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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Deep Freeze Edition

Happy Tuesday friends! Whether you are experiencing the below-zero temps of those of us in the Northern Plains, the unseasonable snow and ice of the nation's Southern Plains, the freak storms of the southeast, or the really, really frigid temps of our pals in Canada, I think we can agree: Winter has arrived in North America. Wondergirl has had two days off from school, since the district decided to not try to heat the buildings to a livable temp in these -20 to -30 wind chills. (Old timers find this hilarious, y'know. I mean, its Snow Belt for crying out loud.) I ventured out to St Stoic this morning, to get some books and paperwork to bring home. I then got caught on some unexpectedly icy freeways (did you know that road salt doesn't work at -10 degrees?).

So, all this to say that today is a great day to put a log on the fire, put some water on for tea, and delve into some scripture. If you are a lectionary preacher, like I am lately, you can surely start here.

I am struck by the blessings/curse theme that runs through all of this. It reminds me of Stephen Colbert's "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger" except in the gospel lesson we have the great reversal of fortunes that Christ brings. I am also struck by the fact that Jesus came to a level place to give his sermon on blessings and woes. Is this indication that Jesus is the great equalizer who levels the playing field for all of us? If so, how do we respond to that metaphor in a world where some are more equal than others?

These are some of the homiletical rabbit trails I'm exploring this week. How about you?

Bonus: I reread Eugene Lowry's The Homiletical Plot this past weekend. It was a wonderful refresher to the survey of this book I did in seminary. If you were taught to preach using the "Lowry Loop" like I was, you will enjoy this book.


  1. As I read the beatitudes from Luke, I am picturing my mostly middle class church family and thinking we are in trouble! How to preach grace as well as discipleship in the midst of that seems to me to be the question.

    I was rereading something from Christian Centurey I posted in 2006. It is written by a theologian named McCabe from "God, Christ and Us" and it is about repentance.

    "We are quite naturally prone to say that God sin angry with us when we sin. And of course, the Bible speaks frequently of the wrath of God- wrath especially against those oppress and exploit his particular friends: the poor and unprotected, the widow and the orphan. And this is a perfectly good way of talking. But the language is figurative. It is an image of God. There is nothing wrong with such imagery as long as we do not let it confuse us into thinking that it represents the last word on God. As St. Thomas Aquinas tells us…we need a lot of images for god, IN particular, we need conflicting, incompatible and grotesque ones. The more images we have, says Thomas, the less likely we are to identify them with God and the more likely we are to realize that God is the incomprehensible mystery behind all images. So there is nothing wrong with thinking of God as angry about our sin. Yet it would be wrong to think that is the end of the matter. We have to set images of God’s anger beside images of God as constantly tolerant and compassionate. We have to set them beside images of God as forgetting our offenses and so on. If we work simply with idols and images, we are liable to tell a story like this: first I sin and God is angry; then I repent and beg for forgiveness; and after a while, God relents and forgives me and is pleased with me again. And this is perfectly in order considered as a story. But it is not the literal truth
    The literal truth is that when God forgives us he doesn’t change his mind about us. Out of his unconditional, unchanging, eternal love for us he changes our minds about him. It is God’s loving gift that we begin to think of repenting for our sin and of asking for his mercy. And that repentance does not earn his forgiveness. It is his forgiveness under another name. The gift, the grace, of contrition just is God’s forgiveness. The gift of contrition is, for example, the grace we celebrate in the sacrament of penance. If we go to confession, it is not to plead for forgiveness from God. It is to thank him for it. The gift of contrition is the gift of recognizing God’s unswerving love for us. It is the gift of having the confidence to confess our sins, to admit the truth. And if we do that, then, as Jesus told us, the truth will set us feel (cf John8:32)

  2. Correction: The first line of the quote is "We are quite naturally prone to say that God is angry with us when we sin."

  3. I am still coming off the shock that folks listened last week. They spoke to me about the sermon last night - a record for my group.

    Not sure what Year of the Bible will bring me and the only time I achieved the Lowry loop successfully was when I wasn't trying.

    That is all for now... sorry.

  4. Oh, dear, I think I need mroe tea--I read it as "put another BLOG on the fire..."

  5. I'm with you, will smama. Three different people repeated actual words I used on Sunday and/or asked for clarification on something I said. I wasn't in church all alone!

    The Reverend Samuel T Rabbit likes bunny trails, Songbird, and I think I do, too. I've been wavering between the selections this week and Christ as the great equalizer seems like a good trail to follow.

    OF course, I've been distracted from thinking about my sermon by a Pillar of my church in the hospital with a broken hip, the sudden realiztion that we're having a guest from a health screening group come to talk to us after worship this week, and a class I started today "Elementary Spanish for Ministers." So glad the UCC folks here invite Disciples to these course offerings :-)

  6. WS: laughing at your accidental Lowry. I'm sure people will say my preaching is loopy sometimes, but not in the good way.

    ~cue rim-shot~

  7. Tee hee, I was wondering about Songbird, too! Thought maybe she had already finished her sermon (per determination to do so earlier, blogged about at her place).

  8. I wish!
    I'm going to preach the gospel lesson, looking at the pivot point between the blessings and the woes of the Sermon on the Plain. I'm playing with the seesaw/teeter-totter image, as I began doing on my blog earlier today. (Thanks to one of my Preacher Group friends for that insight!)
    For Main Street Church, in this period of transition, the pivot point is everything. How do we find a balance between past and future, hurts and hopes, fears and reality? We find it by putting our hope in the Lord (and there you see Psalm 1).
    So that is where I'm headed, Sisters and Brothers, with some stuff written, nothing complete, but further ahead than usual for a Tuesday. Hurray!

  9. I am not preaching this Sunday. I will be facilitating a weekend (Fri -Sun) of aspirants discering a call to ordained leadership...
    so, our Deacon is preaching. I will be thinking about all of you as you ponder and prepare.

    Remember, our goal is to feed our people, but sometimes they get cereal while other times we can feed them brunch. Either way they are fed...

  10. ooooh, sb, i really like that. my sermon morning has become a mommy morning thanks to a stomach virus that has laid out TDH. typing 1 handed hard/tedious by the way.

  11. I was reading a blog commentary on the Gospel text from Mary Hinkle Shore on Pilgrim Preaching -- there's a link to it in The Text This Week , under the Gospel lesson -- and she made some good points about approaching this text from a purely socioeconomic standpoint. She said there's a real temptation for preachers in our relatively affluent part of the world to use this text to beat ourselves up -- We are the rich and privileged; woe is us! -- in a way that not only creates what Shore calls "dead-end guilt" in some listeners but also effectively ignores/marginalizes the materially poor and needy in our own congregations.

    Having tended to read this text in this way myself, my reaction to Shore's comments was, "Ouch..."

    So you're left with the challenge of finding a broader application of the text, one that addresses the transformative power of God's Reign in all aspects of our lives, while still honoring the social justice subtext.

  12. Hey I haven't read Lowery's book, I have got to check it out. I am doing the LUke passage too. Thought I was going one direction, but as I read the passage, I realized that was not the right direction. I do like the blessings and woes. I think my church could stand to hear it.

  13. In my opinion this Lukan passageis perfectly desinged for the Lowry Loop. THe passage itself disturbds the equilibrium--big time.

    I seem to remember when I preached this passage in my preaching class myprof made a comment about how well I took the down path "wasn't sure you could pull it back up" as I remember...

    BUt I haven't intentionally preached the Lowry loop since seminary (when at least one of our sermons had to use it).

  14. singing owl: "Lowry Loop" is a sermonic structure used in narrative preaching. The idea is that a sermon has a "plot" to follow from conflict to grace. (The structure, when you draw a picture of it, looks like a loop.)

    Key to this kind of preaching is finding the part of a text which, as Gord says, upsets the equilibrium, and catches us by surprise, and following it to the gospel/grace conclusion. Lowry also calls it "itch-scratch" preaching.

    (I could maybe lend you my book if you wish. E-mail if you want me to send it to you.)


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