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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Life and Death" Edition

Sunday's lessons can be found here.

Death. It haunts us -- when we read the news; when we care for aging or ailing loved ones; when we hit a point in life where thoughts of our mortality can keep us awake at night.

Our lessons this Sunday are about death -- but they're also about life; about a God who seems as frustrated and angry at death as we do, who is able to summon new life from that which was dead.

Will you be preaching on our Gospel lesson, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead? Or on the field of dry bones come alive in our reading from Ezekial? Will you tackle Paul's musings on life in the spirit versus life in the flesh? Are you dedicating this Lazarus Sunday to issues of HIV/AIDS? Or are you going in a different direction in your service and sermon?

We welcome your thoughts here as we all plan, pray and preach our way into Sunday. What's on your mind this week?


  1. My sermon on Ezekiel poured out of me last night. Still not sure whether I will preach it.

    I continue to lament the role of the supply preacher. I would preach this one at my home church without concern. I think that I can preach it at this neighboring church where people seem to appreciate what I have to offer. (This is my fourth time there in several months.)

    I try to remember that other preachers, far more gifted and established than I, have brought their personal valleys filled with dry bones to bear in the pulpit. But it's difficult to be so transparent.

  2. Also supply preaching, and it's hard sometimes, Robin, even without such difficult personal valleys. I try to be a good guest and not stir up trouble, but despite my good intentions...Maybe some of my colleagues want someone else to stir up the trouble?


    Preaching on Lazarus, I think. It's so hard to choose. I love the Dry Bones too. Also pondering (because that passage surely needs *more*!) possible connections between the "resurrection and the life," "way/truth/life" and "bread of life." Jesus (or John? or both?) surely seem to be about life.

    Looking forward to reading your comments.

  3. I am going the Ezekiel route. One thought for the sermon title: Survivor: Ezekiel Style. However, I am not sure many of this congregation watch the entire riff on that could fall flat.

    Robin, I hear you about supply preaching. The places I supplied at mostly at small rural churches which the "name preachers in the presbytery" were too busy to bother with. They were grateful for a presence in the pulpit and I tried to honor their life and ministry as well as stretch my preaching skills.

  4. Esperanza and Purple, you have both identified aspects of the challenge -- especially with a somewhat personal sermon. The problem is not in my own transparency -- I am usually (not always!) well-behaved in public. The issue lies in assessing where the line is between self-indulgence and something that may actually help people in opening their own lives toward God. And in recognizing that my own struggle in that regard is not necessarily a universal one.

  5. Transparency vs. self indulgence. Hmmm ... Quite often, after I preach, I feel like I've taken off my clothes in public. Yet, it seems like the other option is to preach at people, from a distance.

    One beauty of a supply preacher is simply a new and different voice. If that stirs up something, so be it. If it comforts people, good on you. Even those of us who are "regulars" in our pulpit probably don't know who we are preaching for as much as we think we do.

    The story of Lazarus challenges me at just that point: What is real about our faith? What do I know is real about this story? What difference does it make in lives that are all too fragile?

    I'm not yet ready to even think about it! (v. word = "noobjunq"!)

  6. It's only Tuesday, but I'm thinking 'sustainable sermon' for Sunday. I have 2 old ones, both of which I like, that I think I can either tweak individually or combine.

    I'm more worried about the fact that I need a sermon for our Midweek Lenten service tomorrow and have nothing other than a topic..."The Faith of the Israelites." (Part of a series on Hebrews 11.)

  7. Struggling with which way I will go on this week, as our parish mourns the death of one of its senior saints. I've been doing an Adult Forum series on "Faithful Dying," and I may link it to what we've talked about (1st session, similarities and distinctions between different faith traditions around death; second session, our practices and how they inform and respond to our ethical and religious choices about death and dying; third session, practical theology - wills, AMDs, preplanning, organ and body donation, etc. I love the themes of hope in the midst of grief (phoenix out of ashes, Mt St Helen's) that are inherent in both Ezekiel and John. I'm also taken with Jesus' deep humanity in John and God's deep caring in his divinity in Ezekiel. I'm still very much in the early stages of this one, but this is the direction I'm going for the moment. By tomorrow afternoon, it will probably be something entirely different! Spirit moves where spirit will move.

  8. There are SO many sermonic possibilities in that Gospel passage (not surprising since it is 45 verses long!!!). A month ago I think I was planning to go with allowing ourselves to be unbound, us being called out of the tomb. But yesterday my focus changed slightly. I am going to go with something along the lines that life still wins--whether we trust that it will or not. Only reading John as scripture but also doing something with Ezekiel for children's time.

    But in the end there is a long way to go by Sunday to turn these mutterings into a sermon.

    Some liturgical pieces I wrote this morning can be found here

  9. Speaking of playing, we'll be using a worship drama I wrote about Mary, Martha and Lazarus in the place of a sermon. If it might be useful, let me know and I will email it to anyone who would like to see it. We'll read a short portion of the gospel lesson, the part pertaining to Jesus' conversation with the disciples, because that's not directly in the drama.
    I'm glad to have a break this week, although I'll be playing Martha, myself. But it opens some space to think about Holy Week, and I need that.

  10. As a hearer, I prefer to hear the personal. Just my 2 cents.

  11. Love this week's readings -- not preaching. But the Ezekiel..."and behold, they were exceeding dry..." oh boy.
    and the John, where yet again, as he's been doing all along, Jesus asks bystanders to do something they CAN do...fill the jars, roll the stone. Does he NEED their help? No. Do they/we need to do something toward the desired end, however apparently futile? Yup. Possibly, grumbling as we do so ("Reverend Beforeyou never asked us to roll stones...moomph moomph moomph")

  12. Robin: a recent comment on Working Preacher said that you can identify the line by simply asking the question, "does this aggrandize the preacher?"

    Although I love the Ezekiel passage, I'm going to stick to Lazarus. I'm playing around with the idea (gain from Sermon Brainwave) of following John's style of inserting commentary throughout the reading. I'll have my Deacon proclaim a chunk, then I'll preach on it, and so on. There is so much here that needs explaining, so I think I'll focus on the idea that eternal life isn't simply just about the sweet by and by, but also about the down and dirty here and now.

  13. I'm preaching both Ezekiel and John here in Hawaii at my sabbatical parish: Transcending Zombie Theology

  14. I feel the pain of my supply preacher sisters...though I'm currently the interim pastor (for 3 months anyway) at a little church seeking a new vision but I'm not sure they're hearing what I'm trying to say. Ah the Spirit to say what the people need to hear, right? :) I'm wrestling with Lazarus this week...I'm especially fascinated with the context surrounding the lectionary passage (like 44 verses isn't enough, right?) Especially in John 12:10 where the chief priests make plans to kill Lazarus as well. Don't know where I'm going with that (might not use it all) but I keep coming back to it so I'm trying to hear what God has to say there.

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  16. This is only the second Sunday in my just over 3 years at this church that I will be in worship, but not preaching. I mean, I have had Sundays OFF, but only one other time have I been present and leading parts of worship, but not preaching the sermon. I am thrilled.

    We have a guest preacher coming in who does some AMAZING work in southern Sudan. My last congregation had a relationship with her because we had some Sudanese members. I invited her to come here, and I absolutely can't wait. Can't wait. I've needed a little break and this is great as we make the last push toward Easter. I have my first vacation week/week away since October planned for next month, so this is a little taste of relaxation before then.

  17. I figure that after a gospel that lengthy, I only need a sermon that's about 2.5 minutes long ;-)

    I did some reading around last week because I have very little time this Saturday to write. I was intrigued by the distinction between resurrection life and life-life, in the here and now, and what life Lazarus had after being called forth. I also am mulling over Martha proclaiming Jesus as Lord; a friend of mine suggested in her blog/sermon the celebration of the Confession of St. Martha...and why not? Or maybe something else.

  18. oh, boy, I'm loving this conversation. excited to dive into ezekiel, you all! :)

  19. The choir is singing Dem Bones..and they will do it well.
    I am working thus far with both the big message of John and the Big message of Ezekiel. God wins...
    And the people learn...and we the people need to be on our own learning course as well.
    And it is only Tuesday

  20. I forgot to say when I read today ..again the dry bones I thought of two movies. The Killing Fields where he is walking through the rice paddy and realizes what he thought were sicks are piles of human bones.
    And in Return of the King where they get the bony dead out of the caves to fight and they are restored...
    just some images.

  21. BTW, I just put up some exegetical stuff on Ezekiel on my blog, if anyone would find it helpful.

  22. I'm preaching at the day shelter this Sunday. Will have a congregation of house people and street people, some sober and some drunk and some hung-over, many who suffer from some form of mental illness, almost all have experienced some deep hurt. I only have five minutes--am thinking about the cloths that bind & the unbinding. May make one very long cloth with some of the things that bind us written on the cloth and then having folks read the word that they unbind. Don't know where I might go from there. It's only Thursday. I don't need a manuscript, just the right words on the cloth.


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