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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

Hello, all! I'm back from vacay and can see that you all survived without a lectionary post last week. Good for you--so did I!

This week it is all about the Emmaus story for me. Aside from the fact that this story shows up every time we are at table in my tradition, it is so rich that there are enough sermons in it to preach it every year, in my humble opinion.

This year, the Incarnation has become very real for me, and for my congregation as well, through death and tragedy. I had one gentleman born to Eternal Life right before Holy Week, and one three days ago, the day before I got back from vacation. (That's 2 in 15 days, with a vacation in between, if you're keeping track!) That is a whole lot of death for a small congregation. The fact that these deaths occurred so close to Easter is not lost on us.

What jumps out at me, this extremely early Tuesday morning, is the fleshy-ness of this encounter in Luke. Jesus talks about his own flesh, that he is not some apparition, but is in fact appearing to the friends in the flesh. He eats to prove it.

I spent Monday afternoon with a grieving widow whose main concern for her husband--the one she could express to us, anyway--was that he be buried in an overcoat. It seems he was cold most of the time in his latter years, and she didn't want him to be cold anymore. Clearly this fear appears to be connected to some inability on her part to disconnect the spirit with the flesh. No amount of gentle arguing by her kids that "Dad isn't cold anymore, Ma." would reassure her. Because to the widow, the husband she knew and loved was the husband in the flesh.

Jesus wanted those friends to make some connection to him that was tangible, concrete, and on their own terms. That point of connection was the flesh. That seems to be what the Incarnation was all about, in my opinion. If we take the Incarnation seriously, we conclude that we all have that same point of connection with Christ, and the life of Christ is not just some story, but our story as well.

What are your homiletical thoughts this week, preachers and students of the Word?


  1. I'm going with (do-you-have-anything-to-eat?) Jesus by the lake. Not a ghost story.

  2. Cheesehead - great thoughts. And blessings to you as you come back from vacation and face not only "the things that were put off until after Holy Week" but also being a pastor to this family.

    I am going back and forth right now on this passage or 'Jesus and the Fish-wich'.

  3. I guess I've settled on 1 John 3:1-7, which includes the line, 'no one who sins has either seen him or known him.' I'm going to argue with it and ask, 'Well then, who can possibly see him?' And what's the relationship between revelation and sin, anyway? Which comes first?

    For some reason the Luke story isn't speaking to me this week. But this one is, of all things. 'Remove this cup from me, yet not what I want but what you want.' ;)

  4. The widow worried about her husband being cold in the grave is coping with his death in a common and realistic way. The wonder is that she trusts you enough to share this. Grief takes little tiny steps to realize how much we've lost.

    BTW, you are a favorite of mine!

  5. It sounded about right to me, too, St Cass. In fact, I was getting kind of irritated with the kids' insistance that she stop talking about it and 'happy up'. But I guess they were dealing with it in their own way, too. Grief is different for everybody.

  6. I'm struck by the need for eye contact, that seeing leads to believing (in contrast with last week's "Do you believe because you can see? Hah!" passage in John). We have to be willing to look outside ourselves to see God, who is already there. Peter (backing up from the lectionary passage in Acts to use the story of the healing itself) tells the lame man "look at us." And he does. It's funny to read these passages alongside doing Bible in 90 Days, reading about the Israelites and their terror of seeing God on the mountain. The metaphorical seeing of God is just as life-changing, ending one way of being and beginning another.

  7. lovely to have you back

    I'm glad the widow has you :) spiritually it doesn't matter what the late husband wears in his coffin, but I think that it is important to her. I'm not sure how it is in all cultures and in the 21st century but it used to be important to bury things of the deceased with them - his hat, his pipe, his walking stick etc. I think part of that may be burying him as you remember him, though I'm sure there are other reasons too.

    I won't preach this week or again for the forseeable future. I thought I'd be grieving - but it's not hitting (yet) and for that I'm grateful. very!

  8. Lovely, lovely liturgical thoughts! Thanks, Revmom!

    Today my son asked me, "I wonder why God made mosquitos to bite humans?" And then he answered himself, "I think it might be because He... because He.... (voice drops to a mumble) He needed them for something."

    :) Well, following that thought, and connecting to yours, maybe one reason we get bit is to be reminded that we are made of flesh -- the kind that can be opened by wounds big and small. And then, maybe, we should marvel at what this fragile flesh can do, when filled with Spirit. Maybe Jesus' closest earthly friends were marveling when they ate dinner with the man who had pierced hands....

    Just some random "fleshy" thoughts from East Texas!

  9. PS: I love the care the widow bestowed on the overcoat-clad body! My shell doesn't need that kind of attention after death, but if my husband needs to give it, Amen to him! So glad you were understanding. A touching story!

  10. I was going to mention the seeming coyness of Jesus in this story -- the way he enters into his companions' conversation as if he has no idea what's just happened. It's a gentle kind of coyness, as if he's holding back from revealing himself to them too suddenly. I've had two different conversations this week who want to know why God doesn't just reveal Godsself once and for all, in some dramatic fashion. It's actually a good, thought-provoking question. Perhaps it's because we couldn't take it. Or maybe God wants to woo us, to gradually draw us, into, or back, into, relationship.

  11. You brought tears to my eyes -- I placed a picture of my children's picture in my father's pocket and placed his favorite drumsticks in his hands. The last thought I had as I watched my father's coffin being lowered was "Isn't he going to get cold?" -- it was the moment I realized that he really, really was dead.

    And I buried my g'mother with an afgan I embroidered for her -- I knew her feet wouldn't get cold by that time, but I knew I had to do it.

    It's related to icons and relics, somehow. It's a type of symbol for us -- symbolic of the care we want to give, symbolic of the care they have given us, symbolic of their loves and passions.

    I've often wondered if Mary sewed a a tachrichim -- a simple linen shroud for Jesus -- and brought it to the tomb Easter morning. If she placed his prayer shawl in the tomb with him.

  12. One of the strange things -- maybe one of the downsides -- of having one's loved one cremated is that you lose that opportunity to let go of them with certain artifacts or articles of clothing that are meaningful. I remember, when my Dad died, the process of picking out what clothing to bury him in, and how we picked one of his favorite ties, which also happened to be one I'd given him. We had a neighbor, a farmer who just loved farming more than anything in the world, whose family buried him in his denim overalls, with a bandana in his pocket.

    I didn't get to do any of that with my mother, who was very adamant that she be cremated. Having been through both kinds of funereal arrangements with family members...if someone asked me what arrangements they should make for themselves, it would be hard for me to state a preference. There are positive and negative aspects to both burial and cremation in terms of their effects on how loved ones "process" the death.

  13. LC, my mom and dad were interred in a columbarium, and we put a few things in the vault with them (Dad's tie in his university colors, a flower for Mom) that felt significant. I hadn't thought of doing it, but it was important to my brother.


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