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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - who's inside?

Apologies for coming to this so late in the day - it's been one of those where the phone never stopped whenever I was home, and 2 big meetings took up most of the time between 9.00 and 5.00....But here we are at last!

The lections for this coming Sunday, Easter 4, are a kind of mixed blessing I think....because I really don't know how to choose from such riches!
I've a triple Baptism at the All Age Communion at Church in the Valley, so it will be wonderful to work with
"I know my own and my own know me" in that fact I'm positively excited by it.
I'll reflect on the cross marked in oil on the candidates foreheads as the mark that proclaims they are part of the Shepherd's flock and then, rememebering that the mark will be invisible after the baptism itself, invite them to think about other ways in which their allegiance can be visible
(linking to the 1 John passage, with its emphasis on faith in action)

In another context I guess there might be some good questions around
"I have other sheep, not of this fold".
Do our congregations acknowledge that they would have been the outsiders, the other sheep, to the crowds who heard Jesus preach? We're so good at seeing ourselves as the in crowd...but we are actually the add-on extras.
How do we feel about the idea that there will be one flock and the sheep may not necessarily resemble us in every particular?
All that is asked of us is that we follow the shepherd, not make judgements about the composition of the flock - but don't we struggle with that?

Or, if we feel we've done enough about sheep in Junior Church to last a lifetime, there's the terrifying clarity of the epistle
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
At least one of my congregations could usefully ponder that challenge for a while...though it is possible, of course, that they might choose to limit their vision of brothers and sisters to "P.L.U." (people like us...said in the most upper-class English voice you can imagine)
I think there might be an awful silence as we consider whether or not our hearts condemn us - at least, I would rather hope there might be.How do we love in truth and action? There's no question of it being an optional extra - it's the fundamental mark of our obedience to God.

Sometimes it seems to me that the readings resemble busses...For weeks you gaze hopefully at a blank screen pining for inspiration, and then one week it seems you could write any number of sermons with minimal blood, toil, sweat and tears. That's how this Sunday strikes me - I hope it's looks as promising to you.


  1. I am guest preaching in a cathedral in a diocese far, far away...which is exciting...and I am going to "give them a word" which is that no Christian may ever, ever, ever on pain of perdition say to another Christian, "I have no need of you." EVER, do you hear me?!

  2. I'm looking closely at Psalm 23 this week, mainly because it's one we all know...but I think we know it so well, we don't pay attention to it. So it will get our attention this week.

    I found the comments on this psalm at working preacher helpful in getting some thoughts going (available thru textweek).

    May also pull in John 10 though I have no idea what that will look like at this point!

  3. I'll be preaching for the first time in my new setting, and I have some thoughts about how we get acclimated to new voices in our lives. How do we learn to listen for Jesus? Etc. I will tell a story about trying to get Sam (my dog) to hear my voice as authoritative when he did most of his early training with my deep-voiced husband in the leadership role.

  4. I've messed around with the lectionary this month, my last with this congregation. So I'm planning something with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, who I believe comes in next week's readings. If I come up with anything insightful, brilliant, and/or interesting, I'll be sure and let you all know.

  5. I'm leaning toward exploring what the voice of God might sound like in our world today. Last fall, we attended worship on vacation only to learn that, although we chose to attend the service which advertised weekly Communion, we happened to hit the ONE Sunday that they didn't actually have the Meal. As the service was ending, my then-three-year-old announced, "I didn't got Jesus!" His words were music to his pastor/parents' ears. They were a reminder of the real reason we gather for worship--to experience the very real, very much alive presence of our Lord! Maybe, just maybe, that reminder--called out in a small child's voice--was the voice of God among us.

    Or what about the derelict homeless woman who rides her bike through our town shouting, "Jesus loves you," to everyone she passes. Many folks in town are amused at her; few, I suspect, actually hear her shouts and associate them with the voice of God. Still, her proclamation is deeply faithful.

    There are, I am certain, countless examples. Jesus' sheep recognize his voice, we're told in today's lesson. But how often do we fail to hear our Savior because the voice comes to us through an unexpected guise?

  6. Songbird, for our dog (a choc lab) voice of authority=whoever has a treat

    wondering what the theological equivalent of that is ... and thinking that maybe I don't really want to know

  7. I'm preaching this Sunday for the first time since January (I'm technically on leave from the pulpit till September). I think I'm going to focus on John 10, specifically vv. 17-18 - no one takes my life from me, I lay it down. I'm playing with some imagery around the idea of Jesus voluntarily laying his life down, but mostly I have inchoate thoughts at this point.

  8. Normally by now I have a clue. This week I have a title I chose a month ago and nothing else. Maybe later tonight or tomorrow morning I'll get some opening thoughts posted....

  9. I love Good Shepherd Sunday....the voice of Jesus, the psalm, the "other sheep"...but we are having the children's musical this week: Oh Jonah! So we're reading Psalm 150 and having the kids sing and dance to present a message of following God's call. It seems like we often schedule the musical for this Sunday. Sad--it means we miss all those great Psalm 23 many tune choices! St. Columba, Brother James, Resignation....(sigh)

  10. In my Chaplain work the first time someone on my floor died the widow in her 80's said she wanted to hear the 23rd Psalm
    I began to repeat it.. Louder she said I can't hear. By the time she could hear I was almost shouting.
    And there are still times I think that this psalm rather than in funeralistic tones is said needs to be proclaimed in loudest voice with tremendous emphasis. Listen..
    God abide I have to turn in Sermon Title Tomorrow..erh this morning... still wondering.

  11. I'm retreating with the parish women this week, and we'll be doing a bible study on the gospel passage. I've been thinking about questions like what it feels like to be shepherded well or to feel shepherdless and lost, and who are the wolves, and when have we been shepherds to others. Starting it off with the clip from the West Wing episode (Two Cathedrals) in which Jed Bartlett takes on God for seeming, basically, a bad or absent shepherd.

  12. rambler and songbird - blessings on your preaching in new places (and earthchick, too, maybe?)

    So far I have a title I like "If the Lord Is my Shepherd, what does that make me?"

    And I want to talk about the courage, intelligence and creativity it takes to really follow Jesus.

    I'm sure something about pandemic will get in there. And I've been stewing about "harsh interrogation techniques" So this might be more of an outward looking/prophetic week than usual for me.

    See you Saturday :)

  13. Great story Bobbie. How often i have had to pray loud, never had to say 23rd pslam so loud, but great point.
    I got nothing on sermon still, but we are committing/installing/dedicating (???) our parish nurse ministry this Sunday and doing communion. My sermon need only be a sermonette or a meditation/homily.
    Now to get thougths down to about 1,000 words on I John that leads to the table.

  14. I am thinking about the 1 John passage for my sermon this week - I thinking a lot about the phrase -we have boldness before God- can't decide where to go with it - but going with that for now.

  15. I'm hemming and hawing out of town this week: father-in-law retired after 34 years of ministry and my family and I are here to celebrate and help them pack the parsonage (21 years in this call + huge 5 bed parsonage + packrat tendencies = lots of work to be done).

    I'm toying with the passage from 1 John 3.16 and its more well-known predecessor, John 3:16. "We ought to lay down our lives for one another," writes the Epistler - how does that move from "For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life?"

    But I'm also intrigued by the shepherding stuff, especially since I usually use one of my favorite hymns as the psalm for this week. It's "Shepherd me, O God" by Marty Haugen, for those of you still planning worship services.

  16. I'm leaning toward tying together Psalm 23 and John and talking about the difference between knowing about the shepherd and knowing the shepherd (and thus recognizing the shepherd's voice). and their Sermon Brainwave podcast were particularly helpful this week.

  17. I've heard some very powerful sermons about the eunach, and I look forward to hearing more from those preaching on the theme of "voices."

    As for shepherding: for me, the grace of the Lord being my Shepherd is this: contrary to the Sunday School paintings of the white-cloaked Aryan Jesus with the perfect hair, shepherding is arduous, messy work. It requires the shepherd to travel uncommon terrain, watch for predators and toxic plants, wear holes into rugged clothing, and generally get out in the weather and down in the dirt, all for the love of the ever-lovin' wooly-headed flock. The image of God as a grubby shepherd willing to follow, guide and guard us practically anywhere... to me, THAT'S the Good News. I'm hungry for a saviour who traverses the rough edges along with me.

    Maybe the image is a little too far-fetched for an urban/suburban audience. Bring it to life. Add in the sharp stones in the path, the clay-slick treachery of steep hillsides, the weight of a rain-soaked cloak, the feel of fleece matted with bits of twig and mud and flowers, the smells of lanolin, hay and sheep droppings.

    On a totally different note, I once heard a feminist preacher comment that she really loved Psalm 23 because, after years of working with all those faithful "church ladies" in the parish halls and kitchens, the thought of a male saviour preparing a table and setting out a feast was a genuine treat!

  18. MaineCelt - - another option for bringing Psalm 23 to life is not to try to describe shepherding 2000 years ago, but translate the whole thing to modern times. It might not work in your context, but an amazing pictorial version of Psalm 23 was painted for a children's book by Tim Ladwig.

    The Amazon site shows a few paintings, but not with the text they correspond to. Might give an idea - - an inner city rendering of the Psalm.

  19. My earlier post apparently didn't stick. Poo. I decided I will probably shorten my 4 week series on "love" (isn't it all about) to just 3 weeks and do Good Shepherd all out this week. It might tie back to love (probably will tie back to love), but I was having a hard time making it fit in the same vein as the rest of the series the next 3 weeks.

    Anyway, I keep coming back to the "other sheep" and what defines Jesus' fold. The fold is defined not by how beautiful the wool is, not by how perfect the sheep are. The fold is defined by the fact that the sheep hear and know (and follow bringing in I John 3) Jesus' voice.

    The church is not the church - - it's not Jesus' flock - - if we aren't listening for, recognizing, and following Jesus voice.

  20. I'm late in lectionary-reflecting this week, but I've had this gospel tumbling about in my head and heart all week. The line "I have other sheep who are not of this fold" reminded me of the Edwin Markham poem Outwitted:

    He drew a circle that shut me out —
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took him in!
    ... which ended up being core to my understanding of these texts today.

    Peace -- and Happy Sheep Day!


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