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Monday, September 05, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Victory Dance Edition

This week is Proper 19A, 13th After Pentecost (readings here) but more importantly for many of us it is the Sunday after Labour Day.  So the summer is over, Sunday School's are beginning and people are "coming back" (although I wonder why we so calmly accept the idea of taking the summer off, I know full well that we did this every year while I was growing up).   Anybody expecting a bigger (if only slightly so) crowd this week?

And then to further complicate matters this Sunday is September 11, and the 10th anniversary of attacks that, in many descriptions, changed the world.  Is there pressure or expectation that the anniversary will be a part of your worship this week?

I think we need to pray:
God of our past,
as we remember the events that shaped our personal and corporate lives,
may we look on them with eyes open to see that our viewpoint is not the only viewpoint.
Help us to see that the choices that were made then may not have been the only choices that could have been made.
God of our future,
we know that we will meet more life-changing experiences in our lives.
Grant that when we meet them we are ready to ask how you would have us respond.
God of our present,
you promise to walk with us,
you promise to guide us to the final victory,
you call us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Help us to find the path to Your victory, help us to know how we need to respond to the events in our lives.

So to go with our returnees and the anniversary of attack we have the story of a God who not only leads the people to freedom but actively fights on their side to destroy their enemy. And in response they sing and dance. I am remembering other scenes of people dancing.  People dancing in the streets in the Arab world 10 years ago.  People dancing in the streets of Washington last May.  Is this the response we in the church are to call for at times of death and suffering?

Or do we follow the call of the Gospel story.  A story about forgiving and being forgiven.  A Story which highlights how hard we sometimes find it to be the one who forgives.  DOes this story touch on our response to death and suffering?

I am remembering a rabbinic midrash of Exodus where God weeps at teh destruction of Egypt.  I am wondering how the Egyptians would have told this story.  I am wondering where God is in the midst of all our wars (on drugs, on crime, on terror, on poverty, over oil, over wealth, for freedom...)

A challenging week to preach I'd say.

Image credits:
Back to Church Cartoon
Miriam Dancing
The Unforgiving Servant


  1. I am preaching on the Exodus text and bouncing between talking about 9/11 anniversary or not.
    I am going to mention it in Prayers of the People. Sigh...what to do??
    Part of it is that I am preaching for a possible full-time, interim job...which I really do need.
    So, I need to do a good job and maybe getting too political would be bad.
    But then not really talking about the obvious on the 10 year anniversary, would be insensitive.
    I think I will go hide under my pillow and hopefully someone will have some bright ideas by thursday!

  2. I will be preaching at our service with lots of young children, so I have to work 9/11 in very cautiously. What I decided to do is use Exodus and talk about moving from fear into freedom; the parents will get the subtext. We have some great prayers of the people for use at all 3 services that we used on 9/11/02 and which are still appropriate now; I'd be glad to share those with anyone who would like them.

    Sponsored and planned by the religious leaders of our city, we will be participating in an interfaith service on Saturday evening at City Hall that is part remembrance, part looking forward and witness to hope and a vision of peace. Part of that will be a representative from every congregation present receiving a globe lantern to use in worship on Sunday or when they next gather. We have some really neat plans for that as well. Anyone from greater Los Angeles who would like to attend is welcome to do so!

  3. I am picking up Romans 12:9-21 from a couple of weeks ago. Most of the liturgy speaks of treating all people with respect and dignity, etc. We will be lighting 3 candles: One for remembrance of those who lost their lives, the second for those who continue to grieve and hurt, and the third will be for hope. This comes fairly early in the service.

    I has a sense my words will be more of a reflection. We have many, many strong voices in support of the actions of the last 10 years. We have many military veterans. I still hear many, many comments about Muslims which are unfavorable.

    I am using stories of hope...from places where their has been healing as ways to live into the next ten years and beyond.

    thanks Gord.

  4. Betsy, I'd love to read your prayers! (RicoCommunityChurch at gmail)

    Grace and peace to all of us as we try to find our way through this week!


  5. Sorry for the long post but here it is:
    The small congregation I serve has asked me to do a meditation grounded in the BCP prayer for enemies. I'll begin with what I used to think forgiveness is and then move on to what I now think forgiveness is(letting God's grace move through us so that we are gradually able to release that which stands between that of God in us and that of God in the other person). I probably will weave in what forgiveness is not finally moving to holding our enemies in prayer.

    I did re-read what Luise Schottroff has to say about this parable in her book PARABLES OF JESUS. She cautions against reading the parable allegorically with the king being a stand-in for God. Now I'll probably look at what Herzog has to say about the parable.

  6. I'm not sure how the congregation here responded to 9/11 ten years ago, and I've given a lot of thought to how we might observe it without having it become the entire focus of our service of worship. The Exodus text gives us a very involved God, which honestly was the sort of God I wanted on that day ten years ago, in those hours when the reaction was still visceral, Zeus with the thunderbolts coming down off Olympus to set things right again, not just for the U.S. but for everyone. I wanted a more involved God. So although I have not been reading the OT lessons, it's my hope this story is familiar enough to most that I can use it as a jumping off place to talk about 9/11 with a personal reflection, and how hard it is to forgive people who do things we believe to be wrong, and how sometimes it's hard to forgive God for what we perceive to be God's actions or lack thereof.
    We'll also read the gospel lesson about forgiveness, which will connect to a monthly ritual in which the congregation members may come forward to share a prayer concern (as opposed to the weekly practice of raising a hand to share them) and light a candle. This time we'll do something different. I will guide us into that time with words about forgiveness and invite people to come forward and light a candle if
    a) they need to forgive
    b) they need to be forgiven
    c) they cannot forgive
    d) other/all of the above.
    We will have music playing to take away the pressure to speak, and I hope that will
    a) discourage political statements
    b) encourage participation by people who might want to light a candle but are shy to speak.
    Those are my thoughts thus far. But it's only Tuesday.

  7. Just remembering that the parable is told in the context of Peter asking Jesus how many times we forgive. It's sounding to me like the parable is a negative example in opposition to how things work in God's reign. Just a thought from the shower.

  8. Thinking about all of that this morning at lectionary bible is our "fall kick-off Sunday" and we have the "blessing of the backpacks" as well. But I think this congregation would be offended if I didn't do something special to remember 9/11, and so the prayers of the people will be dedicated to that--prayers of remembrance and peace along with singing "For All the Saints." Haven't chosen/written the prayers yet.

    Three years ago I mentioned 9/11 with this gospel focusing on forgiveness, and I may use that as a place to start. But this congregation is a very different congregation from the one I was preaching for then so I need to rework it.

    I happen to have a cross cut from one of the beams of the North Tower, given to me when I visited Ground Zero with some people from my seminary (I was doing a prospective student visit at the time) in Feb. 2002. It is very meaningful to me, and yet this morning as I was telling the story of that visit to the bible story group, I got a twinge of unease. I don't want Ground Zero and all associated with it to take on a particular religious meaning, nor do I want to make the event a Christian one, because people of all faiths lost their lives. Can I tell the story of my cross without that happening? Not sure, and maybe the cross isn't even relevant to this week's observant. Feeling confused now. Glad it's just Tuesday so I have all week to think about this!

  9. I am stuck on this question of how GOd would have us react when our enemies suffer. And I am sure that the forgiveness piece comes in on that.

    ANd yes it ties in with the anniversary but only as a convenient illustration rather than as a whole focus.

    My early thoughts are here

  10. I am structuring worship around the anniversary of 9/11. The decision for me was based on a desire to frame the remembrances in a way that I think will be different from what is happening on TV, the radio, in newspapers, and through civic events. I know that I will not be comfortable with the nationalistic responses that I am anticipating, so maybe part of it was selfish, but I feel led to offer something different, maybe something challenging even.

    I took some flack for even planning to acknowledge the anniversary on Twitter, but didn't really engage the discussion because I didn't feel the need. I love the service someone (here?) shared a few weeks ago from a chapel service at a religious high school (I think?). It dealt with an anniversary and addressed the topic of fear. I thought it was wonderful, but of course I don't know if I can find it again.

    The gospel passage seems to be a good way to go, and I will probably do that, but I'm not exactly sure yet if I will or if I will go off lectionary. Still thinking. We have delayed our start of Sunday School because of the more somber and serious nature of this service. It felt strange to go from that to Rah rah rah Sunday School and ice cream! I think it was a good decision.

  11. We're doing something interesting...five baptisms. I'm weaving together the radical message of Christianity - forgive even a zillion times - into the baptismal covenant and how even in times that challenge us to forgive (like 9/11) we find the strength from God to live into the baptismal covenant fully and deeply. Hubby is guest preacher for an interfaith 9/11 service later in the afternoon and is talking about finding hope in the midst of fear, and peace in our hearts.

    Blessings, Gord - you will be (as always) brilliant.

  12. An Opening Prayer and PRayer for aand Assurance of Grace that I wrote this morning are now here

  13. Our small prairie community is dedicating a brand new downtown Memorial Park to showcase a beam segment donated to our fire department from the Twin Towers. There will be extensive activities throughout the day starting at 7am, with something in the area of 130 honored guests (Emergency Service Responders and what feels like everyone elected to anything) at the 9am formal dedication ceremony concluding with a candle light ceremony at dusk. Worship will have to reference 9/11- it would be too strange not to, but we are trying not to duplicate what is already being done publicly. Preaching the Gospel on the radical nature of forgiveness. We are singing O God, our help in ages past, as a prayer response, God of grace and God of glory, Eternal Father, Strong to Save and ending with the first verse of For all the Saints. I suspect it will be an emotionally exhausting day.

  14. I'm continuing with the story of the Israelites leaving egypt and crossing red sea - talking about a God who is there when life overwhelms. I am going to "use" 9/11 but with a diff take from the media. Want to ask - what's really changed in terms of how we show love etc.. going to use last week's gospel along with Exodus passage, to think about how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors (and enemies and terrorists?). Lots of work to do but want to mark significance of day and opportunity we have to REALLY change the world forever.

  15. I will be preaching for an afternoon service in a retirement facility within a few miles of the Flight 93 crash site as part of a regular rotation of pastors. I'm new to the area, and have never preached there before. I can choose any text I want (will probably choose one from the lectionary), but given the context I absolutely have to mention 9/11. Some of these people hosted police/FBI/investigators in their homes in the days after the crash.

    I have no clue what to do. I forsee much prayer and reading of commentaries this week.

  16. oh, Songbird, that bit about forgiving God is helpful. Thank you.

    Supply preaching this week, but not sure how much/if a Sept 11 will figure in. We're having horrible wildfires here (very near here) which are overshadowing anything else.

    I'm planning on preaching the Matthew passage. I think I've preached this parable before but can't find it in my (digital) files. I titled it "Measuring Forgiveness," with the thinking that God doesn't measure forgiveness the same way we do, if at all. That's my only thought at the moment.

  17. SheRev, I think that was on Fidelia's Sisters. Maybe.

  18. Last Sunday we covered the first nine plagues, and this Sunday we're doing the Passover... I'll be a week behind y'all for the rest of the fall!

    For 9/11 and Passover, I find it appropriate to think about memory/remembrance/memorial. Each time we remember, we change. For this reason I'm drawn to spell remember as "re-member," as in re-create, re-form ourselves.
    I am sure I did not come up with that concept/spelling on my own, but I can't remember where I got it! Does this sound familiar to any of you?

  19. Friends, I answered my own question!

    Bishop Hee-Soo Jung preached this topic at the 2008 General Conference of the UMC:

    It's not exactly what I was thinking, but coming together as the body of Christ, to come together from all areas of the globe, to remember and be transformed for justice... that seems very workable for this Sunday.

  20. peregrinaje, re-member was one way we talked about Eucharist in seminary.
    Not far in my thoughts for Sunday this week, thinking of starting with lament, those things we don't understand and feel powerless to do anything about [violence, poverty]. Probably going with the Romans and the Gospel, though maybe adding in Exodus and the idea at the moment is not judging. Wednesday morning here, and before I think about Sunday too much, there is an aged care service this afternoon, that I have not started preparing.

  21. Thank you Esperanza! All day I have been looking for that!

  22. The worship planning team decided that in our congregation(s) a prayer of rememberance was appropriate. So, I'm looking for ideas to draft/borrow such a prayer. Haven't decided if I'll have it at the beginning or just before the prayers of the people - probably the latter.

    I'm continuing my series on the Epistles. I'm struck by the strong themes of forgiveness in all the readings and the theme of compassion/tolerance in the Romans reading. Still thinking and praying, and don't know exactly where I'm going with it yet.

  23. Our congregation is also going to do a remembrance theme for 9/11. And I am reluctant to do so. One of our worship committee members suggested that we put American flags on the worship table. Oh, my. I explained why the UCC (and I) would feel theologically very uncomfortable with this.

    Working very hard on crafting a candle lighting service around forgiveness/grace/hope and then having a baptism at the end of worship.

    The website has a nice litany in their worship ways section.

  24. If anyone is still looking for 9/11 resources I found a great collection here.

  25. Contemplative Chaplain,
    Sorry to hear about the flag suggestion! "Oh my," is right.

    The remembrance-centered worship that I'm working on begins with an acknowledgement that we *do* remember... so then how are we changed through the remembering? how do we re-tell our stories for future generations to inspire love/peace/forgiveness? (e.g., the Israelites suffered without days of rest, and so their Sabbath must extend to all people & animals. In the US, we suffered... how do we respond in peace?).

  26. Thanks for the link Rev Dr Mom. I got what I needed and more!


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