A BLACK PRESIDENT, SNOW WHITE, AND THE KITCHEN

I really don’t have time to write this blog that I am writing now.  I just finished a wonderful three hour meeting with my accountability partners.   They are two of the finest men I have ever known.  In a couple of of hours I have a cookout to celebrate the birthday of another wonderful man who has spent 80 years upon this planet.  The problem is right now it is raining cats and dogs outside.  We might need to turn it into a cook-in.  Tomorrow of course is Sunday, then on Monday we leave for Kids Camp.  When I return from Kids Camp on Saturday I must immediately prepare to depart for a long journey.  So, I really don’t have time to write this blog I’m writing.

But I am.  Here are three things I’ve found interesting this week.

Thing One:  The Southern Baptist Convention met in New Orleans this week

WAY TO GO FRED!

and elected an black person as President of the convention for the very first time.  Fred Luter, congratulations!  I think this is great.  It does not mean we have eliminated racism or prejudice in all of our circles, but it does mean that we have crossed a threshold that means we will no longer tolerate as acceptable racists views of the world.

Thing Two:  I saw Snow White and the Huntsmanwith my girls yesterday.  It was a little drawn out, and the character of the Huntsman was terribly forced.  The plot was actually

POOR ACTING–GOOD PRAYING

okay, but the dialogue was choppy and irregular and the acting was wooden.  Couldn’t they find someone who was actually an actress to play the role of Snow White?  Okay, enough bashing–what I found interesting was that early in the film Snow White prays the “Lord’s Prayer” in her jail cell.  When she prays–she prays the shorter version without the added doxology in the Textus Receptus of the King James Version and which is used in most congregational settings today.  Whoever wrote that bit knew a thing or two about textual criticism–or at least knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who did.

Thing Three:  Thursday night our church fed the community at the South Kitsap Family Kitchen.  I love serving in that ministry for many reasons, but two of them come to mind.  The first is that I believe making sure hungry people get to eat is an important thing.  The second is that at that particular ministry I am not the leader. I am just a worker.  One of our talented women named Charlotte is the ministry team leader and she gets to make all the decisions.  That is a great feeling sometimes.

Okay, I didn’t have time to write this blog, but I did.  It looks like the rain outside has let up.  Maybe the cookout will not be a completely drenched washout.

PREACHING WITH TECHNIQUE

Preaching is all about conviction.  I have several convictions about preaching such as the worst sin a preacher can make is to be boring.  The Bible is many things, but it is never boring.  God is not boring either, but often preaching makes God sound boring.  To that end one of my subsidiary convictions about preaching is that the style of the sermonizing I do should be varied.  It is easy to get into a preaching rut and rely upon the same sermon schema week in and week out.  Some preachers I’ve talked to say they don’t think the form matters.  I disagree.  The form matters a great deal.  Choosing the form of the sermon is often the most important part of settling in on the sermon itself.

Tonight I worked on my series for October on finances and decided to use four different patterns of preaching for each of the four sermons.

  • October 2.  This is the launch of the series and I am covering Matthew 6:19-24 where Jesus says two powerful things about money.  He says that where our treasure is, that is where our heart is and then he says we cannot serve both God and mammon.  For this sermon I am going to use a method I learned from reading Fred Craddock.  Craddock is a great storyteller preacher, but he is also an advocate of letting the form of the text dictate the sermon.  So in this sermon, I am going to block it into groups of ideas and then finish with two or three summary concepts.  To keep it interesting for me, I will weave into this another style of “narrative exposition” I learned from Calvin Miller, my preaching hero.  Narrative exposition is my default style and I am most comfortable with it.
  • October 9.  For this sermon I’m going to go Hegelian.  My concept is that there is a connection in the language of the Bible between debt and sin.  This is most famously shown in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew.  The Hegelian method follows a very strict form that cannot be toyed with too much.  It has a thesis which is a positive statement, then that statement is balanced with an antithesis that is the opposite.  Then the two are held in contrast with a relevant question.  Then the sermon follows the course of answering how the thesis and antithesis work in the life of the believer.  It is a very old form of preaching that still works very well.
  • October 16.  On this day I will preach about the ways we can work ourselves out of debt.  It looks like an old fashioned list sermon because the title is “Five Steps to Getting out of Debt” but really it is my old friend the narrative exposition.  For example, the first step to getting out of debt is to tithe, but the first step will be communicated by way of a story.  I don’t know what that story will be yet, but I have an idea or two.  Then each step will be the different aspects of a good narrative sermon which are biblical exegesis, supporting scripture, other stories, some statistics, probably a poem to quote, and then some real life application.
  • October 23.  This is the last sermon in the series and I intend to have real fun here.  I will present various quotations in a “symposium” on money and finances.  With each of the quotations I can interact and bring the biblical worldview into focus.  Some of these quotations will be, of course, some Bible verses such as “silver and gold have I none.”  I might play some more and add a piece of artwork to the symposium.  I’ve preached this style a couple of times.  The most successful attempt was about three years ago in a sermon about joy.

The more I work on these sermons, the most excited I get about preaching them because I love what I do.

DEFICIT, DEBT, AND THE DOW

So I’m doing some serious Greenbean type thinking the last few days about the deficit, debt, and stock market plunge of the last few days.  Some thoughts come to mind.  They are only slightly related.

Number 1:  I remember three weeks or so ago when we were still on vacation my oldest daughter and I were driving around and I was listening to NPR on the radio and there was a piece on the deficit talks and how it was hard to get a deal made.  (Note, of course we all know how hard that was).  My daughter, who is 16, asked me what that actually meant.  So, I told her about government spending, revenues, and how for the past 40 years we have progressively spent more and more on social services and entitlements  but also systematically taken in less and less on taxes.  The result has been that we are borrowing vast amounts of money, and much of it from other countries, like China, and that in order to keep going the congress was going to have to agree to raise the limit on what they could borrow so they could borrow more.  It made me depressed and my daughter wondered, “Who is running this country?”

Number 2:  The idea of raising your own debt limit is really odd, isn’t it?  When I need to borrow money or if I wanted to raise my credit card limit, I have to ask someone else’s permission.  Not congress.  They just print more money.  Perhaps the problem lies in who gets to approve this.  Maybe congress should put deficit spending to a public vote—but only those who pay taxes get to vote.

Number 3:  Debt—that is the word used in the King James Version of the Bible for the Lord’s Prayer as a synonym for sin:  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  I’ve always thought the connection between a debt owed and a sin committed was telling.  Perhaps our debt problem as a nation is a collective sin which we have not confessed.  If that is so I suggest the sin we are guilty of is not materialism, (because a lot of the debt spending is actually for wonderful altruistic things like helping the poor and vulnerable) but instead it is the sin of electing spineless politicians who find it easier to kick the can down the street instead of dealing with the issue.

Number 4:  The ideologues are going to get us all in a lot of trouble.  There are two sets of ideologues which are driving this crazy train.   One ideology says never raise taxes and just cut spending while the other ideology says never cut spending and just raise taxes.  Now here’s the scoop:  taxes are going to have to be raised one way or another and spending is being cut all across the nation.  Smart leaders would acknowledge this, come square with the people and get things taken care of.  The American economy is strong and can survive both cuts and raises in revenue.   It might not be in the future if something is not done now.

Number 5:  I refuse to look at my annuity right now.  It is a bad idea to even think about looking at what your portfolio is worth right now.  It is in times like this that smart investors buy.  That is what I learned in economics classes in college.  Buy when the market is down.  That means temporarily you are losing money, but in the end, when things rebound, and they will rebound, you’ll be better off.  The ones who are getting hurt are those who are retired or near retirement.  That is why it is so silly that congress and the President (yes, he must take some of the blame) let this happen.

Number 6:  Back to my daughter and I listening to the radio news.  She asked me, “If we don’t raise the limit and pay our bills, can the other countries repossess the United States?”  I replied by saying, “No way.  Part of what we’ve been spending the borrowed money on is really big guns that fly fast.  I dare anyone to try to come and take it.”