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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: A good week to go off lectionary?

Is anybody else but me discouraged by this week's lectionary?

My personal favorite is the people being sawn in half in Hebrews. Not. Failed vineyards, mocking, flogging, stoning, fire, rain, persecution, and a reminder that we're all going to die make for a tricky preaching week.

Luckily I find hope in the "God near by, not a God far off" in Jeremiah, (which is actually an alternate reading you can find at the Vanderbilt site) and I think I will try to wrap my head around that one this week. The others wear me out. And it's only Tuesday morning.

What about you?


  1. Well, I feel I have to go with Isaiah this week b/c I have an article on it due in January for a lectionary commentary and I need to get thinking in that direction. The imagery is really quite compelling but I have NO idea what I'm going to do with it. So far all I've got is what I need for staff meeting - a worship outline and sermon title: "Love-Song for a Disaster."

  2. OK, the imagery isn't the most uplifting I suppose. I am preaching from the Hebrews text. I was struck by the BY FAITH statements and the recounting of our faith ancestors persevering BY FAITH. I'm going to talk about the "cloud of witnesses" as well. All I have are early thoughts at this point, but I'm going with Hobrews.

  3. I committed several weeks back to a series on images from the prophets. This week is the vineyard from Isaiah. I noticed that both the OT and the Gospel seem to have a great deal of anger in them: That of God the lover who doesn't appreciate the wildness and unfaithfulness of the object of affection , and that of Jesus as he lays it out straight to the completely clueless masses. I think I can work with it, but picking hymns was a fright!

  4. I did not preach lectionary last week, and am encouraged by the clous of witnesses. Off the top of my head, I am considering those who came before us, and also how we witness here and now. How we build on the faith foundation laid by those who came before us. Sunday school teachers, parents, choir directors, menotrs, and all of the other poeple who shape our faith now, what will it mean to us later. It's still mushy but is a starting place.

  5. Okay, so, I'm delurking and jumping in to your fun discussions.

    I'm going with Hebrews- I saw a suggestion in the Seasons curriculum that if the passage is read when kids are in the room you can skip the torture - I'm going to fully endorse that idea, and then have lots of fun with the cloud of witnesses.

    I thinking I'm going to have us create our own cloud of witnesses during story time - we're in the fellowship hall for August since it's cheaper to cool it, so we can move chairs into a center-facing setup. I'm going to invite folks to write on clouds the names of those who've been an example or witness for them in their faith - and somehow have a network of string and helium balloons set up that people tie theirs on to and then we let it all go and it floats up to the roof!

    And, somehow I'm going to use Harry Potter's cloud of witnesses that walk into the forest with him in Book 7.

  6. *sigh*

    Cheesehead, you'll sympathize with this. VBS is next week, our two main leaders are butting heads and I'm expected to referee the fight. I HATE VBS. So the temptation to go with God's anger is, unfortunately, FAR TOO TEMPTING.

    I'm seriously concerned that I might lose it if I'm not careful. Pray for me now in the hour of my need! :-)

  7. I got all excited when I remembered writing about Psalm 80 for our RevGal Advent book, but that piece was, not surprisingly, all Christmas-y. I've printed out a bunch of stuff to read on Luke, but I just am not feeling it.
    Maybe i should go back and read the comments here first before I give up?

  8. I'm tempted to go with the gospel and call the sermon "Jesus Loses It."

  9. I just looked at the lectionary for this week, and....yeah. I can't even wrap my mind around writing a sermon yet; how do you write a call to worship for that one?

  10. Wouldn't the gospel lesson work for a sermon about the challenges of living together in community, finding a way to express our differences without having it come to the sword? Yes, these matters of faith and interpretation are hot ones. Even Jesus thought so. No wonder we do. Etc.

  11. I like the cloud of witnesses theme too. A couple of weeks ago at camp the curriculum (which was about peace building) called for a worship service where the kids came up and lit candles and said the name of a person who had been a light that led to Christ for them. (a witness of faith...) It was a REALLY neat service. We lit the candles and then talked about how if we lit candles for EVERY person who was a witness to our faith we would have a LOT of candles. Then we talked about how we are called to be those witnesses for people around us. I might do something like that.....

  12. Ooooh...another thought! After Songbird mentioned Psalm 80, I realized I wrote a community lament service based on it last year for my Psalms class. I may have to take another look at that!

  13. DUDE. We have the cloud of witnesses this week? I'm so going with that. Maybe tie it into our "dwelling in the Word" thing going on synodically and denominationally, telling stories of how the Bible has shaped us and shaped people who were influences on our faith, etc.

    I wrote a great Christology paper on the cloud of witnesses passage years ago, but somehow I don't think it will quite translate into a sermon. Still, might take a look at that too.

  14. I have been pondering conversion experiences recently. Maybe a possible window into these "texts of terror" is to ask, "Why would anyone convert to this?"

    Why did the church grow most rapidly when people were martyred for the Christian faith? As my church history prof used to say, "The blood of martyrs was the seed of the church."

    Another possible window into these texts, although I myself am initially reluctant to go there, might be a kind of jungian approach: "Walking On Faith's Shadow Side"

  15. For those of you going with the cloud of witnesses, there is a great term found in Stephen Doughty's "Discovering Community." It is 'inner church,' and he describes it as that special gathering of folks who nourished you in your own faith. Thought that might be good for a great cloud of witnesses.

    However, I'm going with the Luke text. I'm speculating that Jesus looked around his congregation and saw eyes glazed over, a head nod or two, people distracted by what's happening outside the window, and he realized he was headed towards death and the people just didn't get it. He longed for them to choose his side and to let God's fire ravish them and set the world ablaze. That's what I have so far, anyway. We'll see how it plays out.

  16. shooey. i just wrote a long comment and it disappeared. then i read chilly fingers comment and see that she is quoting a family member of ours who will just happen to be in worship (along with lots of other family members who all thought the best time to visit would be my first sunday back, right after a wedding, after being away five weeks!)

    cheese- you're right. tough week. but with revdari i was pulled in (a long time ago) to the "by faith" litany and like many to the "cloud of witnesses". i'm tacking on Hebrews 11:1-2- for the def of faith there- though i've learned today that the definition there that we all know so well "the assurance of things hope for and conviction of things not seen" is not really a good translation- I guess "reality of things hoped for" is better. hmmm.... yeah the list has graphic moments, and the choice of heroes (jepthah-***she clears her throat and rolls her eyes) and heroines leaves something to be desired- but... there's something cool about that too.

    well... must get back to reading about lions and wars and such...

    it's good to be back. some really creative ideas here! keep up the good work all.

  17. kim in kck - I had SUCH a hard time picking hymns this week, and then I got to staff meeting and ended up having to completely re-do what I'd picked. Turns out we'd sung two of them already more recently than I remembered, and the third was less-known than we'd thought (and we're not going to try to teach it w/ both our Dir. of Music and our organist gone). Not an easy week to pick hymns - esp. not twice!

    rev. dona - I like the idea of walking on faith's shadow side. I just picked up a book called Riding the Dragon (a Zen therapist's term for embracing the shadow) and it looks like it could have some possible applications....

  18. Oh yeesh. I come back from two weeks vacation to these texts...sigh...

    I think I am going to work with both Jeremiah and Luke and consider fire as a symbol for passion and the Holy Spirit...the prophet was filled with a passion he wanted to contain, he was a reluctant prophet; Jesus is filled with passion and Spirit and he cannot, will not, contain it, it bursts out of him. Do we live with the same passion? Does our love of God burst forth?

    Ok sure. When we try to live Jesus' passionate love for God all kinds of things happen. Family members turn against family, some want it to be a literal passion (where's that sword?)...others want it to be allegorical, others want it to be metaphorical...

    Not at all sure where I'll go with it...but those are my thoughts at this stage...

  19. ...and when all else fails....I'm gonna leave my sermon pondering for awhile and go clean some bathrooms...maybe something brilliant will come to me in the process...(actually, it's part of my "take 20 minutes" every day to clean something, and that way have a clean house...sigh)

  20. I want to come to your church Sunday, Rev. Zookeeper ... what a wonderful way to help people hear, experience, and connect the gospel to their lives!

  21. I'm thinking along those lines too... what are we passionate about? what gets us fired up? is the spark alive or are we merely embers? something to do with fire... can't pass up Luke this week - too rich. too full of good stuff to slog through... fireboots and all.

  22. Since I am safely out of the pulpit this week I get to be as fire and brimstone as I like. I'm writing something using both the Luke and the Isaiah passage and noting that while God creates and offers a good place/kingdom/vineyard we create division and strife. God offers unity and the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit but we grasp hold of "Jesus" and use him as a divisive weapon against one another.

    Its way too pulpit pounding to actually preach I think but given some things going on at church recently its feeling wonderful to write. ;)


  23. Even being off lectionary isn't helping this week. The passage I have reached in James is Chapter 4, where he rails at the church for their focus on arguing with each other and making money to spend on pleasures. "ADULTERERS! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" He sounds very angry prophet-like.

    Songbird, your comment on the challenges of living together in community will work for me :-) It sure seems to be the bee in James' metaphorical bonnet.

  24. I'm pretty sure I'm headed that way, to talk about how passionate we become when we are sure we know the answer, and why it's no wonder that Jesus went off at the lack of comprehension of those around him.
    My husband does not believe I will use the title "Jesus Loses It." Do you?

  25. Thanks for all your good thoughts on Luke, since that'll have to be read too and I'd better say something about it as well - your thoughts on the passion, fire, challenge of faith. And I'm always fascinated by the family against family stuff - in light of the "family values" rhetoric versus the real commitment of the cloud of witnesses that walk together as a family of faith - some even to death. Kenda Creasy Dean has that book about youth ministry and passion and talks about a faith that's worth dying for... if only I had all week just to work on a sermon.

  26. I like that title, Songbird. But then, what do I know about sermon titles? last week I preached something called "Do you eat with that mouth?"

  27. I, for one,, hope you do use the title "Jesus Loses It" Songbird. -:)

  28. ohh, I'm going to think more about, are we alive or are we merely "embers"...

    A Poem:
    we were once a church
    of active members,
    but now we're
    merely embers.
    Long ago
    full of fire,
    now the building
    we'll retire...

    (will it preach?)

    and I am really tempted to copy revzoo with the balloons and the cloud of witnesses, great idea!

    and then there's SB's challenges with community and Jesus loses it...

    I'm glad I have until Sunday morning to figure out what I'm saying...

  29. Dropping in from holidays to offer encouragement and prayers. A difficult week to preach, indeed--but that had nothing to do with the scheduling of my holidays!

    Blessings to all to write and study and preach!

  30. It still leaves us with the problem of a Call to Worship. I'm looking at Psalm 80.

  31. I love "Jesus loses it," Songbird. If Jesus was human enough to tip over tables, and to cry, can't he be human enough to lose it occasionally? That's good news for me.

    The balloons are adapted from ideas from the SS curriculum, not just my head. Although I often have brilliant ideas all my own, I'm sure, or I did once upon a time.

    I love the image of embers, mompriest, but I think the poem is way too depressingly close to home for us. Embers do reignite though, right, when there's fresh fuel?

  32. My husband calls the changing leaves "embers." They do fall off the tree, but in the spring, there are new leaves.
    As far as liturgical materials go, this is one of those weeks I'm really missing Seasons of the Spirit. I leaned on it a lot the past three years. I hope to have it again in September, if the CE person actually ordered the Congregational Life segment, as requested.

  33. Embers aren't bad necessarily... if you have embers you still have a glowing piece from the fire... and that means there is still the presence of hope. If we have hope - we have life - if we have life - then we ought to have passion right? something like that... do we need to do the hard work of 'fanning the flames'? or do we need a big event to cause some fireworks which reignites us?

  34. indeed...yes, the poem speaks very close to were we are in the "small church" I serve; depressingly true...sigh...but sometimes I just have to try and add some humor in it all....

    and yes, embers are not necessarily bad at all, they can very much re-ignite...which is kinda where my thoughts keep going for Sunday - passion and re-igniting passion...

    I hope the fuel to do so comes from the Holy Spirit, but like HCL I think it also has to come from us...

    and, if we were a little closer to autumn and changing leaves I think I'd do a play on words: ember as in hot coals, ember as in leaves, and ember as in writing the Bishop an Ember Day letter (which all those in the ordination process for the Episcopal Church must Ember Day comes 4 times a year; fall, winter, spring, summer)...(Ember days
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: In the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian churches, Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week - specifically, the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday - roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that were formerly set aside for fasting and prayer. These days set apart for special prayer and fasting, were considered especially suitable for the ordination of clergy. The Ember Days were known in the medieval church as quatuor tempora (the "four seasons"), or jejunia quatuor temporum ("fasts of the four seasons").

    I still like the idea of the balloons....

  35. Sometimes going with the opposite of what is so negative in the passage shows us a way to deal with things, when things seem to be going downhill in our own lives ...!

  36. Ok. I completely digressed and posted a poem in response to some of our conversation today. You can find it here

  37. I read somewhere else the question: Are we fire passers or pacifiers?

  38. oh..good passers or pacifiers...

  39. I'm with you in feeling exhausted by Hebrews =). And I have Junior Camp next week! UUGG

  40. Again I am preaching in an Episcopal Church and I think that it is very important that I take on the divisions that come when we follow Christ. Especially when I spoke last week about compromise in the present crisis.

    I think we need to be willing to give thanks for the divisions in the Church--it forces us to articulate more clearly what it means to be Christian. Got to take on the divisions. Pray for me

  41. The early Christians were persecuted - they did die for their faith. It doesn't have to be depressing - it wasn't for them- because they really truly utterly believed that they had something better waiting for them.

    I sometimes have nightmeres about those who were covered in tar -and used as human lighting for Emperor Nero - and I can't imagine how their family and friends felt

    but without this, without their witness - in the face of awful death - then I don't think Christ's resurrection would have been preached up until today.

    Even today - in some countries - people are persecuted for their faith -and that gives me pause for thought too.

  42. I'm taking on the Luke text- mainly because I just returned from our denomination's national gathering. During the assemblies- we heard from so many different perspectives, sometimes very angry and hurt ones.

    From the moment Jesus left the church became divided.

    However, when we all gathered for worship and communion - the love of Christ gathered us together in the midst of the division.

    Jesus is talking about the division to come... but then he is the one that unites us in our source.

  43. Okay, I've decided. I'm going to use both Hebrews and Luke, and the title of the sermon is "Can I Get a Witness?" I'm going to invite everyone, at the Time With the Children, to write a name of someone who was a witness to them, and we'll put them on the worship center, then read them aloud later during our prayer time. I may tell the story of Perpetua, my favorite, favorite saint of all time (the Nymphadora Tonks of early Christianity). We need those passionate witnesses to show us that we are not signed on to something namby-pamby, meek and mild. Does it sound like I have something?

  44. Good discussion, folks. It makes me wish I WAS preaching this week, but alas, I'll be traveling with my oldest daughter to return her to college for the second year.

    Last night I was catching up on reading and saw the following quote that struck me with its simplicity and truth--spoken by Bob Woodruff in response to a question in the May 7, 2007 Time Magazine (6).

    What would you say to the terrorist who tried to kill you?
    "I don't know. But I will tell you one thing for sure. I think we need to find a change in the way people treat each other in this world. One of the answers is not to kill back."

    Amen, Bob, amen.

    Blessings to all of you as you ponder the texts and listen for the Spirit.

  45. I got some more nuggets from our new (whoo-hoo!) local lectionary discussion group this morning - first we were talking about the Luke passage and the fire and the passion and how we choose to live in the world - and one person talked about reading the signs at the end of the passage. Today we watch the weather but maybe not as closely if we're not farmers - but we watch the Dow Jones and the political news - are we missing the real story too because we're watching in self-interest, for what it means for us, instead of watching for the signs of the kingdom?

    And, then we were finding good news in the Hebrews - the cloud of witnesses to stand with us as we face the trials that come. Our church is doing communion an extra Sunday this week, just because, and I was thinking about how standing in line to receive communion we take our place in the generations, in the line of witnesses, and someone else talked about beloved objects that are handed down from generation to generation - that develop a patina because they've been used so much - that have so much more value than what they're actually worth in dollars. Anyway, I have just recently received some family heirlooms from my grandmother's home after her death, including a well-worn serving spoon and a big old family Bible, which I think I'll bring Sunday for the altar, and invite others to bring their own family heirlooms as well, and connect the sacrament to memory and faith.

    Perhaps I'm floating rather far afield, but on the other hand I know my people would feel connected and more likely to listen to the challenge that way.

  46. Rev zookeeper- I love the idea of using book 7's cloud of witnesses. However it won't work with my crowd who for the most part would gladly ignite their embers if it meant Harry got scorched!


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