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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Gettin' Figgy With It Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .
Back when I was a fuzzy young LutheranChik, one of my campus pastors liked to preach on the perils of cheap grace, and the oft-ignored relationship between "saved from what" and "saved for what."

Our lessons this week speak to those issues as well, from the powerful, compelling prose of Isaiah to Jesus' pithy story of the underperforming fig tree.

What will be your approach to these texts as you pray/plan/preach your way into Sunday? Will your emphasis be on the saved-from or the saved-for, or both? Might your congregation catch a whiff of burning sulfur in the air during your sermon, or are you going to spend time with the patient arborculturist of Jesus' parable who's willing to give the unpromising tree some TLC and one more chance? What's the good news in our texts? Or are you going off the lectionary in favor of another sermon text?

As always, please share your preacherly struggles and insights right here!


  1. We have the burning bush instead of Isaiah; don't know why and won't preach on it.
    Today's meditation from Episcopal Relief and Development was about reconciliation and judgment. I liked it a lot and will work it into my thoughts on Luke. The author talked about indentifying with those we have hurt. She likens standing before God at judgment as like being in a spotlight and being bombarded by the pains she has caused in her life. Jesus' tells us to repent of those pains caused, reconcile and be restored.
    And I've always understood his "perish like they did" to mean dying unprepared/unrepentant. Anyone got another take on that? I'd love to hear it.

  2. Margaret, I'd like to think about your question. What if Jesus meant that w/o reconciliation, one dies in the pain of brokenness, lonely and without the restorative ability of community? It's a different take, let me ponder some more. I'm preaching reconciliation next Sunday.
    This week I will use the ps and have a service focused on prayer for self, others, world. A time of longing for God and spending time in that holy presence. We shall see how it all develops...

  3. Margaret, I read that EDR meditation earlier today and recoiled. "This is a hard saying, who can accept it?"

    I'll be thinking about this and look forward to reading your sermon as it develops.

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  5. Hello RevGals!

    I preached the Lukan text last week and created a dramatic reading for the parable. It's up at my blog my blog.

    The full audio of my sermon is also available href="".here,/a>. I relied heavily upon Eugene Peterson's commentary, which can be found in Telling It Slant.

  6. Poo - - comment lost in cyberspace.

    I'm off lectionary for Lent, preaching some of the parables from Luke that (if they appear in RCL at all) appear in the summer when I'll be on maternity leave. Each parable is matched with one of the specific calls to ministry our session discerned for our congregation last fall. This week is Luke 14:16-24 (Great Banquet) with the theme of worship - - worship is answering God's invitation to the feast. We come not because we are perfect or have everything in order. We come because we recognize our need for God. We come to rejoice in the blessings God offers. Or something to that effect

    It's gotta be super short since we have a baptism and communion. I'm thinking I might actually preach it from the communion table since the parable is all banquety and everything.

  7. Off lectionary for all Lent. Preaching on the Bent-over Woman in Luke. Looking at re-framing our worldview with God's worldview. Perhaps going in the direction of what weighs us down...causes us to be bent over. Somehow it seems tied to Sabbath for me...maybe when we practice Sabbath we can see our bent-overness.

  8. I have a title "Just Deserts" which I just found out really is spelled with one "s". I have an idea where I want to go, to talk about hunger and thirst and repentance. That is about it. I preached a real dog last week and am trying to redeem myself. Wondering if anyone else read the Christian Century article "There is no I in preach" and what you think about it. I feel as though my sermon last week was way too much about me, but I have to admit to enjoying personal stories in sermons - Songbird's wonderful pieces come to mind. What is a good balance? How to strike it? Hoping I come up with some good stuff so I can actually take part of Friday off. I am supposed to be part time and have yet (in the past two years) been able to figure out a rhythm that includes an actual day when I don't work. Blessings on all as you prepare...see you Saturday most likely!

  9. Mumpastor, there was someone in my class at seminary who started all of her sermons with a personal story and she was always the hero. I hated those sermons. So I avoided personal stories for about two years before a parishioner finally said, we'd love your sermons even more if you put your story into them.
    It is a fine balance but sometimes a text really speaks to something we have experienced and it is good to use our story, however long, to illustrate and teach.
    If you have a few good listeners in your congregation who are also willing to be honest with you, ask them if it was the dog you think it was. You may find what you think is a dog is really a gem. Of course, the opposite is possible as well! :-)
    MAry Beth, I'll try to blog about the sermon this week. I haven't that in far too long. I do think that the image is a bit starker than my own image of judgment. The author removed any mercy or grace, yes?

  10. Rev Nancy Fitz, I think your response is on the nose. The key is, I suppose, living reconciled lives? That requires us to be aware of when we need to repent. It also requires the community members to call each other to account. You've given me much to think about.

  11. I am figgin' it this week.
    My opening reflections are

  12. Mumpastor,
    You touched on a hot topic for me. Knew of a church educator in another place, who always had a story about herself in her sermons. I was not the only one who noticed it. Although, I do not think it is a bad thing to tell a story about yourself sometimes, if you are the frequent hero of it, then you have a problem. This was "D's" biggest issue. She was the forever hero in her stories.
    Thanks for referencing the artice. Something we can all use.
    Margaret is right though, I think our folks enjoy hearing about us. Even if it is a tadbit of info: " As some of you know, a hobby of mine, is collecting antique sardine cans."
    I am gonna check your stuff out Meg. Thanks!

  13. Meg,
    Could not get it to work. Can you try the link again or put the address in to cut and paste?

  14. I've only just managed to look at the texts for this week and I've decided it has to be the Isaiah passage for no other reason than it is so beautiful. May well regret this impulsive decision come Saturday, but optimistic just now. Am I shallow or what? LOL

  15. I like personal stories in sermons. Just my 2 cents' worth.

  16. I'll be preaching an all ages sermon at two services (or possibly 3, since our early service preacher just had surgery!), and I'm using the burning bush lesson, with my focus being on what makes something holy. Moses was standing on the same ground he might've walked over many times, but suddenly it was holy ground. The bread in the eucharist is just ordinary bread--and with the wafers we use, not all that great--and yet it becomes holy. What's going on? Great chance gently to work in a little bit of Anglican eucharistic theology too. I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks; I hope it's not one of those sermons that is way better in my mind than in the actual moment...

  17. my current thinking is going with the Luke passage - on not blaming the victim. E.G. the people of Chile are not more sinful than those from other places.
    Love the imagery in Isaiah, will try and include that in the communion liturgy.

  18. So sorry all. As you can tell, I kind of suck at technology. Here is the link for the dramatic interpretation of the Lukan passage if anyone is still interested...

  19. I read the CC piece and, not surprisingly, took it personally! I would never tell an exalted professor that there is only one way the Spirit may speak through him in a sermon. We live in changing times. Fifty years ago women's voices were rarely heard from our pulpits. *No* openly gay voices were heard in our pulpits. No one used video or power point to illustrate a sermon. And the mostly male clergy were taught a certain style of preaching.
    We live in a different time.
    This Sunday my colleague and I will be using Luke 8:16-21 as the text for a dialogue sermon explaining why we believe the church should vote to be Open and Affirming. We will both use personal stories to explain how we came to our understanding.
    There is a difference between an illustration from our lives and a personal story in which the one preaching is the hero, or even the goat. For each of us, the life experience informed our theology. This issue isn't just about intellectual arguments; it's about heart understanding. So that's how we're approaching it.

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  21. Songbird,
    Thanks for sharing. I think your dialogue sermon sounds great and in this case you need the personal stories to help enhance your point.
    Wish I could be there to hear it.
    Oddly enough, I can usually tell when a pastor was in seminary by the "way" they preach. There is(typically) no personality in "older" sermons and little relevance made to contempoary times. We were taught to help make it relevant to the times.

    Oh and one of my heros, ACF, uses her own stories a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Meg,
    I would love to use your dramatic interpretation in worship this week. do you mind?

  23. Thanks, friends, for all your input.
    Meg, thanks for the dramatic presentation - it left me wanting to know even more WHAT HAPPENED!!

    I think I'm getting there with the fig tree.
    People want reassurance from Jesus that when bad things hit people it's God judging bad people, not PLUs (People like us). Jesus tells the story to turn attention away from judging others & onto judging ourselves - we should be bearing good fruit.
    The obvious thing to do with this fig tree is cut it down (they are, apparently, very 'hungry' plants - a friend tells me "you should always bury a dead donkey under a fig tree - eeeugh!) - but Good News! - the tree gets another chance, just as God gives us 'time to amend our lives' as some prayers of confession put it. But what happens?? Does the tree take the opportunity?? There Jesus hands over to you - are you going to take the opportunity to change & be more fruitful?
    We might think that the news stories (Haiti, Peru, Uganda...etc) test us - but the real test is what you do with your life-chance.
    If sermons were only 3 minutes long, I'd be finished now!

  24. I know this is a "revgal" thing here; but wanted to leave this. I am from S. Alabama and remember my grandmothers fig preserves with great detail; the sweetness and delight they gave me growing up. But, when I first tried my "fig naturale" I did not like it. I wanted the sweetness sugar provides.
    How similar is this to our view on faith of the cross. We want the sweetness of glory, but not the plainess (?) of service...just a thought

  25. Hans, you are welcome to the conversation! I have a similar childhood experience with figs.

    I think intentional focus on the real, true things (like fresh figs, like service) allows us to taste their sweetness.

    Thank you for this thought.

  26. Nice connection mary beth. Thanks.
    A member gave me a pile of figs this past summer and when you are making preserves, you must add lots of sugar!

  27. PRL, yes please use it. I'd be delighted.

  28. I'm not preaching this weekend, but I'm trying to get on top of things. I'm looking for some resources for Palm Sunday and Easter Vigil and wondered if anyone could offer insights.

    For Palm Sunday, I would like to do a dialogue or dramatic reading of some sort--easing from Palm Sunday through the Passion story--but in a contemporary way, not necessarily with the Biblical characters nor the 'traditional' dramatic reading from Scripture. We've done that recently.

    For Easter Vigil, I don't know exactly what I'm looking for. We don't do a 'real' vigil. We have about one hour with readings and hymns, but it just seems to have been flat the last few years.

    Thanks all!

  29. Greetings ...Our church is Celebrating the Gifts of Women

  30. Well, after a good old wrestle with the parable, I've got a first draft of the sermon here

    Please feel free to stop by & comment!

  31. Silent, I've posted a contemporary reading for Palm Sunday on my sermon blog
    If it's any use, feel free to use.

  32. I've just finished reading an interesting commentary by John Pilch (Cultural World of Jesus Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C). He believes the parable of the fig tree is about the leadership of Israel "who are stealing life from the people - the vineyard." He points out that the owner lives in the city, rents the vineyard and goes out only to receive the fruit.

    Other nuggets: he suggests the suggestion of using manure to help the tree is "insult humor" and that Jesus is a master of this; "let it alone" in Aramaic is the same word for forgiveness.

    Pilch ends by saying "Dedicated reformers are often so focused on the evils to be exterminated that they neglect the need for personal reform as well. This is as true of all as it is of leaders. This is the point Luke's Jesus makes in today's masterful cluster of readings."


  33. Chiming in late 'cause I've been sick this week...

    Thanks Songbird for your passion and compassion around both preaching and becoming Open and Affirming. I'll be thinking of all of you on Sunday. I love the idea of a dialogue sermon.

    This Sunday we vote in principle on whether or not to amalgamate with another church (same denomination) that we've been working with for about two years now. The vote is either a thumbs up to keep working and make the amalgamation official ONE YEAR from now, or stop the process.

    Could there be a more perfect lectionary reading for us this week?

    God works in mysterious ways...


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