Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Charles Siburt could see better than most of us...

I remember the first time I met the great Dr. Siburt.  The congregation I was with at the time was in a deeply conflicted situation, and we called in the "church Doctor" to help. We were already working with one of Charles's former students who specializes in conflict resolution.  Charles flew into our little regional-airport from Texas, and I was to pick him up at the airport.  

While I waited near the terminal, I was reading "Friedman's Fables."  In those days I was reading everything I could get my hands on by Ed Friedman and his disciples.  Charles asked me what I was reading as we greeted each other, and when I told him, he smiled broadly, raised his eyebrows, nodding his head in affirmation and said, "Ah, Friedman; the Keys to the Kingdom."  I remember how his rich baritone voice put me at ease and the immediate embrace he offered drew me to him instantly.  I felt an instant bond.   

Charles worked with us late into the night all weekend, and of course there were many eye-opening encounters.  He shared oodles of handouts (which I still have), sage advice, and not a little humor along the way.  His time with us was special.  He kindly stayed in contact with me via phone and email afterwards.

What I liked most about Charles was his ability to read a situation and then candidly communicate his thoughts.  I'd like to say that every encounter with Charles was uplifting and all rosy.  It wasn't.  Sure we laughed together, and hugged too.  But.  He has seen me in tough times, too.  I'm thankful for his ability to speak the truth in love though.  I remember him taking me by the shoulders, looking me in the eye (he stepped in to better see me) and shooting straight with me. 

Charles wasn't one to have the wool pulled over his eyes.  I clearly remember him seated in a chair and with a nod of his, his head would drop lower and lower it seemed to me, he'd look up, smile rather sheepishly, and say what he thought.  Usually what he had to say was needed, but not always wanted.  He could call out everyone's immaturity, mine included, in a way you had to appreciate and accept.  

Last year, Tammy and I had the intense blessing of being with Charles and Judy at the retreat they hosted in Texas, through the Ministers Support Network.  What a weekend that was!  What a rich blessing.  What a time of renewal.  We were with several other ministry-couples, all of us hurting in one way or another.  Charles, Judy, and a few other couples that partnered with the Siburts, loved on us, and gave us hope.  I remember crying that month, last spring, upon hearing the news of Charles's battle with cancer; it didn't seem fair.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of preachers like me, who know Charles for the same reasons I do.  We were knee-deep in church conflict, and Charles had the tools and skills to help us navigate some very stormy waters.  Hearing of his death, in a way challenges me to remember the lessons he passed on to us.  His passing I know is a huge loss for his loved ones, Judy, their children and the extended family.  We all feel a loss today, one that we'll share for a long time.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9 ESV)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

IS there any power in words or the Word:

I'm working on tomorrow's sermon, and often is the case as I'm crafting a sermon, I get ideas to blog about.  I hear the soundtrack to "The Last of the Mohicans" rolling in the back of my mind and suddenly I'm pumped for action! But then, I realize I'm on track to finish my sermon.... So, sometimes I just suppress the ideas, hoping to find a more opportune time to develop them later.  That means I usually let the idea slip away into oblivion never to be remembered.  Well, that might be an exaggeration.  But I do lose a lot of ideas that way though.  Today's idea wouldn't go away so easily, so here goes!

As I'm working on tomorrow's sermon, it hits me hard sitting here: The reading of Scripture, just to be read and soaked up in an Assembly, does it make a difference?   Personally, I try to use only passages that pertain to the sermon, I never use Scripture just as "filler" material in a sermon.  I have to edit out a lot of what I could insert.  There are more passages that tie in than one might think, for any given sermon.  Sometimes I think how enjoyable it would be to just read the passage and let the passage speak for itself.  But, would lives be changed?

My burning question today is, do words really matter, esp the Words of Scripture?

  • We stand before God and our community when we get married.  Weddings are an exchange of what?  Vows.  Vows are what; words.  These words are supposed to count.  They are a commitment of what we will and won't do.  Words of accountability and support.  

  • Think of the inspiration that comes from great historical speeches.  The Gettysburg address.  MLK's "I have a dream."  The men who first landed on the moon, "One small step for man...."  I'm no sports fan, but I'm sure there are halftime, locker-room speeches from the ages that are moving and powerful too.  Words of motivation & inspiration.

  • It's an election year, and I'd say it's fair to claim most candidates are elected largely by their oration skills.  Their track record, their plans and the promises they make are part of the package.  Still.  I think how well they debate and communicate play the largest roll in how we respond at the polls.  Words that harness power, shaping our culture & our times... 

So, I know words carry weight.  What about "just" reading the Bible, together...?

Today I had lunch with two close friends.  We talked about, among other things, the reading and the memorizing of Scripture, as a church.  Maybe, now that I think about it, maybe that's why this idea is floating around in my head?  Back to lunch:  We talked about the need to read more Scripture in our assemblies, and in our small group settings.  The idea of learning to read Scripture was brought up too; like the importance of being heard clearly and articulating well as we read out loud.  

I wonder how well we respond to the power of Scripture in our spiritual formation?  Is there power in the Word, in just reading it and hearing read to transform us?  I'm not just asking are we comforted by the 23rd Psalm in times of sorrow, are we inspired to reach the world for Christ in the reading of Matt 28:18-20, or do we feel more Christ like in the reading of Phil 2:1-11...  I'm asking: Will God's people really experience a metamorphic shift by spending more time simply hearing the Words of Scripture, together?

Time will tell.