Visit our new site at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Who's the Greatest?"

Scripture texts for next Sunday can be found here .

"Who's the greatest?"

That's a question that permeates the popular culture. Even in our entertainment choices we seem to be obsessed with the "best" -- the best athletic teams; the best new talent; the best B-list. And if we're honest with ourselves we will acknowledge our own aspirations to be "the greatest," or at least better than the next person, in our various roles in life.

Jesus' disciples seemed to be equally concerned about who among them was "the greatest." So imagine their surprise when Jesus points to God's idea of human greatness: service to "the least of these."

Is this going to be your text and your message on Sunday?  Do one of the other texts of the day resonate with you more in terms of preaching? Or are you off the lectionary altogether?

As always, share your impressions and ideas here.


  1. Right now I'm feeling a little more like Jeremiah in 11:18-20 pissed off at God for expecting him to preach some sense into a stiff necked people but that's probably not where I'm gonna go on Sunday...

  2. There's also a hospitality theme in the gosple passage, isn't there?
    'whoever welcomes' - a nice ongoing hook from the previous week and the James passage about welcoming the rich and forgetting the poor....
    Who do we welcome?
    How is our welcome demonstrated?
    Do we treat all who come through the scary, intimidating church doors as great or least and...
    What determines our definitions of 'great' and 'least'?

    Am thinking of the Wild Goose Worship song 'He knew the greatness of the small' - it's nicely in keeping with both least of these in a 'child' context as well as a wider power context. It can be found in the music book 'Love from Below'

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. ack, spelling...
    Pastor Joelle - reminds me of one of my former supervisor's comments once, when we were discussing the perils of sermon titles. She said there are those weeks when all you really want to put on the service sheet is:
    'Pissed off and too tired to care'!!!
    I see now this is not uncommon. Hope the week's thinking crystallises well for you

  5. pastor joelle--perhaps you do need to preach on jeremiah 11:18-20. while you might not mention being pissed off at God for needing to preach to stiff-necked people, perhaps telling the story about some other stiff-necked people (thinking of Nathan's talk to David). just a thought.

    i've committed myself to preaching the Hebrew Wisdom texts through Advent.

    i was so excited to do it and now as i'm faced with it, i'm having problems piecing it together. i'm not sure about where to go with "A capable wife."

    i'd like to go with wil gafney's "warrior wife" thoughts (from be2)and go from there. i'm just not sure if the congregation would follow along. i shouldn't underestimate them, should i?

  6. Well, there's always this: for those of you preaching Proverbs.

    (Sorry, zero html skills)

  7. I'm sticking with James. And I got nothin' so far. And I'm leaving in 90 minutes for Presbytery, and I won't be back until Saturday night. And somewhere in there I have to carve out chunks of time to write.

  8. I used this Mark PAssage a couple of weeks ago to talk about the alternate wisdom of faith.

    This week I am going with last week's MArk Passage and talking about sharing/naming our faith. How would we answer the question Jesus asks????

  9. Hi RevHipChick...I have read that passage from Proverbs (the "capable wife" alias the "virtuous woman") at matriarchal funerals and am always amused at the folks who can't believe there are ANY passages in Scripture that praise ANY women. The best though was the day that the deceased lady was a member of the Order of the Royal Purple (i.e., a "lady Elk"). Her lodge sisters were sure it was about them, purple blazers and all, bless their hearts.

  10. when I read the question, Who is the greatest, I immediately thought of Kanye West at the VMA awards. Are we that much different?

  11. Me, too, Scott. I wrote about Kanye this morning. The public incivility we've been seeing all over is really about grabs for power/attention/control.
    I'm using the gospel, but you can go there with James, too.

  12. This is going to be my text for Sunday, I want to point away from the churches insistence that people notice and applaud it to look at what servant missional living anf being might look like- revisiting the incarnation maybe...

    just thinking out loud....

  13. Just dropping in. We have a guest preacher for a special day in our denomination (Sunday that we honor the education of theology).
    Anyhow, I have a prof coming to preach and so I get to PLAY this weekend.
    I will be thinking of y'all and back next week to finish up with James

  14. I'm using the Mark text but bringing in resources (hopefully) for International Day of Prayer for Peace which is Monday. We're have a vigil at our peace pole on Monday but I've been asked to do a peace focus on Sunday. I think I can use the disciples argument as a jumping off point for our fights which are often over little things 'cos we can't see the big picture.

  15. Rev. Dave--that is way funny! thanks for the link--it just might preach!

  16. I found myself quite taken with the Proverbs reading, and its description of the perfect woman. On reflection, I could not think of any woman who met the description in this poem, nor even any man... except Jesus. This led me to pondering the relationship between God as Bridegroom and Church as Bride. The reflection that grew out of this is here.

  17. Pastor Joelle, to echo revhipchick and add a little bit on, I know we tend to get pissed off about the things that we know are bad habits within us. It might be of value to admit one is pissed off with God about stiff-necked people in our midst (if not the preaching part), and even further, that one knows one can be rather stiff-necked oneself. That could be fertile ground for reflection, both personally and corporately. I'm sure everyone in the congregation could point to someone there who is stiff-necked. So what does Jeremiah have to say about others who are stiff-necked, or *gulp* about our stiff-necked selves?

    Or, you know, not. :-)

  18. I've been pondering the gospel this week. Fortunately I'm not having to preach it. It's too near the bone. I like to emphasise that I'm not a "typical minister". But that's really just another way of saying I'm better.
    Reflected on that over here based on a fresh encounter
    How to stop being on the margins but not be sucked in - that's my dilemma.

  19. I've had the opportunity to really wrestle with the scripture passages this week, as I stupidly signed up to be the guest blogger at in the "Homiletical Hot Tub". They asked me to blog every day as I've worked with the texts.
    It's been interesting to see the things that emerged. I started out the week thinking that it was obvious that Jesus was never the pastor of a small church who prays to have children to welcome. What's emerged for me is the tension between society's expectations and what it means to allow yourself to be the child that Christ welcomes. I don't see this as a cutesy story, but have realized that it would be a lot easier for me, personally, to welcome someone who wasn't "earning" their way, than it would be to extend that same grace to myself. There's a big amount of trust in learning to play at Jesus' feet, and allowing yourself to be held as one who is beloved. I'm surprised by that showing up for me.

    Y'all that are working the Proverbs passage are braver than I am! All "Lady Wisdom" did for me was make me ill because I can't ever be that woman.

  20. I'm coming late to the Tuesday party as usual, but this time with thoughts all over the map. Going with Mark, though, for sure.

    I sort of have the urge to preach about the incivility/just plan rudeness going on popular culture and nationally, but I'm feeling that might be my soapbox and not the Word for these people. I'll still let it perc for a little, but I think, ultimately, I'll let it go.

    When I realized this was the Mark text for the week, my first thought was the reminder that childhood was not then what it is now. Children were almost sub-human in terms of rights and respect, so this is more worldview shaking than just a cute picture to paint and hang in the nursery.

    Now as I was actually reading it the thing that has jumped at me the MOST is the phrase in v. 32 about begin afraid to ask. Now that is intriguing. Here they are on the road when they have nothing but time to get from one place to another. Jesus was taking the time to teach them. JUST ASK!

    But they didn't, so then they ended up in an argument that TOTALLY would have been avoided if they had just asked.

    I think my guiding question might be about their fear. What were they afraid of? What are we afraid of?

    Finding out we're wrong? Having to change? More work? Danger? Not being at the top of the heap? Looking stupid?

    Also, what questions do we avoid asking because of our fears?

    Lots going on in my brain, but not as much coming out yet. Will get the bulletin finished this afternoon and then hopefully I'll have more to share by the Saturday Preacher Party!

    (Will miss you 1-4, but I get the guest preacher in Oct!)

  21. ok, so ridiculously late. But, for those of you doing the whole James/Mark/arguing thing, I found this article kind of interesting, and certainly a different slant than I've heard yet:


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.