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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Holding What Gives You Life" Edition

The coming Sunday's lectionary readings can be found here .

Perhaps fortuitously considering this week's texts, I've been reading the book Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by the counseling team of Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn (Paulist Press). The Linns introduce the reader to the spiritual practice of examen; of regularly, prayerfully reviewing our lives to identify those things that give us life and those things that seem to sap the life out of us. The title of the book refers to refugee children during World War II who were traumatized by their experiences of violence, fear and want, who were finally calmed and comforted by being given a piece of bread to sleep with each night -- a tangible reminder that they were now being loved and cared for.

Our Old Testament lessons show us, alternately, a God eager to provide us with good things and a patriarch who, facing an uncertain and dangerous future, wound up clinging with all his might to...well, to God. Sunday's Psalm alternatives speak to our needing and God's providing. Our Gospel lesson portrays a Jesus who, despite his sorrow over his cousin John's execution and his desire for solitude, nonetheless provided for the needy people flocking to him for help, in practical as well as spiritual ways. And then there's Paul's letter to the Romans, where even as he reiterates God's love and care for Israel, Paul longs for his people to know the great gift of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

In a world where the gifts we seek oftentimes aren't all that good -- and in these times of economic turmoil when more and more people are being divested of those things that used to give them status, pleasure and a sense of identity -- what are Sunday's lessons saying to us today? What gives us, as Scripture puts it, "the life that really is life"? Discuss!


  1. Ooooo - nice introduction and reflection for us, LutheranChik!

    I ended up going in two totally different directions this week. In my first reflection, I ended up talking about the suffering that we can see in the three lections for Sunday, and what that might mean for us.

    And then, as I was finishing that post, something new sang out for me, and I ended up writing sort of a guided meditation that is a metaphor comparing the feeding of the multitude to the feeding of just one soul.

    We do need those reminders that we are loved and cared for. I guess that's one of the things I treasure about the RevGals community - that we are a reminder to each other, and that we do remind each other of that love.

    I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's thoughts this week!

    Blessings and hugs to you all,

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful start, LC - you've added another book to my "must read" list.

    I'm intrigued by two ideas presently. The first is a pondering of how the disciples were affected by being the distributors of God's abundance. What was it like when they realized the bread wasn't running out? Collecting the basketfull at the end? What did they do with the leftovers? Might be a "story" sermon this week, something I haven't done in a while. My second pondering note is related to both Isaiah 55 and the Matthew text: as you noted, what is the bread that truly gives life? What does it do? How does it work? Most importantly, how can I get some? You know, selfish stuff like that.

    Good luck, everyone - see you at the party on Saturday.

  3. I will be using the gospel text with the theme of Jesus as the source of life from Rita Nakashima Brock's article in the most recent DisciplesWorld magazine.

    That's about as far as I've gotten. My plan was to be working on the sermon today, but then we had an earthquake and I found myself helping to comfort preschool children and picking up things that fell down.

    The good news is that there were no serious injuries resulting from the earthquake.

  4. I WANT that book! and I'm going with Isaiah 55... no thoughts yet, though...

  5. Excellent fodder for thought thus far. I am going with abundance. I figure any time we can chip away at the attitude of scarcity-thinking that permeates our world we have to do so.

    Oh and I am on holidays as of the end of the service on Sunday so that might draw my thoughts off work once or twice this week (I think I have most of the "need to have done before holidays" stuff done).

    My early thoughts can be found here.

    Now off to read the links from comments.

  6. Great beginning, LC!
    RM, so glad you are okay and no major injuries.
    Everyone has good beginnings so far.
    I am also intrigued with the scarcity mentality. After living through pre/post hurricane times and potential gas shortages, and other needed supplies...
    It is interstign to think of our need to hold on to stuff for fear of being without.
    Yet, apparently only one person (in John's account a young boy) has brought any food. So, did folks show up on a trip to see Jesus ( and perhaps not a "scheduled" appearance)? and they show up without a meal or a snack? Even a two hour trip by car will include a Coke and a pack of Lance crackers for me...just in case.
    So, I am thinking about the people this week and the one person (a boy, maybe?) who willingly gave up his fish and bread.

  7. I am currently reading Brueggemann's
    MAndate to Difference and in the chapter I just read he makes a compelling arguement for linking scarcity-thinking with our apparent inability to be real sabbath-keepers.

    In brief, he suggests that scarcity breeds anxiety which makes it impossible to embrace sabbath, but that at the same time sabbath is the perfect antidote to that anxiety. But to keep sabbath, to take a pause from the daily grind to labour and be productive, means we need to trust in God's abundance.

  8. Gord, I want a complete-works-of-Brueggemann, and that's just all there is to it.

    Meanwhile, I wanted to let everyone know that there's a really wonderful podcast of a Daily Review/Examen here

  9. I love all of your thoughts so far also! This is one of those Sundays where I want to preach 10 different sermons! I guess I will just have to wait until next time around =)

    That scarcity/abundance theme is powerful... I shared with my little lectionary discussion group in my congregation that there are two ways to see the miracle - that the 5 loaves and 2 fishes fed all... or that as those five loaves were shared, others found it in their hearts to share also - and that in itself is a miracle. They are the type of congregation that is prefectly fine with the more literal miracle stories - but our group felt really moved by the idea of sharing what you have... I might do a small little stewardship moment before the offering with that thought.

  10. Thanks to all of you. Hedwyg, you are a gift and I will read your meditation again and again this week. Gord, moving from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance harks back to where my sermons were going earlier in the summer. I'll have to return there and see if I can make the link.
    Preaching on Jacob seems less and less like a good idea!

  11. As always, such great food for thought from all of you! Thanks so much. The words of M. Jagger & K. Richards came to my mind upon reading the lectionary this week.

    "I can't get no...satisfaction"

    I too am thinking in terms of scarcity & abundance.

    My thoughts on satisfaction.

  12. For thsoe using the scarcity vs abundance in sermon for gospel text, I just came across thsi quote from Dan Matthews (Trinity Church in NYC, at ground zero):
    "John D. Rockefeller was asked at the height of his career by a reporter, 'Mr. Rockefeller, how much is enough?' And he responded, 'Just a little more than I have.'"
    Thought this one might provide soem good points to ponder and work with.

  13. I'm thinking of looking at this a little bit differently, from the point of view of how Jesus behaved when he was grieved. He went off by himself. The crowds followed him so he took care of them, not because he was no longer grieving but much the same as loving parent puts their own needs on hold temporarily for the sake of their children.

    The crowds had no idea how Jesus felt, just as most of us have to go to work and get on with our life no matter how we feel inside. He was unselfish. The world was oblivious. We all experience that kind of thing. We put a smile on our face while we are hurting on the inside.

    Jesus is in control. The people do not control him. He dismisses them and they go. He had the power to do that from the beginning but he did not. Then Jesus goes back to doing what he started to do in the first place (verse 23) go to a place alone to grieve and to pray. While he put his human needs on hold, he did not neglect them. Jesus is fully human here.

    It is interesting that Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and leave before anybody else. Was he looking out for them or were they in the way somehow?


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