Points for Preaching and Teaching
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-1
There’s something to be said for biding your time. Well, for biding God’s time, I suppose.
David has waited patiently while the drama that was Saul’s life played out. He has known for some time that he was the “anointed” of the Lord — chosen by God and sealed by the prophet/judge/priest Samuel. It would have been easy for him to have “got the big head,” as my grandma used to say.
But, he did what was set before him — no more, no less. In God’s time, it came to pass. And, it was good (well, for the most part.) Forty years of rule were built out of patient days, weeks, and months of quiet service.
One never knows just exactly what one is being prepared for when God’s call to service comes.
The psalm provides fitting accompaniment to the first lesson’s closing line: “David became greater…for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.”
It is God’s greatness that is to be praised.
‘Zekiel got the call of the Lord…the same one that many of us as preachers get.
“You go tell them what I tell you to tell them,” says God, “no matter whether they listen or not.” That’s not always an easy commission to fulfill. But they cannot say that there was no one to give them the words of the Lord!
Servants and handmaids never had much hope for grace, unless it came from the master or mistress of the house that they served. God’s mercy is much keener than that of an earthly master; it is the perfect antidote for contempt.
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
“Thank you, Lord; could you heap a few more weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities onto my life?”
I doubt that any of us are lining up to pray that prayer. I also doubt that Paul wrote this portion of the letter to glorify his suffering. The incomparable goodness of Christ that strengthens us in the midst of difficulty is one of the more quizzical components of discipleship — something that is awfully hard to explain to those who have never experienced it.
In what ways have you experienced the grace of God in times of weakness? Has it been sufficient for you? How?
Sometimes, we are just bound and determined NOT to believe our eyes.
It strikes me that the residents of Jesus’ hometown were perfectly willing to admit that when he spoke, his words reflected wisdom. They had no doubt that he was able to perform deeds of power with his own hands (and evidently sans smoke and mirrors.)
Yet, they still decided to “take offense” at him — because, after all, he was JUST the carpenter’s son. He really had “got too big for his britches” (which is somewhat akin to gettin’ the big head — see above.)
I have never quite figured out how one cuts off one’s nose to spite one’s face — sounds like a painful proposition — but the folks in Nazareth evidently had it perfected to an art. Sadly, even Jesus Christ himself couldn’t be a successful pastor in his own hometown. Some folks are just too hard-headed to help!
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
I live in a very small place, a county of less than 10,000 people with one town with fewer than 500. A few years ago I was working at a United Methodist Retreat Center here and received the opportunity to write some short devotional pieces to be printed on the back of United Methodist church bulletins. It didn’t pay much but I enjoyed doing it and my mama was a Methodist and it made her proud, so it was a good deal all around.
In the two years of the series I only saw a printed bulletin once and that’s sort of a funny story. I occasionally heard from people around the country about the devotions. Friends were in Sunday worship were surprised to find my name on the back of their church bulletin. I got emails from New York and Massachusetts and Montana and Oregon and California; even one from Alaska. One summer night my college age son had a friend over who was also home from college. I stuck my head in my son’s room to say hello and the friend said, “Hey Rev. Chilton, (he was a very polite young man) I saw your devotion on the back of our Methodist church bulletin this morning. I thought you might like to see it. Good meditation.” As I looked at the bulletin in my hands he said something that made me laugh and made me wonder. “Yeah, Rev. Chilton, I sat down in church during the prelude and looked at the bulletin and saw your name and said to the people around me, ‘Hey, that’s Rev. Chilton from the Retreat Center. That’s Joe’s dad,’ and all the people around me said, ‘Oh no; that couldn’t be him. We know him. It must be someone else. They’d never print something from somebody from around here.’ And excuse me Rev. Chilton but I said, “Exactly how many ministers named DELMER Chilton do you think there are in the world?’ But they still said it couldn’t be you because they knew you.”
It can’t be him because we know him. “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” “Prophets are not without honor except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” (Mark 6:3-4) There is something about familiarity that breeds contempt.
Jesus experienced this when he returned home to preach. At first his friends and neighbors were impressed; “astounded,” the text says. Partly this was because they had not expected such things from him. “Mary’s son” was a bit of an insult, a crude jibe at his parentage. It should have been “Jesus, son of Joseph,” but they knew the story of Mary’s pregnancy and Jesus birth, at least the part about her being pregnant before the wedding and they questioned who the real Daddy was. And so they called him “Mary’s son.” Nothing much was expected of him, he was just a carpenter, a manual laborer, and brother to men and women they all knew. And here he is, spouting out “wisdom” and performing miracles. Who does he think he is? And unspoken and implied is the suspicion that something underhanded and evil is going on. “Where did he get this wisdom?” And so wonder turned to something else, something evil, “They took offense at him.” (Verse 3)
Jesus’ basic humanity shows as he is hurt and confused by their rejection. “He was amazed at their unbelief.” (Verse 6) Jesus did not anticipate this and he did not understand it. He’s probably thinking, “I’m one of you. I grew up here. Why are you so surprised that I’m smart? Why do you see doing good things in the name of God as bad? Why are you rejecting me?”
But Jesus does not let their offence and rejection stop him from his calling and ministry. He shook his head and moment and turned in a new direction, teaching in other villages. He also called the twelve to him and sent them out to do the same. Instead of allowing opposition and failure to bring an end to his ministry, Jesus used it to turn in a new direction and expand that ministry six fold. And his instructions to his disciples are both a call to simplicity and a lesson in trusting God above all else. Simplicity in taking nothing with you and in not skipping about from place to place, looking for a better deal. If you are concerned about the financial or material return on your message, you might be tempted to temper that message in a way calculated to ruffle the least number of feathers.
But if you are willing to be satisfied with whatever you get, trusting God that it will be enough, then you can preach and teach and live out the truth in freedom.
This is not just a word for pastors and preachers; this is a word for the church, the congregation. We too have been called and sent by God in Christ. We too have been sent out with authority over unclean spirits. I’m not sure what that meant 2000 years ago but right now, in the United States of America, the unclean spirit that is choking the life out of us is Racism. And we are called to speak and act in ways that challenge the racism in us and around us. And there are many in our communities who will first be astounded that we said it, and then they will be offended. But if we carry on, and we will; trusting God, and we will; we will be amazed at the ways God will work through us to cast out demons and heal sick spirits.
Amen and amen.