My first piano teacher, Mr. Jackson, was the best. I didn't like him.
Monday lectionary email, archived here on Friday.
When I was in my mid 20s, I came down with pneumonia bad enough that I had to spend two weeks in the hospital. I felt cut off from everything. I had no idea what things were like on the outside.
When Martin Luther wrote, "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer," I don't imagine that he meant to squeeze another three hours of work and relationships into the hours that remained.
In my Bible, this week's reading from Ephesians bears the title, "Rules for the New Life." The text reads like a laundry list of more or less unrelated instructions. Put away falsehood. Speak the truth, be angry but don't sin, and do not make room for the devil. Give up stealing and work honestly. Speak only what is useful for building up; do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Put away bitterness, anger, slander, and malice.
I've always admired the prophets. Their job of truth-telling required such courage and personal sacrifice. Yet they never held back. They spoke the truth no matter the consequences. I imagine they were lonely, then. Who could stand their challenging company for very long? Personal relationships, however, weren't the prophets' priority. Their job was to tell God's truth in a way that would be heard.
My husband came home one night confused and needing to talk. A friend of his had blown him off at work, and Dan couldn't figure out why. "I was standing there, waiting to talk to him, and he just walked away!" My husband was hurt and remorseful.
In his years as a pastor my husband read the 23rd Psalm at the bedsides of quite a few people who were dying. It was the most frequently requested passage among those who were facing their own going and still able to choose. When I began to volunteer for hospice, I found, as he had, that even for people who had wandered far from church, even for the skeptical and the uncertain, even for those who were unused to prayer and didn't want to be prayed over, the 23rd Psalm provided a place of return that was beautiful, familiar, inviting, and reassuring.
Perhaps there is a connection we shouldn't miss between David's dancing with all his might--uninhibited, unclad, unaware of disapproval--and the generosity with which he blesses and distributes food to all the people. Both are extravagant gestures that turn love into action, withholding nothing.
As a young minister in my early 20s, I was often admonished by the senior ministers to keep a guarded distance from laypeople. To get too close, they would say, is to become too familiar with a resulting loss of one's ministerial authority. They thought authority was protected by distance and diminished by relationships.
Not everything urgent is important. The difficulty is distinguishing between the two. In ministry, people's pressing needs seldom come before us in neat, conveniently timed packages. Instead, the minister is bombarded with legitimate requests and pleas from every side.