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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: High Anxiety Edition

Lessons for the coming Sunday are here .

I'll admit it; I'm a "high anxiety," nail-biting, finger-twiddling person whose nerves are set off by everything from left-hand turns to work stress to watching crises du jour on CNN.

Some of us do ministry in anxious congregations -- congregations dealing with change or interpersonal frictions or local stressors.

Sometimes our anxiety springs from forces beyond our control. Sometimes it's the kind of self-induced anxiety borne of our fast-paced, multitasking, distracting, life-devouring lifestyles and mindsets.

What is the word to us anxious folk this coming Sunday? Here's your opportunity to ponder and discuss.


  1. Oooo... an interesting intro for this week's readings. I found the RCL readings VERY promising, VERY comforting, especially with the images of God nurturing us as Mother. My reflections for this week are here.

    And perhaps there is a special message for anxious folk and anxious congregations in this week's psalm, about being quieted and stilled by God... IF we allow God to help us with this. And I think this week's gospel reading reinforces the message - just to picture oneself in that upper room, the fear and anxiety palpable, until Jesus walks right through the locked door and says simply,

    Peace be with you.

  2. What a wonderful contrast the psalm message is to the two responses most often given someone who is anxious: don't worry, be happy, or just give it all up to God. I hadn't paid much attention to the psalm so thanks, Hedwyg, for pointing me in that direction

  3. We definitely need the gospel message this week, as our senior pastor just announced he is leaving. I don't know what exactly he is planning to preach, but I know I'll be drawing heavily on the psalm and the gospel for prayers and children's sermon!

  4. This is a question from a colleague of mine that she asked me to post...."I have been reading this site for months and being nourished by it each week as I prepare my sermons. Now I am hoping that you have some wisdom for me. I am struggling with how to present the Gospel text this week, in the context of the recent disasters in Asia. I just don't think I can preach only to my congregants' anxieties when so many people are suffering and in need of precisely the earthly blessings that Jesus promises in this passage to those who trust God. Any ideas?"

  5. One of my congregations just lost one of our beloved matriarchs to a freak accident. (Her funeral is tomorrow, actually, so my mind is more on that sermon, than Sundays, at this point.) But I know that most will be hearing these texts through the lens of her recent tragic death. But I also don't want Sunday's sermon to become another funeral sermon. Any ideas?

  6. Anxiety is the stuff that wears down the faith. We do not heed the many times we hear "fear not" in Scripture. At the sametime it is often our anxiousness that makes us do something about the things that we fear. In the Isaiah reading it is Zion that fears the captives' return. In the Gospel neither the flowers nor the birds fear being themselves to fulfill what God intends in their lives.

    Many of our churches are too afraid to do ministry because they are too fixed on paying the bills. Of course that is precisely when we most desperately need to be about doing Christ's ministry.

  7. Working on the Matthew text this week. Thinking about the "don't worry" part, leaning toward preaching about worry as idolatry. My title, for some unknown reason, is "God Will Not Forget." I chose it a month ago, and it's been published, so there it is. I can always ignore it, of course. I'm sure there was some thought process behind it, if only I could recover it.

  8. Because I'm a vietnam vet and this is memorial day week-end, (a day when instead of remembering the cost and horror of wars we too often glorify them), I only hope people will offer a brief prayer for peace - for victims of war (which includes vets), their families(also victims), and especially for the children. peace, tw

  9. revtlee, we pray for peace every Sunday, for our armed forces and for those who live in countries devastated by war.
    p.s., did your matriarch live her life well? Did she use, as I suspect she did, the gifts she was given for the glory of God? Then she would probably endorse the message about worry not helping any, eh?
    As for "natural" disasters, there is nothing we can do to prevent them. We could, of course, avoid living in places where they occur - I remember one of the reasons I thought it would be okay to live in Buffalo NY was because Lake Erie prevents tornadoes ;-) - but even in supposed safe places, disaster can strike. But knowing that God is with all of those people as well a with us, that God grieves with them and works alongside them is far more important than worrying about them. As I continue to study the psalm, it seems to be that the image of being quiet at the mother's breast stands out. It is not necessarily a passive place even though it is still and quiet. When we still our souls, don't we do our best listening? Doesn't that place offer us the nurture and strength to do what God has called us to do without worrying about how to do it, what the consequences might be and all those other questions we occupy ourselves with?
    "Think of us this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries." Another good line to ponder.

  10. I'm not preaching this Sunday, a day off from that while the Deacon's voice will be heard. But I'm back on board for the next several weeks afterward....

    If I were preaching I would speak to the anxiety and fear and how times of turbulance can bring out the best in humanity. I do not think that God ever causes the disasters in the world or the "problems" in our lives - I think stuff just happens. BUT I do believe that when stuff happens God works into the stuff, usually through the goodness of humans, to help restore wholeness and well being. I use the Incarnation as an image of how I think God chooses to work in and through humanity to transform the world...if that makes sense? So, I like to think about the good that people do in response to a disaster and how God calls us to participate in that healing work in the world...

  11. In recognition of the Memorial Day observance, we are going to open with an paraphrased Ps 131 call to worship followed by silence while members/guests can come forward and light a candle for those lost in war and conflict.

    We will hear both Isaiah and Matthew, though I think I'm going to focus on Matthew. The families in our congregation have experienced so many highs and lows recently -- graduation, new grandbabies on the way, good test results...and also death of parent, serious childhood illness, cancer diagnoses, etc., etc. And then they watch the news. On the bright side, we may be able to announce that a much needed refinancing of our debt has been approved. Plus we are going to begin partnering with another local church.

    Speaking in the middle of all of this, I am struggling between allowing these readings to be a balm and challenging us to be propelled forward with confidence. Maybe both? Hope? Trust?

    My prayers are with all of you as we anxiously seek to speak a good word!

  12. I'm using Matthew, and I find myself focused on "Therefore." "Therefore do not worry about your life." What that references is the previous verse about choosing which master you will serve. So letting go of worry is a by product of being clear about which God you serve. I find this quite provocative.

  13. Hubby has to consider a "honoring the Sunday School teachers" bit too. Hmmm. I always enjoy reading on Tuesdays and sometimes earmark a comment for Hubby to consider.

  14. Hi- first time poster but long time lurker. One of the other lectionary sites points out that in the last line of the gospel reading Jesus says "Each day has enough troubles of it's own" (NIV) Never noticed that before, and I'm thinking that puts a new perspecetive on this passage for me. I think I'm going to play around with that for a while and see where it leads me.

  15. Thanks ruth & both have me thinking differently about how I can offer this passage! Hmmm...

    Don't worry, but don't kid yourself into thinking that will make it easy. The only way through it is with utter confidence that God is faithful to God's promises.

  16. Deb, my mother quoted that verse ALL the time -- which became simply "don't borrow tomorrow's trouble" which is a great motto.

  17. I'm preaching Matthew but don't yet have a fix on what I'm doing/where I'm going. This text always hits me as so relevant, no matter what my current life context.

    My current title is "The Hard Command." I find the counsel not to worry to be among the hardest things to try to do. Trusting God, striving first for God, serving only one master - all of these are foundational concepts for our faith, and yet so difficult to actually put into practice in daily living. At least for me.

  18. We have 5 baptisms on Sunday during worship, and it really made me think about all of the father/mother images in the scriptures. I'm going in part with the end of Isaiah - about how we are in the palm of God's hands -how our names are inscribed in God's palm... and then talking about that complete and utter trust that children need to have in their parents.

    I'm also going to talk about our responsibilities as a congregation and as parents and grandparents to love and nurture these children in their faith.

    Tying in with the baptism message and our united methodist belief in prevenient grace, I'm going to talk about God being there, walking with us, guiding us, taking care of us - just like God takes care of the rest of creation - before we are even aware of it, and before we can even respond.


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