Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Conversation with the Doctor

There was not much eye contact in today's conversation.  I was stretched out on a table looking at the ceiling while the dermatologist focused her eyes on my arm as she took out a chunk of meat from a spot that had proven not to be benign.  When she found out I retired from the ranks of the clergy a few years ago, she told me some of her story.  She went to college and majored in religion planning a stop at seminary before becoming a theology teacher.  Instead, she landed in the social work field a few years before going to medical school.  One of the questions she asked was, "What is your favorite book in the Bible?"   Having never been asked the question, I had to think a minute before answering, "The gospels, but particularly Luke and John because they told such great stories."
After the stitches were finished and I was on the way home, I thought about the conversation with the doctor and the answer offered for that particular question.  It occurred to me that there were many ways to write about Jesus.  Someone could have recorded His sermons and teachings.  Or, someone could have written a chronological biography of his life.  Instead, the medium used was story telling.  The Holy Author of the Word chose to tell a story which included not only sermon and teaching moments, but countless encounters with people who turned out to be not so different than those of who would read the story long after it was fleshed out on earth.  And while some fiction carries with it a measure of truth, this story is not fiction but truth.  There is no other way to read it.
A good story keeps us glued to the page while telling us something important about the character who walks midst the print and often times even more about the one who is reading it.  Such is surely true about the gospel story as well as the Biblical one which begins in the pages of Genesis.  The Holy Word is the story of how God is with His people.  It is the story of His people responding to Him.  First and foremost it is God's story.  He is the central character.  But, it is also our story for we find ourselves present in so many of its pages. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two Tables

When I arrived at the IHOP for breakfast, I immediately became aware of the two tables.  One table had about twenty men and women seated up and down the six or eight tables pulled together.  The other was no more than three tables long and around it were seated somewhere between six or eight men.  The big table was loud.  Not hearing was impossible as they stood and testified to success in selling.  The end of each testimony was followed by a round of applause and just before they broke up to leave, the leader said, "Go and sell something!"  The second table was much quieter, making eavesdropping something akin to a real effort.  Someone read a devotional, some people in trouble were named, and then the leader said, "Let's pray." 

Before my eggs and grits were gone, both groups broke up.  The big table people left going separate ways with the appearance of being alone.  Strange it seemed when there was such camaraderie around the table.  The small table people left with some reluctance, stayed around talking to one another, and even in their leaving seemed connected.   I confess to having sat at both tables.  The church has sometimes invited me and others to the big table so that we could hear from others how to build the church.  And even less do I want to confess that I have sometimes invited folks whose souls were entrusted to me to gather so that some sales pitch for a church program could be pitched. 

Time and energy would have been better invested at the small table where the spiritual work of the kingdom gets done.  There are no rounds of applause offered at the small table.  In fact, hardly no one notices its presence or those gathered around it.  Sometimes church work and soul work can be the same thing, but not most of the time.  The big table work may make the church bigger, but the small table work gives it a stronger soul.  I wish I had spent more time at the small table.