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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "He Said WHAT?!" Edition



Sunday's lessons can be found here .

It's that time again -- when the lectionary rolls around to one of the most problematic stories in the Gospels, a story that makes Jesus look like...well, like an insensitive, bigoted jerk.

But there it is: Jesus -- friend of "sinners" and outsiders, who elsewhere in the Gospels seems to have no problem helping and healing lepers, hemorrhaging women, Samaritans, servants of Roman soldiers -- seeming to balk at responding to a distraught Syrophoenician mother's desperate request.

What do we make of this? How do we unpack this story for our people this coming Sunday? Is there a way to approach it that doesn't come off as trying to make excuses for Jesus?

How do we tie this Gospel lesson in with our other readings, which speak to living the Reign of God into the world?

As always, share your lectionary plans and ponderings here.

27 comments:

  1. I'm going with the straw gospel--James. That's how over the Jesus story for this week I am.

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  2. Wow, everyone's different--I love the story of the spunky woman telling Jesus off and winning the encounter! Not to mention his humanity, where he has something big to learn from her. I could be making this up but I thought that after this encounter, at least in one of the Gospels, he became more open to ministering to non-Jews.

    However, we use the Catholic lectionary and our Gospel is Jesus healing a Deaf man. I will be trying to preach it in an anti-ableist way and have some initial reflections up at my place.

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  3. Well, I've done a little reading online and picked up Tom Long's piece in the CC last night. One of the things I read from Text Week, though, is Long's blog on the CC website. Oddly - since this never happens - he says two different things in the two pieces. So I'm going to keep reading.
    But I think this is just a tough Sunday all the way around. I don't find James or Proverbs any more comfort that Mark. I'll be saying the hard things and hoping to find some fomcort somewhere. Maybe the collect....

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  4. Okay, that would be comfort. :-)

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  5. I'm off lectionary (again!), and I feel sort of like I'm copping out, but I made the plan before I checked the text, I promise!!!!

    We have 2 girls getting baptized this week (sisters, 2 1/2 years old and 1 month old on baptism day), and it's a communion Sunday, so I knew I needed to keep myself brief. Since we also have friends coming in town to visit us, I've decided to recycle a short baptism sermon I used in my former church. It's based on Deu. 6, which I chose because the mom was our Christian Education chair, so I worked with the parts about passing things on to your children and your children's children. It was also my last Sunday in that call and I was associate for education.

    I'll tweak it a little (very little) for it work here since we're almost at the start of our education year. It's good and timely.

    I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever had a baptism and communion on the same week, so I'm also excited about that. I'm trying to think of a good teaching and liturgical way to tie the two together. Possibly even thinking about doing two half mini-sermons, one at the font (the Deu one) and one at the table (either continuing the Deu one, or something different). Not to sure yet, but it's mostly there. I think I'll just start working with the order and liturgy and see what develops!

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  6. I recommend my sermon "Good News For Jews" in the last volume of "Those Preaching Women" as a way to think about the Syro-Phoenician woman. I'm preaching at the seminary on Thursday and using the Torah cycle, talking about tithing. I'll post it later.

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  7. Sophia, there have been years that I've really felt called to tell that story. This week just isn't it.

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  8. This is a really tough gospel to wrestle with. This year, I pictured Jesus being weary, frustrated, and snippy... and I was filled with great hope and inspiration that just maybe, he's not perfect. A perfect person is hard to be inspired by, because I can never measure up, so why bother even trying? But if Jesus can get snippy and cranky when he's tired and frustrated, then he's so much more real to me, and I don't feel so bad when I get cranky and grumpy.

    So that's where my reflection took me this time 'round, though my reflection on this from Matthew last year took me to an entirely different place.

    Love and blessings to all!
    Sr. Hedwyg

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  9. I'm sticking with James for these 4-5 weeks that it's the Epistle reading.

    Cheese, I used the "epistle of straw" quote last week in introducing the letter.

    This week, what's jumped out at me is the question, "Can your faith save you?", coupled with v. 17 - probably everybody remembers about this reading, v. 17.

    How many people whom Jesus healed and he said, "your faith has saved you" would answer 'yes' to James' question?

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  10. I with Cheese on the Straw Gospel. Martin Luther be damned and all.
    Good question Kim! And Margaret, I honestly read fomcort and totally understood and did not catch it at all!

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  11. I am opting for the James reading too. I am wondering whether to read my congregation the parable 'No conviction' from Peter Rollins new book-the orthodox heretic. (You can hear him reading it on u tube).

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  12. I also love 'fomcort.' Reminds me of the time where I prayed for "wholing and healness" in the prayers of the people a few years ago. Still chuckle about that one!

    Anywho, I'm going a little tough on this one...using Proverbs and James to spur a repeated question of "Can We Talk?" just lifting out some of the passages and asking the congregation what they might think it is saying. This is all prompted by some of the really horrible and destructive stuff I've been hearing about in the press regarding the health care debate. So, I'm not preaching about health care, but I want to preach about the debate and suggest that we can model this differently in our church. I was just doing some very impassioned first drafting, so there's a mighty chance it will change by Sunday morning, but that's where I am for now...

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  13. I am going with this Gospel passage next week -- using it as a jumping off point to talk about a proposal that came to our General Council (national body) meeting last month. The congregations of the church are being asked/encouraged/told to discuss issues of accessibility in their life as a community. Accessibility means issues around physical ability, gender, orientation, racial background/ethnicity....

    Can you find a better passage to launch that discussion?

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  14. Our neighbor church(up the road) has a sign out front which the pastor uses to advertise the next week's sermon.
    For the past several weeks his title has been the name of a country song. Or a play on the words (i.e.
    Your cheating heart, i'm so lonesome I could cry, take this job and love it).
    So does anyone have a name for a sermon using the James text?
    Are there any country music fans out there?

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  15. Our neighbor church(up the road) has a sign out front which the pastor uses to advertise the next week's sermon.
    For the past several weeks his title has been the name of a country song. Or a play on the words (i.e.
    Your cheating heart, i'm so lonesome I could cry, take this job and love it).
    So does anyone have a name for a sermon using the James text?
    Are there any country music fans out there?

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  16. Not sure why I posted twice.
    Sorry!

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  17. 1-4, I'm a country music fan. Nothing is coming to mind now, but I'll keep thinking.

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  18. i'm focusing on the Wisdom texts until advent. i'm still struggling with pulling this Sunday together. it doesn't help that i have to record this one and turn it into my district board as they decide whether or not to reccomend me for ordination.

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  19. 1-4 how about "Mamas, dont let your babies grow up to be rich guys" ??

    that's all I got - and I would guess you are grateful THIS particular well is dry...

    Thinking about James and gospel still, and hoped to be more past the thinking about it stage than this by today. Sherev suggested the podcast "Sermon Brainwave" at workingpreacher, and it is really good this week, in case you also are still looking for ideas.

    Thinking about Labor Day, and wondering if there's something about a play on "work" and "works" - such as how do you approach whatever your work is with faith? About the Syro Woman, I got nothing. And no chance to pick up Wil's book, either, darnit. Trying to have some family time in the next coupla days since I'm working on Saturday (memorial)....

    Frustratedly off to an appointment.

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  20. I love wrestling with the story of the SyroPhoenician woman. It's one of those "canon within the canon" stories for me. (Or should that be "cannon" within the canon? Potentially explosive material!)

    First, I see it as a feminine parallel to Job-- a story in which a human earns a blessing not through their compliance, but through their direct challenge of, and faithful grappling with, the actions of the Godly & Powerful Other.

    Syro-Pho-Mama is a bit like Dorothy, pulling at Oz's curtain with the help of a canny wee beast. One commentator (Tolbert, maybe? Can't remember.) suggests she may have been one of "those" women, a trained companion for well-to-do men, schooled in skillful philosophical debate. The reference to "dogs" may be a sly nod to the philosophical school of the cynics, called "dogs" because they defied convention. Whether or not this is true, she IS pretty d--m bold, publicly naming the truth as she sees it.

    The best part, to me, is that Jesus praises her style and level of engagement precisely because she has dared to issue a challenge. He admits that she is holding him accountable to a better part of himself. She pushes him to step into a role he had not yet considered, a role closer to "messiah" and farther from "selfish narrow-minded man."

    She is part of that series of Gospel women who challenge Jesus to be less of a stereotypical, culturally-correct "man's man." She is part of that brazen, pushy sisterhood of spiritual accountability, daring to rip loose from society's fetters, to nag, push, and prod Jesus toward his sacred vocation.

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  21. I'm working on the gospel this week - thinking of Jesus being challenged to be more inclusive. A timely message for us given recent local discussions about cutting back on mission because of economy - something I just don't get. Surely that's the time when we try all the more to share?
    Anyway, a reflection on mission here.

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  22. I'm sticking with plans to continue with James for the next few weeks...but I am feeling stuck.

    Over the past couple of days, I have learned of a small group in the church pushing for my removal. It is a power play and something that has been brewing for some time (as well as rehearsed with previous pastors). We met with SPR and our district superintendent last night and, while I have support from both, I am struggling.

    As I read James and assorted commentaries, I am even more apprehensive to address James' words to us that our claim of faith in Christ rings false if our actions trample the law of love of neighbor.

    I could take the easy way out and speak more to Labor Day and vocation...or is the Holy Spirit pulling me to address the elephant? And can I do it faithfully?

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  23. Keeping you in my prayers, RevSis, as you face such a difficult situation.

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  24. MaineCelt -- love your ideas and wonder also if this week's Gospel could be linked to Jacob wrestling with God for the blessing...I might have to jot down some notes so I can pull that up later if one of those passages come around again in a bit...I have my sermon done for Sunday and it's going in a totally different direction, but I love this idea.

    RevSis, will be holding you *tightly* in prayer. Preach from your heart, and God will lead you. So sorry to hear that you are dealing with this.

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