Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Why this?

The question is sometimes asked of pastors: "Why are you preaching this particular series?" or "How do you decide on preaching topics or series?" Here's an answer:

Practioners of the Aidan Way are challenged to pursue a 'rhythm of work, rest, and prayer' every day. The challenge of rhythm expands to also include a preaching/teaching ministry, because the Bible has always seemed to be this strange blend of comfort and affliction, rest and work, poetry and precept, life and death, celebration and mourning. As a mirror of life, this is appropriate. When it comes to preaching/teaching, then, it's important to avoid fixation on a certain bent in the Bible. Such fixation leads a community to perhaps, a very clear identity as a certain kind of church ("oh that's the church that always has altar calls" or "that's the church that talks about gender issues" or "that's the church that is all about art, or social action, or...etc. etc.") but misses the long term balance needed for real health.

In order to avoid this fixation, I try to think of the Bible broadly in terms of inhaling and exhaling. Inhaling has to do with receive things from God, taking the nourishment that He offers us into ourselves, and allowing the promises, the forgiveness, the healing, the blessing, the mercy, the strength, and the lovingkindness to fortify, bless, and transform us. The first half of Ephesians seems, for example, to be purely, 'inhale'. In it, Paul articulates blessing after blessing, and simply says, (in my words), "Look. This is who you are. Wake up and celebrate your identity in Christ."

But of course, endless inhaling is impossible. There's only so much one can take in until one needs to live it. So I think about the need to exhale. Again, Paul does the same thing in his letter to the Ephesians. Chapter 4 of that letter begins with the call to exhale, to live it out in one's experience, and continues that way through the end of the book.

That's what governs my own thinking in preparing for a year of sermons. Are we inhaling enough? Exhaling enough? So, based on the need for both, and praying about our community and the things we're facing, the inhale exhale paradigm leads me to:

June July '05 - Exhale (Ethics)
August Sept '05 - Inhale (Psalms)
Fall '05 - Exhale (Isaiah - at the very least, a vision for exhaling!)
Winter '06 - Inhale (II Corinthians 1-5)

And so it goes. Inhale. Exhale. A rhythm to the whole thing. And indeed, through it all, the prayer is that Christ will, indeed, be the air we breathe.


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