father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in
vain.’”(Tom and Art Rainer, What Fathers and Sons Learn from
Each Other, [Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2007], p. 206-207)
April 17, 2011, Passion/Palm Sunday (6th Sunday in Lent)
Greenleaf’s ideology is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares in that both good and bad concepts arise from it (Professor, 2010). “To have a Christian perspective on servant leadership we must acknowledge the source, Jesus Christ” (Fischer, 2010, lecture). He is the epitome of service through leadership (Mar. 10:45; John 1:1-3). Therefore, it follows that His life provides a model, one that is not contractual, but rather relational (Fischer, 2010). Blanchard & Hodges (2006) classify four every qualities of Jesus’ life that are important to leadership: heart (loving attitude), head (beliefs), hands (service), and habits (reflection and prayer). (http://www.nacministers.com/apps/blog/show/3435597-jesus-greenleaf-and-servant-leadership)
April 24, 2011, EASTER/ Resurrection of the Lord
You may have an Easter Egg Hunt connected with your celebration of Resurrection
Day. Our congregation has had one for years. Some people look down on these things
as leftovers from pagan rituals, and that they may be. But there’s no substitute
for fun at church for children, and the delight we see each year on the faces
of children as they hunt for eggs is worth all the preparation required. Easter
eggs and Easter bunnies are both related to the springtime fertility rituals
in ancient Celtic cultures. It’s hard to miss the message of the green
shoots that start to emerge from dead ground in the spring. Easter is especially
late this year, so there may be a lot growing in your neighborhood by the time
it rolls around. Why fight the pagan connections? Why not celebrate the reemergence
of growing things in this wonderful time of year. This new life clearly resonates
with the story of Jesus’ resurrection, and is full of color and joy. Easter
egg hunts and bunny rabbits delight children, and teach them a lesson about the
power of new life. Tying that to the Jesus story is not a bad thing at all, and
I’ll bet Jesus is smiling to see the smiles on the faces of those children!
The women carried the news of Christ’s resurrection to the fearful disciples, and sent them scurrying to Galilee to meet Him. But not everyone is so eager to receive news. In a Dilbert comic I saw recently, the redhead with the triangular hair was complaining to her boss “I just saw in the news that Google gave an engineer millions of dollars. I’m underpaid.” The boss replied, “I’ll speak to our Director of Human Resources and see how I can fix this problem”. “Really?” the redhead said, incredulous. In the last frame, the Boss is asking the little HR guy (the little red cat) “How can we stop news?” (Scott Adams Dilbert, January 22, 2011).
May 1, 2011, 2nd Sunday of Easter
Receive the peace that Jesus offers, and offer it to others. In many churches the practice of passing the peace during worship is perfunctory. A minister who worships in our congregation said to me recently, “When you ask us to pass the peace of Jesus Christ, the people really do it! They don’t just visit or make small talk—they look you in the eye and say ‘May the peace of Christ be with you.” In the world so full of tension, violence, loneliness, and yearning, what greater gift could we ever receive than that “peace that surpasses all understanding?”
May 8, 2011, 3rd Sunday of Easter
The Elephant Man (1980) which stars Anthony Hopkins as Frederick Treves
a surgeon at the London Hospital. Treves discovers John Merrick (John Hurt) in
a Victorian freak show in London's East End, where he is managed by the brutish
Bytes (Freddie Jones). Merrick is so deformed that he must wear a hood and cape
when in public, and Bytes claims him to be an imbecile. Treves is professionally
intrigued by Merrick's condition and pays Bytes to bring him to the Hospital
so that he can examine him. There, Treves presents Merrick to his colleagues
in a lecture theatre, displaying him as a physiological curiosity. Treves draws
attention to Merrick's most life-threatening deformity, his oversized skull,
which compels him to sleep with his head resting upon his knees, as the weight
of his skull would asphyxiate him if he were to ever lie down.
Merrick is gradually revealed to be sophisticated and articulate. A suite of rooms is arranged for him to reside in at the hospital, and Merrick passes his days reading, drawing and making a model of a church visible through his window.
But Merrick is then returned to his old life when Bytes and abducts Merrick to continental Europe, where he is once again put on show and subjected to cruelty and neglect. Merrick escapes with the help of his fellow freak show attractions, and makes it back to London. However, he is harassed by a group of boys at Liverpool Street station, and accidentally knocks down a young girl. He is chased, unmasked, and cornered by an angry mob, at which point he cries out: "I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being!" I ... am ... a ... man”, before collapsing. When the police return Merrick to the hospital, he is reinstated to his rooms. Merrick thanks Treves for all he has done and finishes his model of the nearby church. Imitating one of his sketches on the wall—a sleeping child—he removes the pillows that have allowed him to sleep in an upright position, lies down on his bed and dies, consoled by a vision of his mother, Mary Jane Merrick, quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Nothing will Die". The long suffering of the innocent but misshapen elephant man reminds us of the undeserved suffering of Jesus.
The Last Movie that I might choose to make a point of what makes us recognize Christ would be Gran Torino (2008). Walt Kowalski, a retired Polish American Ford factory worker and Korean War veteran, has recently been widowed. He is a difficult man, unloved by his two sons and their families. His neighborhood in Highland Park, Michigan, formerly populated by working-class white families, is now dominated by poor Asian immigrants, and gang violence is commonplace. He vehemently turns down a suggestion to move to a retirement community, and lives alone with his Labrador retriever, Daisy. Father Janovich, the young Catholic priest in whom his wife had confided, tries to comfort him, but Walt is openly disdainful.
A Hmong family moves in next door. Initially, Walt wants nothing to do with his new neighbors, but slowly he does get involved in Sue and her shy brother Thao. Thao's cousin coerces him into trying to steal Walt's beloved 1972 Gran Torino as an initiation into his Hmong gang. Thao fails but as atonement, Thao's mother makes him work for Walt (against both Thao's and Walt's wishes). One day, Thao is beaten up by the gang on the way home from work for failing to steal the Gran Torino. Angered, Walt confronts one of the gang members with a gun and threatens to kill him if the gang does not leave Thao alone. The gang retaliates with a drive-by shooting on Thao’s home. Walt talks to Father Janovich and observes that the family will never be safe while the gang is around.
The next day, Thao seeks Walt's help to get revenge. Walt tells him to calm down and return later in the afternoon. In the meantime, Walt makes preparations. When Thao returns, Walt tricks him into going into the basement and locks him in, telling him that he is too young to kill. Walt drives to the house of the gang members. When they spot him, they draw their weapons. Walt talks loudly, drawing the attention of the neighbors. He puts a cigarette in his mouth and asks for a light. He then slowly puts his hand in his jacket, as if reaching for a gun, and jerks it out quickly. The gang members all begin firing and kill him. It turns out that Walt was not armed, and was actually reaching for his old military lighter. The Hmong police officer tells them the gang will be imprisoned for a long time due to the number of willing witnesses.
Walt's funeral is attended not only by his family, but also by Thao and Sue and many of the Hmong community, with Father Janovich officiating. Afterward, Walt's last will and testament is read. He leaves his Gran Torino to Thao. Walt sacrifices himself not for his own family but for his neighbors he has grown to love.
May 15, 2011, 4th Sunday of Easter
The key component for evaluating a leader’s effectiveness is time. Any change, including winning the lottery or getting married produces discomfort. But such discomfort will be short-lived if the overall program of change is beneficial. Thus the Gospel of Mark stresses the immediacy of Jesus’ ministry and today’s lection notes the enduring quality of Jesus’ ministry. The same may be said for any level of programmatic change in pastoral or judicatory leadership and may be determined by applying the Reagan Question: are we better of today than we were (add your own time frame here).
May 22, 2011, 5th Sunday of Easter
In his first Speech to Muslim nations, President Obama made this promise: “We’ll
open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast
Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop
new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and
grow new crops. And with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate
polio.” These are admirable goals and one may only wonder why polio remains
such a scourge within this area of the world when it has been eradicated in much
of the rest of the world. (Obama, B. H. Remarks by the President on a New
Beginning. Cairo University: Cairo, Egypt, Retrieved June 8, 2009)
What will speak most eloquently to members of the congregation are illustrations of ordinary people whose lives proclaim God’s light. Here is one video that might be projected onto the sanctuary’s video screen regarding one individual’s trip to Nicaragua through his university’s program. It recounts the transformation this program instilled in the young man, “It really becomes real when you encounter people living in poverty, when you experience life with them, it changes you and you’re never the same.” The close knit nature of the community after the events of the massacre also illustrates the way an entire community can triumph over what was certainly “malice.” (Nolan, J. Secrets Shared: People Helping People. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Retrieved from <object width=”429" height=”295"><param name=”movie” value=”http://vp.mgnetwork.net/viewer.swf?u=6afc930e18a1102ea6fd001ec92a4a0d&z=RTD&embed_player=1" ></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><embed src=”http://vp.mgnetwork.net/viewer.swf?u=6afc930e18a1102ea6fd001ec92a4a0d&z=RTD&embed_player=1" type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”429" height=”295"></embed></object> October 4, 2010)
Bullying is not limited to snarling boys and ice queen
the administrative leadership in specific schools often adds to rather than ameliorates
the problem. Parents who finally learn of their son or daughter’s
victimization suddenly finds educators retreating behind administrative protocols
that replicate the tactics of the bully: the victim’s behavior becomes
the first thing scrutinized and the bully’s behavior the last to be contained. In
my clinical practice I have seen more than one case where a teacher joins in
the bullying by making degrading comments about the child’s classroom performance
or social appearance.” This can be used as another example of the level
of pain that must be faced by parents as they learn of the bullying their son
or daughter may be enduring on a daily basis. (Denton, D. D. Naming the pain
and guiding the care: the central tasks of diagnosis. [University Press of America:
2008], pg. 187)
What about the “pain” that must be faced by both the counseling pastor and ultimately by the parents if they expect to “gain” some measure of relief for their son or daughter? Here is my recommendation. “The child needs an immersion into activities where they can rediscover their core competencies along with assertiveness training. Simply telling the child they are a good person or teaching them to be non-confrontational is insufficient. Physical competency through individual sports or emotional competency through engagement in the arts or their religious community will help. The parents likewise need encouragement to retain an aggressive and competent attorney who accompanies the parents to their very first meeting with school officials. Some therapists (or pastors) may view this as an unnecessary escalation; my clinical experience is that nothing else focuses the attention of the local school administrators to take the assertive action necessary to curb the conduct of the bully.” (Denton, D. D. Naming the pain and guiding the care: the central tasks of diagnosis. [University Press of America: 2008], pg. 187)
Hanson continued, noting “this is what I think Cicero meant when he began with trahimur omnes laudis studio (we are all motivated by the desire of praise). The former is too often the case in the modern world, the latter was the classical ideal.” These are the same classic virtues outlined by St. Peter and other writers of scripture. The fact that they echo the highest ideals of our most noble secular writers, such as Cicero, does not undercut their authoritative place as scripture. One suggestion for congregants to improve their character might be to read (Perlroth, N. Victor Davis Hanson on the power ambition glory. June 6, 2009. Retrieved from www.forbes.com on October 4, 2010)
The sources behind Wikipedia remind us of Cicero’s legacy to both Christian theology and the founding of this nation. “While Cicero the humanist deeply influenced the culture of Renaissance, Cicero the republican inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the revolutionaries of the French Revolution. John Adams said of him “As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight.” I would encourage preachers to quote the actual source behind this Wikipedia citation, since there will be members of the congregation who view Wikipedia as a suspect source. (Retrieved from www.wikipedia.com on October 4, 2010).
The purpose of these virtues and St. Peter’s counsel that we long for excellence is to build within a congregation a culture that is resilient in the face of catastrophic change and an uncertain future because the core values of the community remain firm. The culture of a congregation is the “beliefs and expectations produce norms that shape the behavior of individuals and groups.” These are “the artifacts and the espoused values that one can find in any organization, the language, dress code, rituals and…include strategies, goals, philosophies, credos and mission statements.” A major reason congregations lose their way in our culture is we spend more time debating the authorship of these core values rather than implementing them in our corporate life. (Sheffi, Y The Resilient Enterprise [Cambridge, 2007], p. 244)
“The essence of resilience is the containment of disruption and recovery from it….it suggests the course of action to take when the unexpected happens” and the larger structure is either too slow or is poorly equipped to provide guidance. When denominational or congregational leadership looks primarily to culture as a critique of scripture’s values rather than remaining firm in the virtues reiterated in scripture, the community first loses its resilience and ultimately loses what in the business world is called its market share. A recovery of these core virtues and a recommitment to embodying excellence in our corporate faith may yet allow a congregation to regain its balance and effectiveness. (Sheffi, Y. The Resilient Enterprise [Cambridge, 2007], p 244
May 29, 2011, 6th Sunday of Easter
“Bullying typically this happens at school although bullying can occur
within a neighborhood setting. Bullying has a corrosive impact on the very core
of a child’s personality. Unfortunately by the time a parent learns their
child is the target of bullying much damage has been accomplished by the bully.
The victim’s sense of guilt and shame reinforces the secrecy on which the
bully depends. Left undiscovered or unchecked, bullying usually results in long-term
damage to the child.” Thus here is genuine pain that, if used in a sermon
via a potent example of being bullied, will get the attention of every congregant.
(Denton, D. D. Naming the pain and guiding the care: the central tasks of diagnosis.
[University Press of America: 2008], pg. 187)
Bullying is not limited to snarling boys and ice queen girls. “Unfortunately the administrative leadership in specific schools often adds to rather than ameliorates the problem. Parents who finally learn of their son or daughter’s victimization suddenly finds educators retreating behind administrative protocols that replicate the tactics of the bully: the victim’s behavior becomes the first thing scrutinized and the bully’s behavior the last to be contained. In my clinical practice I have seen more than one case where a teacher joins in the bullying by making degrading comments about the child’s classroom performance or social appearance.” This can be used as another example of the level of pain that must be faced by parents as they learn of the bullying their son or daughter may be enduring on a daily basis. (Denton, D. D. Naming the pain and guiding the care: the central tasks of diagnosis. [University Press of America: 2008], pg. 187)