Bridge builder

Pastoral Messages | May 31, 2017

Earlier this spring, I attended the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas. Homiletics is a fancy, $20-word way of saying preaching and sermon writing. This week-long event is meant to educate and uplift pastors across all denominations. Basically, it is preacher Comic-Con. It’s probably a good thing for congregations as well – no one needs a pastor who says the same things over and over.

San Antonio was a great city to be in – the culture and weather were fabulous. All of the speakers were articulate, faithful preachers of God’s word, and the venues they chose were beautiful. Part of the festival was in an historic Methodist church in downtown San Antonio. Other sessions were in the Scottish Rite Theater. The ceilings were painted beautifully and it had swirling marble staircases, artfully carved doors, and multiple parlor rooms for seated conversation.

But one thing it didn’t have was an elevator.

I noticed this as I watched multiple pastors navigate the slippery marble staircase with canes. I noticed this as a friend and I carried a woman’s wheelchair down the stairs. I noticed this as several older adults stood outside the theater listening, instead of braving their way in and up. The venue was beautiful, but impossible for some. An event that drew nearly 2,000 people managed to isolate so many.

This got me thinking about our spoken theology versus our lived theology. Basically, this is what we say we believe and what we act like we believe. At the festival, all people were welcome, regardless of age, race, sexuality, denomination, and gender – you name it. The welcome was wide and deep, but I don’t think the people who used canes or walkers felt it.

And I wonder – how often do we as a church do something like this? How often do I do something like this?

How often do we leave someone standing at the bottom of an imaginary marble staircase while shouting for them to come up? How often do we say we totally trust God to work, while at the same time work our own angles? How often do we proclaim forgiveness to someone, while at the same time bringing up their wrongdoing at every turn?

It is hard work to build that bridge between what we say and what we live.

But the thing is, it is work worth doing. I think of Jesus, the ultimate bridge builder, who entered into the human experience and pulled us along to cross this great divide. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament says we do not have a God who is unsympathetic to our weaknesses, but in every respect has been tested as we are (Hebrews 4). Merging together our spoken theology and our lived theology has been done for us in Christ. Our job as Christians is to not screw it up – which we inevitably do. But, God is gracious, and empowers us to actually bring our words and actions together. It may be hard, but we can do hard things.

Amy Diller, pastor in residency

6 Comments on “Bridge builder”

  • John gosma

    June 3, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    A thoughtful and nicely written message. Thank you, Amy.

  • David DeWit

    June 2, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    “Practice what you preach” has been a challenge for as long as I can remember. Not many achieve that goal – even when they try. Sadly, some people I have known don’t even bother to try.

  • Kathy Bucciferro

    June 1, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Wonderful insight! So very true that physical disabilities prevent many from active participation. Intelluctual differences also hinder participation and perception of participation. All are welcome and all are worthy. Faithfulness is our gift to God and it comes in all shapes and sizes.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Pam Bulat

    June 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Fantastic message! As a person who will turn seventy in the near future, I cannot believe this really happened. They thought of almost every form of diversity, but aging. This does not surprise me. My thesis in graduate school was The Myths and Stereotypes of Aging. I wrote it in 1978. I recently read it again and thought has anything really changed!

  • Ronda Bird

    June 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Amy, what a great messsge!!! Lots to think about and internalize.

  • Stella Herzig

    June 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you for illuminating that – it is so true!

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”