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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Me to We" Edition

Lectionary texts for this coming Sunday are found here .

My pastor is fond of saying, "Christianity isn't about me n' Jesus under a blanket with a flashlight" -- in other words, the Christian faith may have a personal element, but it's never private; we're all in this thing together.

And that's what our lessons this week all seem to tell us...whether it's Philip responding to a unique opportunity to share good news with another, the Psalmist proclaiming the news of God's saving acts with the rest of the faith community, the author of I John reminding us that "love is a verb," and a sacred duty to one another, just as God has loved us, or Jesus' metaphor of Christian community as a vine -- a living, organic system with Christ at the center, whose component branches receive sustenance from the Vine in order to work for the good of the whole.

What are your thoughts as you study, ponder and pray your way into your sermons and worship planning this week? As always, please share!


  1. I like how you started this off. You have given me a little more to build my sermon on for Sunday. I titled it Facebook Jesus trying to come up with a metaphor for our Contemporary worship people. I got an email yesterday asking that I come up with a video or a play for Sunday. I searched and searched and didn't come up with one, until yesterday that was pretty close to what I was looking for. But today's posting confirmed that. Thanks.
    Oh you may wonder wat it was you wrote; My pastor is fond of saying, "Christianity isn't about me n' Jesus under a blanket with a flashlight" -- in other words, the Christian faith may have a personal element, but it's never private; we're all in this thing together.

  2. Thanks for a great start LutheranChik.

    I'm going with the vine and the branches and am going to talk about prayer. We can't forget about our connection to Christ - the center of our living, organic system.

  3. I am thinking about how Philipp's instruction of the ethiopian compares with our catechetical requirements. (also the missing verse 37, which seems to me like a major litmus test). Not sure if any of this will make it into the sermon or not.

  4. I'm starting 3 weeks with the Johannine gospel and epistle texts as the my central texts and talking about love. This week with 1 John I'll talk about abiding love, particularly with images and a reframing of hospitality that I read recently (book, link, and further thoughts, though not much further, are here.)

    I need to spend a little more time deciding if I can make the connection smoothly, but if I can, I think I will pull in the Acts text about the way Philip went into the chariot and sat with the eunuch. Philip met the eunuch where he was and went with him where he needed to go. That might just be abiding and intimate love.

  5. She Rev, I appreciate the link you provided to the book Radical Hospitality. It looks like a book that would be helpful for me to read, especially as I lead my church in the examination of how well our community does hospitality.

    I was having difficulty deciding whether to focus primarily on the Acts passage or 1 John for this week, but I think hospitality is a link between them both.

  6. Diversion alert!

    A couple of weeks ago, we were wondering about that broiled fish that Jesus ate...I have a little more info, which I posted at the Preacher Party from Saturday, April 25. :)

    As you were...vines...branches...

  7. Going with the journey of faith theme with the importance of guides for us and us as guides using Philip's example in the acts text. Always wanted to find a way to query a congregation as to what they feel they need for the journey. Think I'll do it by including "ticket stubs" in the bulletin for them to fill out destination and questions along the way.

  8. I am going with John - poaching an idea I found in the NIB about how John presents an image of sameness in the church whereas Paul presents an image of diversity in his body of Christ imagery. I think this idea of sameness that is seen in the intertwined brances of the vine goes against our culture's focus on individuality.

  9. This is the week I'm going to reflect on learnings from the BE 2.0, going off-lectionary and reading Proverbs 31 as translated by the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney. I hope the congregation will appreciate hearing about the things I learned.

  10. If I counted correctly, between the John and 1 John passages, the phrase "abide in" appears 14 times; God abiding in us and we abiding in God. I love that word, "abide"; it's so rich. So I'm going to let what it means for God to abide in us and we to abide in God percolate some this week. Also reflecting on that Jesus says that we've *already* been cleansed/pruned by His words.

  11. Recently I read an essay by the UCCan moderator on pruning. I am Taking David's words and the John passage as a launching point to ask what needs to be prune in ur lives for us to be fruitful and growing.

    My early thoughts are here

  12. Oh and I found that essay on line.

    You can find it hereI think all people in the church need to read it

  13. Gord, thank you for linking that article. It's excellent, and I'll likely use it for the devotional at our next Session meeting.

  14. LutheranChik, thanks for the way you got things going today! I'm heading in a similar direction and have my music director pulling his hair out trying to select songs for this week (no "Jesus is My Boyfriend" songs this week!)'s not easy to find songs that speak of us instead of me.

    While I'm getting tangled up in the branches, it occurred to me that Sunday is also Mother's Day...anybody got any ideas about how that will play into worship this week? I supposed the pruning could be compared with time-out...uh, thanks Mom?

  15. Gord, thanks for sharing that article -- it's brilliant!

  16. Wow... talk about God speaking.

    Thank you Gord for that link, I just read it and it is exactly what I needed and obviously God knew too. I am new here and I was just telling a friend about how I feel lost, unfocused, too busy with other stuff to listen clearly.
    So pruning it is for me this Sunday. Thank you also to everyone on revgalblogpals for being such a great community of positive support.

  17. A couple of years ago my husband got a long rope the length of the aisle and in certain places on the rope attached fake leaves...
    The rope was attached to the communion table...
    Everyone was encouraged to come to the center of the aisle and take hold of the rope... some linked hands with another who held the rope and others lined out of the pew...
    Yes it took some time...
    But it was wonderful...

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  19. Ok this is late because last week was the sheep sunday...
    but have you seen extreme sheepherding? check it out on You Tube...
    It's two minutes

  20. RevSis - on the Mother's Day question - -

    I'm not a big Mother's/Father's Day person in worship. I will include prayers for mothers and all those who mother through their love, but also prayers for the motherless and those who long for children. I remember the church I grew up in used to do a big deal for these days with corsages for the oldest mother and mother of most children and who knows what else. It didn't occur to me when I was young, but much later I wondered how that was worshipful for those who had lost children or who had tried unsuccessfully for years to have children or for people whose mother's were absent in one way or another. Just doesn't seem worth the few smiles a few get. I stick with it in the prayers were I can try to address a diversity of experiences, hopefully, with sensitivity.

  21. LutheranChik, I love that "me & Jesus under the blanket" quote too.

    I retreat every few months with a colleague to plan worship for several months in advance. Yesterday I was trying to remember what stroke of genius led me to choose the eunuch story for Mother's Day. Reading the comments here and on Theolog I realize that this story is about hospitality, relationship and teaching, a wonderful connection with a celebration of all the women who have mothered us. Thanks to all of you. :-)

  22. About Mother's Day celebrations - at our church every woman gets a flower, not just women with children. The flowers are all the same color so there is no chance of elitism or exclusion. Our prayer is a litany of blessings on all kinds of mothers, including the ones who are no longer with us, or are not ideal moms, and childless women (like me) who mother us in different ways during our lifetimes.

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  24. I'm doing the vine and branches too. Thanks for the wisdom so far on that one :)

    I've got this papier mache tree which comes in sections which we're planning on using for an event (when we'll glue it together) but before that I'm going to get the church to build the tree as part of the sermon.

    I'm also thinking of using a cute little chant with actions which they had at Greenbelt a few years ago. While people mime a tree growing in three stages, you get the adults to shout the first line, everyone to shout the middle and children to do the last line: Roots!
    *clap clap*
    so that link to the article was great:
    '"You have to do that. It drives the life back into the roots." He motioned toward the earth with both hands. "If you don't cut it back all the life comes out; sooner or later it will die."'

  25. (Removed my previous post as I had not read RevMaria's...once I did, mine sounded a bit on the snarky side. So not my intention!)

    Thanks, SheRev...I think we incorporated a litany last year that included all aspects of mothers. It just feels odd to me to throw it into worship whether it fits with the message or not. And at the same time strange to not mention it. sigh.

    Last year, we also gave flowers to all the ladies (mothers and other-mothers, some-day mothers, any kind of mothers). I am concerned about how that plays with the image of the branch cut away from the vine?

    Prayer. Prayer is a good way to handle it this year.

    For you vine and branches folks, I did find this affirmation you might want to use; scroll down to "vine and branches."

  26. Interesting - - so I'm really working with this hospitality/love connection between 1 John and Acts. I went to our subscription website for bulletin artwork, not my favorite, but I've never known another one. This one can get too "cartoony." Anyway, I typed in "hospitality" to see what I could find when the Scripture reference search turned up not much.

    A mouse in an apron holding a cake on a plate is what I got. Really. For hospitality. Yikes! We've got a long way to go!

  27. Bobbie - that rope and leave thing sounds great! I'm thinking it'll be my children's message this week. And it's only Tuesday ... woohoo!

  28. I'm preaching on the incredible, radical, outrageous, bizarro story of the baptism of the eunuch. How grace supercedes every barrier we put up between ourselves and others.

    I'm preaching on all of the Acts passages this Easter season, and it's opened some eyes.. Acts is like Masterpiece Theatre in Jerusalem... passion, intrigue, feuds, prison breaks, miracles... and eunuchs!

    I've never heard a sermon about the radical nature of this account:why is the church so afraid of it? Because we don't want to talk about sexuality.
    This is about invitation to relationship- with the gospel, open to everyone no matter their ethnicity, their social status, or their sexual orientation.. or lack thereof.

    I'd love to hear from others who are going down that road from Jerusalem to Gaza... (Hey! Gaza! That's another angle to bring into this story... disputed geographic territory... point of differences between people!) Lots of fertile ground for planting seeds...

    Not to mention the 'pruning' angle from the gospel... and the eunuch who lived with his own kind of pruning.. and yet was one of the redeemed, grafted to the tree of life..

    I'm having far too much fun here..

  29. I love what your pastor says, LC! :-) What an image!

  30. I am using this litany for mothers, as it celebrates all types, including those who do not have children.
    Sticking with the Acts text for preaching, no tie in to Mothers day as my denomination also has a special offering for the Homes for the elederly folks in the state.Story
    Anyhow, I did think of title, A Eunuchly Different Story. But i was being silly.
    So not sure where I am going, but tomorrow we cover the same text in bible study. Maybe ideas will come to me.
    Thanks for the recipe, MB!

  31. I'm with you in Acts, Sage1. What I found to be proof of God's radical outpouring of grace is the fact that eunuchs were on the very short list of people who could not ever be part of the congregation of Israel - never allowed all the way into the temple for worship. (Deut. 23:1-8) And yet here he is, being accepted and baptized in Christ's name. Gotta love it.

  32. I struggle with acknowledging mother's day in worship--although I am a mother (and currently 8 months pregnant) when we acknowledge women without children on mother's day are we sending a not-so-implied message that everyone 'should'/'ought' to be a mother. What about women who are not called to parent children? Do we think they are just confused or ontologically un-womanly? I'll probably acknowledge the day in the prayers of the people, celebrating with those who can on this day, seeking comfort for those for whom this day is difficult, but--that's the extent. In my internship church, the pastor (male) made a big deal about giving all the women flowers on mother's day--and it really offended me. I understand the well-intentioned spirit behind the gesture. I don't know what the answer is...

  33. Thanks for putting words to that, Kate. The idea of celebrating all women on mother's day wasn't sitting well with me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it other than it seemed to be assuming that the state of motherhood (even metaphorical motherhood) the true essence of womanhood. Maybe I'm not saying that right, but it was something that was tumbling around in my brain.

    However I craft those words in the prayer, I will craft them carefully. A male single associate pastor in another congregation shared how infuriated he was by a colleague who prayed for "all the single people who are lonely at this time of year" on Christmas Eve this year. We've got to be careful with our assumptions when we pray.

  34. For those of you/us doing
    the Acts text of teh ethopian eunuch,
    The play is very cute and could be used with puppetts or actors and can be quite funny.

  35. Kate, SheRev, thank you. I hadn't considered how we impose the role of motherhood upon women. I will need to rethink what direction the prayer will take. If you have already written or run across something appropriate, please share. How do we include without offending? How do we honor without disrespecting?

  36. Kate and Sherev, thanks for the feedback. I ma single and do not have children at all. The litany/ prayer acknowledges women who have been "like" mothers to us in our lives, which I am sure we have all had. I worded it poorly in comments.
    My struggle with acknowledging Mothers Day is for those who do not have a positive relationship with their own mothers.
    The litany itself is centered more on our relatiohsips with various "mothers."
    Anyhow, my preferece is to not say anything about a secular holiday created by greeting card companies, but it is here, in our face and with the added "specail offereing" must be recognized.
    Hopefully, the liatnay is such that it recognizes all types of maternal relationships in our lives without an improper implication. Good points raised ladies.
    If we do nothing to recognize the day, we are in touble here. :)

  37. Oh and jsut read RevSis's post.
    Sorry, should read before I type. Anyhow, it is one of those days we are going to need to do soemthing.
    It has nothing to do with any of the text. If we follow the lectionary, it is not suppossed to.
    I am also struggling with the fact that in my tiny congregation, I have 5 famiies who lost mothers since last May. I know this will be a hard day for them.
    Any other thoughts or ideas from folks on how to handle this sort of thing pastorally, ethically, and in a way that does recognize all mothers without belittling those who are not?

  38. 1-4 - - I, too, have planned and will bring it up in prayer. Usually I have used language like has been mentioned around here "all who have mothered us." As has been mentioned also, though, the "mothering" we have experienced may not be positive for all. Also, in your situation with so many grieving very specific losses of mother's it definitely makes sense, more than that, seems the pastoral thing to do, to raise those losses up in prayer.

    Something I hadn't thought of before this discussion was brought up was the equating of Mother's Day with a celebration of all women. That doesn't happen with Mother's Day in my denomination (they do women's stuff in March), but it DOES happen in June with Father's Day. They've turned that Sunday into "Men of the Church" Sunday or something like that. Interesting.

    OK. I think I'm done with this one. I worried through the night that I sounded like I was knocking other folks' plans, prayers, or traditions. I definitely didn't mean to do that. I was thinking outloud about some of these ideas, but certainly didn't mean to sound like I had drawn any sort of conclusion about what is right or wrong.

  39. Well, I am two days late even though this was the week I was going to start sermon prep on Monday for sure.
    On Mothers Day, I second all the comments about marginalizing women who are not mothers for whatever reason. Before we adopted our kids, I dreaded that Sunday and usually ended up in tears. There were two youth group kids who picked up on that and did their best to be my kids that day but you know it wasn't the same. I still love them for it, though. And I know several women who chose not to have children. How can we honor that?
    As for the sermon, I'm going with the 1 John reading. The Christian Century that just came yesterday has some amazing stories of community that will play into that very nicely. And the vine/branches simply has to come into it. I wish I had enough nerve to preach Acts to my people who think they are open and affirming when they would be glad to reinstate Israel's limitations.

  40. Hi,

    I don't know if this is too late. I am now a Minister, and my husband and I do not have children. I used to just not go to church on Mother's Day because of some of the things which were said. I often felt like the only role I could meaningfully have was as a mother. Being a student Minister meant not being able to just not be there. One year the Minister did the 'well you are like a mother thing' and that reinforced for me, that my only value was in those areas where I was 'motherly', rather than being valued as a person. Another minister I was assigned to was much more sensitive, and asked me to plan worship with him. Here is a litany I wrote. This was a very diverse congregation both racially and socio-economically, and it worked well, though I am sure there are more examples that could be added into the mix depending on the congregation. Where I am now, I tend not to make a big deal of Mother’s Day, but it gets mentioned. Depends on who is leading childes time and prayers just how much it gets mentioned.

    The second part of each section could be a second voice or congregational response.
    Litany for Mother’s Day
    We remember Sarai who was taunted by others in the household because of her inability to have children.
    All-encompassing God we pray for those who feel excluded when we emphasis one kind of family as normal.

    We remember Esther, who was adopted and raised by her cousin.
    God who embraces us all, we pray for those who cannot be raised by their parents, for a short time or permanently.

    We remember the mother of Moses, who placed him into a raft on the river.
    Saving God, we pray for parents who struggle to raise their children in oppressive circumstances.

    We remember Hannah, who loved her child so much she handed him over to another to raise.
    Loving God, we pray for parents who have placed their child in another family.

    We remember Naomi, who grieved the death of her sons.
    God, who grieves with us, we pray for parents who mourn the death of a child.

    We remember Ruth, who gave up her family to be family to another.
    Inclusive God, we pray for those who choose to be family to those isolated by culture or language or distance.

    We remember Elizabeth, who had a child in old age and we remember Mary, who had a child as a teenager.
    Ageless God, we pray that as a community we accept people of varying life stages and responsibilities and relationships.

    We remember Rachel, crying for her children
    God of justice and hope, we pray for those whose children are killed, and look to a time when children can live safely in their communities.

    We remember Lois and Eunice, who taught Timothy faith by example.
    Faithful God we pray for those who teach us faith by their lives, may we remember that we also teach about you in the way we live.

    We remember other people, not named in the Scriptures, like the mother of the prodigal son.
    Companion God, we pray for those who wait for a phone call or a visit,
    cut off from family and friends by distance and disagreement.

    Nurturing God, we give thanks for those
    who enrich our lives by their presence
    who teach us about your abundant love
    who encourage us to journey in faith.

  41. This is a beautiful prayer! We decided years back just not to do anything special on Mother's Day because there's just so much pain there. Usually someone will mention it during our sharing/prayer time, though, and I will acknowledge that it's a joyful time for some and a painful time for others, and that's worked well. One woman from another church used to come to our church just on Mother's Day because she couldn't handle all the stuff her church did. It's good to hear so many people looking for ways to be sensitive.

  42. It's not too late for me! The litany, I mean. It's Sunday morning and I'm pulling together the end of my sermon and my prayers of the people. I love the language in your litany, and believe even the introduction you offer is helpful for my leading of worship today.


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