Saturday, January 29, 2005

What to do when the preacher has laryngitis

I just barely made it through a sermon yesterday (Friday), the final Amen kind of squawking rather than speaking, but still, the Word got preached. Now it's Saturday, and I'm wondering if I'll have any voice tomorrow. Thankfully, there are a few options, but on the drive to the coffee shop, I had a little brainstorming session on what to do if indeed you lose your voice, and no one is available in a pinch to preach in your place. The following is my list, sometimes with comments.

1) Skip the sermon. The liturgy can preach itself in a pinch, although the preached word is an integral part of the Divine Liturgy, and this isn't my favorite option.

2) Find a replacement. When I mentioned this option yesterday, there were more than a few panicked faces. Luckily, my friend Greg just happens to be stopping through on the way to his new teaching position, so I could ask him to pull a sermon from his back pocket. Nevertheless, unless your congregation is packed with lay ministers steeping in the tradition of ex temporere preaching, this one is a bit difficult last minute.

3) Writing something out and have somebody else read it. This would work if I actually wrote my sermons out.

4) Have somebody read a sermon by somebody else. This is a solid idea, one I learned from Richard Lischer, but have yet to use. Must create a file.

5) Dance or pantomime the sermon. This sounds like a good idea if you could convince people you hadn't gone crazy.

6) Play a pre-recorded sermon from a previous service. We do have audio archives of my sermons, but how eisegetical might this be?

7) Do a contemplative sermon, with brief comments interspersed with long pauses for the congregation to use for their own time of thought.

8) Ask the congregation for testimonials. Hmmmmmm...

9) Just fail to show up at church, and see what they do without you. "Sorry, I slept in..."

10) Have it be a time of mutual consolation of the saints, where the congregation sits and talks to each other and finds a word to speak to each person's situation.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Prayer for Christian Unity

We have begun the week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and I'm providing the above link for those interested in seeing what the pontifical council for promoting christian unity, together with the World Council of Churches, has provided, this time from my second home, Slovakia, for our use in worship and reflection throughout the week. I'll be preaching on baptism and the unity of the church.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Lutheran Theology and Homeownership

If you look back through the recent comments on this blog you'll note, curiously, that there are more comments on wallpaper than there are on prayer, and more comments regarding the blank space in our kitchen now filled with a refrigerator than there are posts on the doctrine of all things coming into being through the Word. This makes me wonder if I should blog more frequently on decorating and less on theology.

But actually I'm not surprised. Since we bought our home this past December, I've discovered a whole new world of casual conversation one can engage in that was opaque/hidden to me in the "Clint as renter" phase. All homeowners share similar trials and challenges, like wallpaper removal, painting, shoveling sidewalks, property taxes, none of which I dealt with as a renter. I now ably engage folks in lively conversation at our Aaslasen's hardware store and Premier Paints, whereas before I walked through those places confused and wishing I were in a bookstore.

One friend made passing reference to my owning a home while being a member of a pilgrim people. Another past commenter made a tenuous connection (he acknowledges this tenuousness) to homeownership as recapitulation of at least one aspect of the divine drama. So depending on the respondent, owning a home is either part of the narrative, or a deviation from it. Theology of land and property is never easy to parse.

I've stayed in Wittenberg for a few months, and know from walking past Luther's and Melanchthon's homes that the originators of Lutheranism were not overly concerned about homeownership. It was part of their responsibility in their vocations to own and care for places of residence. Of course, it's hard to imagine Luther most days paying attention to anything as practical as painting walls (although he did get ink on the wall at the Wartburg). That was more Katie's station and work. But I don't find anything in Luther that argues against ownership of property either.

Of course, Luther did have an understanding of stations in life and proper vocations that is different from our own, not to mention one that pre-dates any kind of liberation theologies that might question the ease with which those of us who do theology and pastor accept our ownership of homes, building up of pension plans, etc. I do theology and pastor in a safety net, you might say.

What I have observed about myself is this: that I find a way to justify and celebrate the state I'm in. When I was a renter, I never wanted to own a home, and was critical of the whole process and what it did to people. Now that I'm in a house, I love it, and I wonder why I ever rented.

Which is a good warning: watch out for the urge towards self-justification (like writing a blog where I justify why owning a home is ok and good and sound); remember to give thanks for the blessings we have been given; keep questioning; but enjoy the new conversations, and by all means, as often as possible, post photos of wallpaper and other goodies for the greater enjoyment of the blogging world.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

How to Pray

I recently wrote this brief letter to a friend seeking advice on prayer:

First, I'd just mention that the feelings you're having- wishing for optimism, feeling confused, seeking, all that stuff, is itself a form of prayer. In Romans Paul says that when we don't know how or what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for and in and through us with groans too deep for words. I know that's sometimes how I myself have been praying for you, and now also after hearing of the Tsunamis. I don't pray words. I groan. Sometimes I have no idea what to pray, but I trust my inarticulate yearnings are the Spirit in and through me.

As for prayers that console, I believe the most powerful thing to is to repeat prayers you know. I find myself repeating The Lord's Prayer, The Apostle's Creed, and the Rosary because they are prayers I have memorized. Sometimes I recommend that people simply repeat them over and over again. Other times, it is good to take them petition by petition and pray them slowly, reflecting on each verse.

Many of the psalms are also good. If you have a Bible, read Psalm 23, 34, 121, or 51. These are good psalms to pray when in distress.

I also have recently begun writing out my own prayers for personal use. Maybe you could sit down and write a prayer for this very situation, kind of like a poem, and then pray it regularly.

I think it's a good idea, if you are willing, to actually pray out loud. When I'm in hospital with people who are sick, I pray for them out loud, naming the things I've heard them talk about that are their prayer concerns. We conclude by praying the Lord's Prayer out loud together.

I'm setting myself the assignment of writing a prayer specifically for your situation. In the meantime, trust that the God who created heaven and earth, and called all things into being through the Word, his Son, is also the one who holds you and keeps you in all things, even in sickness, and holds all of us, through baptism and his Word, even through death. You are in battle against this thing, it is not what God wishes for you, and it is my prayer that you will be strengthened in faith to fight it in good faith. You didn't cause it. And Christ will see you through it.