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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Humility Edition

This coming Sunday's lectionary readings are here .

It's good to be king, the saying goes. For the king's subjects, not so much, at least historically. But in today's Old Testament lesson we meet a different kind of king -- a king whose strength lies in humility. In the Gospel lesson Jesus offers a similar model of a servant leader -- one whose yoke is easy and burden light upon his subjects. In the epistle lesson, Paul approaches the issues of power and humility from a different angle -- namely, our constant struggle to overcome the power of sin.

How will you, as preacher/prayer/liturgical planner, use the week's lessons? Or are you going in a different direction? Discuss!


  1. I don't really like Paul. And yet this week I find myself preaching on Romans for the second time in a month. The bit about doing the things I know I shouldn't caught my eye and imagination for a sermon called Knowing the Shadow

    NOw I just need to hfind time to make it more than an idea. (along with preparing theme time for next week's camp and writing a wedding sermon that feature talk about a tree....)

  2. I'm using the lesson from Zechariah to talk about the difference between Jesus' kingdom and ours'...hope it works.

  3. I'm going a little off lectionary the next few weeks. Or actually, I'll be on the lectionary, but a week ahead. I'm working with the parables the next few weeks, and starting with the parable of the sower. I'm leaving out the interpretation part of the reading, though. I think the interpretation in Matthew makes it more about the parable of the soil. I'm going to talk about the abundance of God's grace and the way it is thrown about ANYWHERE, no matter in what soil it may land. Stealing a title from Will Willimon in one of the preaching resources, I'm calling it "What a Waste!" What we would consider wasteful, God considers graceful. (OK - I didn't intend to say that quite so cheesily, but there it is.)

  4. I'm going to use Song of Solomon and the gospel lesson as an entry into talking about utopia, America and the Kingdom. Possible title: "The Road to Shambala."
    (They want to sing some patriotic music, and if we're going to sing it, I'm going to talk about America. Seriously.)

  5. The one phrase that resonated with me in reading the lessons was "prisoners of hope" in Zechariah. What does it mean to be a prisoner of hope?

    I'm in an online discussion right now about Christian perspectives on the end of cheap oil -- how this massive paradigm shift is going to change our society and challenge the Church in ways we haven't been challenged for a long time. How can we be "prisoners of hope" during tumultuous times? we struggle every day with the dilemma Paul eloquently describes, how do we "keep hope alive" that God loves us and saves us from the consequences of our human brokenness?

    I'm not preaching this week...just sayin'.;-)

  6. I just love the Song of Solomon reading. Many years ago I completed several samplers using this verse "For lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing is come." The first I gave to a friend who was surfacing after the end of his marriage, and gifts to others followed. Maurice Andrew says this about it (quoting Othmar Keel and Marvin Pope) "Nowhere in the OT is the equality of the sexes ... as real as in the Song. Nowhere is the value of the single human being ... so convincingly celebrated ... The sound of the cooing of the turtledoves, which returned to Palestine in early April, was a sure sign of Spring."
    That said I'm co-ordinating a professional development day in Brisbane. Don't expect to get near a church at all. But I have valued the opportunity to reflect on these scriptures. Thanks!

  7. We certainly do have some beautiful readings this week. Reading through them, I felt like I was looking at a gorgeous tapestry from the Renaissance, with threads of so many colours woven together into a beautiful whole. I spent time this week reflecting on just one short part of the whole, the easy yoke and light burden from Matthew.

    Peace be with you all!

  8. Forgot to mention one thing... on that last sentence in Matthew: my burden is light. I'd reflected a few days ago on people who bring the light into my life and wondering for whom I carry the light. And when I read those words yesterday morning, they sang for me in a little different way. What sang through those words is that our burden, as given to us by Jesus, is literally to BE the Light (as in, the Light of the World) for each other. So our burden is The Light. It was an interesting way to read those words, and I'm still pondering what that means.


  9. This weekend is an all singing all dancing extravaganza, featuring an opera singer at Church on the Hill performing Bach and Handel for the sake of the roof, our monthly "Family Service" mayhem at Church in the Valley,followed by the church fete (with a circus theme) topped off by Songs of Praise as selected by the congregation. I guess we need at most 40 minutes of many hymns would YOU do? I want to fit in a very short address, and a prayer or two but it's basically hymn sandwich time

  10. Oi. Bit of a patriotic/4th of July mess and stress stirring up here. I'd appreciate any comments!

  11. I'm going with the Romans passage and I'll be using that familiar story about the 2 dogs...There was once a Native American elder who described his own inner struggles in this manner: "Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time." When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, "The one I feed the most."

    Of course, that allows for a great sermon title...Give the Good Dog a Bone!

  12. Ok here is my problem (or one of them anyway). I think that the CHristian tradition has grossly overdone it on the guilt/shame/we be worms/totally depraved model of confession and repentance. And this passage from Paul feeds right in to that model.

    ANd yet we all wrestle with what he describes. We all have a shadow. How do we find the middle ground between "Feel good" theology that doesn't talk about repentance and guilt inducing "we are terrible horrible un redeemable creature" theology?

  13. Oh and seriously, anyone happen to have a good wedding message (almost wrote massage) that talks about marriage using the imagery of a tree growing? THat is what my niece asked for since we are planting a tree as part of the service and her aunt (my Beloved) said "sure he can do that, he can do anything"

    Roots branches and leaves, water and sun, and marriage....

  14. riverview united - I think of the Robert Fulghum piece about "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten" that includes something about seeds planted in little cups...first the root grows down then the plant grows up...

    Also - be rooted and ground in love (from scripture)

  15. that's "rooted and grounded" in love. :)

  16. I'm not sure why, but when I was selecting Scripture a couple of months ago, I went with Genesis. Of course I could change it, but now I'm curious about what I saw in it...

    I think it might have had something to do with Rebeka being willing to follow God's guidance, even though it came "out of the blue."

    Still musing.

  17. Out of the Blue is not a bad sermon title.
    I ahve also played around with a soap opera type title (or "soul pooper" as i said when i was a wee child).
    As the Promise Goes On.

  18. lutheranchick, please let us know where the online discussion about oil and gas is. I have begun to have this conversation with my parish and would love to hear what others are saying.
    I'm not sure where I'm going this week as far as the preaching goes but most likely Romans. I got them all in last week, preached MT three years ago (posted that on my nascent blog that I don't know how to link you to:, and can't make a whole sermon for adults on Rebekkah. It was a great lesson in Hebrew several years ago tho.;-)
    I think Romans points out so very well what we all do and that we need to admit it, pray for help to combat our waywardness. And then I'll probably jump to the end of MT.

  19. I agree about the "enough with the worthless scum humanity" comment, but I'm going with Paul anyway. Mostly because I think this passage more perfectly describes the human condition than almost anything else ever written. I'd like to think about "sin" as condition rather than "sins" as lists of things you shouldn't do - and maybe bring in the "prisoners of hope" bit too.

    But it's only Tuesday. Long way to go.

    Riverview - how about something from the Tree of Life imagery in Revelation? (I have to admit that I have never preached on the marriage/tree theme. Nor have I preached on Revelation at a wedding...)

  20. I was taken by the passage from Genesis, and how it says Isaac "loved" Rebekah. Now, we can nudge and wink, but how I read this is that Isaac chose to love Rebekah. He didn't have to, especially if his feelings told him he didn't like her. But he chose the path of commitment to their marriage, the path of love, the path of putting their needs as a family ahead of his own wants. I think it's important to remember Christian love as a choice, as a commitment, rather than as a happy-clappy-romantic-silly-giggly feeling. Because happy-clappy-silly-giggly doesn't last forever, and when it fades, you still have to make that same choice to be committed, to love.

    I think this is the one advantage that many arranged marriages have had over our contemporary "love" matches. If you wanted standing in the community, you had to choose to commit yourself to the relationship; you had to choose to love your new spouse, whether you liked - or ever even knew! - him or her before. But you went into it knowing this. I think that often, when we enter into our "love" matches these days, we're too blinded by the whirlwind romance of being "in love" that we don't quite get the part about choosing every day to remain committed to loving our partner.

    I dunno. That's just what I took from it.

    And the marriage as a tree... I think the seed of a poem has been planted in my heart. Thank you! :-)

    Peace to all!

  21. Riverview United: I'm not sure how applicable this is for your metaphor, but it's a true story, so here goes: I grew up on a farm in northern Michigan, and along the fence line of our fields grew several "volunteer" apple trees -- whether they got there via passing birds or farmers tossing discarded apple cores along the fence, who knows. Anyway, one of the trees I remember was actually two trees -- the apples on either side were different colors and shapes and flavors. But over the years the two tree trunks had grown together in such a way that they couldn't be separated; they were distinct, yet also one. Perhaps the metaphor for a good marriage -- grounded in the same "soil," growing in the same direction, yet maintaining the uniqueness and personal integrity of both parties.

  22. Regarding the Genesis text, three years ago I did a first person narrative as Rebekah, which I thought gave a little more voice to her than the text does. Just a thought.

    This year, I'm going with the Matthew. The Fourth of July is on my mind, as I'm in a very military context. I think this move will work and allow me to maintain some integrity. I've titled it "independence," and I'm thinking that I'll talk about how our culture/country values independence, but what Jesus calls us to instead is dependence on him...the yoke and burden bit at the end of the passage. Not sure where I'm going after that, though.

  23. for those going with genesis, this is from Women in Scripture (Meyers, et al):

    Rebekah is "the first woman in the Hebrew Bible for whom marital love is proclaimed" (You're on to something, Hedwyg!)

    Also: "Rebekah is far more dynamic and proactive than Isaac, for whom no independent episode is reported. The very fact that the word "to go" is used of R SEVEN times (a number used in the Bible for emphasis) in the courtship narrative in chap 24 highlights her active character...she runs, draws water, fills jars, rides a camel - (all action verbs) that contribute to a sense of individuality and vitatlity in contrast to I's passivity...R's dynamic presence...may indicate its origin in women's storytelling...."

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this - I 'm actually playing with the lectionary and doing Jacob and Esau this week - but if this really is a "woman's story" then surely there's something about how we tell our stories, and how WHO tells them affects them.

    Also, on this 4th of July week, there's got to be something about nationalism in the story of those battling-even-in-the-womb nations/brothers.

  24. riverview - what was that khalil gibran thing about trees and marriage?
    ::googling, googling::

    Oh, Not quite as I rememberd, but it might take you somewhere...

    I also love
    this poem. It's about trees - not sure it's really about marriage, but it is about nurture, at least, and beauty, all of which a marriage needs, right?

    Hmm, file this under "comments, sor t of unhelpful..."

  25. Colleagues,
    Not preaching this week but enjoying discussion.
    chilly fingers - thanks for story about two dogs - I will use that often methinks.
    emjaydee, those samplers must be beautiful. Song of Solomon speaking words I need to hear this week. I may blog on this soon.
    Gord - what came to me in tree imagery is the thought of old, gnarled trees, somehow a symbol of lots of wisdom, having seen lots of life and providing shelter - growth stages in a marriage.
    Songbird - Look forward to reading that sermon. Are you feeling brave?

  26. Liz, why not? :-)

    Kathryn, I adore your description of what lies ahead this Sunday!

  27. OK, so I was apparently logged in as the church this morning...

    Thanks all for the ideas about marriage and trees. I think it will work out fine once I get to writing it. This is shaping up to be one of those run run run weeks...

  28. Our text study group this morning talked about the (US) cultural symbolism of Independence Day vs. the invitation in Matthew. To most people (we thought), independence means freedom from yokes, freedom from restrictions of any kind, self-determination. But the invitation that brings genuine freedom is an invitation to put on a yoke, to accept the (light) burden of surrendering control over our own lives. It's not a choice between freedom and slavery; rather it's an opening of our eyes to the fact that our perceived freedom is in reality slavery to sin (Romans). I'm not sure how clear it all is in my mind, but I think my goal is to turn my congregations' easy answers into thoughtful questions.

    And I would love to sing "All Are Welcome" instead of some national/patriotic song; but that might be a little passive-aggressive on my part.

  29. Pastor Barbara, this is exactly what I was trying to articulate, only you've done it twice as well as I was. Thank you and your study group!!!

  30. lutheranchick - I loved your comments to riverview united... what a great image that is of two trees entwined. And like Juniper, my thoughts went to the Ghibran writing.

    Thank you Pastor Barbara and thanks for sharing the thoughts from your study group.

    I was intending to use the Romans text - and now have been challenged to go with MT.

  31. I'm starting a sermon series this week on Wesley's General Rules - or Reuben Job's take on it in "Three Simple Rules" and each week we will hit one of them:

    1) do no harm
    2) do good
    3) stay in love with God.

    So this week... doing no harm. And Paul's struggle to keep from doing those things that he so doesn't want to do. I'm mostly going to focus on the last part of the romans passage however... "who will deliver me fom this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord"

    I'm going to tie that in with the Matthew scripture. We struggle and we wrestle and on our own spend so much time focusing on all the bad things that we have done and continue to do in our life. And Wesley's "do no harm" rule seems like this all over again. But we need to be reminded that Christ himself promised he would teach us. "take my yoke upon you and learm from Me, for I am gentle and lwly in heart and you will find rest for your souls." so stop beating yourself up over not doing the good. walk with me, become my apprentice, cease from doing harm, and lay aside that burden of guilt.

    we don't cease to do harm because it is a law - we do it because we love Christ and want to become more like him... and we will find when we do so that his yoke is easy and his burden is light

  32. oh - and I'm just going to pretend like it's not independence day weekend. there is enough of that going on and I have enough other things to talk about =)

  33. katie z - I did the "three simple rules" as a series just a couple of months ago - and folks really loved it. I think you've made some really good connections between "do no harm" and this weeks text... you go!!

  34. Well I came up with a meditation. Now only a half dozen things to do before leaving for camp on Sunady!

    THanks to LutheranChik for the story to open it. You can find the meditation heretjavjb

  35. This is my first time commenting but wanted to share this Mary Oliver Poem that I have used in Wedding sermons:
    “Lingering in Happiness”.

    “After rain, after many days without rain,
    It stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,/ and the dampness there, married now in gravity, falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground / where it will disappear – but not, of course, vanish except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share, and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss; a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;/ and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years, will feel themselves being touched.”
    Thank you for the wisdom and fun this blog adds to week!


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