Friday
Sep192014

Savior of Stone

From James C. Schaap

Dowa Yalanne is the kind of place that really deserves the word monumental. There it stands like an momentary eruption stopped in time, a bundle of fisted hands reaching skyward, not necessarily aspiring, but signalling power and strength that some who live in its presence quite understandably call eternal.

At least three times--maybe more--the Zuni people took refuge on top the mountain. I've never been up there, but I know that some who have say it's full of holy places. The Zunis hid from the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Apaches up there, where the world at the top is so wide you can't see to the other side. There's room to live up top, and lots of reasons for an enemy to turn his horse around and simply go home once he looks up its dusky cliffs. For 7000 years, Dowa Yalanne was a citadel of strength, a savior to those who lived in its presence.

It looms almost parentally over the Zuni pueblo just as it has since men and women first began to think of the world beneath the mountain as the birthplace of life itself. You want to know where the Zuni came from?--there's a place just down the road.  For thousands of years for thousands of Zunis all of life was right here in the shadow of the mountain.

Think of it this way: Dawa Yalanne has astonishing stage presence, so much of it that volumes of Zuni lore originate in its caves and promintories.

Thursday
Sep182014

Remembered in an Instant

From Thomas C. Goodhart

Recently late one Friday night I was returning from having visited a parishioner at a local hospital. Walking in the upper east side of New York City heading west towards the Lexington Avenue subway I past a fruit vendor, a very common urban scenario. It was a rather large street stand on a corner and was accompanied by a refrigerated produce truck whose trailer door was open. There was a combination of COLD fruit and vegetable smells—not the same as a fresh farm market—rather the scent of refrigerated cold itself, perhaps refrigerant, and maybe even a little whiff of perspiration from the vendor himself. Continuing along, prompted by the overall "aroma," my mind was instantly transported to the Bloomfield Sale Barn and Auction.

The Bloomfield Sale Barn and Auction was a quintessentially rural phenomena that brought together the fullness of business capitalism and social meeting grounds, a market and a place to gather. Thirty, forty years ago, such sale barns and auctions dotted the landscape of northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania serving the agricultural community of small farms. Now with fewer small farms and greater suburban encroachment, many of the sale barns have had to adapt or go out of business; there is less livestock sold, there are more flea markets instead.

But as a little kid on so many occasion while at the livestock auction my family would also walk through the market stands where Amish and English shopped and sold alongside one another: by the meat counter, the cheese section, and the produce. Those were good times. Those are good memories. It’s funny how a particular smell on a Manhattan street corner could instantly—at least in my mind—return me to that place and time.

Wednesday
Sep172014

Exodus 16: Gif Style

From Jes Kast-Keat

I just wrote an entire blog. Hit the save button. My internet went out. The entire piece is now missing. This is how I feel:

The piece was about preaching at my friend's ordination at New Brunswick Theological Seminary this weekend. I celebrated the work of chaplains, as his call is to chaplaincy. I spent a good amount of time inviting you to look at Exodus 16 with me as that is what I'm preaching on.

In 14 verses someone complains, or talks about complaining 14 times. Scripture says the Israelites would rather die than continue in the process of liberation.

I'm sure Moses was feeling pretty good after he stretched out his arms and God moved the sea. I know I would. Now the Israelites are in the wilderness, hungry, and not comfortable. Superstar Moses is now being blamed. The whole congregation of Israel turns on Moses and Aaron and complains.

Tuesday
Sep162014

Gracious Residue

From Scott Hoezee

This blog post will appear on a Tuesday but I am writing it on a Monday morning and so am in a post-Sunday reflective mood when it comes to preaching. I heard a good sermon yesterday morning and was even able to detail the sermon's highlights--and several of its specific salient details--to a colleague who popped by my office an hour ago. I am glad when that happens--glad when I hear a good sermon and glad when I can remember enough of it to talk about it. But a week from now--or next month--things will have gotten a bit foggier regarding yesterday's sermon. And there are any number of good sermons I have heard and been blessed by that . . . well, that I could not summon to mind if I tried.

I confess as a preacher who used to preach 2 new sermons just about every Sunday that come Monday or Tuesday--when I had to write down in my sermon log book what I had preached the day or two previous--sometimes it happened I'd find myself with my pen poised over the log book page and . . . nothing came to me. I could not recall the passage, I could not recall the sermon title. Sometimes I'd shake my head, let out an exasperated "Oh for Pete's sake," and finally dig out the bulletin to look up the sermon that I MYSELF HAD WORKED ON FOR A WEEK AND HAD PREACHED!! Now, of course, once I looked it up, it came back to me but the point is: if sometimes we preachers get foggy on what we had just done, we should not fall down in despair in case we find parishioners who forget sermons.

Some years ago at Calvin Church in Grand Rapids I preached a sermon on the sacraments from Genesis 17. As it happened, I had preached that same sermon in my previous congregation in Fremont some years before and a friend of mine--who belonged to Calvin Church--had been there the Sunday I preached it. So when, after the Calvin Church service, this friend said that sermon sounded familiar, I assured him it was because he had heard it in Fremont. "Hmmm," he replied, "seems I heard it even more recently than that." I assured him he hadn't but then . . . something started to bug me. I went home. I took out the sermon log book. And as it turned out, well, I had indeed preached a version of this Genesis 17 sermon at Calvin Church only 2 years earlier. I had forgotten. But so, apparently, had everyone else as only this ONE person said it had rung any bells.

Monday
Sep152014

Somebody's Always Watching 

From Jeff Munroe

The Ray Rice video got me thinking about a mental image of judgment I once had. I thought that after I died I would go to heaven and stand in front of God while we watched the movie of my life.  I mentioned this to a coworker on Friday. She laughed and said, “You must have read the Chick tract.”  I had no idea what she was referring to, until my memory was jarred by a trip to the internet.

“This Was Your Life” was a melodramatic gospel tract by Jack Chick, featuring heaven as a sort of celestial drive-in theater, where the movie of your life rolled.  Seeing the images brought it back to me, and I know I imbibed this stuff when I was in junior high. The idea terrified me, even though I was filled with doubts. I remember wondering how in the world God got all the camera angles he’d need.  But then I’d roll my eyes as I remembered nothing (certainly not camera angles) was impossible for God. Yet skepticism would creep in again, and I’d wonder how God had time every day to watch thousands of 80 and 90-year-long movies. (Did they fast forward while you slept? What about when you were in the bathroom?) But then I’d think about a thousand years being a day in heaven and roll my eyes again at my lack of faith. Still, a cynical thought would come back – what about people who lived before Thomas Edison and the invention of movies?  Ah, but is God bound by the timeliness of our discoveries, oh ye of little faith?  Jack Chick had me in fear of the movie of my life.