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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Easter Inclinations

It's the week of weeks for preachers and pastors. We may be preparing for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter at any given time. Some of us will conduct Easter Vigils and Sunrise services. I have four pieces to write this week (some meditations, one a reflection and one a sermon), which feels like a lot.

But the most compelling question for me is this: which Gospel? Do we go with John's story of Mary Magdalene and Christ meeting in the garden? Or do we preach Mark's contrarian text, the one with no Resurrection appearance?

In two different conversations with colleagues in the past 24 hours, we have wondered what we can say (and about which text) to that odd mix of regular churchgoers and annual visitors. What are people who only attend at Easter (and there are some who choose that day even over Christmas) looking for? What Good Word do we have for people who drop in and out of the communal theological conversation so infrequently?

Please join the conversation in the comments and let us know what you're wondering today.

(Image from Visible Kingdom.)

39 comments:

  1. I'm trying to write for Maundy Thursday. What I have so far is wondering how things look for my toddling 10 month old--she only gets to see our feet. And how Jesus comes to look at things from the 'feet' side--washing the disciples' feet and in general looking at things from a perspective most of us don't.

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  2. Holy Cow (as in the week of), I have been posting blog stuff all day. Lots going on as I'm working on Holy Week, and soon I hope to add my first seeds for Easter, too.

    First, I'll throw some links up to everything else I've been up to in case someone has nothing else to do, but read, comment, and help me fix!

    Some thoughts on Judas that turned into crucifixion (my theme of the week apparently). I was deemed "Judas" by a Facebook quiz determining "Which Disciples are You?" Thanks Facebook.

    And, finally, the real beginnings of my Good Friday sermon, which will be called "One Last Thing." I'm curious about how I will end one since I am feeling inclined to "bring it back up" at the end, but I don't know if that's necessary, useful, appropriate, or inappropriate. I mean, Good Friday is not Easter. Should I leave it on a sort of "downer" or is it OK to already show a little glimmer of hope, resurrection, and new life in Christ? I don't know if my tendency to want to do that comes from my discomfort with the cross or from somewhere else. Hopefully I'll work that out a little more as I'm writing, but comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

    As to Easter - - I'm definitely preaching from the gospel according to Mark. It's Mark's year in the lectionary, and it's SO distinctive that I can't pass it up. I have LOVED preaching from this gospel this year, and am very excited to dive into this one. My initial thoughts are focusing on the fear, something that I hope is accessible to the regulars and the visitors. I want us to focus in on how TERRIFYING the resurrection really must have been. People don't come back to life after they die. Years later, believing what we believe, we celebrate this joyous event, but imagine how utterly horrified those women had to be. Mark doesn't smooth it over; he doesn't hide it. I like that. Resurrection life is scary because it is life we could never imagine, a chance we could never have on our own, a blessing we could never attain on our own.

    That's me!!!! Can't wait to see what others I thinking and writing!

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  3. Oooooohhhhhh - - Silent!!! I LOVE it!!!!

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  4. I'm using a sermon from John Chrysostom for the Great Vigil...and a Deacon is preaching Maundy Thursday...so, all I have left to write is Easter Day (and I'm thinking of resurrecting my sermon from 2006). Am I taking the easy way out?...

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  5. I'm working on Good Friday here, and will be back later. glad something is up! I've never been comfortable preaching Good Friday, to my chagrin. In my growing-up, we always had a music/scripture service, so I still have a hard time with it.

    I wish I were preaching Easter. As I have not heard John in the 11 years I have been here, I would go with John if I could. I like Mark, too.

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  6. silent, I really like what you are thinking about...

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  7. Silent, that sounds wonderful, what a perspective!
    In my lectionary group this morning, we talked about reading all four gospels or about reading John and Mark together. Our Easter bulletins will be run tomorrow, so I must decide tonight! Ack! I'm not ready. My inclination is to preach from Mark, but the choir is singing "In the Garden," making my life more complicated, to put it mildly.

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  8. I'm preaching John. (I was really inspired by a sermon I found on textweek--Samuel Rutherford written in 1640!)I want to focus on the difference between Peter & the Beloved Disciple and Mary. The two men see the empty tomb, one of them even perceives the significance and believes, but they return to their homes. Mary is inconsolable, the empty tomb, even the message of the angels is no comfort--her grief, inspired by her love, is simply too great. She risked loving Jesus so mightly, it led to her broken heart--and her broken heart (her unwillingness to leave the tomb) led to her encounter with Jesus. As a pastor, full of perceived authority (ha!) and 'book learning,' I want to preach that it's only by falling deeply in love with Jesus that the resurrection--with all its hope and triumph--becomes 'real' in our life.
    Then I want to challenge folks:
    --not to hold onto Jesus if they have the gift of that love
    --to join the journey of discipleship, recommit themselves to learning and loving Jesus if they aren't there yet--this is esp. for folks who might be 'stopping by' just for Easter, looking for resurrection in their lives...
    and finally I want to end by offering good news to those who feel they resemble the male disciples more--knowing and understanding, but without that heart connection to Jesus--that the first thing Jesus did was send Mary to them, to testify to the truth of new life. Jesus is coming for us, one way or another, where ever we are in our journey, Jesus is coming for us.

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  9. Love that, Silent. Lovely.

    She Rev -- wow, that is ALOT. You are AWESOME. I'm with you about Mark - it's great for preaching. And we're going with Marks' gospel here on Sunday.

    For me, the question is, if they didnt tell anyone, how do we know this story and how did it become ours? What I'm thinking of going with is something along the lines of:
    The women's live must have been so transformed, people were drawn to them by the way they lived their lives, the story came to be known over time. It is too powerful, holy, good a story to kept silent. Those who know it, and love it and live it, are unmistakable, even if they are not running around all the time asking people if they've been saved or not.

    And I really would like to use that quote from last week, so that.

    And then a story about a guy I bought a sleeping bag for one time, and then he walked away and what is the end of his story? Dont know. But knowing how some act of love turns out is not the point of resurrection.

    Ok, that's all I got for now. As usual, not sure how it will all hang together, but thank you HS it usually is ok by Sunday.

    And, not preaching Maundy Thursday - that service is designed by Awesome Music Director, and Good Friday we're renting a labyrinth and early on Sunday we have an Easter Outdoor service with no sermon. We're not calling it Sunrise as it's at 8 am - the earliest I could get the dear worship team to agree to. Have I mentioned how much I love this chruch lately?

    Anyway, not much preaching this week, but lots of details to attend to. This is the week I would like to hire an Associate Minister of Logistics and Planning :)

    Looking forward to reading others thinkings.

    AND Songbird, thanks for getting us going so thoughtfully, too! Good luck with all your writings.

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  10. I am preaching from Mark as well. And basically, I am asking the question, "What does it take to finish the story?" and issuing the challenge that we contemporary disciples can finish the story by doing as the young man suggests, "Go and tell" and following Jesus to Galilee (where he lived and served among the poor and oppressed, the least of these). There we will see him.

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  11. I have a meditation to prep for Friday (in case anyone shows up this year). I plan to talk about the Powers of Death

    I am cheating this year. I am using Mark next Sunday and the John story on Easter 3 (when we will sing In the Garden as a hymn). SO this week it is Mark and the sudden ending not in joy but in fear. I think we gloss over the fear too often in our telling of the Easter story. But I imagine if Im were walking to the tomb that day and found it empty and met a stranger I too would be terrified at first. Resurrection – Feel the Fear, Believe Anyway

    Oh and I also have to write 500 word column for the local paper on something....

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  12. My first Easter sermon (EVAH!) to preach. I am going with John, as I want a resureccted jesus to preach about THIS time.
    There was a story (I think in Xian Century) about fireflies and how they appear in one place and then disappear only to show up in another place.
    This is how Jesus shows up in John.
    My sermon title is Fireflies and ??? I want another noun to put in there, but do not yet have one. I like the firefly part though.
    My title for Thursday was lovingly borrowed from a prayer one of my lectionary resource books.
    We Dimly Comprehend. Going with the light theme, we only have a limited view (as did the disciples) of how much and how deep christ's love is.
    Also, working on the notion of the works of art called the Last SUpper, I am working on the idea of the disciples not knowing it was the LAST Supper. How might they have been, acted, or responded if they fully "got" this was it for them. Last opp. to be together and break bread and share before crux. Last chance to hear words, last chance for the final words.
    I always cry with this scene from Godspell

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  13. Oh, can we jsut keep the coffee going all week?

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  14. First Easter Sermon ever for me as well. Terrified doesn't even begin to explain how I am feeling about this Sunday. I've written the liturgy and sent it to the secretary so she can print the bulletins.

    I will be preaching on John. I can relate to how Mary must have felt at the empty tomb, weeping for her Lord and teacher. Heart broken, feeling hopeless, but then she hears her name and sees the resurrected Christ. What she thought was an end became a new beginning. Isn't that what resurrection is all about! The death of one thing giving way to the birth of another.

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  15. I am preaching on John....but my sermon from 2006 was grounded in Phillipians...sooooo, I will have to write a sermon after all - OR do some major reconstruction....which may be more difficult than just starting from scratch....sigh

    I think I like all of your ideas...and am wondering how I can just incorporate them into a sermon???

    sigh...

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  16. I have Maundy Thursday --I'm going with the John text and the footwashing. It's also the commemoration of Dietrich Bonheoffer and I think there's got to be some connections to be made...

    Then a funeral mini-sermon on Good Friday morning for a saint who died this week - the funeral home chaplain is doing the message but as her pastor I felt it was important I bring a Word as well. So I can't complain since I volunteered for this extra work...

    And it's my turn to preach the Joint Good Friday service...Haven't thought about it...

    Sunrise service - usually a youth production but we have so few youth around this year I have no idea who will show up- so I may read a Wangeren story ...

    For the later service ...Mark and the strange ending...I think he did that on purpose to let the reader answer the question - will you say anything to anybody about this incredible news?

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  17. I'm preaching on the text from Mark. The thing that intrigues me this year... the women talking about who's going to roll the stone away.

    It's seems as if we go through life... wondering about the roadblocks we will face... worrying about them... trying to figure out how to move them before we even see them. Wouldn't it be nice... to rest in the promises that God has poured out on us... and just quit worrying about the stone walls... the brick walls... the hard places... and just for one season of the liturgical year... be on the watch for all of the stones God has moved for us... without us even asking?

    After this incredibly intense Lenten season... that's what I need... just to enjoy... all that God's has done... is doing... and promises yet to do.

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  18. She Rev, my inclination is always to stick with Good Friday on Good Friday. We live in a fast food, no-delay-of-gratification, 3 days for bereavement leave, "Have nice day" culture that wants to sidestep or speed by the real pain of life. I think it's appropriate on Good Friday to live with a taste of it for a bit.

    For Maundy Thursday's short homily, I'm working with a story about an acquaintance whose baby was born a few weeks ago at 24 weeks, 10", and 1 lb. She can only hold her once a week; even seeing in the incubator is hard because of condensation. But her little girl is receiving pumped breast milk, one of the very best things to give her energy, help her gain strength, and improve her resistance to infection; her mother is giving of herself to help her baby grow. Not far from there to the eucharist...

    On Easter I'll preach the big family service; I think this is my 10th year, and it's hard to come up with creative ideas! I have some old and pretty good ones, if anyone needs suggestions :-)

    I'm toying with the idea of filling with balloons a container symbolizing the tomb. Each one represents an expectation of Jesus/Messiah. I'll mention these (in age-engaging words)--that he'd be a mighty king, that he'd hobknob with the rich & powerful, that he'd stay away from the outcasts, that he'd be born somewhere better than a stable, etc., and most of all that he'd stay dead--while popping a balloon for each one. Gotta figure that out, as I don't want to scare little kids hopelessly! Eventually I'll have an empty container/tomb...he's not there, not in any of those expectations, but is too different and too much "more" to be held by the tomb and our human notions. That's the general thrust, and it will work for many ages at many levels if I can figure out how to put the vague ideas together into something real!

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  19. thanks Beach Walkin. You just preached a word I needed to hear today.

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  20. I have written half a sermon for Thursday and dumped it in the virtual recycling bin (and emptied it, so I wasn't tempted to fish it back out). yuck. Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the church year, but I can't quite get it together. We're reading the Mark version of the Last Supper, rather than the John foot-washing business. My latest idea is to do something with the "broken body." It's always struck me, each time I serve communion to people with broken bodies, that Christ's body is also broken. And the church, as Christ's body is broken, too. We'll see where that goes. It may get recycled too. But Thursday is approaching quickly, no?

    Friday, my congregation doesn't have a service. I would prefer to do so, but am grateful at this particular moment not to have to prepare anything.

    Sunday...thinking along the same lines as Juniper, about the "telling no one" part of Mark's story. And wondering how we got from there to here. And realizing that most of us "tell no one" also. But I don't want to be a nag on Easter Sunday. And it's my last Easter Sunday with this congregation, so I'm probably putting even more pressure on myself to be inspirational and brilliant.

    Must get to work--baby is quite cooperatively sleeping.

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  21. Oh Betsy, as the mother of a preemie (though 29 weeks; I can't quite imagine 24), I'm finding your eucharist thoughts quite profound.

    And I meant to say earlier that I feel for all of you "not preaching on Easter" people. It's hard to be an Associate on Easter.

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  22. Hmmm, Beach Walkin, I have the feeling I could play with your idea with my balloons too...our lives filled up with stones that God removes/pops, leaving a wondrously empty space that shows God's power and life.

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  23. I'm going with the Gospel of John, and Mary at the tomb (cemetary), and my Easter Sermon is titled: "Finding Faith In The Cemetary". Death is not an ending, but rather a beginning, a faith in Christ, and it is there, when we mourn the loss of a loved one, that we pondered our life, the resurrected life, and God's tender hands around us, that the meaning of Easter really comes through. These are my beginning thoughts for my sermon.

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  24. BW - wow..thanks

    Betsy - reminds me of my Goddaughter twins born early and thrived on breast milk - not far from the Eucharist, indeed!!

    I serve an old, retired, community...so, dealing with end of life all the time - how to find life as one faces its end...

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  25. beach walkin'... we're on the same page for easter!! i've been thinkin' about rolling the stone... alot. and celebrating the ones that have been rolled away... so come on people, get outta those tombs... join the daylight..."jesus is my rock and he rolls my blues away..." er something shooboppy like that.

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  26. Okay, so I too am preaching my first ever Easter...the interim senior pastor and I are splitting the morning--she's preaching two services and I'm preaching two. (to say it's a long morning is an understatement....) I'm pretty sure I had some ideas when we planned Easter worship 2 months ago, but right now I can't remember a single one. Perhaps something about fear being rooted in the fact that if this is true, if Jesus is really alive, then nothing makes sense, the world is not as we thought, etc?

    Or maybe I've heard that sermon before and now it's working for me. who knows.

    So anyway, I'm preaching Mark. We are doing a Seder on Maundy Thursday, since it's the second night of Passover and that is the time when Jews (in our community anyway) have their community Seders at the synagogues. I'm in charge of that and have NO IDEA how it is going to get pulled off. After the feast (which is after the ritual parts with storytelling and ceremonial foods) we have communion, telling the story of Jesus breaking bread/pouring wine and mixing in the bit from the footwashing story about "no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends"...and we have Bridge Over Troubled Water played/sung during communion. So great.

    Friday we are having a service that centers on the stations of the cross in the Iona Community book Eggs and Ashes--but instead of people moving station to station, we all stay in the pews and have the stations projected on the screen. I am actually really excited about this service--the images are amazing (all black and white, very powerful) and the between-station actions (putting out candles, choir songs, etc) are very promising. We'll see.

    Sunday...well, if the world really is different, if death really isn't powerful anymore, then I guess I'd better muster up some courage to say that to a world in pain. I can tell I'm feeling overwhelmed because I'm thinking about my mom a lot, and in the midst of grief the world doesn't feel resurrection-different. So I need to figure that out. Soon, please. :-)

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  27. Teri - your initial thoughts about the world being completely different sound like themes I am hearing in both my own thoughts and Gord's. Once I finish up my Good Friday sermon (which WILL happen tonight) I'll flesh my thoughts out a little more and get those posted.

    I hope I remember to get that Iona Eggs and Ashes book you're talking about. That's the EXACT kind of thing, only even more accessible to the less-mobile, elderly crowd, that I'm trying to create on my own for Thursday night. Would love to have a resource like that now since I just decided to do this Sunday morning. Ugh.

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  28. We've had 4 people in the parish lose relatives to death in the last 10 days, two of those by suicide. I've just been on the phone with a couple of them, checking in. Really confirms my inclination that for me, it's important to give Good Friday its full due.

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  29. I'm preaching on John. I like the thoroughness of the Easter morning story in John, and I like Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. How do our low expectations, fears, griefs, impact our perception of what God is doing? These are my seeds. Blessings to everyone for the week.

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  30. The folks preaching their first Easters are in my thoughts and prayers tonight. After finishing 5years of associate pastor ministry, and entering my first solo call last year, I was an Easter sermon "virgin" just over a year ago.

    Here's the post where I pondered that experience and my first thoughts of John 20 last year.

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  31. Well, I'm not preaching, wishing I were... but what struck me on the texts was also the footwashings... and how Jesus washed the feet of the one who betrayed him... and I realized how little I want to pray for people who have said one thing and done another. And how I am certainly someone who has not lived up to my promises to God Incarnate...

    I read one scholar who said that Judas might have been baptized by John and that his baptism didn't "take" any better than ours.

    Random musings from someone who is writing papers and thinking possibly strange things...

    peace on ya preachers - bring it home.

    Deb

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  32. Okay, Easter Sermon Virgins, let's go!!!!
    Thanks SheRev! You are coolest of cool.

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  33. I've done a variation on the balloon box children's sermon several times that's been really powerful for kids. Except I've had the big cardboard box taped up. It's large and ugly and closed up--but very light. I've had them pick it up and guess what was inside--nothing...and then we open it and helium balloons pop out and float up to the ceiling--I think it's a good visual for kids. I talk to them about how everybody thought everything was over on EAster morning--that nothing mattered anymore now that Jesus was dead--and that on Easter we are surprised by joy.

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  34. That's a neat way to use the balloons, Kate. We may have a TV show being filmed in the church next week, and we have high ceilings, so I think I need to stay away from escaping balloons; however, I'll tuck that idea away for another time!

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  35. Well, this is late in arriving but if anyone looking for a Good Friday Reading stops by again...I have one that I meant to list yesterday but could not find the ciation....it is a story by Peter Abelard, translated by Helen Waddell found in "Celebrating the Seasons: Daily Spiritual Readings for the Christian Year" page 218. It's a story about a rabbit caught in a trap and the love of God on the cross...

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  36. I intentionally haven't written on the Easter lections yet, since I'm still walking through the Stations of the Cross on my blog.

    But tonight, since I couldn't sleep, I wrote my Maundy Thursday reflection. I'm planning to take on Good Friday tomorrow.

    Wishing you all a blessed Triduum,
    hedwyg

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  37. Well... Happy Maundy Thursday? :-)

    I just finished writing my Good Friday Reflection. We're getting closer and closer to the big day!

    Blessings and hugs,
    hedwyg

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  38. For those who are dwelling in the between-time of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, I just posted a Holy Saturday reflection.

    Wishing you all a blessed Triduum and a holy, joy-filled Easter!
    hedwyg

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