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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The "Is it Tuesday Already?" Lectionary Discussion

Dear Friends,

Is it me or is this week flying by? I am thinking about the Gospel lesson, with its two stories of healing, and also considering the text from James, which I must day is a letter I have never preached from yet, at least not in front of an audience. I honestly haven't decided on which of these to focus. I guess I'd better decide by tomorrow, when the bulletin information is due!

I once saw the story of the Syrophoenician preached with real dogs! The gist of that message was our (antibiblical) way of keeping the outsider out and insiders in, and the preacher did so through a discussion of irresponsible inbreeding that culminated in a visual commentary on my own denimination that brought a chapel full of jaded seminary students to their feet, cheering. I've been skiddish about that text ever since.

The epistle talks about the treatment of the rich and the treatment of the poor. Again, insiders VS outsiders. I saw a commercial this morning for a candidate for our state's attorney general. This particular candidate's big issue is Snow Belt's huge "problem of illegal immigrants". Seriously. Somebody should get that man a map and show him where the nearest foreign country is. Maybe some focus on the problems of the rich and poor is needed in this election year.

So, my preaching (or not) friends, this is my question for you today: do you ever get political in the pulpit?


  1. I've skirted awfully close a few times these past five months that I've worked with the Hispanic ministry. I generally try to avoid it, but sometimes certain things need to be said.

    I haven't decided where I am going this week - gospel or James. There's a nugget of something (gold or otherwise) percolating below the surface about Jesus' command "Ephphatha! Open up!" and what that command might symbolize for us today. Any thoughts to help bring that nugget closer to the surface?

  2. blogger is really tempermental today I've tried many times to comment :(

  3. Wow. I dunno.

    I have been warned by five different people in my new congregation not to get political...But the Gospel is political. You know? Somehow we have to see it. We have to be able to speak out against our governments. This is different than proclaiming that Candidate A is who God wants in the White House. You know? We have to walk that tightrope.

  4. I've been political. I know we lost some members as a result of the first event, and I'm pretty sure we lost some over the second event (three years later), too. I'm not sorry. We have new members, people who don't believe in blind loyalty to a President in wartime and people who believe GLBT folk deserve equal rights. How is that a bad thing?
    (I may sound braver than I feel.)
    We're dedicating new hymnals this week, so I won't preach long, but I believe I will be using James and talking about the emptiness of saying something you don't follow with your actions. We wouldn't have new hymnals if people hadn't actually given the money, no matter how long we might have talked about what a good idea it was. We're also entering a relationship with a homeless ministry, and one of the pastors involved will be there to speak. What else might we be called to do that we can identify as meaningful but have not yet started?

  5. I might want to make a note of that, huh?

  6. I'm actually getting a nugget of an idea percolating from the encounters I've had today! I love it when that happens.

    Underdogs. That's what I'm thinking about.

  7. I'm going with the "Be opened" this week - it's our Rally Day/return to fall program year. And I'm going to suggest that we might be opened to participate in church in different ways than we have before - and that we might also be opened to participating in our world in new ways - maybe bring in how Sept 11 was supposed to change our priorities and our world - 5 years later, is our world and our own lives more like what God wants of us? James ties in too, and yet the first part of the gospel keeps calling to me somehow - our participation in getting the help needed - and in changing Jesus' mind? I want to hear more about the dogs in the chapel - how did irresponsible breeding make people cheer???
    We'll see where it all ends up this week...

  8. RevP: I didn't mean that irresponsible breeding made people cheer. What made us stand and cheer in chapel was the way the preacher took the problem that occured with this particular breed ("excessive whiteness" I believe it was) and equated it with the pitfalls of theological inbreeding in our denomination.

    It was priceless. But I guess you had to be there.

  9. Yes, I've heard the "mongrel vigor" sermon--at least in summary form. I'm thinking it wouldn't work so well with cats . . .

  10. I think one can preach POLITICALLY (in a way that directly addresses the public sphere) without preaching POLITICS (go and vote for Candidate A). However, figuring this out was a major struggle for me when I began seminary--outside the U.S.

    That doesn't mean I know the best way to do it, though. :)

  11. Hi I'm new to this-- but loved the comments (esp. the ones about pictures of asses (mine is quite big, but hides well under my alb! Especially like the comments on the lessons..I don't have a text/pericope group you guys will be a help ...prgirl (what a three year old called me when he couldn't remember my name and had never ment a "girl" pastor before...

  12. Hi ok, so I'm REALLY NEW to this... I was trying to respond to cheesehead's comments about the picture of her (well, you know) So I'll get with the program. Also repsonding to
    Pastor please don't be political.." (said at my interview) and I replied well that's impossible....pastor girl

  13. No lectionary for me for the next year as this congregation is doing Year of the Bible. Of course that will not keep me from commenting...

    Around the last presidential election I did two political sermons. The first right before election day was titled 'Why Vote?' The second the following week was 'WWJVF - Who Would Jesus Vote For?'

    They were exhausting and except for a few folks on the extreme right I didn't get too much grief. The most brazen part about it was that my terms of call (my salary) was up for approval after the worship service of the second one.

    Before this gets any longer I will say that it will probably be awhile before I blatantly preach on politics, but I do like the subtle, guerilla tactic of preaching politics by preaching the Gospel.

  14. As Semfem said, it's a fine line between preaching politically and preaching politics--but it sometimes has to be done. When we preach the Gospel, I think we can't avoid it.

    One of my favourite professors at seminary (of preaching, too) said, "When you can't figure out what to say about a situation, preach the Gospel." Works every time!

    And yes, I do preach politically. Not for specific individuals or parties (I try not to even mention names in the pulpit if I can avoid it, even of MPs who are supportive, because of the nonprofit laws), but I do preach for attitudes on issues. Sort of the WWJD thing.

    After all, if you never stand for something, you'll fall for anything. At some point, just general statements aren't enough, and you have to say, "Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me!" (with apologies to my Lutheran friends out there, but Luther said it so well!).

  15. Forgot to mention, I am off lectionary for the next couple of months.

    Wild and crazy for an ex-Methodist...a whole six months, almost, away from the lectionary.

    I'm preaching the exile and how it tempered the Israelites and taught them that God was always with them, not in a temple or a box. I'm also bringing in that exile is not forever.

    This Sunday is Esther Part One. We who are in exile cannot forget who we are, whose we are; and when we are in positions of power or influence, we have to use it on their behalf. "It may be for just such a time as this..."

    I'm focusing on it because of our uncertain situation vis-a-vis a worship location.

  16. For me, political is public and public is where we work and go to school and love and fall down. It is where the Gospel is enfleshed, and it's also where we choose candidates for office and do God's work. For me, not to preach and "get political" would be to deny there is grace out there where we live.

    The question, then, is "How?" and I'm always working on that. It's what my blog is all about--being a public church, a public pastor/theologian--and I would love your thoughts.

    Meanwhile, this Sunday is a day shy of five years after the 9/11 attacks. It's a perfect opportunity to "get political" without naming a single public official or public policy.

    Inspired by a Good Samaritan sermon I heard at a one-year-later 9/11 memorial service, I am thinking about a sermon from the point of view of the little daughter. About the the terrible helplessness and shame of being possessed. About the wrenching fear of mom leaving us alone with this unspeakable demon, as she chases after Jesus. About the violence of the departing demon, and the incredible calm of the next morning. And about every day after that, learning to live a new, freed life in the shadow of those memories and that fear.

    It's still coming together, but Jesus' promise of freedom and healing stands in stark contrast to every policy and political agenda. It demands we surrender those agendas and projects and ideologies to God, and trust only Jesus to save us and rebuild what we lost when the towers and planes and Pentegon came down.

    Because Jesus healing comes upon us more powerfully than the demon that bound us and threw us to the bed, more surprisingly than the planes that smashed into the buildings, more deeply than the holes left in our lives and in our cities, more awe-inspiringly than our military campaigns.

    I don't know what could be more political.

  17. I'd say I preach more counter-culturally than politically, though the two aren't always very different. I don't think I've ever specifically mentioned a candidate or elected official, at least not with direct commentary, but I have criticized specific actions. I try to keep a balance between a strict separation of church and state and an awareness that such a differentiation was absurd in Jesus' time. My sermons and prayers tend to have a strong peace and justice emphasis, but I'm rarely blatant about a message, trying to keep both prophetic and pastoral roles together.

    My congregation has members and attenders from many backgrounds, but even if not all members agree, I do at least have a denominational background when I criticize war as contrary to the teachings of Jesus. That still leaves room for support of the soldiers themselves as God's beloved. I just can't pray for "victory" short of a complete end to violence.

    For this week, I'm off lectionary and focusing on tithing. It's more squirm-producing than political, I think.

  18. peacepastor (et al.), experience tells me that "political" or "counter-cultural" preaching is at its best when it grows out of and feeds back into ongoing conversation. that conversation can be more or less formal and structured, but it has seemed key to me.

    i'm wondering if you've experienced something similar. and if so, i'm curious to learn from you, because i'm always hoping to grow in this area:

    what are the practices and relationships you sustain within the congregation (and community at-large) that feed/feed on your preaching ("political" or not)?

  19. Cheesehead, have you preached James to yourself? ("not to an audience...") Just wondering...

    also, I'm so mystified, I missed the part about the pictures of asses???? Maybe I need to lay my Prurient Interests aside. :)

  20. I've wanted to get political in just about every sermon I've ever preached or written on my blog. This week's BCP was total and complete temptation. I wanted to go after the Pharisees, the Religious Right, and most of all, President Bush. James' main message, at least in the scripture in the BCP, is about getting out of the way of your own righteousness. I've finished my sermon for the week, and I'd definitely like some comments on how well (if at all) I achieved bipartisanship. :)

  21. Mary Beth, I was confused at first, too. Drop by Cheesehead's place and read about which of her body parts was the center of attention in a recent photo.


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