Lectionary Year A
February 21, 1999
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge

Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.

The Big T

      Pastor Jim Knutson was on his way to visit his uncle in a neighboring town. His uncle, Harvey Knutson, was a retired pastor, and Jim had felt for years - long before he became a pastor - that he could always go to his uncle to get sound advice on whatever was facing him at the moment. At this particular moment he was frustrated. He had graduated from seminary nearly a year ago, was now serving his first parish, and felt things should be going better than they were.

      "Well, I was wondering when you'd be coming over," Harvey said with a twinkle in his eye as he welcomed his nephew into his home. "Martha has just baked some tasty coffee cake, so you've come at the right time."

      "Boy, that sounds great!" Jim said, as he and his uncle moved toward the den.

      "I haven't seen much of you since you started at St. Andrew," Harvey commented as they munched coffee cake and drank coffee. "But I rather suspected you would drop in some day and let me know how things are going."

      "Well, things are going okay... " Jim began, but his uncle interrupted.

      "But you're frustrated," Harvey guessed.

      "How'd you know?" Jim laughed. "But I shouldn't be surprised. You usually can read people pretty well. Yeah, I am a bit frustrated at times. I guess it is partly because I don't feel I'm in control of things. I hate that annual bazaar for one thing. And then there's the 'We've always done it this way' syndrome."

      "And you didn't learn all that stuff in seminary?" Harvey interjected with a smile.

      "Oh, tell me about it!" Jim chuckled.

      "Control is a very heavy ingredient in human relationships," Harvey got a bit more serious, "and especially in congregations. People who have been there for a long time believe they should be in control, especially when a young sprout fresh out of seminary comes in - the old-timers have a long-vested interest in controlling what happens."

      They talked at length about the tension between control and creating an atmosphere where people can feel free to be themselves and initiate programs. Harvey continued, "I'm sure you know, as I do, that one of the basic temptations of human beings is to be in ultimate control. It's even gotten to the point that we want to be in control of when we die... "

      "Like the assisted suicides?" Jim offered.

      "Yes, that's what I had in mind," Harvey agreed. "You and I know that the only one who has a right to be in complete control is God. We're getting away from your parish frustrations, I realize... "

      "No, that's fine, let's stay with this a while," Jim said.

      "Well, I guess I've said what I wanted to about the subject," Harvey commented, then after a pause added, "Isn't it the basic temptation of humans to be in control as God is in control? It seems to me the basic temptation is to be like God. That's the big 'T.'"

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