July 7, 2017
It was only a couple days ago I finally agreed to get back in the saddle. The pastoral appointment for a nearby church fell through (those things happen in spite of everyone’s best intentions), prompting the District Superintendent to give me a call that would hopefully give her a bit of breathing room as they make more permanent arrangements. My knee-jerk response was, “Not interested,” but the very morning of the call, I was reading the story of king David’s plans to build a temple for God. When he spoke to Gad, one of his advisors, the latter’s knee-jerk response was, “Do it, for the LORD is with you.” But that night, God spoke to Gad in a dream, telling him that David wasn’t the man for the job. That task would fall to his son.
I guess knee-jerk reactions are not the best test of God’s will. My response was the exact opposite of Gad’s, but the process was identical. So I called back, telling the DS that I would consider it. That was a week ago last Tuesday. When I mentioned the matter at our Thursday morning men’s prayer group, my friend Harry blurted out, “You want to learn Spanish; so there you go!” Thanks, Harry.
The other day, I began mapping out a series of sermons dealing with hope and change, of which this congregation has little of the former and plenty of the latter. Writing sermons has always been a challenge for me. Finding that sweet spot where the Word of God intersects the situation of the people is not as easy as it may seem. It takes a double focus on our unchanging God and our ever-changing lives. And listening deeply to the biblical story can be quite a challenge in itself. Simple stories that we tend to skim through have much to say if we take time to ponder them and place ourselves inside them. But for me to do that usually means reading, re-reading, reading again, coupled with lots of prayer and thinking.
Like Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the LORD, I wrestle with the text, refusing to let go until I get the blessing. I don’t always come away wounded, but there are times. My first Sunday’s Scripture has been bouncing around in my head for over a week, and this afternoon when I was able to get alone with the text, it finally yielded and blessed me with something worth sharing with the Dunkirk congregation. Now I am excited! And once more grateful for the amazing privilege and awesome responsibility of handling the living Word of God.