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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Rich Folks, Poor Folks Edition

 Lessons for the coming Sunday can be found here.

For many of our churches it's stewardship season -- so it may or may not be a good thing that our Gospel and Epistle lessons this Sunday directly address issues of wealth.

How do we re-tell the familiar story of the rich man and Lazarus in a way that avoids a simplistic "rich people=bad/poor people=good" cliche'? Especially in communities battered by economic change and recession, how do we address the Epistle messages about the proper uses and pitfalls of wealth to working- and middle-class households who feel as if they're being pushed off a financial cliff?  How, in this context, do we avoid an unintended but nonetheless perceived message on the part of many laypeople in the pew in response to texts like these: "Accumulating wealth is bad, so give us yours"?

Big issues, and big questions, this week. Of course, you may instead be observing another Creation Sunday, or may be off the lectionary altogether. Whatever you're planning or preaching this Sunday, it's important to us -- so please share your insights and conundrums here.


  1. I am completely ignoring (as in not even reading) the Luke passage. Instead I am revelling (or should that be wallowing) in Jeremiah's call to buy a field as the nation is conquered.

    It could be an act of either madness or brilliance. I am going with an act of hope. ANd asking what acts of hope we need to take today, after all we are people of hope and promise. Aren\t we?

  2. I am strongly drawn to the Luke passage. It is one of the parables I remember most clearly from my Sunday school days, I am sure because its images are so vivid and its message so clear, as stories go.

    Not sure how I'll preach on it, but I don't think I can put it down. At the moment I'm contemplating the people whose poverty or need we can ignore and walk past. Or perhaps those whose needs we notice?

  3. I am off lectionary the next three it is "stewardship" time. If anyone needs ideas, check here for what is going on in my part of the world.

  4. I'm on the last Sunday of the Creation Season. It's been my first time through it, and it's been interesting and fun. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with Cosmos this week. At a Synod meeting I went to several months ago there was a fantastic presentation of Scripture and images from the Hubble telescope (I'm pretty sure they were scanned from a coffee table book, unfortunate because I'm sure it was illegal). I think I might try to find a legal way to do something similar and let the images and Scriptures stand for themselves with minimal traditional preaching. Part of this is because I'm kind of scared of the suggested passage from Proverbs 8:22-31. I never feel like I know enough to speak accurately and faithfully from Proverbs. What is with that? It feels like there's so much code and context you're supposed to know before you attempt it, and I just don't know all that.

    Anyway, I'm not giving up yet, but I'm also not sure quite what to do. I see that passage was part of the Trinity Sunday lections this year and since I was on leave that Sunday maybe I'll research around there.

  5. I am working with the Luke passage and thinking really far out of the box. Last week God brought me the idea that the parable of the dishonest manager was really about choices. This week also seems about choices. The choice of the rich man to ignore what was right in front of him, and of course the verse that Jesus says, even if someone dies and is resurrected they won't believe (my paraphrase). So, maybe this is again about the choices we make to believe in Jesus. I am feeling and evangelism angle here.

  6. I'm definitely going with the Luke passage. I am thinking about challenging the popular notion that the line between heaven and hell is between those who "believe IN" Jesus and those who don't. We don't have that picture of hell in the Bible, but we do have two pictures of God separating people based on how the poor were either seen or ignored.

    I'm considering using the title, "The Hell It Is" which kind of has a double meaning in this case, but I wonder if that's a bad idea. Anyone have feedback for using that word in a sermon title?

  7. I am planning to preach on the gospel lesson. This is Week 4 for me in a new call, and I've been talking now for three weeks about my understanding of God, with only tangential attention to Jesus in the sermon itself. This week will be focused on Jesus. What does this story tell us about him? About both his understanding of his divinity and his experience of his humanity? Can we come to understand him better from this seemingly stark story full of melodramatic details? Of course it's much like the teachings in Matthew 25, another time when it seems Jesus is questioning whether there was any point engaging in the human experiment. Will anything he said be remembered? Was anyone paying attention? That's what interests me, and I hope it will interest others.

  8. Sharon, only you know your congregation and if you can or can't do it. I think I can here, but if I were nervous I might simply change it a tad so that it's reminiscent of a common phrase, but not exactly the phrase. Like maybe the negation of that phrase, "The Hell It Is NOT." Or something like that. I could use the original one in my congregation, though. They'd get a kick out of it.

  9. I touched a bit on stewardship last Sunday (we cannot serve God and wealth), so I want to take it in a slightly different direction this Sunday. Since the UN is meeting this week to talk about the Millennium Development Goals at their 10-year mark, I'm toying with the idea of talking about the huge chasm between the world's richest and poorest--and what we might do about it.

    Might bring a little Amos in there, too.

  10. I'm preaching Jeremiah this week, with the theme "investing in God's future of hope"...which I'm pretty sure is almost exactly the sermon I preached three years ago (title "risky investment"). I'm hoping to use a drama one of our youth wrote for that service three years ago, and then to maybe talk about how this whole faith thing, and the way we live as followers of Christ, is completely ridiculous, but we do it anyway? Or perhaps I'll take the stewardship direction and go with the more literal "investment"--buy in or get out kind of deal. who knows...(I'm hoping I'll know by Sunday!)

  11. Been following Timothy for a few weeks, so probably continue with that. It was to be a Sunday School service, but most of the families are away this weekend - so we picked a new date for them.
    the part of Luke that got my attention was that if we don't believe Moses and the prophets, we won't believe is someone comes back form the dead. Why do we believe? That combined with living a godly life. Been looking at Advent this afternoon, funeral tomorrow, then I will get to focus more on Sunday.

  12. A note to all of those who are using the gospel passage - Ken Bailey's book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, has some fantastic information about this parable.

  13. After reading Proverbs 8 at my (small) staff meeting, I decided I definitely need to go that route. 2 out of the 4 gathered had never heard of Woman Wisdom and felt they had been kept in the dark about her. One is a lapsed Catholic (on staff at our Presbyterian church for 20 years); the other is a lifelong, pretty much weekly UCC-er. The two of us who had heard of her are both seminary trained. Hmmmm...Time to take the lady out of the attic and let her speak from our street corner. My title will be the exact quote from that meeting "Who IS she????"

    I'm not sure where I'm going with it, because although I've heard of her, I don't know exacty who she is either. I think I might go first person-dramaish with this at least at the start. I think I'll take on the "character" of someone who hears her calling from the streets, wondering who she is, what she's saying, and what it has to do with me anyway. I've never done this before, but I liked the idea this morning when I was pondering and think I might be able to pull it off. It will likely be a lot shorter than usual, but I'm OK with that.

    I had a seminary classmate tell me a fun way to preach sometimes. He's into short sermons, the discipline of REAL short sermons actually. One trick he uses to challenge himself is to preach a sermon on the gospel in only the same number of sentences as the text itself. How cool?!??!?

  14. I have a crazy thought...or perhaps not so crazy. I'm going to read aloud from A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Dickens to begin. And, after the line "I wear the chain I forged in life" I will seguay to the Luke...what chains had the rich man forged? What walls do we build, what keeps us from freedom. Then, after some additional textual analysis...I will close with more Dicken's "Business!" cried the Ghost..."mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business."

    I think it will catch people off guard to use this tale in October...and open them up to the Gospel in a slightly different way. Plus, I'll get to read Dicken's aloud to my Anglophiles!

  15. I am preaching on 1 Timothy. I've been struggling with how to not sound too "preachy" or like I'm giving yet another lecture on how we should be using out money.

    I think I'm going to do it in the form of a letter or two, maybe Timothy's response to Paul, and then Paul's reply? Or back up a little and start with a contemporary re-write of the scripture passage and go from there?

    Trying to get as much done today as possible, as a good chunk of tomorrow I will be apple-picking with the middle school youth group...


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