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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Salt and Light Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found

Those of us preaching/worship planning this coming week have the opportunity to shed light on much "salty" commentary focused on how we live our way into our faith. Isaiah wields a stick of warning regarding religious hypocrisy while holding out the promise of God's blessing on those who do right (an idea echoed in our Psalm); Paul continues his thoughts on the wisdom of God being foolishness to unenlightened human minds; and Jesus challenges his listeners to boldly season the world with the flavor of the Reign of God.

What are some of your thoughts on the lessons as you pray and plan this week? Are you feeling, like me, some creative tension between the lessons and between our popular culture -- a culture where even "good church folk" increasingly seem to disavow any responsibility for the welfare of other people on ideological principle? How do we unpack Jesus' comments on a righteousness "exceeding that of the Pharisees" for hearers who may have internalized a message that the Pharisees were twirly-mustachioed villains in the Jesus story, and/or who have been taught to be wary of "works-righteousness"? And how do we translate those big-picture Reign-of-God values like "justice" into images that connect with the everyday experiences of people in the pew.

Big ideas. Big issues. But these are great texts. What are you thinking about as you read them?

And is anyone going to observe the Presentation/Candlemas this week? What does that look like, in your church?

As always, please share your lectionary insights and general ponderances here this week.


  1. I've never been first! It must be because I'm on a wellness retreat this week...

    I'm going WAY off lectionary-in fact, the Cain & Abel story isn't in the 3-year cycle at all that I could find. I'm making the "adult" sermon a "children's" sermon by using Sandy Sasso's amazing book, "Cain & Abel: Finding the Fruits of Peace."

    With all the violence happening in the world and all of us trying to figure out how to respond in our own ways, I found this book exactly what I'm looking for. And if we're ever going to "find the fruits of peace," it seems the only way may be to "become like little children" (Matthew's version of that is also not in the lectionary!).

  2. Salt and Light and Annual Meeting this Sunday.

    What does it mean to se ourselves as salt of the earth and light to the world? In a culture where we are often warned against too much salt do we truly see how important salt has been for most of human history (one place I read suggested that without salt and the ability to preserve food civilization would have been impossible)?

    My early thoughts are here

  3. Salt and light for me. I like Gord's preservative aspect, hmmm. I'm thinking of starting with a few bags of chips that I pass out while I do something not important. After everyone has a good salty chip, will the HEAR differently? (Or just think about getting more chips?)

  4. I have my children's sermon idea: I'm going to pass out those unsalted pretzels, and then salted pretzels, so kids can tell the taste difference.

    That assumes, of course, that the #snOMG lets up enough for me to make it to the health food store!

  5. I'm working with the Corinthians passage. Didn't know what I was going to do with it til I went to a presentation yesterday on "Immigration: Myths vs Facts"

    As pulpit supply this week, the community that invited me knows of my work with migrants, so I think that they will expect me to say something to them about that. Paul's placement in antithesis of human vs God's wisdom gives me a place to anchor the notion that I've long held: engaging in rational arguments when irrational discourse based in fear is ongoing is simply unproductive. And we, as faith leaders are in a holy position to engage people on another level.

    Wm Sloane Coffin has a piece at the back of his book, "Passion for the Possible" that talks about prophetic preaching and pastoral care. I think he nails it. This week is going to be an interesting journey!

  6. I've really liked David Lose's thoughts on salt and light on the Sermon Brainwave and then also in his written column on Working Preacher. I like starting with the idea that we aren't commanded to be salt and light it is declared that we ARE salt and light. It's not something we work toward; it's who we are. I like his talk about the absurdity of the question about losing saltiness, but I have no idea yet, how any of that will preach.

  7. I have several pages of notes and a number of thoughts bubbling around and a search committee coming to meet with me and be present in worship....I simply need to focus and wrap my head around one of my ideas and work toward developing it...something about salt and light, not too edgy but something to think about.

  8. I'm saving salt and light for next week, because the confirmation class was supposed to lead worship this week, using last week's Micah passage. However, they're not ready for that so I'm preaching Micah this week and salt and light next week and rescheduling the confirmation class altogether.

    Unfortunately, this means I have no thoughts at all, and any thoughts that might bubble up are being squashed by some uncharitable feelings toward both others and myself. So I'm going to spend my blizzard afternoon cleansing all that stuff, and tomorrow I'm going to go read all of last week's comments....

  9. So I'm going a little further with the salt and light thing, particularly David Lose's stuff about how children become what they are told they are. If they are told they are bad it takes 10 positive comments to overcome one bad one. I was reading in the Presbyterian Women's magazine a similar comment about this - fixed mind-set and growth mind-set. Anyway, all that got me thinking about the movie "Precious." I think hat got her through her horrendous up-bringing was believing she was her name, believing (somewhere deep inside, even when she couldn't articulate it herself) she was precious, even when her mom, her dad, teachers, and others were calling her a million other horrible names.

    So my question is, what does the world say we are? Irrelevant, ignorant, hypocritical, _____, _____. But God says we are precious. God says we are salt. God says we add flavor, interest. God says we preserve and enhance. God says we bring light that let's the Holy One be seen. No matter what the world says, no matter what we do (and we sure do a lot to the contrary) we can't shake our saltiness or lose our light. It's what God has made us to be.

    So there's something in here about listening to what God names us, not what the world names us - - taking on that growth mind-set, so that we believe what is already true, and in believing it we can put it to the best use possible use.

    (My end is a little weak, but I think I'll get it somewhere a little more developed soon. I think I've got a budding thought about living salty, light lives ultimately giving glory to God.)

  10. Think I'll go with Spirit and Light. Trying to get people here to listen to the Holy Spirit more, so Spirit talk is good.

    I have those light sticks you use for camping to hand out illustrate the sermon. Asking, "will you save this light until you think it will be really useful or will you break it right now and let the/your light shine

    thoughts so far......

  11. Preach it She Rev! Love it and now you've got my wheels turning and my hand scribbling some thoughts.

  12. I was thinking about something along the pretzel line because I am doing two family-oriented services, but then I remembered that we have at least 2 kids who have to avoid gluten. Scratch that one; I don't want the sermon time to become a headache for their parents :-o So now I am back to square one. I like your idea, She Rev, about believing what God says about us.

  13. it's going to be about salt and light here. don't have a clue what i'm gonna write... but there will be at least 2 sermons for the the services.

    a thought ran through my mind yesterday... salt is good... but when used in excess... it can make things taste awful... and when used outside... it kills grass and shrubs in a heartbeat. is the church salty enough... or too salty???

    word verification: noise (whaccha tryin to say God?)

  14. We're having a geeky preacher derby at my place this weekend. In the morning I'm preaching the back half of the gospel (law and prophets) along with the optional portion of Isaiah. In the afternoon a dear friend is preaching at my Installation service, using the front half of the gospel (salt and light) along with Psalm 112. I've had the fun of creating two liturgies for the same day, but now I have to actually write my sermon. This snow day seems like the right day for it. My title is "By the Book" and I'm wandering in the direction of describing how Matthew's Jesus *is* the Book/Word, the only law we need to follow because he fulfills in ultimate ways the law and the prophets. Or something like that.
    Fortunately/unfortunately I glanced at BBT's take on this in Seeds of Heaven and found it similar, which is good but bad since I now feel like a copycat, even though I had this idea before doing any reading/research.

  15. Running a day late here.

    I am going to preach on the Isaiah passage with a little of last week's Micah tossed in. We Episcopalians really love our liturgy and traditions. There's nothing wrong with that but, as the Israelites learned, we have to move beyond that.

    I heard a story last week from one of our bishop nominees. The parish she was serving was wiped out by a tornado. It was an historic building and everyone loved it. The congregation was in a rented space for two years until the building of the new worship space was completed. In that time, the congregation learned that the building hadn't really been the church, that the church kept going without the walls.
    Now I know this is a "duh" kind of learning but isn't it exactly that kind of thing we need to hear more often?

    Our vestry is beginning a visioning journey, learning how we can help the congregation see themselves as more than a worshipping community. We believe our focus needs to be being that light and salt in the world. Worship is a huge part of how we get there but the world is where the kingdom will be met.

    More on Saturday, I'm sure. I might even blog this week!

  16. Teri, prayers ascending for you in your discernment.

  17. @Betsy, Utz has a no-salt potato chip that is gluten free. Utz regular are also GF. Ditto Herrs. Lays regular are GF, but they don't seem to have a no salt.
    There are salted and unsalted pretzels, but you'd probably only find the unsalted at a whole foods.

    (Your source for GF information!)

    I'm going with Corinthians (as I have for the past 2 weeks), but not sure where :) It will be some challenge to listen to the Spirit, with assured that we are gifted and strengthened by the same Spirit to follow the guidance given. As with AKPastor, my folks need a little more Spirit in their Presbyterian lives.

  18. I'm going with the Isaiah passage. Sermon title: "Let Your Light Break Forth." We are having the annual meeting on Sunday, where the congregation receives the budget as information. The session is presenting a deficit budget for the third year in a row, and this news will not be received well. The church is spending reserve funds to make ends meet.

    This congregation has a long history of supporting mission causes in the community and the larger world, both financially and hands-on. The question becomes, do you cut back the mission efforts and programs of the church to balance the budget, when there are funds available to continue the work?

    Isaiah says to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into your house. God is not pleased when we make looking to our own self-interest our first priority. "If you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness..."

    Like many churches, this church is facing some hard financial choices. But Isaiah's message is to reach out to those in need, which has always been a priority for this particular congregation. I look forward to seeing where the Spirit takes me on this one.

  19. Althea, thanks for the info! All these things ought to be on sale this week too, thanks to the Super Bowl :-)

  20. jumping in way late. picked Matthew 5 salt/light earlier in the week and am struggling to write a first draft today.

    Like SheRev I was struck by the thought that we are salt and light. opening with a story about the snow storm and the lack of salt in Texas (salt enhances, yet it also serves as traction and ice melting when the rubber hits the road)...and taking it toward Christian vocation and engagement in the world. what happens in between is a rough draft in progress.

  21. This Sunday is the 20th anniversary of my ordination and I have been ruminating on what, if anything, has been achieved over those years. I have put on weight and got greyer but that's human. 1 Corinthians 2 challenges me not to focus on 'me' but to try and look to God in Christ as the place to boast about anything. I think my 'sermon' this Sunday will be about faithfulness in the ordinary things as my testimony to the faithfulness of God. This probably connects with the chaos of North Queensland after a huge cyclone, and the flooding in Victoria which just goes on and on. How fortunate I am to live in Australia where there is a huge cultural value of being there for one another in times of profound crisis. The volunteers who put themselves on the line; the generosity that digs deep into pockets seem to echo Isaiah's understanding of living as God's people, and yet so many Aussies have little time for that God-stuff. I'm going to be all over the place I'm afraid! Christine, Australia


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