Category: Pastoral Pondering

What fires me

June 2nd, 2012 — 10:10am

“It is often the case that what fires me, the lukewarm Christian, does not touch the one who is truly afire, and what nearly destroys the latter does not disturb me in any manner.” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Elucidations)

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May 31st, 2012 — 10:10am

A classic pastoral scenario:

Someone (let’s call him Q) is desperate for love, for relationship. Normal enough need. There’s a difficulty, though: Q insists that relationship be on his terms (most often his relational “agenda” is derived, however distantly, from biblical principles). When relationship doesn’t happen on those terms, Q starts behaving in ways that drive people away (aggressively or passively). If confronted about this, the situation is always the fault of others: after all (here the biblical thing enters again), God commands love and relationship, so why aren’t the others getting with the program? There’s no persuading Q that he’s either (a) demanding things God doesn’t explicitly command, or (b) demanding responses God does command, but which must be won and wooed from others rather than demanded. So he sits and stews, and feels more and more righteous in his woundedness.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve worked with this scenario. . . . And, let it be said, I myself have very often been Q.

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Outliers and grumblers

May 9th, 2012 — 9:05am

It’s remarkable how the Christians least invested in the life of the local church will often be the biggest critics of its lack of energy; and how those most churlish and disgruntled will cry loudest about its lack of love.

Seems like this comes up a few times in the Bible. . . .

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People, place, or programs

May 8th, 2012 — 11:11am

Churchgoers who lack the patient commitment required to cultivate lifetime bonds with their people and place tend to prefer the endless buzz of pseudo-community in hip church programs and activities.

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Outgrow scolding

April 18th, 2012 — 8:48pm

No small component in the maturing of pastoral wisdom is to learn how to motivate and mobilize the people of God (including calling them to repentance) without scolding. Scolding has neither the courageous involvement of a real rebuke nor the affection and hopefulness of true love. It’s the outflow of private frustration, not divine mercies. What’s more, it’s very hard to listen to.

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Glory in weakness

April 6th, 2012 — 5:17pm

Christianity glories not in mere weakness, but in weakness that is a showcase for the power of love.

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Christmas confession

December 25th, 2011 — 6:13am

An exhortation before our corporate confession of sin this morning:

Brethren, I’d like us to think for a few minutes, especially this morning, about the great sin of asking for more. It is not asking for more in itself that is sinful, actually (we will learn that today at the Supper); it is a heart that asks for more because it refuses to see what it has already been given. Most of us have been on either the giving or the receiving end of a Christmas scenario in which a recipient of a pile of gifts, having torn through them all in short order, immediately asks, “Is this all?” Perhaps some of us blush to remember asking such a question! We blush because, in its own way, this question is as grinchy as a refusal to give any gifts at all. The one who will not give has a heart (so the saying goes) that is two sizes too small; the one who will not thankfully savor what he or she has been given has an identical problem. The fabled spirit of Christmas is, biblically speaking, the spirit of God’s kingdom, the spirit of God Himself. Our God is fundamentally characterized by abundance, by an extravagant excess of goodness and glory and joy; there is a kind of playful prodigality (we might say, a wasteful generosity) in the way He dispenses His inexhaustible resources. The appropriate human response to this is to swim about cheerfully in the goodness, seeing it everywhere, delighting in gifts great and small, sharing generously with no thought of the cost, no fear of going hungry – for even were hunger to come, it would be freighted with the good grace of God (“it is good for me,” says the Psalmist, “that I have been afflicted”). The one who knows God as He really is can never ask, “Is this all?” because he can never quite get over the goodness of the Lord right in front of him, and all the promises of goodness still to come! One grinch clutches, because he needs what he has to fill the hole in his heart; another grinch demands because he needs what he doesn’t have to fill the hole in his heart. The child of God neither clutches nor demands, for the ice of unsmiling fear has been melted in his heart by the faithful love of the Father in heaven. If God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things? Repent therefore, brethren, of an unthankful heart, one that demands, “Is this all?” And let us turn ourselves to see with joy all that the Father has given to us.

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December 13th, 2011 — 2:04pm

I think some of us Protestants actually do believe in purgatory. Only we move it up a level. We live as if this life in this world is it.

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Expected to enter

December 8th, 2011 — 9:05am

“Having set up His name and promises as a strong tower, God calls His people into His chambers, and expects them to enter and make themselves at home.” (William Gurnall)

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Deep-set assumptions

November 17th, 2011 — 10:42am

“The structures of our experience, especially the everyday, routine, invisible taken-for-granted structures, have a profound effect in shaping the way we perceive reality. The deep, often unarticulated assumptions that guide each of us are shaped by a matrix of usually unremarkable experiences channeled in specific directions by cultural institutions. Over time, especially as we are part of a community with the same pattern of experiences, a pattern of conviction and affections begins to take shape. Call it a sensibility or a consciousness or a prejudice or a mentality or a mindset: it is deeply ingrained, usually unconscious, and extremely powerful.

“While we may hold explicitly to certain core beliefs, it is possible (and I would argue likely, in our time and place) for explicitly held core beliefs to be out of synch with deep assumptions, so that, when we have to react quickly or [in] a new situation, we often fall back on the deep-set assumptions rather [than] on what we actually profess. This is why, I believe, in our own time, the affinity between what Christians profess and how they act is increasingly vague and weak.” (Ken Myers, “Cultural Discernment, Christian Faithfulness, and the Postmodern Multiversity”)

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