Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Your Homework for Sunday

I wrote the following  for  The Dialogue, the newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO.

Three weeks ago, I did something a little bit different during my Sunday morning sermon.  I asked those present to take two of the note cards in the pew racks and to write something on each of them.  On one card I instructed folks to write something they were thankful for, and on the other I told them to write down a resentment, slight or grudge they were holding on to.  Then I asked them to place one of the cards into the offering plate when it came around and noted that although the cards weighed the same in physical terms, in spiritual terms the contents of one of those cards were much more difficult to carry around.  It was up to each person present which card they would let go of and thankfully most people seemed to let go of the card containing a resentment, grudge or slight.  I hope that act also helped them to let go of that bitterness in their lives as well
            The idea of the note cards was not my own.  It came from David Lohse, a preaching professor at Lutheran Seminary in Minneapolis.  I heard Lohse speak at a conference last year and felt that unlike many of the other preachers he actually seemed to possess the virtue of humility—a quality rarely found in preachers, so I’ve kept up with his writings.  Each week he offers thoughts on the seminary web site about how to engage this week’s lectionary scripture passages.  (The lectionary is a list of scriptures for each Sunday over a three year period.  I try to follow it in my preaching schedules most Sundays.)  This week Lohse has another interactive idea I would like to try with you, although it requires some work beforehand.
            Lohse suggests preaching on Psalm 23—you know the psalm you usually only hear at funerals: “The Lord is my shepherd. . . “  With the scripture’s emphasis upon trusting God to provide for you and me—through good times and bad—throughout our lives, we should think about two things: the blessings we already have and the things we want to have.  He argues that even in the midst of more difficult economic times that our “wants” usually pale in comparison to the blessings that really matter.  Although I am sure there are exceptions (aren’t there always exceptions?) I am willing to bet that Lohse is correct.  The following is his idea.
            So, here is your assignment.  Take out two sheets of paper.  On one of them write down a list of blessings in your life—you decide how long the list should be.  On the other write down things you want—again you decide how long the list should be.  Compare the two.  That’s all.
            Once you have made your two lists think about what would happen if the list of blessings were taken away.  Then think about what would happen if you still had your list of blessings but you never acquired any of the things on your list of “wants.”  I wonder what you would discover. 
            I am going to do this exercise myself and I hope you will do it too.  (I guess this will also be an experiment in seeing how many people actually read my column in The Dialogue and if anyone is willing to respond to what I write here.)  I know that plenty of our FCC folks are a lot like me.  When I am challenged to do something like this, I often think I know the point of it ahead of time and don’t bother to take it seriously.  Well, as your minister, I’m asking you to take this seriously.  Take a few minutes out of your busy life and assess your blessings and your wants.  See what you find out.
            I would really like to hear what you find out.  In fact, I would like to have some of you share what you found out on Sunday.  If you don’t feel like sharing it publicly, why not let me share your findings anonymously without mentioning your name or any specifics.  I believe we all would benefit from hearing from one another.  You can tell me Sunday morning or better yet, e-mail me between now and then.  How do your blessings and wants compare?
            Grace and Peace,