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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Still Small Voice Edition

Hello there all you gals and pals (at least those of you who are not on holiday!)

I had my hearing tested this morning. I haven't done this for a while, and it started off as usual. The audiologist played a series of progressively quieter beeps at different registers, then he read lists of words and asked me to repeat them. But then he gave me a test I haven't had before.

He played a recording of a woman saying random sentences in a crowded room. Instead of the woman's voice getting softer, the background noise got louder and louder, making it impossible to hear what she was saying. All I could do for most of them was guess, ("The red blue coat is found under a file?") and judging by the numbers, my guessing wasn't very good. This is not just a problem at the audiologist office. There's so much background noise wherever we go, it's hard to concentrate on the Voice we need to hear, it seems.

Sometimes, even Jesus needed to get away from the hubbub to pray and, I presume, to listen. Although we usually concentrate on the more dramatic aspects of this week's gospel reading, it is Jesus choice of silence and solitude at the beginning that caught my eye. Maybe because it seems to be such a fascinating pairing with the I Kings passage.

Of course, how we encounter God is found on a continuum. The truth is probably somewhere between the Paul-ish end (SOMEONE has to proclaim, or how will they hear?), and the other end - that story of Elijah hearing God in the sheer silence on a lonely mountain.

Or, are you continuing with Genesis, turning this week from Jacob to another generation, and another family of brothers who just can't seem to get along? In that case, you might want to focus on the sense of sight instead of sound, because the images in Joseph's dreams are pretty spectacular. There are lots of lovely interpretations of Joseph's dreams floating around the web, by the way. Found this one here.

Whatever you are listening for, or speaking about, this week, we are all ears. The comments are open.

Picture of the inner ear found here, btw.
And links for the texts can be found at Textweek.


  1. Juniper, thanks for posting so early. I just got back from vacation yesterday and need to decide on bulletin contents today, so its helpful to have lectionary etc flagged up here.
    Thinking right now about using Genesis and gospel - keeping options open - but I like the 1 Kings reading too.
    Maybe I could reflect on summer time and taking time out?
    Can you tell I'm not really back into it yet?
    In fact, an image has just come into my mind of a guy coming alongside us in the Bahamas and saying: slow down - I think maybe I've found my illustration so I'll probably go with 1Kings and gospel.
    Deadline for me is tonight, so will ponder throughout today.

  2. I'm stuck into the Gospel reading at the moment. I cannot for the life of me understand Peter's "Lord if it is you, order me to come to you". I have read a commentary which suggests that Matthew inserts this Peter bit into the walking on the water as a teaching point for the early church (it's not there in Mark or John) - and that Peter is both the 'rock of the church' and 'everyman' (sic).
    But if I thought I saw Jesus I would say 'if it is you, come nearer so I can see'. But then this is the same Peter who jumps overboard to reach the resurrected Jesus at the end of John's gospel. Maybe there is something here about how we come to Jesus & not just the other way round (which makes an interesting contrast with the still small voice - which I might well now go with & ditch Joseph et al).
    Any thoughts gladly received!

  3. Hi Liz, welcome back. I dont even have your excuse and I'm feeling all vacation-y :)

    Ruth - I read a really good William Willimon sermon the the quesiton of why following Jesus makes us want to take risks. I'll see if I can locate it on-line and if so I'll post the link here.

    I'm going with the gospel too, and originally was thinking about talking aobut Jesus' miracles. But cant seem to find much that doesnt totally metaphorical-ize this story. I'm also pondering the idea of doing a guided meditation on Jesus calling us out - but asking eveyone to close their eyes on a warm summer Sunday might be too much of a ticket to slumber... Stil thinking.

  4. Here's the sermon, Ruth. The one I read was a little different (in a book) but it has the same basic idea, I think.

    BTW, let this guide you, those of you who fear to re-use sermons. Feel free to change out the opening story, and keep the important message. Evidently that's what the big kids do.

  5. The 1 Kings reading is one of my favourites and, although I was moving away from the lectionary (as I do a few weeks focusing on rest and renewal over the summer), this week the theme is stillnes and taking time to be still and hear God's voice; so it seems appropriate to use the lectionary reading.

    So thanks for flagging up that theme or I probably wouldn't have even looked to see what the lectionary readings were.

    I hope that this week goes as well as last week. We focused on enjoyment and did paper plane prayers which were a real hit (with the adults as much as the kids)

    I've been at the beach this afternoon and have had a great time - practising what I preach for a change. Now to get working on all the things I ignored while I was out.

  6. The Episcopalians pair this gospel with Jonah's storm at sea and Psalm 29. I'm intrigued by all the storms. Peter steps out to meet Jesus in the middle of one (unlike Elijah who steps out to meet God in the sound of sheer silence). Jonah deals with a storm for which he is responsible (who of us hasn't created such storms). And the psalm simply celebrates the power of the storm moving in from the sea. Maybe its because it is so hot and dry here, but all those storms are very attractive.

  7. Hi, RevGals! Greetings from Washington State--flew from Florida a couple days ago to return to the wondrous Grünewald Guild, where my husband and I are involved in leading the Liturgical Arts Week this week. Highly, highly, highly recommend the Guild as a place for continuing ed., sabbatical, etc.--an amazing place both for laity and for clergy.

    Juniper, thanks for the wonderful invitation this week! I've been living with the gospel lection, thinking about where faith comes from, and if there's some leap, large or small, that Christ might be inviting--and how am I listening for that? More at The Painted Prayerbook.

    Blessings upon your ears and all the rest of you...

  8. Here is my take on the Kings passage:

  9. Juniper--also wanted to mention that I appreciated what you wrote about not being able "to find much that doesnt totally metaphorical-ize this story." I know what you mean, and really like what Michael Honeycutt has to say about this in his book Marry a Pregnant Virgin: Unusual Bible Stories for New and Curious Christians, where he writes (in a reflection about this gospel lection, actually):

    "There is a tendency in the church, living in an age where science, by many, is nearly deified, to rationally explain the unexplainable. And so sometimes we unpack a Bible story, remove its obvious bumps, flatten it out in a nice and manageable way, and thereby beat the very life out of it. Is it true? Did it happen just that way? How can we make this odd story accessible and palatable to the discerning masses?

    "I say let the story stand in all its utter strangeness. The early church told the story this way for a reason. And so instead of posing questions of the story (Is it true? Could this happen?), perhaps we should allow the story to question us."

    Love how he challenges the way that we often give ourselves only two choices in working with such stories--to either treat them only as fact or only as metaphor. Here's to letting the story stand in its strangeness, and allowing it to question us...

  10. Tanya! Paper airplane prayers! Tell us more!

    Hi Jan - ::waving to you from the same time zone:: SO grateful for the book recommendation. That's just the kind of thing I'm looking for. I'm glad you got what I was saying - I mean, I'm all for going out into the stormy seas of life to meet Jesus, but sometimes I want to say "dude was walking on WATER! pay attention to THAT!" In my polite, progressive circles it's hard to find writing that takes that seriously, if you know what I mean.

    (also, ack! everytime I come over here, I find another typo! that's what I get for posting at midnight, i guess...)

  11. Also, Wil, thanks for your link, which sent me over to Working Preacher, where I also read the gospel commentary for today.

    Apropos of nothing, really, but got a chuckle out of this line: "is Matthew intending the reader to realize that no disciple is totally worthless, because he can always serve as a bad example? Not quite."

  12. Jan, I love that quote!

    I have been laughing to myself because Joseph brings to mind "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which begins with "...Jacob lived in the land of Canaan, a fine example of a family man...and the sermons from 3 different preachers the past 3 weeks have been various takes on how Jacob was **not** a fine example of family (or any other) values! I'm not likely to go anywhere with that, but it did amuse me :-) An interesting side note: after one of the preachers brought up Bilhah and Zilpah in his sermon, I included them in the eucharistic prayer, along with Leah and Rachel (and the guys); I had several people comment on how they appreciated hearing those forgotten women included.

    My thinking right now is along the lines of stepping forward--Joseph against his will into slavery and Peter into the water--and the hazards accompanying that, but it doesn't excite me. There are some ideas here that may brew into a much more interesting mix!

  13. I really love all of these...but especially 1 Kings. Since I won't be preaching this week (yay vacation!), I offer you some of my previous thoughts....
    one of my favorite-ly titled sermons...
    a guided meditation...
    a sermon that almost made me cry reading it just now, it spoke so much to my life at this moment...
    and a Peter-gets-out-of-the-boat (in which I actually ask the question "why did he tell Jesus to call him? what a stupid test!")

    That's what I have today. I'm very little help this week because I'm so anticipating my vacation... :-)

  14. First Sunday preaching after annual leave and a Sunday School service last week. I am going with the Gospel and 1 Kings - both passages I love.
    I can remember a Bible study discussion about 25 years ago, and we were asked where we were in the Gospel story. My answer was, I am still on the jetty - you think I would get into a boat! How times have changed, still risk averse, but at least now I can see myself in the boat, and some days feel like getting out of the boat in deep water.
    For Sunday, I am thinking about the part in 1 Kings where God tells Ezekiel to ‘go back’, and where Jesus tells Peter ‘come’. Discipleship can be a million small things, but sometimes it requires courage and faith, and at times we think we don’t have enough of either. This Sunday is also communion Sunday for us.
    Tanya, we had a paper plane prayer at Messy Church recently, worked really well, and not so threatening to people with little church involvement.
    Off to the nursing home service, with the gospel reading: Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid!

  15. Those of you who use the site please do post comments if you find my lectionary portions helpful. The editors have forwarded me a particularly negative comment. I won't debate with the author. I have asked WP to let him know he can contact me.

  16. I am either a very brave soul or completely off my rocker, but I have decided to preach on Paul for the month of August. (I plan a month's sermons in advance and announce them in the church newsletter.) My theme for the month is, "So You're a Christian. What Does That Mean?" and includes some meditations on whether Christians are inclusive or exclusive. Someone recommended to me Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins" and I am reading it as a backdrop for Paul. Pray for me! I am not giving myself an easy August for preaching!

  17. I wasn't at all sure how my congregation would react to paper plane prayers (I have only been here a couple of months)but they were much more enthusiastic than I thought they might be.

    Each person had been handed a piece of coloured paper and a pencil as they arrived and by the time I asked them to write a prayer on it, I think some of them were relieved that was all they had to do.

    I did it as part of talking to the children about different ways we can pray: out loud, silently, in church, at home, and writing things down.

    And then I invited everyone to write a prayer on their paper and make it into a paper plane and send it forward to symbolise sending it to God.

    I thought I might get half a dozen but I was amazed at how many came forward (or at least were launched - many went up and back down again!)

    Pearl, I am hoping to start messy church here too but it is still very early days for me here so trying not to rush into it. I suppose that is partly why I am risking these sorts of things with my normal sunday folk and I have been really pleased at their reactions.

    I will definately be doing a bit more interactive and slightly less traditional elements of worship with them.

  18. Tanya, thanks for explaining how the paper airplane prayers worked! I could imagine… but I was also imagining people getting bopped in the back of the head…

    Pastor Kathy, I am also working with Paul and I keep thinking, “What did I get myself into??”

    Jan, thanks for the book recommendation --- I now have a slew of Honeycutt books added to my Amazon wish list!

    I am this week tackling Romans 9 & 11 (I dodged it last week and so this week am now going, “Why did I do that?”). Prayers would be appreciated as we learn to trust God to be faithful to God’s people, regardless of whether they’re Jew or Gentile… And this is challenging me personally because the way that Paul uses Hagar/Sarah and Esau/Jacob really bothers me…

  19. Jan, your quote reminded me of the time I wrote a survey for an independent study. The original questions asked what I wanted to ask. Then the professor suggested some changes, and then some more and finally I sent it out. The response was incredible, far more than I expected. But the results were useless. In refining the questions, we had lost sight of the project and so I ended up with nothing.

    I am intrigued by the silence aspect of 1 Kings and Matthew as well and might end up going that direction. Wil, thanks for your commentary. Workingpreacher is usually one of my first stops on Monday morning.

    I'm off to see my son tomorrow so won't be in for Saturday's sermon writing. May the Spirit be with us all.

  20. Well, I just went to the Wednesday prayer site. The Buechner quote there is exactly what I needed and is so relevant for Sunday! Y'all take a look, too.

  21. Feeling grateful to ya'll right now - Teri for the sermons (riches!), Margaret for the heads up on the FB quote (havent been there fora while so had to hunt some to find it, but there it is! on the left margin!) and to Tanya for the paper airplane prayers. I'm with you - I have fairly un-hammy congregation, and I'm always delighted and pleasantly surprised by the fun things they will try!

    Wil, heading over to working preacher to read more carefully now (read quick before since my thoughts were turning to the gospel) and to post a comment. Sorry you got dinged - that feels lousy!

  22. Good Morning, I'm a day late in really beginning to think about the text for Sunday. I'm going with the Gospel, and going to try to frame it as a story of hope and faith that causes us to step out of the boat - and when we stumble, God (in Jesus) is there with us to help us.

    There is a lot of perceived turmoil in our church right now surrounding the future of our contemporary worship service. Our praise team leader is leaving in 2 weeks to go off to college, and at the same time 3 other members of the praise team are choosing this time to step away from the church as well. People in the congregation are fearful that the pastors are trying to do away with this service (we are not). I want to preach a message of hope in this chaos.



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