Changing in the Spirit

This past Sunday had several things which I’ve been reflecting on, some that directly pertain to the discussion going on in the comments of my last post.

I adapted this message from one I gave in chapel at George Fox in September (completely separate from Quaker Heritage week). Heavily adapted; by second and third service, all that was left was the main theme and the story about a woman we saw in India. The intro was different, the biblical texts were different…in listening to what God had for this group at this time, it needed to adapt.

One of the changes came after first service. In chapel, I had used a clip from the movie Talladega Nights, because it was a perfect illustration of the point I was trying to make; sometimes we try to deny our pain and bottle it up instead of letting Jesus heal it. But the scene took place in a bar, and seeing it in our meetinghouse during first service, I wondered if the distraction of alcohol to some in our congregation would outweigh the potential gain of making the point. After talking with a dozen people or so, I decided it would be too great of a distraction, and pulled it out. You’ll read it in my manuscript, but second and third service didn’t get it.

I can’t stand speakers who use a joke at the beginning “just because”. Humor and media and video ought always to be chosen to underscore a specific content choice, and it should always be appropriate for the particular group in question. So, it was in at George Fox, out at NFC (along with extensive use of the word “crap” and a story about me in the fourth grade falling into some dog crap). Robin, I hope this addresses some of your comments about cultures and communication and some things being “off limits”. I do work hard to have silence and listening and community shape my choices.

All that said, I recognize that this message is one of my “heart themes”. I am more passionate about communicating the loving, healing, transforming nature of God than anything else. Third service in particular, I left my notes quite a bit, and when I remembered and spoke about the passage in Zephaniah where God rejoices over us in song, like a mother singing tenderly to her child, I was moved myself. God’s Spirit moves in unpredictable ways when I speak, and I think the best sign that I’m being responsive to God’s Spirit is that I never have it programmed or figured out.

It ended up being the most talked about, e-mailed about, and blogged about Sunday morning in quite some time, and I’ve been grateful for the conversations.


One thought on “Changing in the Spirit

  1. I hope you understood that I didn’t mean to imply that you were using technology inappropriately. Even if you have, I wouldn’t know. It was more that I felt I ought to qualify what I had said in the first comment, so your readers would know that I knew the difference.

    I want to affirm that when you write on this heart theme, “the loving, healing, transforming nature of God,” it speaks to my condition. That is one measure of where you move from good to great.

    The Gospel may be broad, and as a whole, the Church may be called to do it all, but none of us is asked to do it all. Thomas Kelly wrote, “But if we center down, as the old phrase goes, and live in that holy Silence that is dearer than life, and take our life program into the silent places of the heart, with complete openness, ready to do, ready to renounce according to His Leading, then many of the things we are doing lose their vitality for us. … in our love of people are we to be excitedly hurried, sweeping all individuals and tasks into our loving concern? No, that is God’s function. But He, working within us, portions out His vast concern into bundles and lays on each of us our portion. These become our tasks.” (From “The Simplification of Life” in A Testament of Devotion)

    (Every so often, someone asks me about the legitimacy of Quaker pastors as preachers, as if I were any kind of expert. I tend to tell them about you and NFC. About how you don’t “bring the message” every week, about how men AND women preach in your church, about how you are willing to change what you are saying as led by the Holy Spirit, yes, even between the second and the third service, or right in the middle if necessary. They are always surprised and encouraged to hear it.

    We don’t know much about those “other” branches of Friends, and the rumors we hear are not good. I thank God for your blog providing a window in the walls between us.)


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