Sometimes preaching in a lectionary church is like being Philip in Acts 8—the Spirit plucks us up and drops us where ever she darn well pleases. It is necessarily this way, certainly. Between the thematic requirements of the seasons of the church year and the sheer length of the four Gospels spread out over 156 Sundays, there is no way we can read all four in their entirety in three years. So, we skip stuff. Especially in Year B, as we try to mash the shortest Gospel, Mark, together with the other Gospel, John, together in some supposedly coherent way.
Recently, a friend and I were talking about how disturbed and saddened we’ve been by the hateful and decidedly unchristian words spoken by self-proclaimed Christian leaders in recent years. The examples are too numerous to cite, and each has its own agenda of hatred and division. I complained that it was so deeply unfair that such intolerant and offensive perspectives were being allowed to speak for me and all other Christians.
My friend offered a profound and simple response: “Chris, they only speak for you if you don’t speak for yourself.”
Even though I grew up in a church manse, am the son of a minister and was raised by congregations of wonderful Christian believers, I had not heard the question until the summer after my junior year of high school. I remember being confused and slightly put off by the way in which it was asked. I remember the steady, waiting gaze of those sitting across from me in the circle.
Two of Merlyn's daughters,
members of our church, asked me to visit their mom as the end of her five-month
battle with cancer drew near. Merlyn was 72, and her life had not been easy.
She was widowed at 43 and raised her four children by herself.
When I came to see her, she was
alone, lying in bed by the window in the back room of the house. One of her
daughters introduced me and left.