Monday, February 09, 2009

More and More of Me

Today's Link
An Aerial Armadillo

Saying for the Day
When one has one's hand full of truth it is not always wise to open it. ~French Proverb

Picture of the Day

Monday and the day in which I share stories and facts about me.
Last Thursday in response to my blog on free speech Alaistair said this:
“My preferred option is speaking the truth in love.…”
As often happens with old men that comment sparked a long buried memory which I am going to share with you today.
I had been in the ministry two years and was serving three churches. One of my parishioners asked me to go with her to the funeral of her brother. He was being buried from a church that believed that only their members could be saved and that in order to be saved you had to confess all your sins before the entire congregation. She was afraid to go to the funeral alone. So I went with her.
The preacher gave two thirty minute funeral sermons, one in English and one in Finnish . I don’t remember all of what he said but two things stand out. He pointed at me and shouted “ Even dat preacher must repent”. He pointed at my parishioner and said she would never see her brother again because he was going to heaven and she wasn’t. But there was still time for her to repent. Somehow she held it together but you could see how it hurt her.
After the service I took the preacher aside and told him that I didn’t care what he said about me but he had really hurt the sister and she was already grieving. He looked me right in the eye and said “ I spoke the truth in love.” and he believed it.
His truth had no room for grace or mercy. His truth was absolute. Without confession before the congregation there could be no absolution and no salvation. Most frightening of all the Church he served had Lutheran in the title. In a sense he was a relative. The kind you don’t want anybody to know you have.
What that experience did to me was to make me more open to other Christian denominations. I was less sure that we alone had the truth. In fact I was sure that God’s truth was far greater than ours.
The other thing it did is that whenever I do something I know I shouldn’t I hear him saying “ Even dat preacher must repent”.
Now that is a word of truth however spoken.

News from Pigeon Falls
The little town in my basement where the trains still run, dragons fly, and life is back to normal.
This morning Oops, Pastor Joan, and Herman were gathered in the kitchen of the parsonage . Suddenly Herman and Pastor Joan could hear Oops talking. But it wasn’t really talking she was projecting the words right into their heads.
She said she was sorry. She had come to this dimension to hide from the demon since it wanted to destroy her. She did not intend to fight it here because it was, in truth, more powerful than her. She was just going to hide for a little while. But then she met Herman. Herman had power of his own coming from his faith in the One Creator. She thought his power and hers together might be able to destroy the demon. But when the battle started she knew she had made a mistake. She saw the damage done to the town. She wasn’t sure they could win. Once the battle started she knew the outcome would be very close and for a moment it looked like they might lose. Then the other power came. Somewhere in this world is somebody with a huge amount of power and he or she saved us.
Monday night she used her power to put the town back the way it was before the fight. She owed them that.
But now her time here was over.
She would wipe from their memories all recollection of her. All papers, documents, pictures, would vanish. It will be as if she was never here.
Pastor Joan she was leaving with a thank you gift.
Herman alone would remember her and she gave him a word to use if he ever needed her power.
All he had to do was say Mazahs and she would empower him.
Having communicated this to them she vanished and Pastor Joan found herself having coffee with Herman who was asking another question about the book of Daniel.
But Herman, alone, remembered Oops.

Wrap UP
It was a dreary looking day.The temperature just made it up to freezing. I did some work on the Church website. I keep learning things. Then I posted the ELCA bible study on the website. Betty always has me make six copies for the Tuesday Bible study but on the third copy we ran out of black ink. Super Wal Mart didn't have either of the two cartridges we needed so we wnt to office Max in the Mall . Then I finished printing the study for Betty. Now I need a breathing treatment.'


Blogger jinksy said...

Truth has as many viewpoints as the number of eyes looking at it.

4:15 AM  
Blogger Gypsy at heart said...

Thought provoking...I have know some preachers like that....

4:20 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

It was so kind of you to go with this woman to her brother's funeral. It makes me wonder where the rest of her family was or why she was not with family, but that is another story and not relevant.

She obviously trusted you and felt comfort and strength in you - and that is certainly a good sign.

The minister who admonished you and the woman was clearly out of place. I will say this for the Catholic church (and maybe this will balance a bit of my rant from yesterday...!). The priests I was around from childhood until the time I sort of shut off were always strong about saying the Catholics did not have any monopoly on salvation. I certainly did and do agree with that!

One priest who I liked and respected a lot always said if you are a member of the Catholic church and you feel it is right, then you need to stay with it. But if you do not feel being a Catholic is right or something you can believe in, you must leave and find a faith that is good for you.

He was quick to point out how there are many roads up the mountain and how he had so much respect for the Jewish faith, other Christian denominations, and so on.

That priest would tell us that we are in no position to judge others or tell others what is best for them - only they can make that decision. He said just be the beset person you can and if you want to be a Catholic do your best to follow the teachings and spirit of the faith.

The minister who presided over that man's funeral, in my opinion, was not doing a service to his people or his brother's sister (and he is probably lucky you did not smack him! heh!!!) as I have a feeling you were not a stranger to, uh, sticking up for your rights over the years. But I know that given the situation you made a choice to verbally chastise the man for his insensitive remarks to the poor woman and not go beyond that. And that was good of you.

Take care. Again, I certainly enjoyed this very well written post.

5:54 AM  
Blogger PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

As you undoubtedly know, there are lots of "Lutherans of another stripe" on blogs. I didn't realize the differences in outlook between groups until I started blogging. I've made the mistake of giving my opinion more than a few times. Yikes. First of all, my opinion doesn't count, because I'm a woman. And secondly, there is the Right Way or the Highway. I've mentioned some of my volunteering in my church and been told, "That would never happen in MY church." exact quote. And when I've questioned the judgementalism shown in the blogs, and asked, how is this in line with Jesus' teachings, I've been quoted a verse about how it is the duty of the believer to point our errors. Things have been said to me that are really hurtful. My pastor told me to get off those blogs.

I agree with you about the realization that other people of faith and biblical scholarship can come to different conclusions about the same verses. Thank God we aren't saved by our Biblical scholarship, but by what Christ has done.

There was a lot on the radio this weekend about Lincoln. Someone said that he was the greatest theologian of his era. But he didn't claim to have a lock on what was God's will.

I give thanks for pastors such as you who show love and grace to those who question as well as to those who are "staunch" believers.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Melli said...

I can't believe ... well... yes I can... but how RUDE that minister was! Obviously he believed what he said WAS true, but at least the way I read it, he did NOT say it with LOVE! He said it with accusation! And at the WRONG time! This is the stuff that feeds non-believers...

And now I'm just SAD... cuz little Oops didn't take away MY memories of her. I loved that little girl... I hope she left Pastor Joan a baby of her own!

7:10 AM  
Blogger Dragonstar said...

I've met many like that man - Wales is full of them - all totally secure in their own certainty. It must be very comfortable to be so sure.

I'll miss Oops, but I'm very interested in Tommy UK's stone...

7:24 AM  
Blogger Cherie said...

I am so glad that you went with your parishioner. No wonder she was afraid to go alone. That man may have been speaking "the truth" as he saw it, but "in love?" I think not. Did he think that calling her out that way would "inspire" her to make her confession before congregation, so she could see her brother again someday? More likely it was to scare the other people in attendance into confession to ensure that they weren't singled out in the same way. Like she wasn't suffering enough. Let's kick her when she's down. Nothing loving about that "truth."

"God’s truth was far greater than ours."

That is also "a word of truth however spoken."

8:44 AM  
Anonymous quilly said...

I hope I am very certain enough of my convictions to have the audacity to speak for God!

I am glad you were with your parishioner. I hope you were able to offer her better comfort than her brother's church was.

And like Melli, I am now sad, because I remember Oops, and I will miss her.

10:31 AM  
Blogger juliana said...

i strongly feel that love has nothing to do with what that preacher had done.

i kind of expected pigeon falls was not oops' final destination but i will miss her, too. still, herman can reach her if need be...

11:40 AM  
Blogger Lori's Minute said...

What a story....I am glad you went with the woman to the funeral.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

Religions that believe their's is the only true one have no place in society IMO. Religions that teach God is good and heaven is open to everyone teach the truth. I'm so glad you went to the funeral with that lady Dr. John.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Carver said...

I love the photograph of the dog.

Great post. I have a lot of trouble with anyone who thinks they have the only road to salvation. I liked the way you discussed this issue and I'm so glad you were able to be with the sister to support her.

One of my favorite lines in Bob Marley's song "One Love" is the one that goes - "Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (one love) There is one question I'd really like to ask (One heart) Is there a place for the hopeless sinners, who have hurt all mankind just to save their own beliefs?"

2:49 PM  
Blogger Alastair said...

Dr John, thank you for your thought provoking post, as always! Not often I get quoted...

I think its the balance of truth and love that is perhaps one of the hardest things we seek in ministry, in fact in all of Christian life. I wish I had the gift of getting it right all the time - or even more often than I do now! I tend to wimp out and avoid conflict - where sometime I know that actually speaking the truth, though uncomfortable, would have transformed a situation.

I go back again and again to Jesus, who managed to upset a lot of people by speaking the truth, and in love showing people their shortcomings and the sin which stopped them truly living. It made them uncomfortable enough to crucify him.

Thank you again, not for the quote, but for the post which really made me think - a throwaway quote, to a certain extent, with great ramifications.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Finding Pam said...

I am saddened that a man of the cloth would say anything like that to someone who has just lost her brother, and during the funeral. I will try not to judge, but the God I worship is all about love,truth and forgiveness.

Thank you for being there at such an important moment in her life. Acts of kindness speak volumns about someone as well as lack of action.

I feel like the others about Oops. I won't forget her and I am happy that she gave Herman the password if he needs her again.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Mountain Mama said...

Oh yes. How often I have to bite my tongue because there are times the truth wants to shoot out of my mouth like a fiery dart. I have to ask myself, "How would Jesus respond."
How sad that the preacher would add more pain on the sister. I really don't believe Jesus would do that.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Gattina said...

What kind of church was that ?? sounds like a catholic one, but probably isn't. Then to me it's a sect ! The worst is that there are lots of poor people who don't have enough self esteem and believe what these crazy guys say ! I hope they will all burn in hell I would even pay for the fire !

10:12 PM  
Blogger jmb said...

How unchristian that minister was. As well as unbelievably cruel. She was lucky that you went with her.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Peter (Worldman): said...

I have come across clergy people of similar kind as you describe.

But I also have met many, many with open minds.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Personally, I really prefer Truth spoken with grace and mercy!

2:52 AM  
Blogger Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

There wasn't a lot of "love your neighbor as yourself" in that funeral sermon, was there? I'm glad you were present to comfort the sister.

I'll miss Oops, but am looking forward to the further exploits of Pastor Joan, Herman, Tammy and the Tommies, and Petrovich.

9:37 AM  

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