Date: 20 Sep 2002
Time: 09:38:07

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Real life illustration: May be better as an illustration of "the good samaritan," but works pretty well here. Our neighboring church recently hired a new pastor who seems to want to take the community by storm. No problem with that, except that he's "scooped" us with our own ideas several times - including using a modified version of our own "slogan" (but we're smarter now) and in a way I consider tacky - red white and blue helium balloons advertising the "community" 9/11 service that our church had started. Anyways, they've got a fancy calling machine that's telemarketing their church in the community (have to admit I'm a little jealous of their much larger labor pool and of their financial resources). I met the pastor and he praised God and testified and seemed really eager to serve the Lord.

A homeless man greeted me on my way in to the office yesterday. I was late, about 10:00 AM, and the man told me he'd stopped by that church but that the pastor was too busy to help him. I gave him my breakfast (a rice crispy bar and diet coke) and found some resources for shelters. The man was obviously a little bit mentally ill, and ended up not calling the resources. He asked for a blanket and it seems that's all he wanted.

My question: while I'm sliding into judgmentalism and jealousy of this other church, I wonder which of us is doing God's work? The other church is able to reach out actively while our church is still trying to get the basics of discipleship down. The other church is growing and has programs and praise music. Our church, if it's not "How Great Thou Art," folks barely sing! Our church is declining.

But ... a human soul in need comes to your doorstep, and you're too busy?

Tell me, which of us is doing Christ's work? It seems we both are and we both arent', in different ways.

rather stay anonymous


Date: 20 Sep 2002
Time: 09:41:05

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Oops! That was supposed to go on the Gospel page! Never mind!


Date: 22 Sep 2002
Time: 18:43:06

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I have been touched by the previous writters candid comments. Indeed God is at work when we help the poor and oppressed


Date: 23 Sep 2002
Time: 02:32:02

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Dear "How Great Thou Art",

I think we need both types of churches, the bold and the helium balloon filled, and those who continue on with the the regular and test committments of serving the poor.

Do you have a clergy group in your town? One that perhaps meets weekly, and meets in an honest fashion.

We clergy are great at preaching but face the difficult task of living out the kenotic example even in the most difficult of contexts - alongside our fellow clergy.

Someone rightly told me, "you clergy are most always a group of prima donas" Pride filled, dancing on our own stage. We must let that go.

Hope that helps.

Fr Jacob Fles Gardiner, Maine


Date: 23 Sep 2002
Time: 09:28:18

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Dear "rather stay anonymous" -

BEWARE OF APROACHING "RANT" FOLLOWING COMPLIMENT...

Actually, your story fit quite well with the passage from Philippians. It's all about kenosis, and perhaps that's what you were doing when you gave the man your rice krispy bar and soda. (Shame on you for indulging in empty calories for breakfast! ;)

I had an experience this weekend that makes me wonder. The contrast is similar to yours, but the circumstances are very different.

I'm a Catholic priest in a large suburban parish, new in town, just three months.

I was invited to bless the home of a young family, whose parents were also in town for the weekend. Neat little Catholic ritual to do. Well, the home was beyond large and lavish, by my standards. They just kept showing me more rooms, the sun room, the pool, the beautiful view - all that money could buy. They even have a prayer room. It has pictures of the Pope, Mother Teresa, Jesus (nice they included him), Mary (of course, we're Catholic, after all...). I joked with them that I could get them a large picture of myself to frame and hang up next to the Pope. But what I really thought was this: Where is the room for homeless to stay in? What chance does this home, this family, have of offering hospitality to the poor? Will they ever venture out of this compound to visit the other side of the tracks (and we do have poverty in our community!)?

Of course, I don't hold others in the parish, or myself, to that standard, especially about literally housing the homeless, so I don't know how far those thoughts go or how valid they are. And, these are the nicest people. Very friendly, warm, gracious. And for all I know, they may be giving away lots of money and even working in a soup kitchen somewhere. But they talked about Catholic/Christian "values" as the reason they put their children in our parochial school and why church is so important to them (they just moved here from another state). I wanted to say, "What values does this mansion express?"

I'm not sure, as I finish up this diatribe, what any of this has to do with kenosis. Maybe I'm the one being asked to empty myself - of prejudments and stereotypes about the wealthy.

I think I just wanted to vent. If that was selfish, please forgive me. If the story is helpful or makes anyone think, no need to thank me! If you have a resonse to my ramblings, I'd be glad to hear them.

Metz


Date: 23 Sep 2002
Time: 09:53:34

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Update on the homeless man:

He finally found a blanket and started taking up residence in our breezeway. I have no way to help him, and I have cleaned up human excrement and the wipes a few too many times. We're not even a church in the city. Anyways, the guy never called the homelss task force number I gave him and told me he wasn't interested. I told him I couldn't make him accept my referrals, but that the church breezeway wasn't an appropriate home. It was choir rehearsal night and on our way out, I told him if he needed a roof it was OK for the night but that he'd have to find some other shelter. The next day he was gone, then came back again. I called the police hoping they could get him more appropriate housing.

... that is, i THINK I called the police hoping they could get him into more appropriate housing. In all honesty, however, I did fear a little bit for my safety (I'm the only one in the office, and teh phone is FAR AWAY from the breezeway should he become violent and our nearest neighbor is several acres away). I also don't want to clean up any more human excrement. I also (and this pierces my heart) worried what some of the less compassionate members would say.

To what limit, kenosis? And thanks for the insight on this pericope; I think you're right and might even change my mind on what to preach Sun. I've come equipped with a granola bar and juice box since then (at least it's not a rice crispy treat) but haven't seen him to give it to him. He wasn't specifically hurting anything (unless he's the one who leaves the piles and that just grosses me out), but ought there be a limit on our hospitality? What is hospitality? Is a church public property, like a park bench?

I'm not exactly beating myself up over it, but it has raised some real-life ethical, how-do-we-live-out-the-Gospel issues! And limit-setting issues. oops, gotta run. Hope this all makes sense. Thanks for listening to me ramble

anonymous


Date: 23 Sep 2002
Time: 09:55:32

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I'm one of those local pastors who from time to time has to meet with his superiors and give a prepared statement of what I intend to do in the coming year, generally. This year I said that rather than focus on growth of the church in mere numbers of warm bodies I was going to focus on doing the work of helping our members deepen and strengthen their faith - the idea being that if 100% of our small congregation were living fully as Christ intended, the numbers would take care of themselves. And I think this is what the Philippians passage is talking about. If we are leading the lives we are meant to, Christ will use us in ways unimaginable to us! -JustMike


Date: 23 Sep 2002
Time: 12:33:57

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Metz - I'm right there with you on the mansion thing. A. I can't justify the size and cost of these homes (tell me why a single man needs a 2.5 million $ home...I know of one) B. What on earth are people being paid that they can afford them? Here's my thought: Is that prayer room used? Because if it is, they ought to leave that room and be driven right out into the streets to serve....and just for the record, I'm not jealous; I could not in good conscience live in something like that. Met a family on a college choir tour once. Think they had some $ - she was handicapped and needed an elevator in their home. They had some luxuries, but took us in and for 2 days treated us like royalty. Most gracious, humble, hospitable people I've met - obviously, because that was 22 years ago, and I haven't forgotten. Money may not be the key - attitude, service may be..."put on the mind of Christ"...for what it's worth...REVJAW


Date: 23 Sep 2002
Time: 16:46:16

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Laughing Out Loud--- I love the image of the clergy being dancing prima donna's! It made my laugh for the day. I have at least 4 left feet and a sense of rhymn that is missing. I try often to keep my feet under me and off pedestals. God made laughter to lighten the load. Nancy-Wi


Date: 24 Sep 2002
Time: 09:23:55

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I have always been intrigued by those lines, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God's good pleasure." What it suggests is that God and I work together on my salvation, which suggests to me some sort of middle way between salvation by grace and works righteousness ... like some have said, works and faith are the two different sides of the salvation coin. [Maybe the Pauline epistles and the Epistle of James are not so different after all?] And my salvation serves the purposes of God: God intends to work through me. Sometimes I think we Christians have forgotten that we are expected to WORK, that salvation is hard work causing fear and trembling as well as sweat ... that I work as much on MY salvation as on the salvation of others ... these are just my initial musings. Thinking of linking this passage with the story of the two sons from the gospel --the one who pleased his father was the one that actually did what he was told to do, not the one who just talked about doing it. RevRake in MI


Date: 24 Sep 2002
Time: 13:03:31

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Does anyone have any ideas about tying this passage in Philippians to the Gospel for this week? REVJAW


Date: 24 Sep 2002
Time: 14:31:40

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I think the key in this passage is for us to wrestle with the question:

How empty is empty

Pr.del in Ia


Date: 24 Sep 2002
Time: 19:59:43

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REVJAW:

To their credit, this family talked about making space available to people who come from another country needing...something. I think that they were referring to our sister parish in Haiti. Every once in awhile, we pay for the airfare of someone who comes to the states for medical treatment. They were talking about hosting that person/persons for the time they were here. (I *think* - we're both new to the parish and I for one seldom know what I'm talking about!) Other than the culture shock of the poor Haitian, coming here, living in a palace, then going back to dirt floors and starvation, it was a fine gesture, and a sincere one. Part of my journey this week is seeing this family a part of the Body, not as an enemy! And this willingness/desire to take someone in may just be a seed planted in good ground.

Ah, well.

Metz


Date: 25 Sep 2002
Time: 09:00:43

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REVJAW,

Two thoughts on tying the Gospel to the Epistle. First, the Gospel is talking about the first son actually doing the will of the Father, not just giving it lip service. And what is the will of our Heavenly Father? That's where the lead-in to the Epistle is.

Second, the first part of the Gospel is the question of authority. It can also be read as "In whose name are you doing these things?" A name is a very powerful thing. That is why the LORD gave his name as "I Am." The name gives authority and power. So, the Epistle ties in with the "at the name of Jesus" verse of the Kenosis Hymn.

Hope that springs some ideas.

-- Tim


Date: 26 Sep 2002
Time: 06:18:06

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The opening words of this passage call for unity, something that seems to be sorely in both particular congregations and the body of Christ as a whole. Maybe the discussion on working out your salvation in fear and trembling has both corporate and individual implications with regards to just who is responsible for the "work." I am held accountable by my brothers and sisters for my work just as surely we are all accountable to God. TN Mack


Date: 26 Sep 2002
Time: 09:22:04

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I'm not much on modern paraphrases and such--I'm kind of an NRSV man myself--but Eugene Peterson has given us a gift in the way he renders this text. Here's how it starts: "If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care--then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

That's wonderful! Would it be heretical of me to read the text on Sunday from this paraphrase (I always grumble at my lay readers who stand up there with the Living Bible!). Now here I am in a quandary.

Ecclesialman in NC


Date: 27 Sep 2002
Time: 22:19:19

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Ecessialman in NC, I too am using Peterson's The Message for this passage. Usually we invite everyone to read from their Good News pew Bibles (which of course is also a paraphrase). But, I feel Peterson is so on target here that it will give a new, fresh perspective on "the mind of Christ".


Date: 27 Sep 2002
Time: 22:19:40

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Ecessialman in NC, I too am using Peterson's The Message for this passage. Usually we invite everyone to read from their Good News pew Bibles (which of course is also a paraphrase). But, I feel Peterson is so on target here that it will give a new, fresh perspective on "the mind of Christ". BR in LA


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 08:54:37

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Hi all.

A quick correction re: the Good News Bible.

As I understand it, the Good News version is NOT a paraphrase, but was originally done as an actual translation for those for whom English is a second language. It uses a somewhat smaller vocabulary in order to make the text "understandable."

And interesting aside to this is to think about how popular this version has become in Sunday Schools in which English is the PRIMARY language! But that's for another day...

Rick in Canada, eh?


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 09:26:41

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I know it's late but I couldn't pass up making a comment on Peterson's paraphrase of this scripture. It seems to me the first reading of the scripture before the sermon is clearly eisegesis. (don't know if I spelled that right) When we do eisegesis we are looking for what is in the scripture to inform our faith. I think it is most important to use a good translation at this point. By the way, the Good News Bible is an American Bible Society translation not a paraphrase, but perhaps their latest modern language translation, the Contemporary Bible, would be more helpful for your congregation. When we preach on the scripture we are doing both eisegesis--seeing what is within the scripture to inform our faith--and exegesis. As well as expounding on the scripture, exegesis involves bringing the meaning of the scripture into today's light and making it relevant for our times. It seems to me Peterson's paraphrase is an excellent piece to use within your sermon to bring it to life in the 21st century. Thanks for sharing it! I plan to use it in my sermon.

Peace, Diana at the Lakes


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 11:12:58

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Tim - Thanks for your comments to tie the two together, they were helpful. REVJAW


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 11:15:38

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Thanks for cluing me in to Peterson's paraphrase. I don't know that the Good News Bible is actually a paraphrase, though. I always considered it a modern translation, though maybe not the most scholarly. The Living Bible is a paraphrase. Am I wrong on this? chaplain in NJ


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 13:25:43

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Hello, The Living Bible is a paraphrase done (or edited) by Kenneth Taylor. My folks joke that it is the Bible Paul and Silas used. Sue in Cuba, KS


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 13:26:06

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Hello, The Living Bible is a paraphrase done (or edited) by Kenneth Taylor. My folks joke that it is the Bible Paul and Silas used. Sue in Cuba, KS


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 17:01:59

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Dear Anonymous: You have an interesting situation. Obviously you care about this homeless man, and I laud your willingness to help. As a mental health chaplain, I have a couple practical suggestions. You might ask him who his social worker is, he might mention a clinic's name which you could then call. Otherwise, it's perfectly okay to call the police or preferably a county agency such as County Mental Health Services (blue pages)or even Adult Protective Services. This man perhaps needs to be stabilized and placed into supervised housing. Depending on the community's resources, you have several options. He may even be known to the mental health agency in your area. On another note, it's fascinating that one of Dorothea Lynde Dix's favorite Scriptures was "Work out your salvation..." She was a tireless advocate for people with mental illness, and made a needlepoint tapestry with this verse which is displayed on the 2nd floor of the hospital where I work. Interesting connection. mhc in pa


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 19:38:47

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The Living Bible is the Bible I read through as a pre-teen. But as an adult I have to admit that I struggle to take seriously a Bible that calls Barnabas "Barney the Preacher."

I actually think the line between a paraphrase and a friendly translation can blur (as indicated by the distinction between the Good News and the Living Bible). Even the KJV translates certain words and phrases into idioms of its day, rather than Jesus' day. So when we're honest, they all have a bit of paraphrasing. Of course, Peterson's Message takes it farther -- I'd never rely on it to tell me what the Bible SAYS, but sometimes it really lays out what it MEANS.

MDWELPIS in Washington State


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 20:38:36

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REVJAW:

I know it's much too late for this to be helpful, but I am treating the epistle and the gospel as the complements of each other. Christ emptying himself out to become human is the act of "saying yes" to humanity while the parable of the two sons is the account of one person who "said yes" to God with their words and another who "said yes" to God with their actions. I'm drawing upon von Balthasar for my ideas on Christ emptying himself -- recognizing the truly incredible act that God becoming human actually is. I mean, the Trinity must have considered *every* other possibility to redeem humanity before Christ finally decided to empty himself to become human himself in a broken and fallen Creation that was so very different from the way it had been created to be. What a profound act of saying yes to humanity. And for us to have the opportunity to respond by saying yes to God -- what a gift.

Anyway, maybe three years from now someone will read the "previous discussion" and this might be helpful. :> BKW in IL


Date: 28 Sep 2002
Time: 20:41:11

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Oh, and because we are just now starting our confirmation classes for the year, I will be tying the "saying yes" theme to our seventh and eighth grade confirmands. Connecting God's saying yes to us through Jesus emptying himself and dwelling among us with the opportunity confirmands have to say yes to God (with their words like the first son as well as their actions like the second son) as a response. *BKW in IL


Date: 29 Sep 2002
Time: 02:26:02

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Dear Metz,

Please send me an email or give me you e-mail address, I want to know you better.

JJin LA www.jerryj4089@bellsouth.net