Random Opinions Randomly Ordered

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not an idea. Though, yes, I can venture to define what forgiveness is and to describe varied hypothetical circumstances so to convey what forgiveness looks like when we’re doing it. But that, especially the latter, doing it, is the point. Forgiveness, again, is not an idea. It is not theoretical. Forgiveness is an action; the necessity of which resides precisely and only in the reality of the existence of a trespass or a debt, indeed, a trespasser or a debtor to be forgiven.

On Personal Reputation

The esteem in which we are held by others, a sage soul once remarked, “is the fruit of the silence of our families and friends.”(1) To this wise word, I add “enemies.” For our enemies, because of their animus toward us, often see us less charitably than our families and friends and, thus, potentially, more clearly. They, when, for whatever reasons, reticent in the communal airing of their views of us, ironically, join with our families and friends in maintaining our public honor.

On Preaching

There are three kinds of preachers and two kinds of sermons…

Preacher 1 preaches at people from a stance of superiority in knowledge and preparation, summoning the people to listen to the sermon as an unquestionably authoritative (and not to be questioned) word.

Preacher 2 preaches to people, which is akin to preaching at people; the sermon remaining an unquestionably authoritative word, but presented with a kinder affect and a gentler tone.

Preacher 3 preaches with people; the sermon being another installment in an ongoing conversation between the preacher and the people and, even more, an invitation for both preacher and people to continue in communal dialogue with the Bible, indeed, the God of the Bible.

I’ve always wanted and striven to be Preacher 3.

On Guilt and Shame

I experience guilt when I have done that which I ought not to have done or when I have not done that which I ought to have done.

I experience shame when I recognize afresh that I am one who, by my nature and in my character, does what he ought not to do and does not do what he ought to do.

Therefore, guilt involves my recognition that I have failed to fulfill (fallen short of) an accepted standard of behavior, whether cultural/communal or personal (or both). Shame involves my recognition that I have failed to fulfill (fallen short of) the expectations of another, whether an authority figure (alive or dead) or my best sense of myself.

I know of no one who does not know the experiences of guilt and shame. Perhaps this, in part, explains why we humans more easily recall complaints and criticisms others make of us and find it harder to accept compliments others offer to us.

On Worship

Over many years of ordained ministry, being an active preparer and participant in public, corporate worship, I have an intuitive sense that many (most?) congregations perceive themselves (maybe unconsciously and if not always, then much of the time) as audiences gathering to watch the performances of the preacher, the organist, and choir and, perhaps, at a greater degree of communal consciousness, to witness God’s work of instruction and revelation through Word and Sacrament.

I wonder. What if all of us who gather for worship, people and preachers, musicians and choirs, everybody, saw ourselves as the performers and God as our audience of One?

In this, I recall the words of the psalmist, “(My God,) you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”(2) This is a striking image of the people’s praises being the throne on which God sits. Perhaps, then, when we worship, God pulls up a seat and delights in our offering.

 

 

Footnotes:
(1) Spoken by the Right Reverend John Thomas Walker (1925-1989), Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (1977-1989) on Tuesday, January 10, 1989, the occasion of my installation as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Washington, DC.
(2) Psalm 22.3

2 thoughts on “Random Opinions Randomly Ordered

  1. OK, Wait…. is this tomorrow’s sermon??????? LORDY
    Let’s be clear, You absolutely preacher 3!! Amen for preaching WITH the people!! The invitation piece of it has always been important to me. Ask me to think about something this week, ask me to do something this week… and what I always loved about your preaching is that you were going to do the work with me. I hate when preachers say, “do something and then come back and tell me how it was”. My thought about that is “what are you going to be doing while we relfect etc??” I typically didn’t do what was asked of me if I thought the preacher was just throwing stuff out there that sounded good.
    So, about this having God as an audience of One!!! That WORKS for ME!! It’s one of the reasons I say I can have church anywhere because I feel it’s just me and God… who else do you really need??…As I’ve said many times, I love being in nature because it’s where I feel closer to God. I mean the sermon and music are great if you go out to a church, and it does take people to provide those things, BUT I can play my own music on my phone, and you can find hundreds of semons online so there better be a GREAT community that we belong to, that makes it worth leaving the house for. Maybe we go to forgive, to relieve the guilt and shame, and we do that with others. As I know you know, many people come out to hear your sermons because they are going to hear something important… and not just a random opinion. You Rock!

    Much Love!

    Like

    1. No, Loretta, this wasn’t…isn’t today’s sermon. I’m not sure how or why I started writing, indeed, thinking these thoughts, but, as the saying goes, they popped into my head, so, I ran with it!

      I agree with you about preachers who ask (tell!) their folk to go and do something, and then come back and report about the experience. I consider such – though I think it can be more a homiletical practice, even a ploy – expressive of the sort of pulpit-superiority that I eschew, indeed, that I detest. For all of us, people and preachers alike, are human, thus, imperfect and sinful and works (of God) in process and progress. Rather, I prefer preachers to say, “Let’s do this together.”

      As for nature, I do understand deeply how you sense God’s presence in the natural world. It – nature – is a glorious wonder, isn’t it?!

      As for me rocking the pulpit, thanks. I try to be God’s messenger, one who hears as much as he speaks and learns as much as he teaches.

      Love

      Like

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