Visit our new site at

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: God So Loved Edition

If not the most famous Bible verse in the world, the one tucked into this week's lectionary reading is certainly among the most ubiquitous, found everywhere from stadium signs to fast food cups to your childhood list of Sunday School memory verses.

Speaking of stadium signs, if you Google John 3:16 images, you get a photo of this guy, the Rainbow Man, who carried his John 3:16 sign to major events throughout the 70's and 80's. Which seems sort of sweet and kooky until you read further and learn that he's in prison for life for kidnapping. For goodness sake, how did these 26 words of love beget such an act of violence?

Which is just the first of the long list of questions I bring to this week's text, and in particular verse 16. What is the power of this one scripture verse anyway? And what is its purpose? Is it a slogan? A test? A cipher? Is it helpful to rip it out of context, as it so often is? And if you read the poetic, mysterious words around it, does that clarify or obfuscate the meaning?

Maybe the power of this scripture is more in the questions it raises than the facile answers it seems to provide. If you are interested in walking the text down that road, you might find illumination in David Lose's recent Huff Post column in which he views the recent Rob Bell controversy through the lens of this week's lectionary:

Interestingly, the word for "world" (kosmos in Greek) everywhere else in the Gospel of John describes that entity that is at complete enmity with God... This gives John 3:16 a bit more punch: "For God so loved the God-hating world that he sent his only Son ," we might accurately translate. Apparently, at least according to Jesus, God really, really, really loves the world.

'Course, you don't have to be preaching the gospel to be preaching the good news. What are you focussing on this week? Chime in - comments are open!

Photo from Scott Beale at Laughing Squid. Links to texts for this week found here.


  1. What a great week to be preaching! What a great week to have your deacon preach instead, too. Thanks for the Huffington link. I have passed it on to said deacon for his perusal.
    And I am a universalist. I believe hell happens right here and that we are often the ones to make it for ourselves but not always. I watched Anthony Bourdain's show last night and his visit to the Managua, Nicaragua dump horrified him. It really is Gehenna/Sheol and no one has to die to go there. All you have to be is unbelievably poor.
    Good luck to those of you wrestling with John this week.

  2. Preaching this week on the Genesis text as part of a Lent series "God is with us when..." this week the when is "the destination is unknown"

    I want to link the gospel in somehow, but I'm not sure yet.

  3. I am going wiht the Gospel but focussing on the first half. In the mainline churches we are often afraid to talk about the whole "born again" (or born from above) thing. And I think we need to do that.

    I am also taking time to talk about Japan, and using the Psalm (or at least the first part, not the part about no wicked coming your way) to inform that.

    My early notes are here

    I am also preaching at a covenanting serice this Sunday afternoon -- a first for me and so I am trying to work on that sermon as well (notes here) along with the other plateful of stuff for the week...

  4. I am seriously considering a sustainable sermon this week as my daughter and grandson will be here Friday-Saturday. My leanings were pushed even more in that direction when I read David Lose's commentary on the gospel over at Working Preacher and found one of his paragraphs almost perfectly mirrors what is in said already written sermon, having to do with Abram and Nicodemus providing two different examples of what it means to be on a journey of faith.

    DST is kicking my butt and I am decidedly low energy today, so that is pushing me towards "sustainable sermon" too. (And I don't remember who first used that phrase--SheRev? Earthchick? Songbird?--but it ha definitely entered my vocabulary!)

  5. Kids today don't even know about the Rainbow Guy, which makes me feel older than dirt. Oh, well.
    "Sustainable sermon" was, I do believe, given to us by the Vicar of Hogsmeade in a conversation on Twitter. I'm looking at one myself for this week, as I have a great sermon on the Transfiguration, which is the alternate gospel lesson. We skipped it in favor of a Stewardship sermon on Matthew 6:21, so we haven't done the story, and I want it to be heard. My Lenten theme is "Dramatic Encounters," and it's hard to think of one more dramatic than the Transfiguration.
    John 3 is a tough sell for me, especially as I'm reading things like this piece at Christianity Today which defines the current situation in Japan as an opportunity to evangelize. I want to go somewhere else, to reinforce the Good News that Jesus, truly and fully God and human, lived among us and brought us face to face with the unending love of God. (I'm not a Rob Bell fan, but "Love Wins" is a powerful message and frankly one I've been preaching in my own way forever, so I'm not sure why it's supposed to be so NEW and EXCITING!!!)

  6. This post makes me hungry. Double, double, please! :)

  7. Martha,
    that article is disheartening. Do they not realize how predatory it sounds to make those statements????

  8. Not preaching, but contemplating as always on the Bible, the news, and the lens we look at it all with these days.
    RevDr.Mom, I am right there with you. It did not help that we began the week with a session meeting at 8:30/7:30 on Sunday.
    Love the Huffinton link. Thanks!

  9. WWND?
    What would Nicodemus do? That's the name of my sermon, tickled into fruition by Lose's article and hoping I don't rue the day on Friday and into Saturday morning when I am attempting to connect a sermon to that title.

    I too remember the Rainbow Man and it just killed me that he always had those great seats.

    Sustainable sermon = either Songbird or Vicar of Hogsmeade. I think it was the former.

  10. well, I am taking another swing at T-Figgety, just to remind the faithful that life is real, life is earnest, and we weren't put here to enjoy ourselves (not really, that's just a family catchphrase, with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson). Also I want to talk about the BE. And who shall say me nay.
    I want to talk about seeing, knowing, loving people, and being seen, known, loved, transformed/transfigured. And the LAYERS of experience that are involved in that process.
    My word verification is "barecaps", did you ever?

  11. I'm not preaching--I'll be leading a workshop this weekend--but I just had to comment about the In-N-Out cup! Perfectly timed for this week's journey for me: Older son and I have been visiting my dad and head home today, with our ritual stop midway at In-N-Out for a Double-Double (or, in son's case, a 4x4)! May all the rest of you find yourselves equally sustained.

  12. Well, in my romp off the Lectionary, I'll be focusing on 1 Timothy 2:1-12- silent women saved by childbirth. Yipes! You better believe "what is born of the Spirit is spirit" will make an appearance. It's not without a little fear and trembling that I undertake this text!

  13. I've been away from this site for a while, but it's good to hear the wonderfully deep, insightful comments again. I'm centering the sermon around Nicodemus and his questing for truth under cover of night.
    I have no idea how it will work its way into or fringe the sermon, but I'm also wrestling with outpourings of support for people in Japan and the threatened protest by Fred Phelps and his merry band of hatemongers at the funeral for 7 children who died in a fire. I live in PA, not too far from the family, so it feels particularly close to home. How can such radically different expressions emerge from scripture?

  14. During Lent, we're using the Old Testament readings on Sundays and the gospel for our midweek services - I'm loving it .
    On Sunday I'm thinking just now(but it's early days) about journeying in community. It may even be an opportunity to share my BE experience.

  15. I am a little late to the table but I am preaching on the Genesis text in a Lenten series about the nature of God's people... This one is call We will Trust... I really like the Love Wins idea from Rob because I think too often at least in my Presbyterian world, God's love doesn't seem to matter against God's power.

  16. What is a substainable sermon? I am curious to how you define that.

  17. "Sustainable sermon" = one recycled from an earlier occasion :)

  18. Late to the party as usual! I'm preaching on Gen and Romans, about the nature and the gift of faith. Words to think about when folks are asking "why" re the disaster in Japan.

    Songbird, re the CT article, I was in our interfaith clergy group on Weds and the new (female!) Baptist pastor in the group talked about how she was reflecting on all the people who died who were Shinto and Buddhist and didn't know Christ...and how this was an opportunity to evangelize. And me with my big mouth said, "Yeah, but before anything else we should help tend to their physical and emotional needs. Jesus healed before he taught." My Roman colleague, sitting to me right, nearly choked on his Diet Coke through his snort and giggle. Just call me troublemaker.

    Anyway, I'll probably be talking about walking through darkness with only our faith to guide us to the next marker. Maybe something about Nicodemus at night, but that might just overload things.


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.