Pastoral Backstory – June 16th, 2016




June 16th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 4.21.56 PMWe began last Sunday’s Q&A with a question, one I was moved to pose as I glanced at the news notification on my phone shortly after worship: if we were a church situated in Orlando, how, given all we’d just said in the sermon about our identity-driven purpose, what might we do to fulfill that purpose of being the salt and the light?

Off-the-cuff questions can at best elicit off-the-cuff answers. But several of you ventured sincere and substantive ways in which we might preserve, enrich, and illumine this tragic moment with the love we’ve been shown in the gospel. Don’t miss the dynamic there: any capacity to be salt and light, any motivation to do those good works that glorify, will always depend on a clear and firm grasp of the good done to us and for us. Apart from that good we can do nothing. (Sound familiar?) What good we do will owe its reality to our trust in the good done to us.

So if our goodness will always be of a responsive kind, then what would do us good in order the we might do good in kind? Consider these:

48863782.cachedIt would do us good to see the faces of those who’ve been taken. Terror, tragedy, massacre–for all the horror these words connote, they all suffer from the limitations of abstraction. We can never know how to respond without reckoning with the human reality.

It would do us good to imagine ways to demonstrate salt and light in this uniquely tragic moment. Scott Sauls, a PCA pastor in Nashville, offered his reflections on what this moment calls for.

It would do us good to hear the prayers of various traditions–Anglican (even the Archbishop), Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist–as they look for words that prove so elusive in their respective efforts to comprehend adequately and respond accordingly. For that matter, it would do us good to hear what it is to take any moment provoking our rage to God in prayer.

It would do us good to hear what we can learn from the LGBT community from someone intimately acquainted with it, invested in it, and deepened by it. We’ve appealed to Rosaria Butterfield before–even recently. Listen to her candid observations about her time in that community, and what lingering lessons she received that now firmly shape current practice.


And should there be any hesitation to consider these various motivations to good, it might also do us good to hear again the words of Jesus when some wondered aloud if particular tragedies warranted a particular deduction.

Luke 13:1   There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

It’s not that Jesus everywhere severs observed effects from divine causes. It’s that He here, and elsewhere, corrects certain reflexive conclusions from incomplete data (cf. John 9:1-3). Moreover He shifts the focus in the wake of tragedy to make a larger, and more humbling point. None are without the need of grace. None are exempt from the path of repentance.

And it’s those who get that who are most apt to love well.

Almost as well as….well, a dog:



The illustration passed perhaps too quickly in the sermon. But as an example of shedding light in order to preserve us from prejudice, here’s the video making the rounds I mentioned:


The manner in which we conduct ourselves is as much a matter of being salt and light as the ideals we uphold. During Q&A we pointed to an example of someone recognizing afresh how crucial it is to keep together both the matter and our manner.



Themes converge at opportune times.

Friday night the ladies are taking in a Jane Austen film over at the Garmon’s. (RSVP, will ya?). Sunday, we look at the next passage in the Sermon on the Mount–the one when Jesus upholds the full scope and applicability of the Law.

Well, one of Austen’s lesser-known works, a tale told in epistolary form, was recently adapted into a film by Whit Stillman. It’s entitled Love and Friendship and it tells the story of a young widow in search of love and security both for herself and her daughter now coming of age.

The film trades in wry and subtle humor requiring the utmost attention given the film’s pace. But arguably the most hilarious character is the one most aloof: Sir James Martin, whose awkward affections for the daughter of the protagonist provides both the tension of the story and its turnabout.

This scene epitomizes his jovial obtuseness, and at the same time resonates with the very theme of this Sunday’s sermon. Here, in an effort to display his moral seriousness, Sir James holds forth on what most shapes his moral compass. Try to count the ironical utterances!


Finally, those who can’t laugh at their foibles and excesses–real or perceived–to some extent confirm the caricatures applied to them.

One headline this week from the satirical site, The Babylon Bee, declared:

Local Calvinist’s Sense Of Superiority Visible From Space

The article begins:

space-696x371MIAMI, FL—A local Calvinist’s sense of superiority has gotten so large it is now visible from low Earth orbit, a NASA correspondent reported Tuesday morning.


Yuri Malenchenko, a Russian cosmonaut aboard the International Space Station, spotted the dark structure as the vessel passed over the Southern United States late Monday afternoon Eastern Standard Time. His fellow crew members confirmed the sighting, saying the growth of the Calvinist’s smug sense of self-righteousness over his choice of theological system dwarfed all other objects visible with the naked eye at approximately 400 kilometers above sea level, casting a large shadow over Miami and surrounding areas.


You can read the rest of it here.







Author: Glenn Machlan

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *