Visit our new site at

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Living Together in Unity Edition

I just got done reading Kate Braestrup's marvelous new book Beginner's Grace. In it, she tells a story of Mr. Roger's mom. First of all, dont you feel better already, just thinking of Mr. Roger's mom? Anyway, in the book, Braestrup says that when Mrs. Rogers (Mom) would take Mr. Rogers (probably little Freddie in those days) to the movies, he would get disturbed by the pre-movie news reel. So much difficulty, death and destruction! Mrs. Rogers would tell him to "look for the helpers." If he looked, he could always find someone offering help, no matter how dismal the scene.

Friends, things are looking downright difficult this week. Jesus ignores and insults a woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Joseph deceives his brothers. Paul's promise of God's mercy can seem so far away. So, let's look for the helpers. Who or what are the helpers for you in this week's texts? And how can we help each other through this week's preparation?

Helpful comments most appreciated. Picture of Jesus with the Canannite woman found here. This week's scriptures found here.


  1. The disciples are helpers; granted, helpers w/o excellent motives (they are intervening for the woman because they are embarrassed and they want her to shut up) but still, they are seeking to help.

    Jesus is a helper; granted, he's a helper in disguise at first, but sometimes to help in the best way you don't always look like you're helping at first.

    And finally, the most significant helper in the story is the Canaanite woman. Selflessly, persistently, courageously she recognizes the limits of her own resources to help, and then advocates for one who cannot advocate for herself. And she continues to do so despite any attack to herself.

  2. good morning cherie - I like what you have so far!

    I was originally thinking of taking the canaanite woman's perspective, even doing a 1st person monologue thingy, which my congregation loves. But I've been taking piano lessons (first of my life!) and thinking about what it takes to learn something new. As followers of Jesus, I'm wondering if he's modeling for us here what it means to learn a new thing? we have a baptism new people joining, so Doing A New Thing seems like a good direction to head for us this week.

  3. the Rev. Dr. Wil GafneyAugust 9, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    My take on the Genesis option:

  4. hmmmm. I haven't done a first person monologue in a very long time....I might go for that, actually, just to mix it up. Juniper, I love the idea of "looking for the helpers" in the text, and in life. Especially these times--economically, and with London burning, and war, etc....
    Thank you.

  5. I've carefully avoided this Matthew text multiple times through the lectionary, but this time I'm taking it on. I am encouraged somewhat by a new friend in a preaching class I took a couple of weeks ago who address a difficult text in our class with the image of scripture as sacred window and sacred mirror. Some are windows and some are mirrors. For her and the text she was working with (and me with this one) Scripture was sacred as a mirror. It shows us who we are and what we do, even when we are at our worst.

    So, my thoughts from the middle of the night when I was on vacation last week were lifting up the question, who doesn't get a seat at our tables? Who doesn't get included in grace and mercy and a chance at whole life? Chances are the people left out are NOT most of my congregation. And chances are (inspired a little here by one piece I read in FOTW yesterday) we do more with our tradition and the expectations we have set up to keep them away from the table than to invite them to it.

    At first I was leaning toward the idea of Jesus actually getting it wrong at first, and I might go back there, but then I heard other voices saying maybe he was pulling out the mirror - - exposing the way compassion had been corrupted by sticking to the letter of the law.

    Not sure. I sort of liked the lifting up of the woman that comes with the idea that she was right and Jesus was wrong, not just "pretending" to be wrong.

    Anyway, I have a pretty fleshed out sermon flow on virtual paper. I'll keep working.

    Rev Nancy Fitz, if you stop by, can you tell me what Mind Mapping app you use?

    It's not about this particular text, but yesterday I blogged about the preaching class I mentioned above and the possibility of moving to preaching without notes. Stop by if you get a chance!

  6. Human beings, eh? Awful and awesome and everything in between. After mob violence comes mob cleanup. So glad this was actually reported on... made me feel a little bit emotional.

  7. So interesting, the process of choosing this week's hymns: always easy to find hymns on the topic of God/Jesus reaching out to change humanity with love, but very little seems to be available on the subject of humanity reaching out to change Jesus/God...

    Has anyone else found the perfect hymn to match up with this week's Gospel lesson?

  8. How 'bout "Help us accept each other as Christ accepted..."? Oh wait. Sheesh.

  9. She Rev, I use Total ReCall. It helps me layout the sermon. I was using a circle, (to come back around to the opening illustration- where that is the case) but be warned. When I wanted to transfer my typing to a page, I had to email the html then copy and paste. The program put everything in the order from left to right up to down. Which meant 'out of order' for my circle.
    I've gone to mapping my thought bubbles in lines. I can still move them around and I keep the actual map handy as I type. I'm off to read your thoughts on preaching w/o notes. very scary and perhaps not a pleasant experience for my listeners.
    BTW I'm preaching next weeks texts this week and these next week so I'm counting on all your sermons :-))))

  10. Hi All - loving this conversation (and was inspired by your post, Sherev- hurrah for those things that keep the week-after-week tasks fresh and exciting! Also, have totally been there, preaching with a baby - glad you made it work!)

    RE preaching without notes: I do that about a third of the time. The way it helps me to think about it is that it takes the same amount of prep, but you use your writing time for talking time. Go in the sanctuary, in your car, in your backyard and talk it out a few times - just like writing it out, I find that helps me hear what doesnt work and what does.

    If you are nervous, remember how much your congregation will LOVE this. If you leave the pulpit, they will love it even more. (this is another way to help yourself remember what you are doing, btw, because you can move to specific spots to make specific points - I often do this if I am telling a story from 2 different points of view). I have a few sleepy people in my congregation, and they always wake RIGHT UP when I preach without notes. It feels way more personal to most people, like you are talking right to them, and I think they remember it better.

    I have had a few complaints about this style, too, btw along the lines of "respecting the role of the preacher and the pulpit" so, I do try to mix it up. That, and when I'm preaching without notes, I find I am more distracted by the Looming Sermon on Sat night/Sun morning than if I have it written all out. It's like my brain can let go of it once it's written, but not if it's just an outline.

    Also, remembered an old post on my now defunct blog that might be of use. This was EARLY in my solo ministry (like a few weeks in! 4 years ago - goodness time flies!), so it has more steps than I usually use now, but take it for what it's worth.

  11. Hi all,
    Barbara Lundblad's essay on the Matthew text, which is on the front page of The Text this Week, is pretty phenomenal. (Of course I am biased cause she was my preaching professor....but still....)

  12. this is a very encouraging conversation. I make a sermon text, and then depart from it. Every now and then -- can't run it too often -- I will make some initial reference to the vile inadequacy of my text and set it aside and announce that I'm "winging it" -- you are SO RIGHT that it wakes everybody up.

    At risk of being all out of step -- I LOVE this Gospel. I am doing a sermon series this month on "Jesus teaches us how to be people rooted in a tradition and responsive to change"...with the pattern that first we have a piece of Old Story (Genesis); then we have a choral response (Psalm -- which last week included a "spoiler") -- then we have Paul analysing and arguing -- and finally we have Jesus as dramaturge (I think that's the word I want), directing a piece of improvisational theatre in which people are invited/manoeuvred into SAYING the things that they need to HEAR. So all "learning styles" are accommodated! More later.


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.