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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings~~V* word edition

As we prepare for the coming week's sermon, let us begin with prayer:
Companion in life an death,
your love is steadfast and never ends;
our weeping may linger with night,
but you give joy in the morning.
Touch us with your healing grace
that, restored to wholeness,
we may live out our calling as your resurrection people. Amen.



This week's readings  follow closely on last Sunday's. Our reading from 2 Samuel continues the complicated story of David as we hear his lament over the death of Saul, a lament that is echoed in the cry of Psalm 130. Alternatively, readings from the Wisdom of Solomon and Lamentations offer  comforting and reassuring words of hope to those for whom hope may seem out of reach, whether in the days of the Babylonian captivity or now.

We rejoin Jesus on the other side of the sea where the crowds once again gather around him and he is met by Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, who implores him to come quickly to the bedside of his daughter who is dying. Jesus goes with Jairus, but on his way he is touched by the hemorrhaging woman and is waylaid as he stops to speak with her. Meanwhile, the sick girl dies and when Jesus finally arrives he is met by professional mourners, whom he dismisses as he enters and says to the girl, "Talitha cum." This passage from Mark is rich with possibilities;  our own Wil Gafney has challenged us to tackle the "unspeakable" head on and actually use the v-word (vagina) in our sermons.  Are we up for that? Or will we take this story in another direction?



Join us for the discussion--questions, ideas, ponderings, inspiration, poems, thoughts for children all are welcome. 



(And SORRY for the late posting!) 

19 comments:

  1. I'm taken with the notion that Jesus heals both someone who is a part of the "acceptable" people (Jairus, a religious leader who also understands Jesus and who is held in high respect by his community) and this hemorrhaging woman, who would have been ritually unclean and thus "unacceptable." How does Jesus choose, and what does it mean to us today when some folks say that only those who pray the right way or believe the right way get the gift of God's intervention or healing? Obviously it isn't about how the world sees you. What does Jesus see or do or (more intriguingly) need to decide in favor of healing? And yes, I'm going to talk about menstruation and vaginas and all that, y'all.

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  2. I am continuing my exploration of the David saga. This week I am interrupting the lectionary flow (using this week's passage about the death of Saul next week) and using the story of Abigail and Nabal. Not terribly sure which direction I will go with it as yet, but my early thoughts are here

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  3. I think I'm going to talk about grief. Or maybe I just need to think and write about grief until I'm ready to write about something else! Every year in our international congregation about 30% of members leave permanently, mostly due to relocation! I've been talking a lot lately to people about grief: the obvious ones: death, separation from friends and community and all the other ones: the grief about a past that wasn't better than it was; the things we wished we'd done better or differently in our time living in this city; the things we don't know any more about our home communities and the people we love... All that stuff. I'm thinking of talking about the 2nd Samuel reading and the Psalm but also wondering about the griefs of both healing stories... What would it have been like to lose 12 years to a haemorrhage? (I think that's a problematic way to frame things but I'm thinking about it nonetheless).

    I'm personally finding this leaving season really difficult as people who I have loved and worked with and who have also offered generous love and care to me and my co-pastor husband in some really difficult health-related circumstances are leaving/have left. So I'm trying to check whether this is the sermon I need to preach to myself before I can speak a good word to this community or whether the griefs of expatriate life might be helpfully named and God's faithfulness and grace proclaimed in response.

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  4. I am going backwards and picking up the Mark text about the sower and pair that with Psalm 92. So...excuse me while I jump back to the Lectionary Leanings from two weeks ago.

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  5. I absolutely love Wil's piece about honestly naming what is -- bleeding from the vagina -- as something natural. And as one who once had uterine polyps that caused a similar condition I have great empathy for this woman. My elderly congregation, however, would probably keel over if I dared to say vagina from the pulpit--or anywhere else in their hearing.

    I am moved by the readings from the Wisdom of Solomon and Lamentations; not sure if that's where I'll end up. The Episcopal version of the RCL allows for using Lamentations instead of the psalm, and we will be doing that.

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    1. I hear you. So how do you go about that "honesty" when your pastoral discernment is that you can't say the v-word in your context?

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  6. There are a lot of misunderstandings about ritual purity and its role in Jewish life. Amy-Jell Levine and Marc Brettler edited a collection of Jewish scholars commenting on the NT from Jewish perspectives. The Annotated Jewish NT is essential for texts like this. There are notes on the passages and a collection of essays. From one, Common Errors Made About Early Judaism by Amy Jill Levine"
    "...many sermons claim, incorrectly, that by touching a woman suffering from hemorrhages and a corpse Jesus violates purity laws or social taboos. First, Jesus does not touch the woman; she touches him. Second, hands do not convey menstrual impurity. The point of the healing is that Jesus restores a woman to health (and to ritual purity), not that in purity, which is a natural part of the world water, is evil. Regarding the corpse: again, no law forbids touching a corpse; although courts is conveyed serious ritual impurity, being in a ritually impure state is not prohibited unless one is going to the temple. In fact, attending to a corpse is an important mitzvah (commandment) in the book of Tobit, in rabbinic literature, and in the New Testament, as we see for example, when the disciples of John the Baptist clean their teachers body, when Joseph of Arimathea claims Jesus's body, and when the women visit the tomb.
    Women who have just given birth are ritually in Coor, but Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, we're not marginalize or demeaned following parturition. Ritual purity along with Sabbath observance, avoiding certain foods such as port, making sure meet was slaughtered in an appropriate manner, and tithing certain agricultural products also help Jews resist assimilation, served as a sign of Jewish identity, help support the poor, and otherwise reminded them that they were Israel, the covenant community."
    [I have omitted all of the biblical citations in the quote. - WG]

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  7. Amy-Jill Levine! Matthew Wills who comments on the Markan account (AJ does Luke) also points out that since they were in a village, not Jerusalem where the temple was, her impurity could have been irrelevant. Again the emphasis is on illness and restoration to health.

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    1. I don't know if you'll check back here, Wil, but this has been incredibly helpful to my thinking this week. I think it's easier, in many senses, for us to focus on the ritual impurity. That allows us to distance ourselves, since our culture is so different. But then we can avoid the more difficult question of healing and health, and how/why some are healed and some aren't. Thank you so much for pointing me in this direction.

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  8. Thanks, Wil. I always appreciate your insights, and I love the Annotated Jewish NT (for the ebook lovers among us, it's available in the Kindle store!)

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    1. Love my Kindle, but don't like serious books on it.

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  10. Still in (guess what?) Corinthians. Actually looking forward to it this week. The gospel is one of those that I don't really like to preach on because it's such an incredibly beautiful and, to my mind, perfect story all by itself. I just want to go - "got that? no? ok, let's read it again..." We did spend some time on it with my Monday Bible Study at the church and they loved the the Midrash I'm pretty sure I got from a revgal that the bleeding woman was the mother of the little girl.

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  11. Alison-in-FranceJune 27, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    I preached on the bleeding woman a few weeks back, in reply to a teen who wanted a sermon that said something relevant to the fact that she dislikes her body. I figured it was as safe bet that (whatever else was going on) this woman probably disliked her body. And although Jesus doesn't initiate the touch, he does accept it and publically "own" it. I would have liked (another time I will do it) to more of a parallel or intertwined reading with the woman and the girl. But it didn't work for what I was trying to do that day.

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  12. I, too, will be preaching on grief; it is my final sermon at my church - the church I have attended all my married life, well over half my life; the church where my daughter was baptised and confirmed; the church that I have called "home" for over 33 years, which closes in 3 weeks time. There is nothing else *to* preach about except grief, and resurrection, and hope.....

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    1. That's a big grief. Hope you find the words you need...

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  13. I love the discussion on the woman who bleeds and whether to name where she bleeds from -- vagina. I can't help but think of being a woman to two little boys (now 4 and 6) and teaching them the correct words for "private parts" especially when they noticed that Mommy is different from everyone else in the household (no lock on our bathroom). Then, my son when he was 2-1/2 would not say vagina, but "icky 'gina." I can't help but think that's what society thinks when we try to call a body part by its correct name! How does this add to or take away from the healing story? Is it needed or is it too much of a distraction? Is it more about myself as a female preacher to want to say the word vagina from the pulpit if it does not add to the message? Random thoughts from me. . .

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  14. I think I am going to go with Lamentations, in part because I like the honesty of the entire book. Putting the reading into context is a big part of the sermon. I want to tell people it is okay to be angry with God and that God doesn't always answer us when we want God to. I want them to know that others have raged and doubted and hung onto a few threads of faith.

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  15. The congregation I serve has experienced 'interruptions' in the last 2 months. We are now sharing space with another congregation and a day care. I am going to preach on the grace and possibilities of interruptions a la Jesus.

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