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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - All Alone or In a Crowd Edition

Today's lectionary readings from Kings and from Luke give us two very different settings for miracle stories.

In one, Elijah raises from the dead the son of the widow Zeraphath (and yes, I DID have to look up the spelling again, even though I JUST saw her name a few minutes ago) while Elijah is staying with them in the widow's home. Elijah calls out to God, and then "stretches out" near the boy three times to heal him. It is strange but intimate little scene, with no witnesses, as far as we know.

The other resurrection story takes place in Nain (annnnd, got the spelling of THAT one right on the first try!), again with the son of
a widow. But this time, the miracle takes place out on the street, as the crowd that is following Jesus bumps right up against the crowd accompanying the widow.

I dont want to go all 9th grade English teacher-ish on you here, by asking "How does the storyteller use the setting - one so quiet, domestic and rather mysterious; the other very public, almost raucous and quite matter of fact - to set a tone in these stories?" And yet, the setting must have a purpose. If it matters to the original teller enough to make note of it, how does it matter to us? What point is being made? In our own lives, how do we respond differently to encounters with the Holy that happen in public vs those that happen in private?

Over in Galatians, Paul is trying to help the community pay attention to both the individual response to God, and the communal one, with mixed success.

Let us know what struck you about these readings or chime in about whatever direction you are heading. See you in the comments!

Link to texts here. Painting of Elijah and Zeraphath by John Bates Bradford found here. Painting of Jesus healing the son of the widow in Nain by Tissot found here.


  1. I am off-lectionary this Sunday. THis week we celebrate teh 85th anniversary of the UCCan (the actual anniversary date is June 10) and I intend to reflect on where the church is and where it may/could/needs to be going?

  2. I am going with Luke, but from a different angle, still working on it but wondering who/ what it is that we are found escorting out of town with all hope lost.

  3. I am going with Luke and 1 Kings. Pondering (thanks to FOTW) the idea of meetings - the meeting of the parade of life and parade of death in Luke 7, the meeting of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings, the meeting of our story and God's story, and meeting around the table for communion.

    We'll see how it all gets fleshed out.

  4. Is it really Tuesday again already? Really?

    Preaching Luke. That's all I know. Still just grateful that my Trinity sermon actually worked!

  5. rev dr mom - you could have written my comment! these mondays off are kind of killer, imho. glad the trinity sermon worked, though.

    I'm not preaching, actually this week - looking forward to the choirs "last sunday of the year" and a lot of singing. But looking forward to hearing what you all have to say. love your idea, sally...

  6. we have a guest this week preaching on Psalm 146. She's a trained commissioned lay pastor, but not commissioned to a congregation at this time, and is a member of a church where the pastor is...ahem...not terribly supportive of women in leadership. I look forward to hearing her...and to not writing a sermon myself this week!
    Instead, Sunday afternoon I'm participating in a friend's installation at his new congregation. I'm supposed to give him the charge...and right now, for the life of me, can't remember anything about the charge to the pastor at any other installation I've been to (including my own!). I know it happened, but memorable? not so much. So I guess I'm going to wing it? lol... I'm open to suggestions!

  7. The charge used to be a scripture passage. Then it got to be a teeny tiny homily. Now, I'm afraid it has morphed into a huge dog and pony show, often complete with props and visual aids. Ugh. Installations are my least favorite services to attend, cause having that many clergy with speaking parts just makes for a very competitive afternoon. My advice - be brief and sincere. Everyone will thank you. Some of them might even remember what you said.

  8. Putting together the service with the Confirmation Class - working with the funeral procession in Luke. Focusing on the last verses:"they all realized they were in a place of holy mystery...God at work"

    Decorating the church like a construction zone. Telling stories from our experiences together of when we've seen God at work. And asking the congregation to join the refrain: "God is back, looking to the needs of his people"

    Always promises to be an interesting morning!

  9. I am convinced that "context is everything" in regard to this passage. Remembering Luke began with this little ditti, "Peace on earth, good will toward men." Really? And then this kid grows up and says, "Love your enemies," these previous texts setting the tone for his lived ministry among of all peoples, Professional Soldiers and this "only son of his mother." And don't forget, John is incredulous about not what Jesus does, but who he DOES it to. Soldier of the enemy? And I began to think, how many "sons never return alive to their mothers in our world?" whose taking our boys and why? I won't spell it out anymore than Luke does. but John is aghast that Jesus would do anything for an "enemy," and I suspect the widows son is not the right ethnic or religious stock. Peace on earth good will toward men, love your enemies. This guy is serious. And serious gets you killed.

  10. Teri, I'm with Anonymous on the charge advice. I've done a couple of them and keep them brief. I find a scriptural charge that I think fits the pastor and context and only tack on the briefest of brief introduction to that scripture with a little explanation maybe of why I chose it. Brief, brief, brief. Being the least wordy in the parade of clergy will be appreciated more than one more person who wants to hear her own voice.

  11. I'm preaching for the first time in over a year (eek). And trying to write a sermon for the first time with two babies at home (also, eek). I am rusty, rusty, rusty.

    I'm struck with the setting idea, but I think I'm going with the similarities between the Elijah and Luke passages. And the "compassion" that moves Jesus has intrigued me.

    Teri, I think every charge to the pastor that I've ever heard has included some version of "take care of yourself."

  12. I find if I have a week off I feel rusty - so my heart goes out to you Esperanza. Best advice anyone ever gave me was 'preach the Word' - which i take to mean let go of worries about what I have to say & focus on God's speaking. I hope you know the Spirit with you.

    I'm drawn to Paul (now that doesn't happen often!) - and his concern to show that it is God who has called & equipped him & not people. I'm feeling there's a link between our year for prayer & next year for evangelism in my denomination (URC in UK). I want to encourage people to start praying for people before we try to talk to them about God's love. We need to be faithful, not fearful.
    Ooh - there's a snappy title!

  13. Has anyone seen commentary on 1Kings 17:12, "As the Lord your God lives ..."? It's an intriguing avowal, and might be useful for what my congregation needs to hear from me, but I can't find *anything*!

  14. Teri, the charge at my ordination was "Don't bore God's people!" I remember that everytime I write a sermon and sometimes I even meet that standard...

    As for this week, I'm looking at the two widows and the two healings...maybe something about the various ways and settings where God heals. There is so much in today's society about praying the "right way" to achieve healing and so much fear that when someone we love is not cured of physical illness, we haven't prayed right. Something on the distinction between healing and cure (right now we have some tough situations of illness in the parish) and something about the ways people have sought God's help in times of trouble. That's as far as I've gotten at this point...

  15. This Sunday begins a three month sabbatical for a friend. It marks the beginning of three months of regular preaching for me, as I try to fill her alb (ok, bad image). Seriously, though. I am looking forward to being back in the pulpit and to be reading, and occasionally contributing here.

    Esperanza, I too am struck by the image of Jesus being moved with compassion. My working title: Miracles Begin With Compassion. So often we are calling on, or hoping for some display of God's power to help in our situations. Rather than starting with power, miracles begin with compassion.

  16. I am going with Luke (with a reference to Galatians) that encounters with Jesus bring new life. New life for the son and his mother, new life for Paul and new life for us. That Jesus can take our darkest moments, and turn them often in unexpected ways through his grace and compassion.


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