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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Let's Get Small" Edition

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

I'm old enough to remember the days when Steve Martin, pre-comic-intelligentsia days, was one wild and crazy guy who invited his standup audiences, Let's get smaaaaaall!

Interestingly, that phrase came to mind when I read this Sunday's lectionary.

In the Ezekiel passage, which I'll be hearing at my own church, Ezekiel tells it like it is to the people -- that, in the midst of their troubles, the right response isn't to blame their fate on big, collective intergenerational circumstances beyond their control, but to "get small," as small as their own lives and hearts, and make the changes that need to be made to mend the broken places in themselves and in their society. (And isn't it also a part of "getting small" to embrace the disciplines that support us in loving and serving God and our neighbors?) The Exodus reading describes God's chosen people lapsing -- and, to be fair, understandably -- into smallness of faith and vision, in the midst of their deliverance from bondage, as they once again experience want out in the wilderness.

Our Epistle lesson is one of my very favorite texts -- Paul's kenosis hymn in the letter to the Philippians. How can we wrap our heads around the concept of a God who stoops to conquer; whose power is made manifest in smallness, in servitude, in weakness, in "nobodyhood"?

And in our Gospel lesson Jesus points to the most notorious sinners in town, the moral nobodies of his day, as the little people who ultimately "get" the metanoia message when the highfalutin' holy folks do not; perhaps because they have no illusions of moral superiority that they must protect, that get in the way of getting real with God and with one another?

Big, meaty texts here -- isn't that ironic? And which of them speak to you and your people most powerfully right now? Or are you preaching on other texts? As always, share your moodlings here!


  1. I ended up looking a little bit at the Exodus reading for this week, but even more at the Collect for Proper 21 from the Book of Common Prayer. My reflection for the week took me a bit by surprise.

    I'm beginning to suspect that, if I ever cease to be surprised by my reflections on scripture taking me by surprise (or worse, cease to be surprised by the places scripture takes me), that this is the time to take a break.


  2. we are still in exodus, so this week is the water-from-a-rock text. I wish I was preaching this week, but we have one of our ex-preachers (a former Commissioned Lay Pastor) this week so I can get a little break (hallelujah). I just wish it was a different text I didn't like so much! His sermon title is "are we there yet?" and he's pairing exodus 17 with Philippians 2. I'm not sure how it's going to go yet.

    I do know that we are going to be turning the communion table into water-from-a-rock fabric art, about which I'm very excited.

  3. okay, terri,...
    we fully expect pcitures of how you turned the communion table to a rock from which water flows!

  4. I have PResbytery meeting this weekend but still have to preach (a conspiracy by the Presbytery SEcretary and Administative Assistant I think). However, I only agreed because I relized that the sermon planned for last week would work at PResbytery as well. So once again I will talk about the Back to Egypt Committee

  5. I theologically love the concept of kenosis... it is one of the guiding thoughts in my own constructive theology... so I am SO excited that I get to preach on it this Sunday.

    My thoughts are here, complete with thoughts on leadership from my thesis project.

  6. I'm also wondering where everyone is on Tuesdays... are we all just stuck in our last minute Saturday preparations?

    I for one know that I have to start to pull myself out of that... so that Saturday's can be about celebration and tweaking my sermon/worship instead of actually creating them =P

  7. Hi Katie Z!

    I guess I'm one of the lucky ones here, in that I'm ordained, so I don't preach. I started writing my lectionary reflections each week for my own benefit, to set a rhythm of engaging with scripture each week. Then I found that week after week, I had more people visiting them, with big spikes on Fridays and Saturdays. And I realized that these were probably clergyfolk looking for sermon ideas... or trying to procrastinate JUST a little longer. :-)

    So at the suggestion from another RevGal, I started sharing my reflections here, and I've gotten really neat feedback from everyone. Now my weekly discipline of wrestling with the lections has also become a ministry, and I'm finding that really neat.

    That said, I think there's some value to wrestling with the scripture, and to starting that fairly early in the week. The two priests at my parish set aside Friday afternoon for sermon-writing, complete with "Do Not Disturb" signs for their offices and instructions for the church secretary. And I know that seeds planted early in the week can really take root and grow on those Friday afternoons.

  8. to be honest, that "seeds taking root" concept is really how I work too. I meet with a group of local clergy and talk about lectionary texts the wednesday the week before a given Sunday. And then on Tuesdays I check in here and meet with a group in my own church to discuss the passage. All of those things filter through and stir and stew and start to sprout.

    By the time I get to Friday, or Saturday, or (to be completely honest) Sunday morning, the sermon is there... it's just not always written yet.

    Thank you for your ministry! And to all of you who share throughout the week!!!

  9. I don't have much to share. Our daughter is getting baptized this week, and the guest preacher is using the Philipppians text. I'm intrigued to see how he connects it.

    As for my own process, I usually think of the image of one of those big dryers at the laundromat with the window...the ideas and thoughts are all tumbling around like the clothes. At some point in the week, preferably before Saturday but not always, I like to pull them out and fold them and stack them nicely into a sermon. The Tuesday party helps the tumbling process.

  10. LC: AWESOME starting thoughts. My father-in-law was a Yell Squad leader with Steve Martin in high school in California and he says that Steve was every bit as wild and crazy then as he was a few years later on SNL. Thanks for the stuff.

    I can't remember if I mentioned this last week, but I know I must today: Flannery O'Connor's short story "Revelation" is a wonderful commentary on this text from Matthew. You can read about it over at my place.

    As for me, I'm thinking about processions, pride and what Paul's talking about when he encourages us to emulate Christ and his self-emptying ways. Not sure where that'll lead me, but hopefully it'll be something I can preach!

  11. what a great intro to the lectionary this week. thanks lutheranchik!! I love all the passages, but am going with Exodus. Thirst....and Is God With Us or NOT? seem to fit where we are at right now.

  12. I've always been struck by the phrase "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"--how do we do that? One answer is right there--be of the same mind as Jesus Christ, do nothing out of conceit or selfish ambition...

    The Matthew passage says to me that you have to walk the walk, you can't just talk the talk.

    I want to tie this in with MDGs somehow since Thursday is a day of awareness about MDGs.

    Of course, I'm rarely this far along in my sermon pondering on Tuesday, and I may completely change my mind by Saturday when I sit down to write.

  13. I am thinking and thinking and reading and all, as I want my sermon done earlier this week...
    But, (sigh) I have nothing to share.
    I have thoguth about being thirsty, not having anythign to drink and being in the desert...
    I remembered teh Agua Skit from Sesame Street where the guy crawls along and ask for, " agua" over andover and begins to fade out and then suddenly they dump water on him...
    And, no I have no idea why I thougth of that!
    I have wondered why the Israelites complaiend so, but then again, God had taken care of them so far...
    and I have thoguth of the miracle of water flowign from a rock and why nobody sang a song then...we have no songs to my knowedge ...about this text...
    I have nothing, nada...and I sits here and play with Da Kitteh and wait for somethign like a sermon to come out of a rock.

  14. Probably a dumb question but....


  15. Of course we Lutherans' eyes pop out at "work out your own salvation" least until we consider that what Paul is talking about is what a pastor mentor of mine referred to as "Saved for WHAT?" -- our grateful response, as freed/forgiven/called people.

  16. LC, no worries: Presbyterian me has serious difficulty with "work out your own salvation" even if it is followed with "for it is God at work in you." I get it, but it's hard to explain to people who maybe stop listening after the scripture's read...too busy doing the fear and trembling bit.

  17. And yet Kierkegaard, whom many Lutherans adore, wrote an entire philosophical treatise on that verse from Philippians! Shows again that all of us are indeed in the process of figuring out what it is we believe and how it is we have come to that belief.

    Far better this struggle than to assume, as Mrs. Turpin and many of us have done, that God owes us salvation due to our good works, right?

  18. MDGs = Millennium Developement Goals

    which are a mission priority in the Episcopal Church.

  19. I'm preaching on water from the rock this week. Because I'm not crazy about the gospel passage, which probably means I SHOULD preach it, but oh well. I have no power at my house, so Saturday night sermonizing is not guaranteed to be a possibility this week. I have to write today and tomorrow.
    What I'm trying to get past is that God seems to respond to whiners. Okay, they're thirsty, but could they ask a bit more politely? Apparently it doesn't really matter to God. Thinking these things in my own whiniest voice, of course.

  20. Oh God help me! I just got a call tonight at 10 PM from the moderator of the UCC asking if I could supply. The person they had arranged was forced to cancel. I have three days to come up with TWO liturgies.

    I'm going with the Season of Creation liturgies (River Sunday is this Sunday). Has anybody used those before?


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