Reflection - March 8, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 3/8/2017
Dear Friends,
Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I pray this reflection finds you secure in God’s grace and attuned to the initial cadence of this Lenten season.  I greatly enjoyed worshipping in Andalusia, Spanish Fort, and Monroeville during this first week of the journey.  Even so, I must confess that without the responsibility of regular worship planning this year I have had to find other ways to get myself “in step.”  This oddity has given me a greater appreciation for the experience of our laity; many of whom are looking to march, but desiring direction.  Like many I now sit with in the pews, I find that I too am hungry to have my life disrupted by a fresh Word from God.
As prevenient grace would have it, I have recently stumbled upon two sources of nourishment worth sharing.   One is Walter Brueggemann’s latest offering A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent.  I know many of you share my affection for Brueggemann and perhaps have utilized his prophetic voice in your own spiritual navigation.  This recent work does not disappoint, with plenty of seeds (and needles!) deserving our contemplation. 
Lent, he says, is a question, a gift, and a summons.  The questions of Lent, according to Bruggemann, are
            What are we doing?
            Are we working for that which does not satisfy?
            Are we spending for that which is not bread?
These three questions alone are more than enough to potentially overhaul our sense of mission, our stewardship, our budgeting, and our programming within the local church—not to mention our preaching!
A second resource is Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre.  In this series of essays McEntyre reflects on what it might mean, as she says, to be good stewards of language—“what it might mean to retrieve words from the kinds of misuse, abuse, and distortion to which they’ve been subjected of late, and to reinvigorate them for use as bearers of truth and as instruments of love.”  Contending that our use of language is a moral issue, the author offers several “stewardship strategies” applicable to the journey of Lent in our current political and denominational context (I found the essay “Don’t Tolerate Lies” and “Stay in Conversation” to be especially timely). 
Another such strategy is the importance of regularly engaging good literature.  “We will be addressed and changed, if we read well” she says.  As an English teacher, there are three questions McEntyre would ask her students when they begin reading a new novel:
            What does this work invite you to do?
            What does it require of you?
            What does it not let you do?
Now imagine if these same questions were applied to our reading of scripture.  Or imagine what such questions could mean in our preparing, delivering, and receiving of a well-crafted sermon.  Imagine the direction to be revealed, the fruit of such repentance, and the unburdened pep it could put in our steps!
Would it not transform us all in some meaningful way, and thereby move us that much closer toward the transformation of the world? 
I believe it can.  So what words will you choose to hear and to use this week in service to the Word?
Grace to you,