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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - an embarassment of riches.

On Sunday I'll be in the Cathedral, as my soon-to-be Curate is ordained Deacon - but my associate has been unwell, so I'm aiming to produce a sermon just in case, to ease his burden a little, as I don't really think he should be working this weekend...

It's a good week for preachers, I think - though I'm willing to bet that the preacher in the Cathedral (who will have led the 3 day ordination retreat) will probably not look at any of the themes lectionary...If he does, I'll let you know!

Meanwhile, I don't expect I'm the only one to have trouble with today's gospel.Texts for the week are here
When I was a child I loved it, because it was the only story in which Jesus had dealings with a little girl. The illustration in my Bible (very much like this one) finally dropped out, because I wanted to look at it again and again. Jesus with a little girl. Wow!
When I was a bit older, I hated it because I saw it as part of a world view in which children came second...Jesus stopped to talk to an adult and as he delayed the child died.
Older still, I picked up the themes of uncleanness and exclusion, rejoiced that the haemorrhaging woman had the courage to seek her own healing (even if it was as a last resort) and that for her, community was restored.
Today I'm wondering about her exchange with Jesus
"The woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth."
I wonder what the whole truth was?
And I might dare to ask the congregation how truthful they are as they present themselves to God....and how truthful they are with themselves.

Or I might go wandering into the realms of WHY.
When Jesus says, with such clarity
"Your faith has healed you" - why does God not heal all who believe and trust that God will?
I'd fight to the death (verbally at least) anyone who claimed that when healing doesn't happen, it represents a failure of faith...and I know that there are many who would benefit from taking the lid of these almost unanswerable questions.
Exploring some of the links from The Text this Week I found these questions, which might also be helpful

Look around! Are there miracles happening that we do not notice because of the crush of so many who press upon us?

Look ahead! Are we so sure of what we think are the facts that we laugh off the possibility of what God might actually be able to do?

And all that, just from the gospel!

David's lament for Jonathan is one of the most powerful expressions of grief that I know...and a good launch pad for exploration of love and bereavement.
Here David was certainly telling the whole truth about his relationship and making no attempt to conceal the intensity of his grief. Being real about what we feel is not something that happens enough in my churches...How about yours?

But maybe what I should really preach is the epistle. Both my churches AND my church school are engaged in major fundraising, for essential work - and in the current climate that's certainly not easy. But I'd sooner try to explore once again the whole basis of our giving...
Do we give from excess (so that our giving dries up when we find ourselves short of cash) or from the heart...I fear we are, for the most part, a long long way away from giving with eagerness, because we desire to give - and there could be a fruitful sermon to be drawn from that.
At a recent clergy gathering our Social Responsibility Office was asked how the churches should respond to the current economic crisis...He was admirably direct (Paul would have been proud of him)
"Give more" he said.
I wonder if I would dare to challenge my congregations with that...

So many fruitful possibilities...Looking forward to hearing where you are off to this week.


  1. I am back from three weeks in Montreat, NC--a preaching conference, a conference for PCUSA clergy under 40, and the Youth Conference. The theme of the Youth Conference this year is "World on Fire" and I think I'm going to talk a little about that conference in my sermon. I'm preaching the gospel--a brave thing for a CTS grad, where we were not allowed to preach that text because it was used as the first thing we worked through in preaching class. I think I am going with a theme like (but not decided yet) "apathy to amazement"...the disciples think it's ridiculous for Jesus to ask who touched him--can't he see that he'll never find out? the person who comes from the house thinks it's ridiculous for Jairus to keep Jesus any longer--there's no hope left. the people at the house think it's ridiculous for Jesus to enter the house--what can he possibly do? But in each case, Jesus walks right into the impossible, hopeless, pointless situation and brings wholeness and love and grace, and the doubters/apathetic ones are amazed.

    I think I'll tie this to World On Fire by talking about how this is often how we think of the world--the issues, problems, difficulties of the world are so overwhelming that they press in on us; the situation in the world often looks hopeless with war and famine and disease and climate change...but God calls us to follow right into the midst of those situations and do something even when it looks impossible.

    that's what I'm thinking now, anyway. finding hymns, though, that's another story! Once we get through "today we all are called to be disciples" I don't have many ideas.....but it is still very early in the morning!

  2. I'm working my way through preaching on the OT texts for several weeks, so I'm also looking at David's lament. I find it notable that it was "for Saul and his son Jonathan;" a remarkable expression of grief over the death of the king who was trying to kill him!" Themes of regret, and radical forgiveness, as well as soul-deep love...

  3. Wonderful opening thoughts Kathryn. Almost makes me wish I was preaching this week ... ALMOST.

    But I'm heading out for a week of vacation! Woohoo!

    Happy pondering to those who will proclaim the Word on Sunday.

  4. Dancing are a great encourager you know. Thanks. Have a fab vacation!

  5. I have a mishnah that I will post to my blog later today on the gospel story. I have been thinking about using it again but my mother will be here and I think she was probably here three years ago, too. So that's out even though I was in a different parish then.
    I'm working on healing, reading a book on counseling cancer patients and one of Ron Delbene's books, From the Heart. I don't have a clue what I plan to say but I think we need to talk about physical and spiritual healing and what we do when the former doesn't happen. I'm glad it is only Tuesday!

  6. I am intrigued by the Lamintations text, I would like to unpack Hesed for my crowd before I address the Mk reading. I want to talk about the character of a God who is known for hesed. I makes the whole message of healing make sense. It makes for the unclean to be made clean, the excluded, included and the denied, welcomed.

  7. Great start for us Kathryn!
    I may be using some of your thougths in my sermon.
    I am using the news story about holistic treatment for cancer patients and how many are going to Mexico to seek help.
    Basically, people are desperate for healing of all kinds and types even today.
    Hmmm, not sure where to go from there. But great helps

  8. Oh a Happy, happy "Vacay" to you Dancing!

  9. In the continuing unfolding of the sermon series on discipleship (what was I thinking?!?!) this week I'll be talking about Giving, sharing out of our abundance. The second lesson has some good possibilities for this, though I've yet to feel confident with "stewardship" sermons. Homiletics magazine has some nice work on the text, that I'll be drawing from for inspiration.

    Oh, and tomorrow I have a funeral, where the son-in-law of the man who died will preach...normally I'd be feeling just dandy about that, but I've found out that he is a very vocal critic and opponent of my denomination, the ELCA. PLEASE Lord, let him focus on the purpose and ministry of the day, and NOT on a bully pulpit!

  10. I'm pulpit supplying this week. The lectionary is so rich and I can go in so many different directions. It's been years since I've guest preached, hard to know what to preach to a church I know nothing about.

  11. I had to choose a sermon title and texts quite a while ago (adjusting to the schedule in a new setting), and now I'm trying to guess what was on my mind then! This is only my second sermon to this congregation I am serving as Interim Associate, and I don't really know them yet, except to say that I'm fairly sure showing vulnerability is not prized there. And these readings are all about vulnerability. So, how to approach them? And to write something while on a three night youth mission trip?

  12. I always struggle with the miraculous healings--largely because when I was a pediatric chaplain I had a parent whose child was dying throw a Bible at a resident b/c he couldn't tell her that what happened to Jairus' daughter would happen for her son. These were actually the portions of the text that I wished I could cut out of the Bibles we had available for families. Soooo, since my congregation has heard me on this I have to think of something else and get beyond my initial knee jerk response of "aagghhh!!!"

  13. By the way, here's what I did with this last time, a four voice reading based on the David story, the gospel and Mary Oliver's poem, "Sleeping in the Forest." I was clearly in a "green" frame of mind.

  14. Not preaching this week, but I'm intrigued by this gospel. I totally am with you about the danger of people thinking lack of healing = lack of faith. OTOH, faith in Mark is such a key factor--even to the extent that Jesus' power seemed to be diminished when he was in a hostile crowd. Not sure how one preaches that.

    And having once had a uterine polyp that caused, shall we say, an excess of bodily fluids, I can empathize with the hemorrhaging woman--she needed not only faith but courage to touch Jesus.

  15. I am practically on vacation this Sunday. We have a group of women from a Christian recovery home visiting to give testimony and sing (in place of sermon). After worship is the church picnic and since both congregations are involved there will only be one service this Sunday. I get to enjoy worship with the rest of the flock. And eat.

    Next week I go off lectionary for a six week series on Caring for Creation using study questions from my new Green Bible.

  16. I'm thinking about what it means to tell the Mark passage as a parable, rather than as a historical account, which is how we usually treat it. By telling the story as a parable, I think maybe we gain some ground over the mindset of "if I don't get healed, I must not have enough faith."
    The passage is rich; it's really a question for me of where not to go with it, but what I want to offer is a sense that God is still with us even when things don't go according to plan.

  17. Good plans on parable RevAnne.
    I did jsut read though that for Mark, the turest test of faith is whether or not it will let anything stand in its way.
    I struggle with the whole faith issue though in terms of healing. i have a dear clergy friend who has been to numerous functions at a healing house of prayer(forget the true name).
    Anyhow, she is not yet helaed of a bad lung disorder with lots of scar tissue that makes her sicker.
    They have told her that she has not yet been healed because she is not letting go enough. She has done numerous things, given up lots, and questions if her faith is strong. The folks there make me mad and I dont even know them. L's problem is not a lack of faith at all. I think she simply has an incurable diesease that she must learn to cope with. I guess that is where her faith comes in, that and doing what the doctors tell her!
    So the struggle with faith and healing continues.
    But I do think that there is something to the idea of not letting other "thngs" stand in our way. Both jarius and the woman with the flow of blood were wiling to break social constraints and barriers in order to find healing.
    That is all for now

  18. it's a small thing, but I'm curious why Jesus slips into the aramaic in this story. the only other time I can think of is when he is on the cross. anyone know why this is?

    thanks for comments, btw, good food for thought.

  19. Oh! and back to say, if you have not yet followed the links on Songbird and Margaret posts, please do! They are AWESOME!!!

  20. 1-4 Grace, you've hit on exactly why I think these stories should be told as husband has cerebral palsy, and likes to say that he was in every healing line in central Alabama while he was growing up...and still, he's not been healed...or has he? I'm also thinking about healing and salvation in the context of restoration or being made whole. What Ben doesn't have is a lot of bitterness toward the tradition he grew up in, nor (much) resentment toward his mother for the pressure put on both her and him: because if you don't get healed, in her tradition that means your faith or the faith of someone close to you is lacking. Instead, he has a whole faith, has wrestled and perhaps always will with theodicy, and has a real gift for counseling people and helping them see God in the midst of their struggles.
    Btw, keep me in your prayers: the title is "When God doesn't meet our expectations" and that's a bit risky here in the Bible Belt.

  21. Well, I got a late call to preach this Sunday, and I'm choosing to preach on Mark. I've posted the week's inspirations that are going into the sermon on my blog:


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