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Monday, May 14, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Rise Up!" Edition


I want my Jet Pack!
I note that one of the options for this week is Ascension Sunday (Readings here -- although the more liturgical among us might point out that Ascension day proper is actually Thursday).  And maybe it is just my strange thought patterns but the first thing that came to my mind was this:



On a more theological note though (not that Cats isn't a theological treatise but, well, you know...) what might one do to make the Ascension story accessible and relevant to a congregation?  Obviously the writer of Luke-Acts thought it was an important story -- he included two versions!  A word of warning though -- I personally would avoid trying to link the story with modern astronomical knowledge ;) .

The other option for this week is to use these readings for Easter 7B.

Replacing Judas
Here we have a new model for choosing Session members.  And really there are days when drawing lots makes as much sense as any other nomination process I have seen.  However I remember noting in a seminary assignment that in verses 22-23 Peter lays out some criteria for an apostle and that Paul (who takes up a remarkable amount of time in the book of Acts) does not meet those criteria.  Not. At. All.

Jesus Prays
Or maybe you would choose to soak (wallow?) in this week's section from the Farewell Discourse in John's Gospel.  I swear, sometimes I find John soars to rhetorical heights, but sometimes I need a higher degree to figure out what the heck he is saying  (mind you I say the same thing about the letters of Paul).  Just who is of which world in this passage?  And which world are we supposed to be part of?  Or in?  Not to mention that there is something voyeurish about this whole chapter seeing as we are (as it is written) listening in on a prayer.  And so we the readers/listeners get talked about in the third person.  Ugh!

And where in any of these passages is a Children's Time topic????

Share in the comments which way you are leaning this early in the week...

33 comments:

  1. In deciding who should replace Judas, notice who really did the choosing. Peter set the parameters, and the disciples picked two from among themselves, saying "one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection" (emphasis mine). Then, and only then, did they say, "Lord ... Show us which one of these two you have chosen." In other words, which of our two choices do you like better? We will so graciously let you decide. Go ahead -- either one suits us.

    No wonder we never hear of the poor guy again.

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    1. Hmmmmmm....Now that intrigues me. Did they really let the Spirit into their discernment? What does God's choosing look like? Maybe a good comparison of the kind of total outsider God chose in Paul with the total insider the disciples/apostles chose is a decent sermon.

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    2. Well, then there is the problem of basing that sermon on the argument that because he doesn't get mentioned he must not have done anything. I see that issue, don't anyone worry. I won't go there. Not sure I'm going anywhere here at all yet anyway, but I do like the question it's making me ask.

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    3. I don't at all think those two men didn't do anything. I prefer to think it doesn't matter if you are "listed" among the disciples. The point is that we *DO* something. I like to look at things in new ways because it makes me think about why I do the things I do, perhaps not at all aware of the reason.

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  2. Thanks Bonnie.
    a crisis situation happening at the moment - not about me, but as Minister I am involved in working through the situation - so my head is not in a good place for thinking about Sunday. we have elections and AGM on 27th, so I was wondering how this reading may speak into our process. not hard with one nomination for 3 places.
    try and get some work done in the next few hours before another meeting; tomorrow morning court with a person the church has been helping, then supervision - can I talk about the crisis, and nominating to a leadership position within the wider church and how to tell the congregation [I'll still be here, but a role which will take a little of their time] in an hour???.

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    1. Prayers for you and crisis to which you are attending.

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  3. We have confirmation this week, and the text we've chosen for that is the Emmaus Road story (it helps that we didn't use it earlier in Easter!). I'm not certain where I'm going with that just yet...I have to preach the early service, then the confirmands share their statements of faith as the sermon at the later services. If we end up at Friday night's lock-in with not enough material, I can always adapt the early service sermon to beef up the later service message. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

    I'm hours away from turning in the manuscript for my book, so I'll probably take a little while (half a day at least) to recover from that before I go writing the next thing. :-)

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  4. Alison-in-FranceMay 15, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    I find myself with a challenge for Sunday (self-inflicted...). I had a meeting with our 15-18 year olds on Saturday and asked if there was a theme or a text they'd like me to talk about.

    One girl shared her experience of just not liking herself very much, and wants me to tell her what God or the Bible has to say about that. This is quite a challenge for me, as I fought with those kinds of issues myself at her age (v bad self esteem, flirted with anorexia) and to some extent still do - so I know where she is coming from, but am nowhere close to having the answers all neatly worked out.

    The girl in question has very courageously offered to stand up in front of the congregation and share her question (which fundamentally comes down to "what does 'God loves you mean', when I don't think I'm lovable". So I think I have to meet her honesty with my own, which is leading me into a much more personal and risky sermon than I am in the habit of.

    Current plan is to open with an extract of Psalm 139 "I'm fearfully and wonderfully made" then say some like "yeah, right, as if..."

    I'll then talk about the woman with the hemmorage (Mark's version) (I think I'm on safe ground is assuming that she didn't like herself very much) and then I'll use the word "daughter" to link us over into Romans 8. Oh yeah, and there are bits of 1 John and Ephesians 1 that I also want to include.

    Still hesitating a bit over my choice of text - I don't want to alienate the men !

    I'm also just back from a conference where John Piper was one of the main speakers. Although I have problems with some of his theology (that may be a bit of an understatement) as a masterclass in preaching it was fantastic - I've come back both inspired and humbled about the whole thing...

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    1. I think last week's gospel speaks to God's loving us as we are--he calls us friends, he chooses us, we are made on purpose. Sometimes hard to accept, sometimes amazing. Acceptance of this, I suspect, is a big turning point for most of us. It was for me. I hope your teen gets there sooner than I did. . . .

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    2. I don't think you need to worry about alienating the men (although this is something I have been thinking about a LOT lately myself so I'm preaching to the choir - - a discussion for another day - Do men worry about the same when they preach?). I think the girl's ultimate question can relate to all people when we ask it in similar, but different words - - Why am I lovable? Am I lovable? (when I don't feel lovable, when I don't do lovable things, when I am not successful, when I don't look the way I wish I did, when my body isn't acting the way it should, the way I want it to)

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    3. Alison-in-FranceMay 15, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      This is exactly what I'm hoping Stephanie - but I still wonder if I'm really brave enough to talk about periods in the pulpit ! (After discussion with my husband, he figures that men suffer perhaps a bit less from body-related insecurities, but more from status-related.) In the same conversation, one of the guys shared that in his High School, basically the kids with status are the ones who deal the most drugs and have been arrested. Jail time is considered seriously cool. Same underlying issues, I suspect, different external symptoms.

      What I'm aiming to do Sunday is be a human being talking to other human beings about a meeting between Jesus and another human being. We'll see. I'm in the amazing situation of having a draft ready on Tuesday that almost wrote itself. I don't know yet if this is a good or bad sign.

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    4. I think that males body-related insecurities exist but are discussed differently. As someone who was a small, thin, decidedly non-athletic teen (and is as an adult still decidedly non-athletic) there was some sense of not being "right" for me. Mind you I had all sorts of other "not being right" issues at the same time so it is hard to sort one from the other. The feeling of not being right/acceptable/lovable/good enough knows no boundaries in my experience. It just shows up in different places in various livs

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    5. I see what you're talking about with the bleeding. When I've preached on that passage (a favorite of mine) I've talked about the woman with a hemorrhage as just that or said that she had been bleeding for TWELVE years. I've never expanded on it more than that, and I think people get it without having to be specific about periods or menstruation or whatever. I haven't been consciously squeamish about talking about something natural (and at the same time UNnatural), but maybe I have been unconsciously. Either way, I think the story can be told without going there specifically.

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    6. Alison-in-FranceMay 16, 2012 at 5:30 AM

      Thanks RevGord - I think I might just lift your last 2 sentences verbatim !

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  5. I love my secretary! "If it was good enough three years ago, it's good enough this week, right?"

    I'm so so so over Year B Easter. Wow. I have got to find an alternative plan next time it comes around. I am not only not feeling it, but I'm feeling bitter about it. Not sure what that's all about except I NEED more STORIES. Why didn't I act least jump into Acts this year?

    I do like my one from three years ago pretty well, though. I focused in on the part of the prayer that asks for protection. All that love and friendship talk and now Jesus is asking for protection for his followers? What is he getting them into? I talked about "Dangerous Love" that time.

    However, I used a sustainable sermon last week from that same love series. It sort of feels like cheating to do it again. I might use the basis of that one, though, for our alternative service Sunday night. The idea of anyway. We do a monthly ecumenical service that's supposed to be sort of millenial-focused. Not sure it really is though, but that's another story. I'll do dangerous love with them.

    I'm leaning toward Ascension for the usual Sunday service, but not strongly. I also thought about what nominations would look like if we cast lots. We had a much more intentional nominations process that I LOVED this year, so the lots sort of fly in the face of all that prayer and discernment.

    Still completely undecided. Can you tell?

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    1. I'm with you on the Easter B - I am SO done with John. I did look at Acts and decided there were too many of Peter's sermons and not enough of stories(even the stories that went with the sermons!).

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    2. That peek at Acts feels familiar. I did Acts all Easter last year or the year before and loved it, but couldn't do it this year for the same reason you mention.

      Decided today to go with the Acts story of the selection of Matthias. Bonnie's questions above really got me thinking more and more. With a transformation/mission study/vision process recently approved by our session and in our plans starting this summer, I can tie in an announcement of this with a sermon on authentic discernment.

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  6. I continue in my off-lectionary Stewardship series this week. THe sermon title for the week is "Money, Money, Money" and the intent is to talk about our relationship with money. I am pondering using ABBA as the lead in for the sermon....

    My early thoughts are here

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  7. Doing Easter 7B here-- Bonnie, your observation about the process of choosing is helpful. There's some implicit tension between the disciples' discussion, the use of prayer, and the casting of lots, as if they don't really trust themselves OR God to make this decision.
    In a lectionary study this morning, we talked about the lives of Justus & Matthias after the decision. Surely, neither could escape the experience of being "witness to resurrection," whether chosen and recognized for that work or not. How were their respective lives coloured by that experience? What is it like to witness as an amatuer rather than a professional?

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    1. Since these men were witnesses with the disciples, these were already "chosen," whether or not they were ever recognized for their work. I think "professionals" are simply ones who have been prepared to speak in front of the others who are also ministers. By going to seminary and being ordained, I have a particular job within the church, but I'm not the only one who ministers. In the case of Jusstus and Maatthias, who were witnesses to Jesus, they were not exactly amatuers. They simply needed to share what they had seen and heard and experienced, like the rest of us.

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  8. I think I'm going with the Ascension texts - maybe a 2-part series with Ascension/commissioning this week and Pentecost/empowering next week. I miss the ascension texts, and in my initial read I thought they made a nice season wrap-up - review of what these last seven weeks of Easter have been about, how the disciples needed time to learn/live into the resurrection before Jesus sends them out. I'd need to talk about how Pentecost day sets us up for the long 'ordinary' season of growing and bearing fruit.

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  9. Anyone have any of those children's time/family service ideas floating around? I am absolutely uninspired for this week and in need of help!

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    1. For the children's message I'm doing the last discourse as graduation/end of year prayer--
      keep them safe, let them have learned enough, they have to go out and do the work themselves now...
      tied in with we all need to keep on learning, growing, stretching regardless of our age
      Sorry to be answering so late!

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  10. I'm preaching Ascension this week, which I have never done before, so that means I get to jump off from this great video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHRWycx6q3A for the first time. It would make a great starting point for children's time, too.

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    1. Thanks! I found it to be a good starting place as I start my sermon prep!

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    2. Thanks, Liddy. Even though I'm not preaching on the Ascension this Sunday (I'm a guest preacher, off lectionary), I think this is a brilliant video on the Ascension.

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    3. I was thinking about Mary Poppins this week, too, but couldn't figure out how it would fit...

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  11. I don't know where I got this from. a story on Ascension.
    here

    I am undecided at the moment. probably the Acts reading - how do we make choices, though I do like this story and Liddy's Mary Poppins video

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    1. What a great story! Heaven meets earth - that's what both the incarnation and ascension are about. My imagination is fired and the creative juices are flowing - Thanks for sharing!

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  12. My church has already heard me preach on my favorite Ascension theme: that it takes more faith to leave a community than it does to stay. As long as we are with our loved ones, we have the chance to re-visit issues and be sure they understand our values, and commitments. When they go off-track, we can teach new ways to get back on track again. But to leave means that we have to trust that folk have heard and understood and will continue to honor what we stand for, even in our absence. (Think: parent, watching children/youth/young adults grow and make their own choices.) The faith I have in Jesus may waiver from time to time, but that never stops Jesus (and the God of Jesus) from having faith in ME!

    This time, I believe I will concentrate on strategies to help faith communities deal with ecclesiastical and theological crises that we find in choosing a replacement for Judas. I'm amazed that even with flawed theological arguments and incomplete understandings of scripture (and who doesn't have those!?) the community was STILL open to God's leadings.

    And I am very aware of the importance of keeping lines of communication open during such transitions. Those earliest followers of The Way always seemed to be praying, didn't they?

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  13. My church has already heard me preach on my favorite Ascension theme: that it takes more faith to leave a community than it does to stay. As long as we are with our loved ones, we have the chance to re-visit issues and be sure they understand our values, and commitments. When they go off-track, we can teach new ways to get back on track again. But to leave means that we have to trust that folk have heard and understood and will continue to honor what we stand for, even in our absence. (Think: parent, watching children/youth/young adults grow and make their own choices.) The faith I have in Jesus may waiver from time to time, but that never stops Jesus (and the God of Jesus) from having faith in ME!

    This time, I believe I will concentrate on strategies to help faith communities deal with ecclesiastical and theological crises that we find in choosing a replacement for Judas. I'm amazed that even with flawed theological arguments and incomplete understandings of scripture (and who doesn't have those!?) the community was STILL open to God's leadings.

    And I am very aware of the importance of keeping lines of communication open during such transitions. Those earliest followers of The Way always seemed to be praying, didn't they?

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  14. Doing Easter 7B, talking about God's choice (those dice!) and how ordinary Matthias was as a replacement apostles, and how we all are replacement apostles of one sort or another, and God still chooses us and uses us even when we don't think we have anything to offer...tying it to Sunday School recognition Sunday as a way to invite everyone to help out. Sort of clunky, but maybe it will work.

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    1. I like your idea that "we all are replacement apostles of one sort or another."

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