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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "God Is In the House" Edition

Texts for this Sunday can be found  here .

Sunday's Gospel lesson contains, in your humble blogger's opinion, one of the most comforting, evocative images in all the Gospels: Jesus promising his friends that if they love him and listen to him he and his Father will come and make their home with them. How does God make a home with us? How do we make a home for God? What might that feel like? Look like? 

And what happens when God asks us to help make God a home within a different community, a different culture than ours? That's our first lesson, as the beleagured Apostle Paul is sent to Macedonia and meets Lydia, a woman of means who offers her home as a church and mission center. In these days when "missionary work" can be a twitchy subject even within the Christian community, do we still sense  the message "Come and help us"? How do we proclaim the Gospel with boldness but with sensitivity?

And our Revelation reading gives us a glimpse of a New Jerusalem where God is at home among mortals in a very present way.

Are you at home with these texts? Is this going to be a "home-run sermon" Sunday, or a struggle? As always, we invite you to share your ideas and insights right here.


  1. wow, thanks for getting these up LutheranChik - and thanks for some more ideas to help me flesh out the theme of "home" I was working on. There is some good stuff about home in the Feasting on the Word commentary as well. I'd like to talk about Lydia, too. Oh, and there is that least favorite holiday of mine, Mother's Day. How to deal with that? Can I ignore it in the sermon and just include it in the prayers? So many issues, so little time...I'll be checking back for the wisdom of the group!

  2. I just want to say,that every sermon writing experience is a struggle for me. Somehow or another though come Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit shows through and all is well.
    That said, I am preaching the Acts passage along with performing two Baptisms, so it will all tie together. I titled it the God Informed Way. I am not sure where I got the title, but it seemed to fit at the time. I am starting with the story about my mom and her journey to know God. She was raised not knowing God, but came to know God as an adult. One of her goals was to raise us to know God as well. I think she did a pretty good job. I am going to talk about the call to Macedonia in here, Lydia, and Baptisms. Too much? We will see. Now where is that ending?

  3. It will be a struggle I think; it's my first preaching Sunday in a new call. Don't really know the community well yet--either the congregation or the city.

  4. Dear Silent,
    Good luck on Sunday - you have some good texts for being new in a place, with Paul wandering down to the river in a new town, looking for the people who are praying and Jesus reminding us we're always home in him!

    Mumpastor - Acutally,mI'm doing something about mothers day in the sermon based on the stories of a couple of pioneer women (have you ever read The Curve of Time? Has a great story at the beginning about a mother racing to save her children from a bear). Anyway - courage and thirst for adventure that comes from our Mother God.

    And, acknowledging the hard parts of this day - mothers absent or abusive - in the prayer time.

  5. I've never enjoyed Mother's Day & the celebration that takes place in congregations focused on "who has the most children present"... ugh. Sorry, for those who might enjoy this.
    However, I'm really excited about this Sunday's sermon. I'm taking a lead from the Rachel Sabbath Initiative from the Religious Institute. It's a focus on maternal health for women around the world. So, I hope to talk about how this as a social justice issue Mother God cares about too! Check it out if you haven't seen it. Very exciting!

  6. It is my opinion that Mother's Day is not a church event anymore. We have a brunch after the service and it may well be put into the prayers. But that is bout it.

    I am reading ALL of Revelation 21:1-22:5 and preaching on the city by the river. What am I saying about it? Good question. BUt my early thoughts are here

  7. Like revabi said, every sermon is something of a struggle..what I end up with may be very different from what I thought I was setting out to write...but the Holy Spirit always seems to come through.

    I have to get my writing done early this week because both my daughters and s-i-ls and my two beautiful grand-babies are coming for the weekend--haven't seen them since Christmas! But I am a Saturday writer, so the pressure is on.

    LutheranChik, I love what you said about how we make a home for God and how God makes a home with us. Will give that some more thought.

    Not celebrating Mother's Day here either, except maybe at coffee hour. I am glad to see I'm not the only one who feels like it doesn't belong in the liturgy.

  8. Hmm, I seem to be the lone mothers-day-in-the-liturgy voice here, at least so far, so a word of explanation.

    It is my feeling that these hallmarky holidays which are so pervasive in our culture can be addressed head on in a way that acknowledges their complexity, darkness, and depth. MOthers will be on many in our congregations' minds for good or for ill, which I consider a major opportunity. Not as a competition of who has the most kids (yikes, leann, I've never seen that - it sounds HORRIBLE) but as a way to explore images or ideas about motherhood that are NOT in the jcpenney or allyoucaneat brunch ads.

    So, in preparation, I"m asking questions liek: How have we been nurtured or not by mother figures? How can we be providers of mother-love whether we have given birth or not? And, ultimately of course, how can we acknowledge and rejoice in the fierce tenderness of our Mother God on this day?

  9. Juniper,
    that is an approach to Mother's Day I could be comfortable with. One of the worst I ever sat through was while in seminary, attending church and singing in the choir of a friend who was music director. The pastor, who was big in Ohio UMC at the time, preached about how a woman was not truly fulfilled or complete unless she was married and bore children. I was so furious I could hardly get through the rest of the service. Many in the choir, including the director were divorced women, many of us single. It was horrible!!

    My nod to the day is through flowers - an idea from a previous congregation, used ever since. Folks are invited to buy a carnation in honor or memory (pink or white) of someone. Money received over the cost of the flowers goes to a mission project - in this church to support scholarships to send kids to church camp. We do it for Father's Day also (red and white).

    Haven't begun to think about Sunday - today I closed on my first place ever!!! - a beautiful condo. I'll be moving in a bit at a time, and will retire there at the end of June. I was so excited at the bank this morning that I couldn't put sentences together to get the cashier's check! Luckily, had a friendly and understanding teller!

  10. Mother's Day is a tender topic for me and I learned after my first mother's day leading worship (the first mother's day after my mother died too young) that I should take the day off--especially after the lead-up to the day that includes 5,000 emails, radio ads, pop-up/sidebar ads, and a zillion other reminders that I don't get to tell my mom I appreciate her anymore. So I have a few options:
    1. sleep in.
    2. go to my "home church" in downtown chicago.
    3. go to a new church plant, also in downtown chicago, to see what they're doing down there.

    I haven't decided what to do. I do know that the guest preacher is preaching on Revelation, and I'm having a debate with myself whether one of the hymns should be O Day Of Peace or Christ Be Our Light. thoughts?

  11. I'm off lectionary for the four weeks before Pentecost. I am also not a fan of Mothers Day being too much a focus in worship. Heard too many terrible things said in church, some when I was having treatment for infertility. Anyway, I do mention Mothers Day, in an attempt to recognise the various feelings that Mothers Day brings for people, some joyous, some not, and for some a belief they can only speak about the joy and not the disappointment or sadness, unless for a mother who died. So I will mention it early in the service, then the person leading prayers of the people will probably include it. During seminary I wrote a litany for Mothers Day for field ed, where I included a number of women from the Bible with their different stories of mothering. Hannah, who gave her son to others to raise, Elizabeth was a mother in her old age, Mary a mother at a young age, etc. I'll see what the service looks like later, and maybe include the prayer from field ed.
    Someone I trust recently wrote about 'civic holidays' in the context of liturgy, and how we need to both engage with the community around us, but remember we are people who worship God - and not whatever the holiday is [mothers, fathers, soldiers, country/nation …]

  12. I heard a wonderful Mother's Day sermon once about the origins of the holiday in the United States-- if you're unfamiliar with this, do a websearch using the following terms: "julia ward howe mother's day."

    It's one way to snatch the day's meaning out of the jaws of Hallmark...

    Meanwhile, I've been thinking about Lydia. I don't know if I can turn her story into anything Motherish, and I'm not sure if I even want to pursue that angle. I do, however, want very much to understand this intriguing biblical woman, her unique experience and her unique witness. Can anyone else share resources that will help me expand on her story? What would her life have been like as a "purveyor of purple cloth?" And why did Paul go down to that riverside, see a bunch of women hanging out, and percieve it as "a praying place?"

  13. Teri, I don't know the other hymn but I sure love "Oh Day of Peace"!

    MaineCelt, I'm with you in wanting to know more about Lydia. I'm preaching at the family service and I will probably end up with the alternate John 5 gospel, but a part of me longs to explore Lydia's role and imagine her witness.

    Eileen, congrats on the new place!

  14. mainecelt,
    the book Women In Scripture speculates that Lydia was part of a pagan and perhaps goddess worshipping community.

    they also suggest that she was actually a ficticious woman, meant to represent the role of women per Luke in the early Christian church - IE to support the men thru housing them and agreeing with them. And that the message is intended for women of the area called Lydia, which is over on the other side of the Aegean sea.

  15. I am interested in how Jesus heals on the know, the guy is waiting for healthcare and Jesus subverts the usual system and heals the guy.

    Get up. Take your mat. Be healed.

    I am thinking this is how the Kingdom of Heaven actually works. No walls. No institutions? Hmmm...

  16. Thanks LutheranChik for the lead in. I'm still with Acts, my subtle series through Easter, but I don't quite know what I'm going to do with it. If I remember correctly, when I did my general plan for preaching for Easter this was the week that was the hardest to fit into the theme. The question I've been asking as I go toward each sermon is "What does this story tell us about how we form ourselves as a resurrection community?" or another way to say it "What does this story tells us are the marks of the resurrection church?" My theory being if these are the actions and activities of those who were about as close to the resurrection as you can get (historically and personally) there is something in them for us to learn about what it means to truly believe and re-order our life together because of our belief.

    I'm seeing in Acts this week a trust in the Spirit of God beyond all usual reason (the crazy amount of travel Paul and his entourage undertook just because of a vision in the night, maybe approaching a group of women, the cross-cultural interactions; with Lydia welcoming these men into her home, her lack of fear of a stranger, willingness to learn from others).

    I don't know. It's not too compelling to me yet. I'll see what comes up as I'm reading the comments here and other things other places.

    I have been lamenting my sermon writing lately, so I can say for sure this one is going to be a struggle. Only two more until I have a 13 week break and I. am. ready. Creative juice is gone. Brain is mush.

  17. The talk of Mother's Day and Lydia sent me back to the 2004-2005 Presbyterian Women's Bible Study resource written by Dale Lindsay Morgan. It has been by far my favorite of the PW Bible Studies. The title was "What She Said: Quotable Women in Scripture," and goes through a number of women whose actual words are quoted instead of just stories that include generic, unnamed women or women who are named, but whose own words are never used. Lydia is in the last chapter. I'm going to read back through the lesson in a little while, but for now I'll just share the "key idea" from it: "As the mission of spreading the good news moves forward into Greece and Rome, women were portrayed as silent servants, but their ministries continued." Of course they aren't completely silent because the whole point is that they are quoted, but as we know they don't get nearly the press time as the men. The idea I'm getting from this that helps answer my question about what are the marks of the resurrection church is this - - the church is promoted, the gospel is preached and shared and lived and demonstrated by the least likely people according to the culture's standards. Women were important in moving the church forward (birthing it, nurturing it, is there a Mother's Day connection in here even if I didn't plan to look for one) in the immediately post-resurrection times. Who should we be looking toward today? Who are the unexpected gospel carriers among our community and culture?


  18. I, too am reading the whole of Revelation 21 and Rev 22:1-5. Imagining the new world. Here in UK, we celebrate Christian aid week - looking to an end to poverty in the world - so this vision is perfect.

    Mother's day - in UK we celebrate mid Lent, around the annunciation. I like to think of its origins in the Mother Church - traditionally a day when all returned to the bosom of the church, so emphasise the loving, nurturing arms of the church embracing all, not just those who have borne children,

  19. Late entry with a suggestion for a good approach to the Mother's Day event:
    Read The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering by Sharon Mehndi, and then hook up the local observance of "Standing Women". More info found at

  20. I'm preaching Revelation.

    This past year I buried the stillborn child of an active couple in our church. I can't bear to stand in front of them and extol the virtues of motherhood. I also know of at three others whose experience with their own mothers were relationships grounded in abuse and hardship. They have NO kind or nurturing images of motherhood.

    So, I sneak a word or two into the pastoral prayers, but that's it.

    This is not to say that a Mother's Day sermon couldn't or wouldn't work elsewhere, but I want nothing to do with it. My own mother died 18 years ago, and it still hurts when this Sunday comes around. I would prefer to hide under the covers all day, but instead I get to go church alone, as usual, and grit my teeth until the day's over.

    Sorry - long and depressing, but darn, I despise this holiday.

  21. Sue, KWYM about wanting to crawl into bed with teh covers over my head, I think. I have this same feeling every year as Thanksgiving approaches (for a long bunch of reasons too boring to detail here). The weeks before that day are like a long creep up to a day where I pretty much know I'll feel miserable all day.

    My thinking is that I would like to have the church service be a place where those feelings of grief/anger/abandonment are honored and recognized, you know? It's totally not about about holding up some imaginary ideal of motherhood. It's about giving the good news that God's love can mother us, even if (or maybe especially if) mother love is not available to us in other ways.

    There's such deep pain around this day, if the comments here are any indication, and I'm wishing/hoping/praying the church can be an agent of healing. Maybe too ambitious...

  22. MaineCelt wrote, "It's one way to snatch the day's meaning out of the jaws of Hallmark."

    I've taken the Julia Ward Howe story approach in the past. Depending on the scripture for the current year, it works really well. This year, however, I'm just not feeling "it."

    For what it's worth, at this late hour, I'm really leaning towards Revelation and the missing temple. I think it was Morley who suggests that this missing temple allows us to talk to God -- openly and directly, with no Church to stand in the way.


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