Two reflections sum up my Thursday:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
— John 17:20-23
First thing Thursday morning, I wake up and head over to the River Center for prayer and fellowship with about 12 different pastors. During this time we sing, read scripture, pray for one another, and listen. This is a great time of fellowship in my week, but also a chore. Whenever you get three pastors in a room there is bound to be four different interpretations of scripture. However, Jesus calls us as Christians to be one as He and the Father is one. I believe that Jesus cares about Christian unity more than He cares about our disagreements. If we as Christians care about Christian unity we don’t get to choose who we are unified with. To only be unified with those Christians you agree with is no virtue at all because that is not true unity. You have to be willing to go to those you disagree with, to say that you are seeking unity. We as a group of pastors disagree on so much, but through prayer and mission (being sent) we find that we are able to overcome our disagreements and seek to be one.
Remember that exegesis (interpretation) is for preaching and teaching; it has no other use. So get out those tough commentaries and struggle in depth with the texts. Let most of what you do be dominated by the demands of the sermon as if your whole life and reason for being is to preach Christ, because it is. Claim a new authority for the pulpit, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, over you and your people. Commit yourself again to ever more deeply becoming a careful preacher of Christ. Don’t preach to grow your congregation; preach to bear witness to what the Lord is doing, and let him grow your church. Dwell in him, abide in him, come to know him ever more deeply and convertedly. Tell the people what he has to say to them, what he is doing among them and within them, and what it is he wants them to share in. He is up to something in your neighborhood, if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Develop a christological hermeneutic for all you do and say. Why? Because there is no other name, that’s why.
About once a month, I am called to preach. I consider this to be our greatest calling as pastors. To be servants of the word and sacrament is the highest gift we have to give the church. Weeks before I am called to preach I began to let the scriptures ruminate in my head and life. On Thursdays, I will often get away to specifically lay out the words I hope to bring to the church. I wrestle with the texts, ask questions, read the newspaper, and try to tie together the difficult world we live in and the revelation of God in scripture. The sermon is never finished. As Thomas Long states, “Preachers don’t preach because the sermon is finished; they preach because it is Sunday and the time has come.” God is up to something in our midst, Jesus is active in the world and that is the good word of hope! As I prepare the
sermon, I have to remember and think about where does our hope come from? It doesn’t come from politics, sports, human effort, money, or esteem; our hope comes from the Lord and that is often what I attempt to distill on my Thursdays.