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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl named Esther. The King took notice of her beauty and brought her to live in the palace.

Then, all hell broke loose. Esther's people were threatened with death, and her uncle asked her to take up their cause with the King. At first she was afraid to talk to him, but finally she found her courage and spoke up about the life-threatening injustice being planned against one group of human beings just because they were different from the people in authority. And the King heard her.

Part of Esther's story appears in the lectionary this week. As with any books of more than one chapter that are ideally approached as a cohesive whole, it may be considered difficult to preach on just the lectionary text (which may be found here). It requires, perhaps, a storytelling approach, and I believe that is where I am headed this week. It is the focus text in Seasons of the Spirit, the curriculum we use for Sunday School, and I have pledged to be in concert with our teachers and students as much as possible this year.

The New Testament texts before us, Mark 9:38-50 and James 5:13-20. They each have their difficulties as well.

Mark has us cutting off our hand or foot or plucking out an eye if we are at risk of stumbling, as well as other pithy little statements that I have a feeling didn't get on the Jesus Seminar's red-bead list. (Sorry, that book is at the office and I'll have to check it later!)

James assures us that earnest prayer will heal all, leaving open the possibility that lack of healing was the result of ineffective prayer. (Is this kind of like saying "If" the Great Pumpkin comes, instead of "when," and being deemed insincere?)

Which of these tricky texts might you feel called to preach this week?

If you're not a lectionary preacher and would like to use this forum to talk about sermon ideas, please do join us.

And remember:

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)

24 comments:

  1. I am actually off lectionary until Advent ... I have a 5 week worship series in October, then two Sundays in November during which I am feeling strongly called to take up the subject of "Ministry: My Role [as pastor]; Your Role [as baptized disciples]" as a kind of stewardship theme for November, after our denomination's regional gathering. I just put a posting regarding this subject on my blog --feel free to comment there at http://revdonaquixote.blogspot.com/

    I can't wait to get back on lectionary to join you all in reflection!

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  2. My brief sermon (due to communion and a report from last weekend's Presbytery meeting) is titled Why Pray?.

    I am using the James and pairing it with MArk 11:20-25. My opening thoughts can be found at the church blog

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  3. Strange, but I don't think the BCP lectionary doesn't address Esther's story in it's 3-year rotation. For the daily office, it does, though. I'm in the middle of it as we speak.

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  4. Oh, I am planning on using this week's Mark text at the end of October (29th). THe provisional sermon title is Get Out of The Way!.

    I wonder what that will look like.

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  5. I find it weird that there are so many verses strung together ...

    does anyone else?

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  6. I am taking a week away from lectionary this Sunday and will instead use World Communion Sunday as a platform to discuss the sacrament of communion. Sometimes I think we need a little refresher to keep us from taking the sacrament for granted.

    I will, however, be discussing the lectionary texts in Bible study in the morning, so I'll be looking for nuggets of your wisdom to share!

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  7. Okay, I am game for the Mark passage. But my focus in on verse 50 "Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." ESV

    I did read BBT's sermon on this passage, and she faces it head on.

    Not so sure I will, but who knows, I might.

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  8. We don't use the lectionary for our Church, I do the daily readings myself though and we will be "on lectionary" for advent probably...BUT...I think it's really cool that this week I'm referencing Esther in my teaching about being "strangers in a strange land" (paying a bit of homage to Sukkot since it's next week) and it pops up in the lectionary :) that always makes me happy. So I'm going to make note of that.

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  9. Like Rev Dona, I'm off lectionary this week. I'll be tying together our denomination's anniversary and World Communion Sunday--the table of Christ is open to all, and we all share in the feast--every one of us is invited.

    However, I used Esther a couple of weeks ago--I spread it over two SUndays, leaving the congregation hanging with Esther and Mordecai and the maids and the Jews all fasting for three days... My topic was courage--knowing who you are and openly identifying with who you are, That could go in all kinds of directions--do identify as Christian, female, from a small town, do you admit you're clergy in casual conversation with strangers, etc.

    Dona, I too, am doing a stewarship series after regional conference. SOmehow appropriate... I'll mosey over to your blog later today.

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  10. I am looking at the Mark passage as well. It is worth noting that the idea of physical purity may be trumped by some other kind of purity...something about openess and sacrifice.

    It is not "Whoever is not for us is against us." It is "Whoever is not against us is for us." Salvation is broadened once again. And we should not live in fear.

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  11. i'm using world communion sunday as a teaching sunday to finish up our series on worship and why we do what we do.

    sunday evening i'm going with james again but i haven't thought that far ahead. tomorrow!

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  12. i'm not preaching, and we have a guest preacher from haiti for world communion sunday, but what i'm thinking about the esther text is vulnerability...even though the king promised her anything, it was still a huge risk to point out the treachery of his trusted companion while they were all right there - who does that?! and who hasn't had a promise broken? she opened herself up for the sake of her people - family, friends, strangers - and left herself wide open to rejection, punishment, banishment (king A had done it before...). where does this leave us? where's god in this text? where are you in it?

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  13. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)

    Amen!

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  14. I have decided that I will tell Esther's story (or some version of it) for Children's TIme. IT is also worth naming that this is a story that warrants a feast in its honour -- Purim. Obviously it says something important to people if it warrants a feast.

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  15. Has anyone ever heard of a sermon about Vashti? I think her story is underrated. After all, she stood up against the king because of his drunken request.

    Just wondering (with the talk of Esther sermons here).

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  16. A. Lin, I haven't, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea!

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  17. I'm off the lectionary for the foreseeable future. Am preaching a series this fall "Seek Ye First - kingdom living in the land of milk and honey." We're exploring some of the New Testament stories dealing with money and possessions. This week - the man who sells it all and buys the field, and the pearl of great price. I covet your prayers.

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  18. I was once Haman in a musical presentation of the Esther story.

    For a kids' sermon, it's great if you go into Purim...you can distribute noise makers and everyone can have a rollicking good time making noise when the name of Haman is said!

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  19. Hi Pastornines, you have our prayers as you go through your series.

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  20. A. Lin: I once heard a good sermon on Vashti as a forgotten heroine in the Book of Esther, because she stood up for herself and spoke the truth to power. Go for it!:-D

    I like the theme of "saltiness" in Mark...perhaps because I like to cook! And like Jesus' yeasty baker's metaphor for the Reign of God, it suggests a way of living in the world that isn't about "take no prisoners" triumphalism, nor of separation from "those bad other people over there," but rather being a subtle but permeating presence in the world, trusting God to work the Reign into the world through us.

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  21. Thanks Luthern Chik, you got where I was going. You are great!

    And Mary Beth, what play was that? I am always looking for a good children's sermon.

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  22. so my now-cat's name is esther, because she was the sweeter, younger companion to my old-cat, names vashti, appropriately, as she would not come when she was called.

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  23. Abi,

    It was called Beauty and the Feast. But I can't find it online anywhere!

    I'll see if my mom still has it...she was the group leader.

    Had a great song in it:

    "Oh, Esther
    Did the best her
    Generation would allow..."

    that's all I can remember. :)

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  24. It's good to be back - my internet connection was lost for a week!

    I'm going with Mark, but focusing on Jesus' instructions to the disciples to allow the miracle worker who is "not one of us" to continue working miracles in Jesus name - a Christian Unity on World Communion Sunday focus.

    One of my members suggested that I remind the congregation why we serve each other (instead of ouselves) as we pass the elements from one to another in the pews. Hmm - a teaching moment?.

    A. Lin, our Womanist sisters do a lot of writing about Vashti. You could find some sermon resources from Jacqueline Grant or Katy Cannon or Emile Towne et al.

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