Friday, January 29, 2010

Never Ending

I wrote this last Saturday:

So . . . yesterday we took two three-hour exams and today we took one more. I wish I had received Mompriest's comment last night because suddenly, at 9:00 pm, I lost any capacity for sleep, and began to churn through all my perceived errors. Today I've been able to put all that to rest, probably because . . .

the Hebrew passage, delivered to us at noon,, is the story of Elijah bringing the widow's son back to life.

I sank into a fairly profound depression for several hours as I contemplated wrestling with that one for five days. (Have you ever tried to count how many stories there are in the Bible of dead sons coming back to life? More than just the main one.) I thought about switching to Greek (it's up to us), but all things conspired against that brilliant idea: memory (none), desire (none), and reality: the New Testament passage in question is one of proclamation and, let's face it, I am way more attuned to narrative.

And when that thought occurred to me, the next one was: does that say something about a call to chaplaincy as opposed to a church, or what? Perhaps I will get something completely unexpected out of this last exam, in the form of clues for next year.

(And I'd love to hear from the other RevGals on this one. My sermons have been criticized this year for being exploratory rather than insistent. The assessment is accurate, but the question remains: Is there a place for exploratory, musing, contemplative preaching in the church? The events of the last seventeen months have made emphatic proclamation an impossibility for me. And, on the positive side, have made the journey through people's stories all the more compelling.)

I think I have to go to sleep soon; I'm exhausted. I hope I can pull this off and put testing behind me FOREVER.


Now it's six days later and I'm finally back home. Writing the exam was fine; I am getting much more adept at putting my personal stuff aside when I have to accomplish an academic task.

I spent some time on the phone this morning with a friend who has an urgent need to know about coroners, funeral homes, cremations, and ashes. I remembered how much it had helped me fifteen months ago to talk to friends who had that kind of knowledge and were willing to share it openly and candidly.

I have to say, the conversation this morning affected me a good deal more than writing the paper had.

Of course, the widow in the Elijah story turned out not to need the information that I now have.

(Louis Hersent Painting)


Purple said...

Well done!!! You are amazing! and I mean it!

As to the preaching: The best sermons I have heard and that have made an impact on me are those in which, the questions are NOT answered, but allow me to explore with my own context. Now post-seminary I would add: allow me to explore with my own context, knowledge, theology, and understanding of the Mystery we call God (and many other names).

Are the pew people comfortable with that? In a Can they learn...I do hope so.

Daisy said...

I'm with Purple; give me exploratory any day over insistent. I get pretty suspicious of people who have all the answers...


PS. The Bible's stories of dying children have always caused me some anxiety. ((((GG))))

Mompriest said...

insistent sermons? blech....most of the time exploratory are invitations to ponder new ideas with ramming it down some one's consciousness.

glad the exams are over, and praying that all went well. Also, why is it that the knowledge and wisdom we have from life often comes from the same source of our deepest hurt? its wondersad (my new word, wondersad).

karen gerstenberger said...

I agree with your attitude to preaching. Those who have experienced much of life KNOW that they don't KNOW much for sure.

Telling people Good News is wonderful. How did Jesus do that? Through parables (hello: stories).

Please listen to your own heart. It knows.

Anonymous said...

Criticized for being exploratory in talking about God's message to us today? REALLY?

I would love to come hear you preach. I find your writing makes me a much better listener and, consequently, witness to God's presence.

I'm glad you're through your exams. My Beloved is not looking forward to his in 2 years.

Magdalene6127 said...

Well, GG, you know what I think of some of the sermon feedback you've gotten. My heart was never, not once, stirred by an "insistent" sermon. And when I preach them, it feels less authentic than the exploratory ones. Your voice is your voice. Your life is your life. Your call is your call.

And the passage... oh my. {{{GG}}}

Karen said...

The only people on the planet who know everything are adolescents or politicians. The wise people are like you and like listening to the likes of you!

Stratoz said...

insistent seems a bizarre word to be an attribute for a good sermon, but what do I know... I'm not a rev or a gal ;')

hope you are getting some rest. That is about all I have been getting lately.

Jim said...

Who among us has God in a box so that we can be "insistant" in our message? For me, one of the main problems within the Church as a whole is those who sermonize out of their heads rather than out of their "belly". Bring it up out of that inner well and He will be in it with you. You can preach to me anyday, ma'am......

Regina said...

I'm a hearer rather than a deliverer of sermons, but I'm always found that the most "insistent" ideas I get from good sermons are the ones that occur to me afterwards. That is, the preacher's good exploration nudges me (entices me) to keep exploring on my own. I love when that happens, and I'm always grateful.

ap said...

Jumping in late, but it should be exploratory. I don't want to be told what to do or what to think . . . I want to consider and come to my own conclusions.

Nancy said...

Been away and am catching up.

Speaking as a pew sitter -- PLEASE give me exploratory!!

I get so dismayed when I am told that one person's view is the only way.

Thank you for sharing yourself.