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Showing posts from September, 2013

What makes Teaching or Preaching Useful?

About ten or so years ago, I was attending a conference and heard a speaker say something that not only stuck with me all these years, but forever changed my ministry – or at least the way I preach and teach. Before I tell you what he said, a bit of background may help: the speaker was summarizing the conference’s presentations and leading us in what he called a “LESS AND MORE” exercise. It’s a simple exercise, and one you may know: you take out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center, and write the word “LESS” at the top of the left hand column. Then you write the word “MORE” at the top of the other column. Then you write down, based on what you have heard and experienced, any actions or behaviors that you would do less of going forward, as well as any actions or behaviors you will do more of from that point on. It was sometime during his introduction to this exercise that he said the thing that stuck with me: “ Learning that does not change behavior is n

Coming Near

A sermon preached the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19: September 15, 2013) The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal The Old Testament Lesson: The LORD said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, `These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation." But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why

It is NOT what it is

A few months ago, in reflecting on the lessons that were coming up then, I wrote about "  Three Things We Shouldn't Say " - little religious expressions or sentiments you hear repeated so often that you start believing they're based on biblical truth, even if they aren't. Well, in thinking about this Sunday's lessons , I've come up with a fourth: another popular expression that we, as people of faith, really shouldn't say. And that's this: "It is what it is." I don't know when that expression started - it doesn't seem like that long ago - but all of a sudden it seems like you hear it almost every day. Similar to the other expressions that I'm challenging, it's often said in a well-intentioned way: as if to say, "I'm not going to sweat it," or "I think I'm going to make peace with this situation." Maybe it's a modern-day equivalent of saying "no use in banging your