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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- 6/17 Is This My Family? Edition

Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

You know, I always wonder what people are thinking when they tell me that they read the Bible and find comfort and solace. I wonder about the TV commercials for church and Christianity that present the Bible as having clear cut answers and hope. I bet you wonder too. What Bible are they reading?

The Bible we read does have hope and comfort and solace, but boy, isn’t that just one facet of what we find? The Bible we read shows us comfort and hope and stirs things up, unsettles our lives, forces us to go places we often don’t feel ready to go. That’s the Bible we read. And it is definitely the Bible we read today.

Vida Scudder, a professor and social activist wrote, “Who can really read the Gospels [the Bible] and fail to find them a disturbing force?”

It is a religious paradox, God is love, and God’s word is at the same time the most profoundly disturbing, unsettling force we will ever know. Our faith comes contrast, not through uniformity. Thanks be to God.

Our faith comes through contrast. The story of Hagar cannot be summed up with the platitude “God will provide,” This text is a painful reminder of the errors made by faithful people, of the wrongs committed because we feel the need to protect our turf, save what is ours. The story of Hagar and what is done to her is unsettling. It should be.

And the lectionary text giving voice to Jesus doesn’t bring us any relief. Today’s reading from Matthew makes me wonder about those nice ads on TV that proclaim, “Family, isn’t it about time?” Maybe they missed this section of Matthew.

The life of faith, despite what the commercials may lead you to believe, is not neat and tidy. Like a work camp trip, the life of faith can be messy and tiring and even dirty. But it is when we open ourselves to the paradoxes, when we open ourselves to the cries of Hagar and the possibility that family can be an idol, it is when we open ourselves to the complexities that we see the true God. Not the one we want to see but the one who Is. And who has been. And who will be. And that God is greater than anything we can imagine.

What are you thinking about this week?


  1. Well, I am preaching the disturbing passage of the good news of Jesus from Matthew. And well it is exactly that disturbing. But sometimes I need to be disturbed again.

  2. Disturbing and empowering, I think. Don't just sit back passively and accept the unacceptable, or pretend you don't know the right that Jesus teaches. Or preach it in a tiny little voice. Fight for it. Stand up for your faith. Be out there like Dr. King - and do not fear those who would hate you for it. Even if it means a family split - or a split in the DOC, UMC, UCC, PCUSA, etc etc etc. . .

    I'm loving this passage!

  3. I will likely go with Genesis and segue into Matthew. I don't think I really got around to talking about letting go last week - hinted at it, maybe - so I'm going to try hitting that aspect harder.

  4. I'm going will Matthew also. It's week 3 in my Radical Discipleship series from the Matthew lectionary lessons. This one might be the most engaging one so far. I'm having fun writing my blog post on it. I'll post the link momentarily when I finish it!

    I've had "Radical Reach", "Radical Response", and now "Radical Risk". I think a very timely illustration on this one is the Barack Obama/Trinity Church issue. "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they amlign those of his household." Without weighing in on the subject of the sermons, the preacher, or the candidate, I think we can still see the truth of the tendency!

    Anyway, this one is going to be a fun one, I think!

  5. I'm contemplating those good old-fashioned, dysfunctional, polygamist, slave-owning family values of Genesis! We could use some detachment here from the "good old days," and this is where I would like to get started shaking things up. You could use the gospel, too, but I love telling more of the Abraham and Sarah story. I'll use the last section of the gospel in a reflection that goes out via email tomorrow.

  6. I am going with the comfort in Genesis (which may well mean having to get to the need for it first). This week is our service at the lake so the sermon is on Wilderness God

    Interestingly enough, last year for picnic Sunday the lectionary served up Elijah in the cave and the still small voice. Wonderful when the lectionary matches life...

  7. Whew! I just might have almost half of a sermon written. Woo hoo!

    I guess that answers this struggle.

  8. Crap. I just realized that all this man against father, daughter against mother, foes in your own household stuff is the lectionary for a Sunday on which we're celebrating TWO 50th anniversaries. One is having a big party during our fellowship time, the other a renewal of vows after worship.

    Gord, I could use a little of your coincidental lectionary-meets-life blessing about now! :)

  9. I will be watching (reading?) with intereset what y'all are doing with the Gospel reading this week. I am using it next week and my preliminary title appears to be "Be Not Afraid". I wonder where I got that and where I will take it?

  10. I'm sitting in the OT section again this week.

    Glad to be with you all here.

  11. I am preaching again this week...last Sunday's Gospel lesson and this one's reminds me of the story about Teresa of Avila -- having gotten chased out of one of the convents she was trying to reform for messing with the status quo -- falling off her donkey on the road; while lying there on the ground in pain, probably with little cartoon stars swirling around her head, she cried out, "Lord, why are you letting all this happen to me?" She heard a voice: "Teresa, this is how I treat all my friends." To which she replied, "That is why you have so few of them!" I might visit the topic of cheap grace, and the idea that when we stand up for kingdom values, we often run into a wall of resistance from people and institutions who don't want to be changed or challenged. It seemed more clear to me at 6:30 am in the shower, LOL...maybe inspiration will return.

  12. Thanks for the story about Teresa, lutheranchik. That might make an appearance here in Sunday!

  13. Am I the only one wimping-out and preaching the Romans passage? I love this passage, but with recent baptisms I've preached alot on baptism. I'm focusing on the last verse about being alive in Christ. Also in doing a word study I learned that one of the nuances of the "new" life is an "extraordinary" life. I'm going to try to connect that with the "whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" in the Gospel passage.

  14. I Also love the story of Teresa, and as I have talked with Bible study folks this week we have discussed the difference between Lamenting and Complaining.

    As I read the Jeremiah, Psalm and Matt text, I am thinking of a sermon that discusses the importance of keeping relationship in the midst of trial, which transforms a complaint to a lament...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Listing, that was a fantastic introduction

  15. If you're looking for more inspiration on the family topic, Barbara Brown Taylor has a wonderful sermon called "Learning to Hate Your Family" on this text, in a book called "Teaching Sermons on Suffering: God in Pain." (This sermon might also be in other books of hers, but this is the one I know of.)

  16. Wow, LS! That was a sermon all by itself. And Songbird, I can't wait to see what you write.

    I'd love to tackle this one, and may on a Sunday soon, but I need to preach on baptism this week.

  17. I'm thinking about the dysfunctional family, too. The Ishmael passage bothers me...Ishmael is thrown out and God rescues him and promises that he too will be the father of a great nation. Which of couse is Islam. So the three sister religions can barely co-exist.

    And then in Matthew we have Jesus saying that being part of God's family is more important that any earthly family....

    I don't know where I'm going with all this...maybe nowhere...we'll see.

  18. I would love to hear you preach someday LS; you weave together these introductions so beautifully.


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