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Proclaiming Grace in the Face of Sin

February 22, 2009

Back when I heard Zan Holmes speak, he responded to questions about Rev. Jeremiah Wright (because that controversy was in the news at the time) and Holmes stated, “I would really like to hear the rest of the sermon, not just those 30 seconds.  In the African-American preaching tradition, the sermon revolves around naming sin then proclaiming grace.”

Well I, for one, hope that’s not only in the African-American church tradition, but I can say that I’ve heard too many sermons that do one really well but forget the other.

In my last post, I named sin as I saw it.  I was harsh and angry.  And I won’t back down from it.  I believe that if the experiences of candidates in the ordination process is one of hazing, being bullied, or abused then somebody has missed the mark somewhere.

I feel sick to my stomach when I read Matthew Kelly’s comment to my previous post.  He writes,

“In my own conference, there was a slide during the day long orientation to the BOMEC application process that literally said “we are trying to remove notions of ‘grace’ and ‘hope’ from this process”

Okay kiddies.  Get out your hymnals and open to Amazing Grace.  Tear that page out, wad it up and throw it in the trash. Grace Greater Than Our Sin?  Same Deal.  My Hope is Built?  Burn it.  No hope.  No grace.

No gospel.

I can understand a degree of stringency about deadlines and faithfulness to the process – but to intentionally remove all notions of grace and hope? That’s about as un-Christian as you can get.  And worse, there was no indication in Matthew’s comment that anyone stood up to say that was wrong.

I understand that the Board’s primary responsibility is to the Annual Conference and to the churches served by the Conference.  But far too often it seems we forget about that last part.  I’ve heard lots of pastors complain that all entities within the Conference exist to serve the Conference.

I’m not asking anyone to hold my hand and baby me through the process.  I’ve told the board on more than one occasion that my personal growing edge weakness (let’s call a spade a spade) is in administration.  If the board’s primary purpose (actually, sole purpose according to someone very well known within the denomination) is to make pastors for our churches, then they would look at our individual strengths and weaknesses and require us to fill in those gaps.  For many young pastors, CPE is a great option and perhaps a necessity.  For others (like me), some administrative apprenticeships would better serve to make us effective pastors for the Annual Conference and the churches it serves.

I do not believe that the board is out to get me.  I do not believe that the people who serve on the board are evil or bad.  I do not believe that they conspire to make us fail.  But I do believe that they may have forgotten that young, energetic, effective leadership is exactly what the UMC needs right now.  The way the process is being handled now, it is serving to take young, effective, energetic pastors and turn us into bitter, jaded, cynical, angry pastors.  Something in the system is sick with sin.

But God’s grace is good.  God’s grace is redemptive.  Don’t remove grace from the process.  We are people, not checklists.

With sin, we’re in a heap of trouble.  Without Grace, we’re screwed.  If we shut grace out of the process, our proclamations of grace from the pulpit will ring hollow and serve only as clanging gongs or noisy cymbals.  Redemption is only possible through God’s grace.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. fillingtimeministry permalink
    February 24, 2009 11:01 am

    The God of Pulpit
    The Passover given to Israel was upgraded and given to all mankind becoming the communion of Christ with His church. His body becoming the unleavened bread and his blood which covers all those who will simply receive his gift which is the new covenant (covering). Exodus 12, Mark 14
    God’s covering is designed to prepare his people for action. The action defined and lived out in daily life is God’s love flowing from lives that listen and look for ways to participate in the divine nature (love). It’s a walk of faith for imperfect people whose hearts are changed and have desire to live their new life from the inside out. Romans: 12 1-2 they having received His covering now submit their lives to the author of life and love. In other words they seek to care about the things that matter most. This is their spiritual worship to care the way Jesus cares and to follow His example and daily leading. They want to care thus having all the dullness of superficial life removed to enjoy true fellowship, love, hope, and great joy. The food and drink provided in the new upgraded covenant is available daily to any who would desire to come and partake.
    So why this blog is is called the “God of Pulpit”? Because preaching like any ministry should be the result of ministers living life from the inside out. It’s the word of god mixed with the life of the preacher.
    If we think sermons will change the world without all of this we deceive ourselves. Pulpits should be a place to let real inner life surface in humility, love, and JOY. Its part of the threads of life God is weaving into our lives and an opportunity to get what is on the inside out to people who need to eat to grow strong and healthy. When people hear and see the message (the preacher) they should line up.
    God of pulpit is a name I gave ego eccentrics who truly think their mission is life is to share their golden tongue. They think that somehow having their hearts set upon the Christ doesn’t matter as much as using their gift of monologue. God of pulpit is another form of worldly lust that seeks to exalt itself over its maker. The fallen golden tongues are all around us but thankfully many have seen the error of their ways and have chosen to take back the joy of their salvation and love people. Many preach again but what a difference in the message!
    So preachers before you approach that pulpit remember to care about what the people need to see in your life more than in your words. Follow love under the covering of the Savior and give the people real meat.

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