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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Lectionary Leanings 1st Sunday after Trinity - Green and growing

I've just been to a splendid morning of Continuing Ministerial Education focussing on Life in the Power of the Spirit. One of the sessions was from a liturgical perspective, and the speaker made the point that we too often treat the weeks between Trinity and the Kingdom Season as if they were absolutely and completely "Ordinary time"...week after week of non-descript liturgy, with little variation, little shape, nothing to mark out the Sundays as the mini Easters they should really be. He invited us instead to think about these weeks as "the season of the year" (rather than just an endless series of Sundays after Trinity or after Petecost)...and to see them as weeks of green growth.
And here we are...straight into a Sunday where seeds and sowing are at the forefront of our lections.

Always, planting a seed is an act of faith...
As he uses images from the natural world to teach us about the Kingdom, Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom (and the Church that is called to be a sign of it) is not a static institution but a living organism. In this diocese, we're invited to spend time thinking about how the local church can represent green shoots of Kingdom hope...perhaps it's time to look at the growth in your own church community...Or perhaps it's a question of inviting the congregation to see where there might be potential. Consider David, after all - the unlikely choice
"for the Lord does not see as mortals see"
God has endless confidence in our potential - for God alone sees what we, as individuals and as the church, can become with and for Him...
"All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord".

Here in the UK, we're having a difficult time politically. The credibility of our government is about as low as I can ever remember, and disturbingly right-wing views are emerging. Set all that in the context of the world recession and the need for hope becomes overwhelming, - but it can feel as if the church is failing to communicate the hope that is in us.
We want the Kingdom to come in all its realised glory - but we have to wait, and trust, and wait some more.
Time, maybe, to reconsider the mustard seed... One of my favourite passages the Oscar Romero speech that reminds us that we are "Ministers and not messiahs" encourages us to "take the long view..." because "we are guardian of a future not our own".
As we look anxiously for signs of life in our churches, those words surely offer encouragement.
What is there in your church communities that shows potential for flourishing?
Could this be the Sunday to celebrate small beginnings?
Or is it time to stir your people to action...since we are called to take part in the harvest?
Where are you heading, in this season that is green and growing?


  1. Wowie...first one!

    I love to tell stories, and I am toying with the idea of doing David and Goliath, rather than having it read as the 1st scripture passage. An interesting story to tell, and an interesting story to reflect upon. Just not sure if I have the time and energy to do it to my satisfaction. Anyone else playing with this one?

  2. Wait, isn't David and Goliath *next* week? I thought this week was the "beauty pageant."
    I did devise a playlet for David and Goliath in a past cycle, and I'm happy to share it, Betsy, as a jumping off place if nothing else.

  3. I was thinking of telling the story of Saul and how he lost God's blessing, relating it to planting for the sake of planting or planting because it is what God is telling us to do.
    We are at a place where we need to be paying attention to how this congregation will look in ten years. I find it hard to remember that all these vital people in their 60s and 70s - and I am in that group if barely - will be coming to a time when they want to put down the shovels, rakes, brooms and paint brushes. Will there be anyone to pick them up or are we supposed to be planting a different kind of congregation? I don't have the answer but maybe together we might find it.

  4. For some reason I have a lot of mental churn going on regarding the entire Pentecost season...this weekend I was listening to a CD that included the song "I Need To Wake Up," from the film An Inconvenient Truth,and it struck me how in keeping the lyrics are with the entire season, when we really unpack what it means to live as a citizen in the Reign of God. I've also been thinking a great deal about the "domestic church" -- about ways that we can help people develop a practical spirituality for themselves and their households so that their Christianity isn't primarily define by their fannies sitting in church pews for an hour on Sunday morning. How can we help people find a Rule that both nurtures and challenges their faith and that of their loved ones, and that also helps them look outward into the world around them? I'm not preaching this Sunday...but we are in the process of creating a time-and-talent database for our congregation, and I'm feeling moved to do something about these ideas, although at this point I'm not sure what.

  5. I am preaching this week using some of Phyllis Tickle's "The Great Emergence" and Diana Butler-Bass's presentation at the Festival of Homilectics. I did not get to attend but purchased a CD of her presentation.

    Taking some time to look at where do we go now. The "seeds lecture" is being read but I'll only use it a bit.

  6. I'm considering the 2 Corinthians passage, I love the verse "For the love of Christ controls us..." and the "new creation", which is not unconnected with seeds!

    I love what you said, Sally, about being "guardians of a future not our own." pondering an essay by a seminary classmate (now professor) "what is Biblical preaching?" and am pondering that, too.

  7. uh, sorry Kathryn... I liked what YOU said....

  8. Wonderful things to get me thinking Kathryn. I'm going with the seeds in the gospel lesson. It is also hymn sing Sunday around here and that means we'll be singing twice as many hymns as normal. Thinking about how I might tie in the seeds to the songs.

  9. We've been having "neighborhood meetings" in our church, and in each one of these, one of our long time members will lament the fact that we don't have a lot of young people in our church. Then they will mention a "megachurch" where their relatives belong, and ask why our church can't be like them - why they have so many people and we don't (and we're actually not doing that bad, avg about 250 combined in our three worship services.

    So...I am trying to figure out how to use the "tree" imagery to encourage...I like what Breuggemann said about Psalm 92 "in old age they still produce fruit, they are always green and full of sap" - at FoH he spoke of the sap of Abraham in his old age...

    So, have a seed of an idea, as it were, not sure where to go with it!

    Blessings to all as you prepare to share the word!

  10. I'm involved with children's activities this week (hooray!) - I want to hep them think about the potential of even a very small seed in God's hands - and to relate it to their potential as citizens of God's kingdom.

    I'm going to start with the question 'how many seeds are there in this apple?' (cut up, count seeds, eat apple together!) then take one seed 'how many apples in this seed?'. This isn't my original idea but I can't remember where I picked it up!

  11. "Beauty contest" Oh that's good, Songbird.

    When I planned this Sunday a couple of months ago I had decided to use the reading from 1 Corinthians, but since then the Board decided that this Sunday we will celebrate our preschool and its teachers and director. We'll be giving out a plaque and gifts and sharing a special litany (which I haven't written yet.) The Mayor is even coming to present a certificate of appreciation from the City as we primarily serve lower income families.

    So my sermon is going to be quite short, and I may just go off-lectionary and use Deuteronomy 11 'Teach them to your children". Discussion of schools is especially painful in California right now as education budgets have been slashed, summer school cancelled, many programs cut and thousands of teachers laid off. The Catholic Archdiocese responded by opening their summer schools to public school kids! So - teach your children so you can have a great future seems appropriate right this minute . . .


  12. Love your musings Ruth! I was considering bringing apples for the children's sermon and cutting one open to look at the seeds inside. You've given me more to ponder with that ... thanks!

  13. there is a terrific article in a recent "New Yorker" about the David/Goliath effect, or how the Good Little Man beats the Big Man. Summary: don't stand around playing by the big guy's rules, but run straight at him as hard as you can go, and bust him one before he knows what's happening.
    Yeah, that'll preach!!!
    Actually I'm going to invite the congregation to reflect on our recent royal visit, and how the experience of waiting and preparing tested us in various ways...if it "gels" I'll post it!

  14. Looking for a good news story to go with the mustard seed text.
    My mind is more focused on vacation at the lake starting on Monday!
    Oh, and I am leading an adult bible study for VBS.
    As typical, the vbs curr. jumps around OT to NT and in between.
    I decided to go with the first story of Joshua from day 1.
    However, the ladies who run things decided to build on the theme of Jonah and BIG fish.
    Uh, that is not being covered in the bible stories....Did they get Jonah and Joshua confussed? WTF????

  15. I seem to be gathering phrases from the commenteries that may find their way into the sermon. (The Old Testament lessons will be taking the lead this month with Gospel riding shot gun.) "Hiddenness and Growth"
    Growing into the job
    "Stimulate the audience's imagination so that they might percieve the power and presence of God"
    Imagination, how is this little boy David going to grow into the role of King? Imagine possibilities and pitfalls that will shape his future decision making. How will God prepare David?
    Parables sparking the imagination and opening eyes to see new ways even in common illustrations.
    Okay, so its disconnected now, but my imagination is gaining steam.

  16. I only preach once a year or so now, music being my primary sphere of ministry now. This Sunday is this year's week. I'm preaching from the Gospel lesson. It's the first Sunday for actually giving to our capital funds campaign, and it's designated "First Fruits Sunday." We've been so focused on the pending building/renovation (which really is needed) that I, for one, have been tempted to think primarily of bricks and mortar, rather than making disciples.

    So what has been nagging at my pea brain since choosing the text is "he does not know how." For all our sophistication and employment of "proven" techniques in ministry, the fact is, we don't have a clue HOW God brings life from the earth! It's a matter for trust, for fundamental faith in a process we can neither understand nor effectively control. Oh, we can STOP growth, and too often do. But not really control it. No matter how much we tinker with crops, the sprouting and growing is still largely a mystery.

    Y'all have probably all thought of this one, but in case you haven't, Natalie Sleeth's "Hymn of Promise" is great for this text. We're closing with it. (That way, even if my poor people hear a dog of a sermon -- no offense intended, RevGalDogPals -- the text will be interpreted wonderfully through the final hymn!)

    Looking forward to peeking in here often between now and Sunday. God bless you all!

  17. Aaaccckk! You are so right, SB! I took the scripture insert the secretary handed me and never looked twice at the heading; I have obviously been too distracted trying to cram the sermon, the prep for the 2 weeks while I'm gone on vacation, and the final week of school and graduation. Thank goodness you pointed this out before I got any further into the week and the story. But darn, I was having some fun with Goliath.

    Now, to go look at the actual lessons for this week...

  18. Here is the link to the article mentioned by "Crimson Rambler."


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