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Negotiating the Power of Life

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For May 30, 2021:

Katy StentaNegotiating the Power of Life
by Pastor Katy Stenta
John 3:1-17

In the News
As we look at leadership it is hard to know everything that goes into a deal. Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the middle of the night seems almost typical in light of how many political deals are brokered. Often there are back room dealings that we don’t know about. Reasons why “In the Room Where it Happens” from Hamilton is so relatable, it is hard to influence a decision unless you are in the room. This is why Biden’s promise to build the most diverse cabinet ever was so important — and strides have been made. However, in the wake of violence against the Asian American community, the AAPI voters are looking to Harris to provide more clout for their communities.

Even as the economy looks to be completely changed and reborn, so to speak, pressure continues to name and cast out racism in Biden’s version of the new deal. As Nicodemus questions the validity, or even the need for rebirth, he sits in a position of power. Perhaps he knows the truth, in order to change things, he, a powerful Pharisee, would have to give up power. Santa Clara University President has a great discussion where he points to a need for disruption of the current power structures to fight racism.

In the United states we need to rethink many of our structures of power in order to start to be reborn as a nation that is antiracism. Racism is a powerful threat that influences every citizen of the United States — even today. The problem right now is that in order to be recognized by the government, academy and powers that be, one has to fall into the white, cis, heteronormative Western normative. This is illustrated by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s offering of tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the author of the 1619 project studying slavery and its effects on the nation, and then immediately taking it away. When rumors of right wing power holders exerting pressure on the university circled, the university then said that Nikole did not fit the “tradtional” power structures. Of course, this leads one to question how can she be traditional when the point behind her work was to revolutionize and change how one thought of history and the scholarship of slavery.

In world news negotiations for leadership are endless. Israel is pushing for more of the land in Gaza whenever they think they can get away with it. The same is true with Russia trying to mediate the Armenian-Azerbaijan border. Schemes are created to keep and perpetuate power in every nation from Colombia to the United States. In all of these cases state violence is used to make sure those who are given less rights stay exactly where they are. And everywhere leaders are trying to negotiate peace — though too often “peace” means a stop of violence not a restoration of human and civil rights.

In the Scripture
God is all about nontraditional leaders. It starts early with Jacob, who is a heel — a trickster. He uses tricks to get his inheritance, is tricked into taking his first wife, so he pursues a second. His relationship to God is very complicated as he ends up wrestling God before claiming the name of Israel and finally being able to pursue forgiveness with his brother in Genesis 25-27. Then there is Moses, who has been raised by Egyptians, and wrestles with the disability of a speech impediment. He is made co-leader with his brother Aaron. Aaron is a better speaker, but is easily swayed. Furthermore, only Moses is able to talk to God.

Leadership in the Bible is negotiated. It is almost never a simple done deal. How many times does God proclaim that David will be King before he finally gets there? And of course David’s kingship is also corrupt and lacking. As God warned, power goes to the heads of us mortals and causes us to think we can get away with anything. Especially when we think we are done negotiating.

Jesus himself will listen and discuss power and how it works with pretty much anyone, from the Canaanites (Matthew 15:21-28) to the Syrophonicians (Mark 7:24-30) to the Samaritans (Luke 10:29-27). He also will trade wits with the Hebrew leaders, including the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Have caution when discussing these leaders because it can quickly turn into anti-Semitism, which would not accurately contextualize the mediation of power by an occupied Hebrew people with their religious and governmental leaders of the time.

In the Sermon: Negotiating Self
Here is Nicodemus, privileged Pharisee, respected leader of the Hebrew people, sneaking to Jesus in the middle of the night to ask him questions of leadership, trying to be in the room where it happens. He begins by proclaiming that Jesus must be from God.” Nicodemus comes and legitimates Jesus’s authority, sort of. Nicodemus comes to say that he personally believes that Jesus is from God, even if he cannot proclaim it publicly. Poor human Nicodemus, caught between politics and personhood.

Who knows how Nicodemus was expecting Jesus to respond. Is Nicodemus going to be personally okay because he personally knows who Jesus is? Or thinking of a secret plot to share power, or a scheme for Jesus to become legitimate to the Pharisees? Is he hoping to hear Jesus’ secret plan to overthrow and perhaps even conquer the Roman Empire? There can be little doubt Nicodemus came in the middle of the night not just to legitimize Jesus but to legitimize himself in some way.

Jesus answers Nicodemus’s secret with his own secret. Just as Jesus is apt to answer a question with a question, he whispers secret knowledge with secret motivations back at Nicodemus. Jesus then says “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again/from above.” The pun surely was intended. Besides being the Son of God, Jesus is a rabbinic teacher who chooses his words with care. This implies that there is more than one way to be born.

Nicodemus answers with facts, no one can go back to the womb. He makes it very clear that he does not understand what Jesus means. Nicodemus was hoping for a more straightforward negotiation to go on.

However, Jesus answers again “Very truly” as if to say, “You are not listening closely, listen again to what I mean.” Jesus then illustrates that he means a different kind of birth, a second birth, of the spirit, from above. “Do not be astonished that I said to you that you must be born from above.” This should not be a surprise to you, Jesus explicates. You came here asking for answers of leadership and where it comes from. You yourself said it came from above, and so I charged you to truly embrace this by not just recognizing that power comes from above, but by committing to that power so wholly that you are reborn from above.

“You heard the sound of it, but you do not know where I comes from or where it goes.” Jesus is explaining that it is not a power that you have control of, it cannot be tamed. You can negotiate with it, and work with it, and live into it, but it cannot be controlled. The power of the Holy Spirit is mighty and unpredictable. Jesus also implies, “but you already know this Nicodemus, because here you are, in the middle of the night, called by the Holy Spirit in ways you cannot understand.”

The comfort from Jesus is that this Spirit is so powerful that no one is in control of it, instead it takes over your life, and you let it blow you where you need to be, and you learn to negotiate with it as you go. Jesus is telling Nicodemus this, and also affirming to Nicodemus that he must have already felt some of this or he would not be there — middle of the night or not. Nicodemus cannot deny his identity as a child, called disciple of God. And maybe, instead of trying to control it and learn all of its secrets, Nicodemus should learn from it, and figure out how to align his politics with his personhood.

Once you know God, you cannot help but testify, “we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen.” Eternal life comes from living into your full self on earth. Embracing the power of the Holy Spirit and acknowledging that being born again into Christ changes who you are and how you respond to things. This is part of how we know that Jesus came “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” because we have an opportunity to start to live into God, to start living like a saved and resurrected people on earth.

There is no need to be secretive that you are not able to live your full identity in Christ. We are all working on negotiating this thing called life, and trying to confess who we are and imagine and practice being the body of Christ on earth. When we acknowledge Christ’s power to see us as we truly are, and recognize that we are called — just as what happened to Nicodemus when he visits Christ — just this initial acknowledgement of God's call to our authentic self causes our very way of being and living to change. In this new way of living, we are all given the opportunity to be born from above/again, and live as one who is saved by the love of Christ. Go and do likewise!


Mary AustinSECOND THOUGHTS
God Still Calls
by Mary Austin
Isaiah 6:1-8

“In the year that King Uzziah died,” Isaiah recalls, adding emotional weight to this powerful memory. No doubt Isaiah would have remembered his dramatic vision of God’s presence anyway, and the frame of the king’s death adds to the impact. Typically, when I read this passage, I mentally skip over King Uzziah’s death to get to Isaiah’s compelling vision of the divine. The location in time seems like a throwaway. This year, when time seems to have stopped for Covid, the hook into time makes even more sense than usual.

Social scientists say that we remember events that are emotionally weighted. For us, “emotional arousal facilitates recall, marking some events as noteworthy and others as unremarkable. So we are more likely to recall what happened at Christmas when family and friends surround us, than we are to remember what happened on other days. Anniversaries also help to fix memories because they have more emotional significance than other days.”

Thinking about the devastation of Covid, the summer protests for racial justice and the toll of the dead makes the devastation of the king’s death feel more immediate. Future generations may say “in the year of Covid-19” or “in the year that George Floyd died” or “in the year of the riots at the Capitol,” and all of the pain and disruption of this year will come flooding back to us.

When King Uzziah dies, most adults in Israel have never known any other king. 2 Chronicles 26 recounts that “Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done.  He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.” Uzziah is an army commander, and also a man who loves the soil, and has large herds. He’s a builder of towers and cisterns out among his people.

Uzziah becomes proud, and oversteps his role as king, and God sends (as the story tells it) leprosy to be his punishment. After that, he has to live separately from other people, and his son Jotham governs in his place.

When he finally dies, amid the national grief at his death, God calls Isaiah to the work of being a prophet. Amid national confusion and collective mourning, God sees an opportunity and summons a new person to new work. In the middle of our own national season of mourning, we can trust that God is still calling people to new ways of serving.

For healthcare workers, a year of trauma as they contended with Covid has some considering a call into another line of work. “According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, roughly 3 in 10 health-care workers have weighed leaving their profession. More than half are burned out. And about 6 in 10 say stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health.” It’s a reverse of the traditional call into service. Now they’re ready to hang up their scrubs and do something else. “It’s not just the danger they’ve endured, they say. Many talked about the betrayal and hypocrisy they feel from the public they have sacrificed so much to save — their clapping and hero-worship one day, then refusal to wear masks and take basic precautions the next, even if it would spare health workers the trauma of losing yet another patient.”

Their distress reveals a national calling to structure health care differently. “The large numbers of doctors and nurses wanting to quit are also the early warnings of festering, unaddressed psychic wounds among health-care workers. If left untreated, experts worry they could lead to widespread incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide for a group that has already sacrificed so much to get the nation through this pandemic.

Says Mona Masood, a psychiatrist who counsels health care workers, “We need to stop treating them like heroes and start treating them like human beings. I keep telling them, ‘You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.’ Health care can’t just be about making patients well. We have to care for the healers, too.”

Dr. Masood herself was called into a new way of practicing medicine when she became alarmed by what she was seeing. In March last year, she “saw increasingly anguished posts on Facebook groups for doctors and began organizing a grass-roots support line for physicians — similar to the suicide hotline that serves the general public. She asked whether any psychiatrists would work with her to answer the calls. Within days, her inbox was bombarded with messages from more than 200 volunteers…In the year since, the Physician Support Line she created has fielded more than 2,500 calls. But what worries Masood most is what will happen once the pandemic ends.” Where will all of this overwhelming grief and guilt go?

The pandemic has also been an awakening for hospitality workers. Th restaurant industry “has 1.7 million fewer jobs filled than before the pandemic, despite posting almost a million job openings in March, along with hotels, and raising pay 3.6 percent, an average of 58 cents an hour, in the first three months of 2021.” It’s not enough for people who are leaving the field after years of low pay and brutal schedules. A number of employees “described the pandemic as an awakening — realizing that long-held concerns about the industry were valid, and compounded by the new health concerns. And forced to stop working or look for other jobs early on in the pandemic, many realized they had other options. “The staffing issue has actually a lot more to do with the conditions that the industry was in before covid and people not wanting to go back to that, knowing what they would be facing with a pandemic on top of it,” said Crystal Maher, 36, a restaurant worker in Austin, who’s become more active on the industry’s labor issues in the past year.” She adds, “People are forgetting that restaurant workers have actually experienced decades of abuse and trauma. The pandemic is just the final straw.”

Covid has reminded people that they have other choices, calling them out of a profession that is “famously volatile, home to strong personalities, tense workplaces, grinding hours and unpredictable scheduling. Issues like tip and wage theft, sexual harassment, and drug and alcohol abuse can be widespread, and there is often little in the way of formal job benefits such as health care, vacation time, sick pay or a livable minimum wage, though many workers do well in tips during flush times.”

There is one place where people are being called into a new kind of work, instead of out of the old way of working. The economic stimulus payments of the past year kept many people afloat. For some, the money allowed them to start a new chapter. There has been a surge of entrepreneurship, much of it in Black communities. “The pandemic might mark the end of a slump in entrepreneurship that has lasted for several decades. Steep job losses, a widespread shift in how people work and a big influx of federal spending could prompt the kind of disruption that changes how people think about work and what they want to do with their lives. “The idea that the pandemic has kind of restarted America’s startup engine is a real thing,” said Scott Stern, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Notes another economist, “Startups have always fallen in recessions. This is the only one I know where startups grew.”

God overwhelms Isaiah with a vision of the holy, and the vision is so powerful that Isaiah feels compelled to change the direction of his life and offer himself to God. In our world, people are feeling called out of work that’s brutal, dehumanizing, never ending or traumatic. It’s not yet clear how their lives will change, as many make a move toward their health and peace of mind. We know the end of the story for Isaiah, although he doesn’t know what will happen when he tells God to put him to work.

Even in a season of great upheaval, God calls people to new work, and to new kinds of service. Activists, entrepreneurs, public servants, first responders, protesters and others have all changed their lives in response to the pandemic and the cascading movement for racial justice. In season and out, God keeps calling people into different lives, and deeper ways of living in the truth. The trauma of King Uzziah’s death sets the stage for Isaiah’s call. The trauma in the year of Covid, the year of murder and protests, the year of election and riot, will reveal God’s call for us, too, for those who are listening.



ILLUSTRATIONS

Chris KeatingFrom team member Chris Keating:

Isaiah 6:1-8
Becoming what we behold

Isaiah’s call to prophesy emerges from beholding a transformational vision of God’s glory. Richard Rohr, in his book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation describes the fundamental communion of God as a “radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance (perichoresis) of love. And God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself.”  Rohr’s theology pushes against any image of God that is static, unchanging, or unmoving. Isaiah’s vision describes what Rohr calls an understanding of God “as the ultimate participant in everything—both the good and the painful. Rohr writes:

History has so long operated with a static and imperial image of God—as a Supreme Monarch who is mostly living in splendid isolation from what he—and God is always and exclusively envisioned as male in this model—created. This God is seen largely as a Critical Spectator (and his followers do their level best to imitate their Creator in this regard). We always become what we behold; the presence that we practice matters. That’s why we desperately need a worldwide paradigm shift in Christian consciousness regarding how we relate to God. (Quoted from “The Divine Dance: The Trinity & Your Transformation,” at Global Catholic Climate Movement.

* * *

Psalm 29
A prayer for peace
A simple Google search for “shootings this week” yielded these results: “Police capture man wanted in 4 killings after week on the run,” “pair accused in series of killings in two states charged with murder…” “Knoxville mayor on 4th deadly shooting within one week…” And so on.

These headlines follow reports on a record number of gun sales in 2020 and a 25% increase in homicides and non-suicide related shootings in 2020. "What we know is the year will be remembered for two conflicting, compounding public health crises — Covid-19 and gun violence," said Nick Suplina, the managing director for law and policy of Everytown for Gun Safety.

A report from the World Economic Forum suggests that there are ways this particularly American problem can be addressed.  Citing numerous examples of how other developed countries have reduced gun violence by restricting easy access to guns, the WEF offers various strategies for addressing the issue. (See “What can we learn from each other about preventing gun violence?” from 27 April, 2021).

Elizabeth Rosenthal, an emergency room physician from New York City, muses on gun violence from her perspective as one who grew up as a gun enthusiast but who is now working in emergency medicine.  Rosenthal writes that she first fired a gun at age 8 or 9, and later joined her high school’s riflery team in Scarsdale, NY.  At age 15, she was gifted with a Remington .22. Since then, she writes, “the United States has undergone a cultural, definitional, practical shift on guns and what they are for.” Rosenthal continues:

Guns and the devastating injuries they cause have evolved into things I don’t recognize anymore. My Remington .22 has about as much in common with an assault-style weapon as an amoeba has with a human life. The injuries they produce don’t belong under one umbrella of “gun violence.” Though both crimes are heinous, the guy who shoots someone with an old pistol in a mugging is a different kind of perpetrator from the person who, dressed in body armor, carries a semiautomatic weapon into a theater, house of worship or school and commences a slaughter…Frankly, no disaster drill really prepares an emergency room for a situation in which multiple people are shot with today’s semiautomatic weapons. You might save a few people with careful triage and preparation. Most just die.”

* * *

John 3:1-17
Rebirth and renewal as God’s creative acts

Working through this text – again! – can prove humbling and frustrating, perhaps even at the same time! Here are a pair of helpful quotes from the venerable Jurgen Moltmann which might provoke new thoughts on this well-travelled homiletical territory:

Believing in the resurrection does not just mean assenting to a dogma and noting a historical fact. It means participating in this creative act of God’s … Resurrection is not a consoling opium, soothing us with the promise of a better world in the hereafter. It is the energy for a rebirth of this life. The hope doesn’t point to another world. It is focused on the redemption of this one. (Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World.)

And,

The motive that impels modern reason to know must be described as the desire to conquer and dominate. For the Greek philosophers and the Fathers of the church, knowing meant something different: it meant knowing in wonder. By knowing or perceiving one participates in the life of the other. Here knowing does not transform the counterpart into the property of the knower; the knower does not appropriate what he knows. On the contrary, he is transformed through sympathy, becoming a participant in what he perceives. (Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom.)


* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship:
One: Ascribe to God glory and strength.
All: Worship God in holy splendor.
One: The voice of God is powerful.
All: The voice of God is full of majesty.
One: May God give strength to his people!
All: May God bless the people with peace!

OR

One: God, the three in one, is with us.
All: Praise be to our God who loves us.
One: God comes to us as we need God to be.
All: What wondrous love God has for each of us.
One: We were created in God’s image and likeness.
All: We will show that likeness as we love one another.

Hymns and Songs:
Come, Thou Almighty King
UMH: 61
H82: 365
PH: 139
AAHH: 327
NNBH: 38
NCH: 275
CH: 27
LBW: 522
ELW: 408
W&P: 148
AMEC: 7     

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
UMH: 64/65
H82: 362
PH: 138
AAHH: 329
NNBH: 1
NCH: 277
CH: 4
LBW: 165
ELW: 413
W&P: 136
AMEC: 25
STLT: 26
Renew: 204

O God, Our Help in Ages Past
UMH: 117
H82: 680
AAHH: 170
NNBH: 46
NCH: 25
CH: 67
LBW: 320
ELW: 632
W&P: 84
AMEC: 61
STLT: 281

Hope of the World
UMH: 178
H82: 472
PH: 360
NCH: 46
CH: 538
LBW: 493
W&P: 404

Sweet, Sweet Spirit
UMH: 334           
AAHH: 326
NNBH: 127
NCH: 293
CH: 261
W&P: 134
AMEC: 196  
CCB: 7

Take My Life, and Let It Be
UMH: 399
H82: 707
PH: 391
NNBH: 213
NCH: 448
CH: 609
LBW: 406
ELW: 583/685
W&P: 466
AMEC: 292    
Renew: 150

Breathe on Me Breath of God
UMH: 420
H82: 508
PH: 316
AAHH: 317
NNBH: 126
NCH: 292
CH: 254
LBW: 488
W&P: 461
AMEC: 192

O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee
UMH: 430
H82: 659/660
PH: 357  
NNBH: 445
NCH: 503
CH: 602
LBW: 492
ELW: 818
W&P: 589
AMEC: 299  

Be Thou My Vision
UMH: 451
H82: 488
PH: 339
NCH: 451
CH: 595           
ELW: 793
W&P: 502
AMEC: 281
STLT: 20
Renew: 151

God Is So Good
CCB: 75

Great Is the Lord
CCB: 65
Renew: 22

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is who complete unity in three persons:
Grant us the grace to reflect your likeness
by being one people in multiple persons;
through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are completely one and yet three. In you unity and diversity are in harmony. Help us to reflect you being by being united in your love even as we are separate people. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
One: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our divisiveness.   

All: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You created each of us in your likeness and have proclaimed us your own beloved children and yet we see only differences. We have divided into tribes and nations; we have dived into many churches. We have failed to heed the teaching of Jesus to not sit in judgement on one another. We have ignored his teaching to love others as ourselves, even those we think of as our enemies. Forgive our foolish pride and renew your likeness within us so that we may embrace one another in love and compassion. Amen.  


One: God’s love is complete as each of us are loved. Receive God’s love and share it with others so that our love may be complete as well.

Prayers of the People
Praise and glory to you, O Three in One. You are beyond our understanding and knowledge. 

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You created each of us in your likeness and have proclaimed us your own beloved children and yet we see only differences. We have divided into tribes and nations; we have dived into many churches. We have failed to heed the teaching of Jesus to not sit in judgement on one another. We have ignored his teaching to love others as ourselves, even those we think of as our enemies. Forgive our foolish pride and renew your likeness within us so that we may embrace one another in love and compassion.

We praise you for all the ways in which you share your love with us. We thank you for the variety of people you have sent into our lives to bless us and to seek our blessing. We thank you for the wonderful universe is so diverse and yet is a unity.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for one another in our need. We pray for those who have been excluded from sharing in the bounty of creation. We pray for those who feel alone and deserted. We pray for those who look around and see only enemies and danger.  

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service.)


All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity.  Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
Nicodemus comes to Jesus to ask questions. It is always a good think to ask questions when we don’t understand. Today we are talking about the Trinity and it is hard for all of us to understand but as we talk together, we learn more from each other.


* * * * * *

Tom WilladsenCHILDREN'S SERMON
Talking to Yourself
by Tom Willadsen
Isaiah 6:1-8

The Isaiah passage is a natural choice for Trinity Sunday. The seraphs call to one another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts…” The triple repetition of “holy” is the basis for the Protestant hymn most associated with the Trinity “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”

Call the kids’ attention to the very end of the reading, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”

Ask them, and also the adults, if they ever talk to themselves. I like to ask this question to groups at the beginning of presentations. I raise my hand, indicating that those who also talk to themselves should raise their hands. It’s fun to point out that the people who do not raise their hands are usually muttering something like, “Do I talk to myself? Sometimes…Maybe….” It’s likely that everyone talks to themselves!

God also talks to God’s self. Perhaps God is speaking to the seraphs who somehow have managed to find room to fly even though the hem of the Lord’s robe has filled the temple. More likely, the Lord is having a kind of Divine Committee Meeting. God in three persons, blessed Trinity, remember?

In this reading, Isaiah overhears the divine conversation, and, having had his sin blotted out, feels qualified to raise his hand and say, “Here I am, Lord,” the kernel of another song we associate with Trinity Sunday.

You can leave the little ones with the thought that everyone, even God, talks to themselves. It’s another facet of being made in the image of God.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Immediate Word, May 30, 2021 issue.

Copyright 2021 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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John Jamison
Hello, everyone! (Let them respond.) I have another story for you today. Are you ready? (Let them respond.) Great!

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Praxis the pixie was in trouble again. In fact, Praxis was rarely out of trouble. It had all started when he'd begun to be himself. You see, Praxis changed colour when he felt strongly about anything, and so for quite a while he'd tried very hard to be good. But it hadn't worked, for instead of being just one colour, blue or yellow or green or pink or purple or red, he'd become a rainbow of blotches and spots, stripes and circles, all different colours. It had been very embarrassing. So now Praxis was just himself, and that meant he wasn't always good.

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Stephen P. McCutchan
Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
-- Psalm 66:5

Schuyler Rhodes
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (v. 10). "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). These two powerful statements reveal for us the inadequacies of the translation process of the English language. These two juxtaposing passages reveal only a tiny fraction of the contradictions and conflicts found within our holy Word. No wonder people have trouble reading and understanding.
Dallas A. Brauninger
1. Text
Donna E. Schaper
I went to the store to buy a new pair of blue jeans. The clerk asked if I wanted slim fit, easy fit, or relaxed fit, regular or faded, stone washed or acid washed, button fly or regular fly ... and that's when I started to sputter. Can't I just have a pair of blue jeans, size fourteen? Then I went to the grocery store and found 85 varieties of crackers, 285 kinds of cookies, and thirteen different kinds of raspberry jelly. Can't I just get a cookie and a cracker and a bottle of jelly any more?

R. Kevin Mohr
In a scene from the romantic comedy, While You Were Sleeping, "Ox" Callaghan is waxing eloquent at the breakfast table one morning about those rare moments in life when everything seems to be going just right and falling into place. "In that one minute," he says, "you have peace." But his son, Jack, who is Ox's partner in the family business, has finally decided it is time to break the news to his dad that he wants out to start his own business, and so he bursts his father's bubble, saying, "Pop, this isn't that minute."1

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