Beginning preachers often assume that only after they have built up the
trust of the congregation by assuring them of God's lovingkindness will
they have earned the right to deliver the harder words of scripture.
You may find members of Presbyterian and Reformed churches more theologically engaged than usual these days. This year marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. I decided to observe the occasion by focusing my reading this summer on Calvin. I skimmed T. H. L. Parker’s classic biography, which I had read years before.
Preachers who glance at this Gospel lesson and contemplate the delights
of contracting swine flu just before Sunday could be forgiven, but a
second look reveals an opportunity to teach about Christian community
and behaviors that imperil it.
I recently purchased the 1800s' homestead where I’ve lived for the past
five years, and I’m busy renovating the house and outbuildings. There
are a few old apple trees on the three-and-a-half acre property, my
favorite of which sends forth green every year from a trunk that appears
90 percent dead.
While 94 percent of Protestant pastors believe their churches are safe places to talk about marital difficulties, fewer than half of churchgoers who divorced in the past five years discussed their marriage problems with their church’s lead pastor, according to new findings by LifeWay Research. High percentages of both churchgoers who divorced (77 percent) and those in healthy marriages (79 percent) agreed in principle that their church is a safe place to talk about marital problems. When their own marriages were failing, however, just 48 percent of the divorced sought counsel from their pastor. Smaller percentages spoke to someone else, and 31 percent told no one at church about their marital problems. Half of divorced churchgoers said their church prayed for them after their separation, and 43 percent said their church supported them (Baptist News Global, October 29).