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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings, Word and Kings edition

For Sunday, January 4, 2008    
Jeremiah 31:7-14  
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14  
John 1:(1-9) 10-18     

Epiphany Readings: 
Isaiah 60:1-6 
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 
Ephesians 3:1-12 
Matthew 2:1-12     

Where are you this Sunday?  

Will you be talking about the Word made flesh?   

Will the kings be arriving in Bethlehem?   

My favorite pairing with the John text is the classic quote from Albert Schweitzer, the end of his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus:
He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same words, "Follow thou me!", and sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who he is.   

And here’s a thought for Epiphany: (Author Unknown) 
“If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things;  if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi?  Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?  Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary?  For each one of us, there is a desert to travel.  A star to discover.  And a being within ourselves to bring to life.”    

Who was Jesus?  

What does it mean to us to have the Word made flesh?  

For God to have pitched a tent in our midst?   

How did the wise men have the time required for such a journey?  

What about their families?    Their responsibilities?    

Where are you journeying this Sunday?   

Peace to you, Listing Straight   

(P.S.  This is my last Lectionary Leanings-  thank you for all of your words of encouragement and insightful thoughts that have been so helpful to so many people in this crazy thing called preaching.  You will continue to be a blessing to many).  


  1. I am going with Epiphany readings and asking what gifts we bring. ANd thus far that is all I know...

  2. I'm in the epiphany readings too. The title is "Searching" (because I had to have the bulletin in before I left for vacation on Christmas Day. Now to figure out where to go with the searching idea ...

  3. Listing Straight, we will miss your insights and questions; thanks so much for your contributions to Lectionary Leanings!
    I am using the Epiphany texts, and calling the sermon "The Road Less Traveled." We understand ourselves to be the recipients of God's gifts; how willingly do we turn and share them with others? Sometimes in our culture it feels like doing so is traveling an unusual road. (Or something like that, plus stories about my trip, and a children's message featuring a King Cake, which will be UNKNOWN to the children in my church, including a plastic baby!!!)

  4. I am so going to miss you Listing Straight and my sermons will miss you bringing them up a notch through your great use of literature.

    Not sure where I am headed yet this Sunday, but I think I may surprise the kiddos with the King's cake. Thanks for the reminder, sb!

  5. My sermon title is "Following the Light." I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this, but I have a strong urge to use TS Eliot's poem
    Journey of the Magi in the sermon.

    A cold coming we had of it,
    Just the worst time of the year
    For the journey, and such a long journey:
    The ways deep and the weather sharp,
    The very dead of winter.'
    And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
    Lying down in the melting snow.
    There were times we regretted
    The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
    And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
    Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
    And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
    And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
    And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
    And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
    A hard time we had of it.
    At the end we preferred to travel all night,
    Sleeping in snatches,
    With the voices singing in our ears, saying
    That this was all folly.

    Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
    Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
    With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
    And three trees on the low sky,
    And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
    Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
    Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
    And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
    But there was no information, and so we continued
    And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
    Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

    All this was a long time ago, I remember,
    And I would do it again, but set down
    This set down
    This: were we led all that way for
    Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
    We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
    But had thought they were different; this Birth was
    Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
    We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
    But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
    With an alien people clutching their gods.
    I should be glad of another death.

    -- T. S. Eliot

    I love the imagery- the three trees on the low sky, the white horse, the six hands throwing dice.

    And the idea that while finding a birth, they were also finding death.

    From what I read, this poem is about TS Eliot's journey from agnosticism to faith.

    First thoughts...


  6. I'm not preaching this Sunday, or the next. But thank you, Listing Straight, for these wonderful openers for sermon prep.

  7. Listing Straight - thank you so very much for your contributions here on Tuesdays. You will indeed be missed.

    I'm going with the Epiphany readings too. Not sure what my angle is yet, but I do love that poem by TS Eliot. Thanks Sandi for sharing it.

  8. I (and my sermons)will miss you, LS! Thank you so much.

    I, too, am going with Epiphany. It's my first Sunday in my new call and I want to talk about the gifts we bring together as we seek the light of Christ- and how we share both these gifts and the light.

  9. OK, I have some opening thoughts that will hopefully grow into a full-fledged sermon by Sunday...

  10. I will miss you, Listing Straight! Thanks for your wonderful lectionary leanings!
    This week, my sermon is entitled, "Grace Upon Grace" and am going with the John passage, since we will celebrate communion, as well--so it will be a nice segue. That being said, I have yet to write an outline!

  11. Listing, thanks for ALL your contributions. You'll be missed!!

    I love that Eliot poem.

    Our Epiphany Pageant has been moved and this year will be during this week' sermon at both services...I'm so glad it will be shared with an audience wider than parents and grandparents, as it was in its evening slot.

  12. Wife, Mother, Pastor
    is where I've shared my initial reflections, though I'm not entirely sure that's where the sermon will lead me!

  13. Great stuff on Epiphany, LS! Thanks. I needed a jump start on this and could nto find one. You are now my hero!
    We appreciate yur leadeship on TLL, thanks for all you jave done.

  14. LS thank you! It's been good, good stuff you've provided to light the fire under our... well you get the idea!

    I'm going with John... 2nd Sunday of Christmas... have no idea what'll come of it.

  15. Dear LS - wow, I will miss your insights. Even on weeks I dont post here, I always appreciate your questions.

    This week, I am going with epiphany, sort of. Since we missed quite a few services bec of snow here in the Pac NW, I am thinking of looking back and doing a sort of readers theater thing on the place of dreamers and dreams in the christmas story.

    So far I'm thinking of: Joseph and the angel, Mary (not a sleep dream, but a waking-dream in the words of her song), and the magi... And then the questions -- what are our dreams and do we have the courage to respond to them?

    That's all I got so far. If I'm really going to pull it off, there is some work ahead of me. And it cant be too long because of communion....

    I'm loving that TS Eliot poem, btw, so thanks for that.

  16. I'm going with Epiphany and thinking about the journey. I'm using the title "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" and thinking about the lengths (literally) the wide men went to get to Jesus. Thinking about journeying, and that Christ's advent means that we no longer journey unaccompanied.
    The Eliot poem appeals to me as well.

  17. I'm going to get really wild and crazy and do Ephesians 1 this week and Epiphany next week. I know I'm a Sunday off that way, but that's where I'm headed - that Ephesians is such a burst of praise. I'd like to talk about how our praise of God for the Word made Flesh can never be packed away like our Christmas decorations. But, I really have an angle I want to try with Herod - so that will be next week...just call me one wild and crazy preacher...mixing up the Lectionary!

  18. I'm going with Epiphany - using the idea that the Magi were not kings, but astrologers - not of the religious "in crowd", but they were the ones who followed the star. God spoke them in their language (stars and dreams) and how do we reach out to the unchurched in their language? We're having an evangelism battle - "they" aren't doing "their job" many people are complaining - so I'm pushing the idea of all disciples are evangelists. I'm using images on powerpoint for the 2nd time...I hope it all comes together.

  19. and I should have said "thanks" to Brian Stoffregen at for those ideas to use as jumping off points.

  20. We're celebrating Epiphany here with King's cake and a chalk blessing (to take home to bless your house) but I don't know what the sermon will be about yet.

    Is it only us Episcopalians who don't give our sermons titles? I'm always amazed how many of y'all have titles well in advance of having sermons! Not sure I could pull that off.

  21. I'm not preaching this weekend, but I wanted to say two things:

    1. I love the Schweitzer quote. I would like to post it on my blog.

    2. Thank you, listing straight.

  22. I'm going with Epiphany. I'm going to be using Auden's "Christmas Oratorio" that describes the post Christmas letdown and in response calls us to remember the clarity of that moment in the stable. I will be referring to Buber's I-Thou and building on my last weeks sermon about radical hospitality as a necessary product of God's gift of Christ into the world. There is more about this on my blog.

  23. Thanks LS
    not sure why you are quitting - but know that you are quitting while you are ahead -you have been a great blessing!

  24. I want to echo thanks to Listing Straight for her wise and thoughtful insights.

    Not sure where I am going, and I need to figure it out soon. I didn't preach Christmas Eve/Day or last weekend, and the last service I preached was the Longest Night service, so the beginning of the Isaiah passage "Arise, Shine, your light has come" caught me. So my title is Rise and Shine, but that is all I have so far! Yikes! Preaching three services, and a wedding this weekend, so time to get moving.

  25. Sunday will be Epiphany. This is all I know for sure. I am trying to resist the urge to delve into the symbolic meanings of the three gifts, because I'm not sure if that is really God speaking this week, or just one of my pet topics (and an easy way out of really facing the text).

    Rev Dr Mom, your question about sermon titles was what inspired me to finally post here. As a Lutheran, I was encouraged to stay away from sermon titles, in general, because you already list the texts, so what more could you really add? However, some Lutheran preachers and congregations will use sermon titles. It's not a rule either way.

  26. It will be the three kings and also the grandness of God's grace upon grace.
    Happy New year.
    As we enter one time we get an extra second... they are adjusting the clocks because the earth is slowing down. So what will that second breath be?
    A prayer for peace in a broken world yearning for wholeness.

  27. RevDrMom, I never use titles either although one of my homiletics professors encouraged us to start there. I can't even manufacture a "this is the sermon in 25 words or less" focus statement! Hmm...maybe I ought to think about that.
    In any case, I think I will expand the MT reading through the flight into Egypt (yes, of course the bulletins are already done) and talk about the Incarnation not being all that pretty or notable to most of the world. I want to draw parallels from that time to our own. How I'm going to work grace and the light coming into the world into this, I haven't figured out. I've spent the entire week on church history for the deacons' class Saturday morning and the sermon is only a seed planted in the dark at this point. Saturday afternoon, I am going to have to do some serious forcing if that things going to bloom on Sunday! See y'all Saturday afternoon.

  28. Epiphany is a traditional time for home blessings, and one way to do that is to bless chalk which is used to inscribe the door post (or top of the door) like this:


    (the year, three crosses and the initials of the Magi)

    We send the chalk home with a prayer to be said--the prayers I use are on my computer at work but here's one example; if you google Epiphany chalk blessing you'll find more.


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