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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Don't Be Anxious" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

One of my favorite souvenirs from a recent trip to Florida is a T-shirt from an Epcot World Showcase shop proclaiming "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON."

I purchased it because keeping calm and carrying on is utterly alien to my every inclination. I would much rather stay anxious and preoccupied "clearing away the wreakage of the future."

So Jesus' Gospel message to us this coming Sunday is a real challenge for me. How about for you, and/or your people? How will this text preach in your church, especially in these politically and economically destabilized times?

Or are you choosing one of the other texts...or something completely different?

"Don't be anxious about anything" -- including sharing your thoughts and service/sermon plans here with the rest of us.

16 comments:

  1. Good Morning Gals and Pals!

    I am aware that (what feels like) an awful lot of you will Not be preaching this Sunday, thanks to BE 4. Still, I'd love to hear what people are thinking about this gospel passage.

    This is one of those passages that only rarely comes up in the lectionary, thanks to the timing of the beginning of Lent (though I do think we see it on Thanksgiving occasionally). I've preached this once before, and all my thinking was about Greek verb tenses. Can't remember the terminology, but Jesus' words can be translated "what you might eat, what you might drink, what you might wear." I took from that that he was encouraging his listeners not to have a "conditional" faith that was blown around by the momentary circumstances in which they found themselves, but to have a much more whole-hearted faith.

    Now that's all well and good. But in view of the last three years... in view of chronic high unemployment, and articles such as the one I read last week that seems to indicate that employers are stigmatizing those who are unemployed... it feels incredibly important to "get this right" in the preaching this week.

    One of the things I am faced with is my personal limitations coming to the text, never having lived without a significant (family) safety net at my disposal. I haven't teetered on the edge as so many individuals and families have and do. How do I preach this with integrity? How to I preach this without coming off as patronizing or worse?

    Sincerely hoping some of you check in here, whether or not you're preaching!

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  2. The recession hit our area long before it became national; unemployment's been high in my part of the country for more than a decade. I have many members who have lost a significant chunk of their pensions. Others are under-employed. Still others are simply unemployed.

    There is good reason for worrying about everyday needs.

    At the same time, I'm reminding my people that, when Christians live out Jesus' call to love our neighbors as ourselves, we share from our abundance and remove any reason for our less-well-to-do sisters and brothers to worry about the things they wear, eat and drink. And I do have as many who can share from abundance as I do who are struggling.

    But we live in bondage to sin and, because we do not have faith that others will provide for us when needs hit (worry for our future), we who have much are less generous than we might be.

    None of us are exempt from worry....some worry about their immediate needs, others worry about the future needs. No matter what we have--or don't have--in the here and now, God sees us as important! Jesus is with us in the midst of it all, promising us eternity.

    All of that feels over-simplified right now; it's still early in the week and I'm still processing.

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  3. Supply preaching at a familiar congregation this week. I'm thinking about pairing the gospel text with the Isaiah text. Something along the lines of...we worry because we think that God has forgotten us. The prophet assures us that God has not forgotten us, even when God seems far, far away.

    Sick kids may stand between me and much sermon work this week, so I'm anxious (ha!) to see what the rest of you are thinking, too.

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  4. I'm doing something different. I preached this parallel text from Luke in the fall and while I know that there are differences and I could probably preach the same sermon from the fall and no one would notice, I'm still not up for something similar. I decided to pull something else from the Sermon on the Mount that doesn't get covered either this year or maybe at all.

    I think I'm going to go with Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer. The pieces about prayer and fasting around it suggested for Ash Wednesday, but the AW lections skip right over the Lord's Prayer. Not sure exactly what I'm going to do with it. It feels like it will end up more like a teaching/Bible study time than a preaching time, but we'll see what happens. Maybe that would actually be OK. I wish it were my week to do the children's time so I could teach a LP body prayer. It's not though. Oh well. Maybe I'll just include the actions on our screen during the regular praying of the prayer anyway and invite people to participate anyway. Anyway, still thinking. I'll get the link to my Luke sermon, but if I remember correctly it hinges on a word that isn't in the Matthew version.

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  5. I'm thinking about how important it is to read this passage in the context of the whole Sermon on the Mount. Do not worry about what you will eat or wear - if someone asks you for your cloak, given them that and more - blessed are the meek/poor in spirit/etc. The encouragement to not worry does not come with the promise that all will be well in the moment, but that God is present with us even when things seem hard.

    Hopefully this will expand by the end of the week!

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  6. Thanks Parodie - liking that thought of referring back.

    I've got as far in my thinking as Jesus seems to be all over the place in this sermon - murder, adultery, retaliation.. where will the finger point next?? Jesus finishes with Do NOT be anxious. Believe in the grace of God.

    I think maybe your idea & mine belong together...

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  7. this text came up for me five years ago in the setting of a one-week intensive homiletics course -- I had a video of Walter Brueggemann preaching it. My students enjoyed the other preachers, but they rejected Brueggemann altogether a) because he was "crabby" and b) because he said "DO NOT BE ANXIOUS" was not a suggestion, but a flat-out COMMAND.
    They would have none of it. Nossir. They were entitled to their anxieties, and they would cling to them through thick and thin.
    It was interesting!

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  8. Alyce McKenzie has a great dialgoue on the Gospel at http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/No-Easy-Answers-Reflections-on-Matthew-Alyce-McKenzie-02-21-2011?offset=0&max=1

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  9. I have possibly lost my mind (after a very bad couple of weeks in the call process),but I'm thinking about just going all out and preaching on my friend Karen's assertion that Love is Not Rescue, as she found to not to be when her daughter died anyway. (It's linked in my second to last post.) Today a friend told me that the only thing that really causes her any anxiety is the possibility of one of her children dying, and between the two of them, they got me thinking about love as presence, something I have pondered often in the last two years. I know who has said they love me and been nowhere to be found, and who has been present without words.

    I am supply preaching for people I have never laid eyes on, and I'm thinking about going for the truly personally genuine.

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  10. For me, this is a powerful "down and dirty" passage: Jesus tells us to focus on the basis things, the roots, the very dust and soil at our feet, rather than the airy angst and social stresses that distract us from an honest, humble, and joyful God-centered life.

    I was very interested to read John Petty's analysis of the text at Progressive Involvement. Admittedly, this interpretation may not preach as well in a suburban or urban context, but I find it helpful as I prepare to preach in semi-rural Maine, where the imagery of birds and fields and the stresses of a weak economy combine with the elemental hardship of late winter.

    (A personal note: I've lived very close to the bone for many years and manage a farm myself, so the twin themes of anxiety and abundance are never far from my mind.)

    I'm thinking of talking about dirt: about the faith it takes to plant seeds in trays and set them on the windowsills when there are three feet of snow piled up right outside. I'm thinking about the bold trust it requires to lovingly transfer handfuls of decayed organic matter--tactile evidence of death--into containers and to tuck seeds inside, then rest and wait and believe that their emergence is part of our Creator's plan.

    I'm not sure what shape this sermon will take, but these are the "raw materials" I'm playing with.

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  11. oh, wow, so many good ideas here. esp appreicate Mags, for your Greek idea and also thoughtfulness about preaching in this economic time.

    Based on the extremely lively discussion when I asked in Bible study what people worry about, I think I'm going in the direction of talking about the difference between facing the reality of something and worrying about it. It seems to me that you can look at the reality of something thru the eyes of faith, assess the situation and decide how to act, whereas if you worry about it, you just spin your wheels and pretty much get no where.

    I'm thinking about an article I read somewhere that says Britons spend an average of 2 and half hours worrying each day (!) - not sure if that's multitasking or just straight-up worrying. Also, about a fretful friend who, when I said, "gee you seem to worry so much about things that never happen," replied "See! It works!" ha!

    See you on Saturday.

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  13. OK - - so a FB comment from The Text this Week has, I think, changed my mind. I think I will go with the lectionary. Here's what she posted and the direction I think I might head. This fits so so so well with folks in our church and especially an announcement about a very active member's recent cancer diagnosis that I am going to make during the time of prayer in our service (at her request of course).

    "Looking at the gospel passage in context of the sermon on the mount, etc. I keep reading this not as words about worrying or money, but rather, ultimately, as words about community - about not worrying about *my* life or *my* money (like others do), but instead seeking, ultimately, GOD'S "Kingdom" (the good of all?) and then everything will be OK."

    That's got my sermon juices flowing!

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  14. We've been preaching through the Corinthians texts this Epiphany, and this week's begins with Paul insisting he and the Corinthians are "stewards of God's mysteries. It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." We discovered earlier this week that, despite our efforts to the contrary, the financial situation of our campus ministry is really, really bad. So the Corinthians passage comes with an edge. On the one hand, one could question our stewardship: have we really been trustworthy? On the other hand, is a steward of God's mysteries really trustworthy if he or she is continually worried about things God has promised to provide?

    Other influences I'm pondering this week are Wendell Berry's "The Peace of Wild Things" and Nadia Bolz-Weber's reflection at The Hardest Question. What does it mean to be a trustworthy steward in a world of worry and fear?

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  15. Wow - sorry I missed it Tuesday! Lots of things to ponder. BUT....... Crimson Rambler and Juniper, can I "borrow" your stories possibly for use in my sermon??

    Blessings on the week!

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  16. hey there TSB - of course you may use - thanks for asking.

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