Visit our new site at

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Be Not Conformed Edition

We begin with a quote from revgal Jan Richardson's book Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer as she meditates on the midwives who tricked Pharaoh, saving the lives of countless babies, including Moses.
Midwife literally means "with-woman." Shiphrah and Puah embody this "withness" in their solidarity with each other, with God and with the Hebrew people...Working together, Shiphrah and Puah speak to us of the necessity to draw strength from one another as we give birth to new visions, to different ways of living, to one another and even to ourselves.

We'll be "drawing strength from one another" as we help each other bring our sermons to life this week. Are you diving (ha!) into the story of Moses? Or maybe you are full steam ahead in your series on Romans? Or, are you considering Jesus' words in Matthew, each verse of which seems to be its own perfect little sermon?

Personally, I have never preached on either the Romans or the Matthew text, although I love them both. The Romans, I generally avoid, I think, because it has so much personal resonance for me; it was in my ordination service, and when my dad showed me his gift to me that day - his confirmation Bible - the same text was written in the flyleaf, in a note from his confirmation mentor all those years before. The Matthew text trips me up because I once heard A Very Famous Preacher preach a sermon on this text so perfect for the time and place that I sort of cannot imagine what else could be said about it.

I guess Jan might say these excuses are the pharoahs, blocking my path. However, unlike the wily midwives, I am sidestepping them both again this year and going with Exodus. How about you? What keeps you from preaching certain texts, or leads to you others? Comments are open for business.

Jesus and Peter found here. The women with Moses found here. Texts for this week found here.


  1. Juniper,
    All that's stopping me from preaching this week - is that my associate is preaching! Must be more careful in rostering - but never organised enough to actually look at texts ahead of time!
    I love both the Exodus and the gospel passage for this week.
    I can, however offer this from last time these texts came around
    Will be back to think about childrens time for this week.

  2. hmmm, love the Exodus text, of course.

    I did hear a great story about church keys earlier this month that would unlock the keys of the kingdom image in the text quite nicely (sorry, Juniper, but I couldn't resist in light of your "diving in" comment.

    This will be my last Sunday preaching for a couple of weeks as a new interim pastor is joining our staff next week, and I imagine she will want to lead services the next couple of weeks.

    In any case, I will probably go with the midwives.

  3. Exodus text for me this Sunday. Possible sermon title, "The Ripple Effect". The courage of the women, which was totally unprecedented in that time was stunning. What examples would "stun" us today?

    The Ripple Effect could tie into the water of the Nile in which Moses was placed.

    The Nile=danger and life

    I have a great piece of fabric which is all shades of blue and is "crinkily"...figure out a way to have that "flow down" from the communion table. Maybe use baskets to take the offering (I read that somewhere...not original)

  4. Having been with the Old Testament a lot this summer before going on vacation, I had a semi-plan to work with the gospel for a while when I came back. I did last week.

    But now we have this week. I love the midwives. I have preached this one twice, once in this church, once in the former church . I LOVED both of those sermons. I'm halfway tempted to bring the first back as a sustainable sermon this week. But then it feels sort of disjointed to work with that then jump around, etc, etc.

    That said I also have a memorial service to work on this week for a man (non-member husband of a member) who committed suicide. That is taking most of my brain and spirit power right now. It might be a good week to pull out the sustainable sermon. It might also be helpful to do that as I try to preach without notes. I can work my old one into a new outline and see what/how it preaches today!

  5. Purple, here's my sermon from 3 years ago on this one that I called "The Ripple Effect." It was also a baptism day.

  6. I haven't preached this gospel lesson, either. I preached on Shiphrah and Puah in 2005, and was away at a conference in 2008. I'm committed to preaching Matthew all summer, mostly because Matthew's Jesus annoys me, and I feel the need to understand him better, and also because our intermittent attendance in the summer made preaching the Hebrew Bible arc seem frustrating and ineffective.
    So we talked about it in my in-person lectionary group this morning (Hi, L! if you should see this), and a colleague suggested reading the passage, then asking the congregation how they see Jesus.
    I'm afraid in my current context, the response might be crickets. But I'm tempted to try something along these lines, for instance letting people pass in a piece of paper with a word or phrase about Jesus, and then responding to what they've written.
    Even so, I would need to write a sermon, just in case no one says anything. ;-)

  7. Sherev - sorry to hear about your pastoral situation - that sounds like a toughie. Thanks for the sermon, though. Lovely.

    Hi Liz - I'm thinking about big boats and little boats, now...

    revk - ha! when I first got this call, I lamented many times that I had not attended a seminary where they offered a class on Doors, Locks and Keys...There were months of fuss and bother trying to get that worked out. We seem to have it now, though...

    I like the idea, Songbird, of asking people what they think - they are shy, though?

    Purple, lovely idea with the cloth - hmmm, I think I have a blue cloth lying around somewhere....

    Thanks for these thoughts, folks. Off to cogetate on the bulletin. MIght steal the Ripple idea for the sermon title. Or, ask them some questions based on Jan's book that I quoted earlier. She really has some great stuff in there, if you can lay hands on it.

  8. The reading from Isaiah (51:1-6) has grabbed me by the throat and won't let go! I'm going to ask the congregation to imagine we have lost all of our buildings - just two but you know how we all are about our "space." The idea of harking back to our rock, our ancestors and their experiences in order to see what the future for us is excites me. The fact that we have four original members still in the congregation who have shared stories about carrying the nursery or altar in their car trunks all week helps a lot.
    And, I confess, having fired the organist of 40+ years two weeks ago and feeling the sting of that from my good people last Sunday just might be behind my decision to start with this text (the alternative OT reading in the RCL).
    I need to start writing so I don't lose the excitement. Wow! I might not be writing on Saturday for a change!

  9. The August sermon series on Romans is going well. Last Sunday was inclusive vs. exclusive Christianity, and the sermon was mostly about Rob Bell's book Love Wins. (I have a very good congregation. In some churches I served in the past, I never would have dared to talk about this book.) I invited the congregation to think about a study group to take on this book, and at the end of the service someone came to me and said, "I'll lead it!" Wow...

    So this week I'm looking at the text about gifts with the idea of how we use them -- why and how we give away the gifts God has given us. Haven't gotten very far with it yet. But I think it has legs.

    I do find it interesting that most of the posters are going with the narrative passages (like the Exodus passage this week). My continuing ed this summer was a seminar called "God of Grace and God of Story." The narrative texts really do draw me -- I've just preached on these particular ones in past years and want to try something different this time. Maybe in the fall I'll go back to the storytelling passages. I wonder if women pastors like the narratives better than men pastors do, or if both groups prefer them?

  10. lol, Songbird. "Matthew's Jesus annoys me".

    Love all the ideas here...
    back to simmering.

  11. Purple said, I have a great piece of fabric which is all shades of blue and is "crinkily"...figure out a way to have that "flow down" from the communion table. Maybe use baskets to take the offering (I read that somewhere...not original).

    How about having the water fabric flow from the font instead of the table?

  12. Rev. Cheryl Goodman-Morris from Portola Valley, CA has written a musical: Puah's Midwife Crisis. I got to see it at the Presbyterian Women's gathering in July 2009. "When Pharaoh decrees that all boy babies must die...
    Puah's Midwife Crisis is based on an Old Testament story that took place just before the birth of Moses, at a time when a new Pharaoh had come to power over Egypt, one who "no longer remembered Joseph". The Hebrews had been living in Egypt for 400 years, and they had grown so great in number that the Egyptians were threatened by their population explosion. Pharaoh's method of dealing with this situation was to call Puah and Shiphrah, the two midwives to the Hebrew people, before him and command them to kill all Hebrew boy babies upon their birth. Pharaoh's law is law of the land, but midwives are called to affirm life, not kill.
    ...What's a midwife to do?
    My memories of this show will anchor my sermon. The midwives' refusal results in the first case of civil disobedience recorded in the Bible.

    If you have a theater group (church or community) this is a very accessible and fun show to stage. Similar in style to Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. (But, there are only two parts for guys!) Pharaoh's daughter has a number of ladies-in-waiting, Puah and Shiprah are the midwives, the Hebrew women, are characters. Search for the title and you can get more info. "Hope and transformation with a good dose of
    humor, dancing and spectacle."

  13. This is my first post, though I have been reading along for several months! I am an associate pastor and this is my week to preach! In my context, my male senior colleage (who is very nice and helpful) really doesn't innovate much in worship, so too often my Sundays become let's-do-some-new-stuff days. SO...I have chosen the Exodus and decided to depart from the lectionary to pair it with Mary's Magnificat (raising up the lowly and all that good stuff). Both of these work well with the Romans (not conforming to this world...civil disobedience falls right along with this in my mind).

    I must admit, I approach the pulpit with some fear and trembling however, because I am well aware that I am speaking to the powerful and priveledged - the Egyptians of the Exodus story, if you will. How do I do this with grace? How do I preach the good news and not just sound like I have an axe to grind? (which to be honest, I often do)

    We are also using a fabulous piece of music "Canticle of the Turning," which is a setting of the Magnificat to an Irish folk ballad tune. It is featured in the new hymnal sampler in the Presbyterian church - check it out! I've titled my sermon - Turn the World Around. (Harry Belafonte, anyone?:)

  14. Hi Margaret,

    Your piece on the Isaiah passage gave me the idea I was looking for to link my Isaiah reading with the Gospel where I am preaching on "Who is Jesus?". Thanks



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.