Monday, October 24, 2011

Balance: Year A, Ordinary 31

This Week's Lectionary Texts
Joshua 3:7-17 or Micah 3:5-12
Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 or Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

This Week's Reflection
"He doesn't walk the talk." 

"She doesn't practice what she preaches." 

These are harsh words and words that no preacher ever wants to hear said about him or herself. I imagine the Pharisees felt the same way when they heard Jesus, as Matthew writes in chapter 23, say that very thing about them.

I find myself being sympathetic with the Pharisees, though. As a preacher myself, I often feel that the sermons I write (or this blog for that matter) are like a conversation between me and God. The congregation simply has the opportunity (or burden) of eavesdropping on that conversation. So, I preach about a lot of things that I don't necessarily feel that I have "mastered." I preach a lot of words that I don't yet know how to walk day in and day out in my life.

So, what are we preachers, we broken and sinful preachers, to do with this text from Matthew this week? I think that just maybe the problem comes in when we begin to believe that we are not broken, not sinful. The problem occurs when we believe that everything we say is good and right and that everything we do supports all that is good and right. I'm not a big fan of Christianity that promotes in its believers a feeling of being no better than a worm (no offense to all the worms out there), but there is some place for a balance between thinking that we are God's gift to proclamation and thinking that we could never say anything that would be meaningful for anyone.

Jesus says to his disciples, "Listen to them. What they say is good. Just don't do what they do." Maybe it is a call for balance in living our lives between humility and vanity. This is a good lesson for preachers and for our congregations alike.
Maybe it is a call for balance in living our lives between humility and vanity.
This makes me think of the Joshua text in which God is giving him a bit of a pep talk. As if Joshua is wondering how in the world he will follow in the footsteps of the great Moses, God tells him how. God will make it possible, God will exalt him, God will lead him so that he can lead others. While Joshua may not feel worthy, may even feel a bit like a worm, God proves to him that all that is needed to lead will be provided. Right down to stopping a river from flowing so that the people can cross. It wasn't Joshua's power that did that. That was God.

It seems like a similar message is found in Micah. Beware of those who think that it all rests on their shoulders. Beware of those who preach peace, but act in violence. Beware of those who claim power that is not theirs to claim. It is the power of God that makes anything possible.

So, I don't walk the talk and I don't practice what I preach - but, I'll keep working on relying on the power of God. And, in so doing, I'll trust that I'll get better and better at both as balance comes my way.

This Week's Artwork
(in order of appearance)