A sermon on Psalm 103, preached by Pablo A Jiménez at Casa de Oración in San Diego, California.
Vision & mission for revitalizing existing congregations and for planting new churches, based on George Barna’s THE POWER OF VISION
See the revised page for the course titled: DEVELOPING A MISSION-FOCUSED CONGREGATION
by Pablo A. Jiménez
In 1999, when my daughter Paola was 2 years old, I accepted an appointment to be the new National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. For six years I served in a position that required me to travel for over 100 days a year and to be “on call” everyday.
My daughter, Paola, interrogated me after every trip. At the beginning, her typical questions were: “Where have you been?,” “What was the name of the hotel where you stayed?” & her favorite, “What was the color of your rental car?” However, soon her questions became tougher: “Why is our house always full of people I have never seen before?,” “Why do you have to travel so much?” and “Why are you always talking to large crowds?”
Given that Paola could not understand my title, I used common words to answer her tough questions. I told her: “I am a leader”. Taking this idea as a point of the departure, I explained to her that other pastors had asked me to be their leader, that I traveled to visit those pastors and that they asked me to speak to large crowds because they valued my leadership.
Of course, my answers only triggered more questions, such as: “Do people always do what you tell them to do?” My response was swift: “No, because leaders live to serve, not to boss people around.” My words shocked her. In her mind, leaders were like fairy tales’ kings and princesses who had to be obeyed at all costs. The idea that service is the purpose of leadership was totally new for her.
I explained to her that Jesus Christ, who lived to served others, is my model of leadership. I further explained her that leadership does not necessarily bring fame and fortune. And I taught her that leadership is not hereditary: “I am the leader now, but someday another person will take my place. Maybe one day you will become a leader, but you will have to earn it through hard word, commitment and dedication.”
Paola also learned that leadership can bring much pain. She often saw me sad, concerned and even angry. She soon understood that all my promises were conditioned to events out of our control, given that emergencies constantly forced me to travel on short notice.
It was precisely soon after failing to attend one of her school events that I decided to step down, seeking a new ministry that allowed me to spend more time at home. “I will no longer be the leader, Paola, it is someone else’s turn,” I told her. Surprisingly, her response was very mature. “Ok, I understand.” Our many conversations about leadership had bore fruit. She had learned that true leaders do not hold on to leadership.
Finally, she asked me about my core values: “What is your main goal in life, Dad?” I looked at her with much pride and responded: “My personal mission is to bless as many people as I can reach during my ministry”. My by then nine-year-old girl smiled and said: “That is a good philosophy for living”.
The process of explaining the meaning of leadership to my daughter helped me to clarify my own vision of Christian leadership. Through our dialogues, I became her student and she became my teacher. The process gave me much hope: If a child can learn the meaning of leadership, maybe church leaders, both lay and ordained, can learn it too.
A young, innocent and beautiful woman begins a stormy relationship with a wealthy man who stalks her, threatens her, verbally abuses her, separates her from her family and even hits her. However, she falls for the abuser, because she sees him as a man deformed by all the bad experiences suffered in life. She believes he can be transformed by her love. Despite the difficulties faced throughout their relationship, at the end the man is indeed transformed, the couple gets married and they live “happily ever after”.
Sounds familiar? This plot is very common in literature. In general terms, it is the plot of “Beauty and the Beast” in its various incarnations. And, generally speaking, is also the storyline of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. The difference is that the first version has dancing teacups while the second one is sexually explicit.
As expected, the release of the first commercial film based on “Fifty Shades” has prompted a boycott. However, the popularity of both the books and the movie has been such that leads us to conclude that the boycott has been a failure.
While I understand the reasons of those who speak out against “Fifty Shades”, in my opinion the first work is much more dangerous. Why? Because that fairy tale teaches boys to be abusive, girls to be submissive and society to tolerate violence in intimate relationships.
Still, I never kept my son or my two daughters from reading the book or seeing the films based on The Beauty and the Beast. Instead, I read the stories and watched movies with my family. However, after I did explain them why the values presented in the story were wrong.
Unfortunately, prohibitions do not work. If you tell a teenager not to read or watch something, he or she will find a way to access the forbidden material. It is best, therefore, to educate youth —always in a way adequate to their age— to understand that they must avoid codependent relationships where one party (usually the woman) suffers abuse stoically in order to “save” the abuser (usually the man).
All cultural products that follow this plot —from children’s stories to erotic novels— have a happy ending. The victim receives a great reward, i.e., true love provided by the wealthy partner, who has been transformed by sheer love.
However, in real life the “ingenue” —may she be called Bella, Anastasia Steele or Jane Doe— suffers immensely. Her story ends at an emergency ward, a hospital, a court, a women’s shelter, or a cemetery. I know because during my pastoral practice I have seen too many relationships that end in tragedy.
Like the woman who had cigarette burns on her arms because her partner used her as an ashtray; or the young woman whose boyfriend ran her over with a motorcycle; or the one whose husband falsely accuses her of being an adulteress in open court; or the woman who pleaded guilty to possession of illicit drugs in order to save her boyfriend from jail; or the one who ends up in a coffin because her husband strangled her.
Therefore, if we condemn Christian Grey, let us also condemn the Beast. In any case, the children’s story is far more dangerous.
An expository sermon on 2 Corinthians 2.12–3.6 by Pablo A. Jiménez, preached January 29, 2015 at the Worship Symposium 2015 of Calvin Center for Worship, Calvin Theological Seminary.
Preached in Mandeville, Jamaica, this sermon tells the story of the Exodus from the perspective of one of the liberated Hebrew slaves. The sermon offers a postcolonial perspective on liberation, viewed from the Caribbean.