Discernment, Ministry, Preacher Group, Preaching, Sabbatical



When I started at my last church, kathrynzj gave me a Starbucks gift card she had personalized. It says “a card to fuel the fierce and fabulous,” a favorite reference of those who wish to be fierce and fabulous for Jesus. It’s a charming card, and a gift that meant a lot to me, so I have recharged it many, many times.

Last week I found myself in a Starbucks with her, in my new homeland, and there we ran into a UCC colleague who used to be in Maine and now serves in the town where we live, which is, you know, a little odd, especially considering we really knew each other and I did the interim in his last church after he left for Pennsylvania. #smallworld

So there we all are on a Thursday afternoon, and I am in line paying with my Starbucks card while they talk, and the card is spent down to nothing, so I pay the balance with cash and reclaim the card, fending off the barista so ready to dispose of it for me.

I join them, and the three of us stand talking, and I realize not only are my worlds colliding in a bizarre way — yes, the colleague I used to sit next to every Tuesday morning at preacher group just sat next to my wife this Tuesday morning at ministerium — but also they are doing the work, and I am not.

A few days later I got out the door early enough to be UCC at 8:15 and worship with the Presbyterians at 11. I saw and heard them both preach, my old friend and my new wife. They did it differently, in style and text and context. I wondered, as I took notes and reflected on each message, if people used to listen to me as intently as I did to them?

Despite their encouraging and good words, I felt like the gift card, run down to zero. Will God charge me up and use me again? Will I be handed over to be recycled? Or will I end up in a drawer, a fond reminder of gestures long past?

kathrynzj told me that she set up the actual card on automatic re-charge. Maybe that’s what this sabbatical is meant for, a chance to recharge on God’s account. Maybe when it’s over, way will open to ministry in a familiar form.

Or maybe not.

Lectionary, Preacher Group, Psalms

The Face of God

I’m reading a very fine study of Psalm 27, or rather the portions of it that are in the lectionary this week, and I looked to see if there will be an answer to the question raised by one of my friends (Hi, RevFun!) at Preacher Group this morning, but there was not, so here it is: what is up with God having a face?

It seemed awkward to me, too. Isn’t it the case that seeing God’s face would pretty much set a person on fire, in a not so good way? Wouldn’t God’s face be too much for us?

And do we really want to go around thinking of God as having something so human as a face in the first place?

I suspect I’m missing some important piece of exegetical material here, but since it’s only Tuesday I’m not worried about it, not yet. Maybe some smart preacher out there can tell me what all that stuff about hiding the face means. Does it refer to the social shame of being rejected by someone above you on the pyramid of power? Or is it more like having a parent who refuses to make eye contact with you? (And aren’t those DaVinci eyes a little scary?)

We went on to discuss finding some way to say it that doesn’t depend on having God be the Big Giant Head. Still pondering.