Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Priestly Goth Preaching Chronicles VII

As I have mentioned September was a full month. October is slightly less so, but still very full. I preached again on the 5th of October. As I prepared for the sermon I was still quite drained, and had a busy week at my Temp position. But I had the chance to discuss the sermon texts with the AngloBaptist and was feeling really good about the sermon by Friday. I was going to play with the nature of the Law and Ten Commandments as indications of where we fail (Essentially Krzyzstof Kieslowski's take, I believe, in his series of 10 films The Decalogue) and thus why the Religious leaders confidence in their keeping the law makes no sense. The law was not to make one confident in ones righteousness but aware of one's need for God's grace and mercy. A fine sermon, but that feeling melted away as I attempted to organize my thoughts first Friday evening after the Friday community meal and again on Saturday. At first I thought there were too many threads of thought, so I attempted to get at the main thread. However, by Saturday evening it became clear that the problem was that I had the wrong emphasis, I had failed to notice this idea of being or feeling confident. Yet not just confidence but what replaces confidence in our systems, in our own morality, in our wealth, in our politicians, etc. What I found in Philippians is that confidence is replaced not by confidence in God, but in a passionate pursuit of God and the Kingdom. The problem with confidence is that is based on things that are dead and can be dissected. Confidence isn't the same as trust or a passionate relationship. Even now in attempting to relate what I felt was this sermon I am finding that words are failing me and that I am at the edge of my own understanding and experience again.

This all meant that I had a hastily organized collection of notes without a well rehearsed sense of the main points. I entered the pulpit a little nervous and it didn't help that we had one of our lowest attendance numbers possibly in over a year. It is perhaps not surprising then that I came away from the sermon feeling that I had failed to communicate well the point of the sermon. It was far from one of my better sermons possibly near one of my worst. However, one congregant did say indicate that it had in the least left impression I couldn't tell if the comment was entirely a complement or also slightly a criticism. Though, I since I brought us to the edge of what I felt the sermon was about but didn't quite get at it completely criticism certainly would have been in order.

This past Sunday we did have a joint service with St. Elias and Immanuel because there was a meeting of the ELCA Arabic pastors and churches hosted by st Elias. So, I was able to meet some of those pastors and lay leaders from New York and California. Unfortunately the service did not go as smoothly as it could have. Also, I was depressed by the service. Not sure why usually our joint services are occasions of great joy. This service seemed to be full of the personalities involved and seemed to have come about more out of conflict and last minute arrangements. I don't know if that was the case but it felt weighted down by very human and fallen things. Or maybe I was simply feeling the weight of those things that day, and couldn't and wouldn't be lifted out of them.

I was telling my spiritual director yesterday that it certainly feels like a fallow time, winter even, for Reconciler. This can be a good thing, but it does feel very vulnerable. It doesn't feel like we have harvested enough to last us through this time of no growth or activity. It feels very lean. I wonder if it feels this way because we are seeing this fallow time as a failure or mistake when it is natural and necessary, for our future growth and health. Constant growth and progress are neither good nor healthy. We seem to being forced to rest as a congregation but this time of less activity seems to be full of anxiety for all. If we can (if I) can keep from allowing the anxiety to win out and trust that God is with us and that this is a good thing, I think we can come out of this time ready for new growth and fruit that will come with spring and summer.

We should be praying, I wonder if we are? Have I been as much as I should be? I the pastoral team the congregation seem to be haunted by so many expectations and images of success that don't really fit us or our call. It is hard to keep the vision God seems to have given us in front of us when that vision doesn't seem to bear the fruit of success that even our denominations say is the sign of God at work. But those signs of success seem to have to do with business culture and the cult of celebrity, experts and numbers, than the Cross and the Kingdom of God. So, ya a time of struggle and vulnerability. Didn't I mentions something about this several months ago, about being on the edge, in the desert. Oh, ya, I did have some warning, I can forget even my own thoughts and words sometimes.