Monday, January 29, 2007


We had a special invitation to attend the early service at a near-by Missouri Synod Lutheran Church on Sunday. There were not many people in attendance, and most of them were of retirement age. Most of the men were wearing suits and ties and the women were well dressed, coiffed and made-up. The service was billed as "traditional" (while the service to be held later in the morning was "contemporary".) We sang an old, familiar liturgy, and felt like we had stepped back in time at least 25 years.

I was curious to meet the new pastor, fresh out of seminary. He was a confident, good-looking guy with a shaved head. He delivered a fluent sermon based on the text of the day from Luke 4:21--32.

In this story Jesus reads from the Torah in the synagogue in his home town. The people still think of him as the son of Joseph, the local carpenter, but they had heard of the miracles Jesus had performed in other places. They want him to do the same for them. But the fact that the people would not recognize him as the Messiah without supernatural signs, angers Jesus and he reminds them how Elijah had helped a gentile widow in Zarephath and Elisha had healed the gentile leper, Naaman, the Syrian. The implication is that Jesus will only help people outside his own community. This, in turn, angers the congregation and they run Jesus out of town to the top of cliff where they threaten to throw him over the edge.

The pastor picked up on the theme, "on the edge". Jesus ministered to people on the edge, and he finds us today when we're on the edge. As I looked around the people sitting near-by, I wondered if they had ever been on the edge.

Then we attended a service at our own church, a less conservative Lutheran Church. There were heard another sermon on the same text, delivered by a retired pastor, a confident old guy with a bald head. He gave a strong message of inclusion, emphasizing especially the inclusion of gay, lesbian and bi-sexual people. This sermon could never have been preached in the first church; it was even on the edge of acceptability by the hierarchy of our church, and possibly by some of the people in our congregation.

So what does "on the edge" mean? A comment by an aeronautical engineer crystalized the concept. There's a leading edge, and there's also a trailing edge.


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