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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Lectionary Leanings~~Through the eye of the needle edition

There's nothing like a Monday holiday (Thanksgiving for our Canadian friends, and Columbus Day/Native American Day in the US) to make Tuesday feel like it's come way too soon, but here we are, looking towards the next sermon (didn't we just do one?!) As we begin our ponderings, let us pause for prayer:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  Collect for Proper 23

Our first OT choice comes from one of my favorite prophets, Amos.  "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate..."   The dresser of Sycamore trees is, as always, unsparing in his indictment of those who trample the poor and his call for justice. Apt words for our times?

If you're not feeling prophetic, you may be following the saga of Job begun last week. This week's selection finds Job still on the ash heap but now hurling bitter cries against God. If you are following Job I commend to you these notes on doing a preaching series on Job.  Even though I only did one week on Job, I found them to be extraordinarily helpful.

Our NT reading from Hebrews begins with these sharp words (pun intended): The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. I don't think I've ever preached on Hebrews, but that is certainly a text worth tackling; how does the word of God cut into our lives today?

And perhaps just in time for the stewardship season, our gospel finds Jesus in conversation with the rich (and pious) young man who is told to give up all his wealth. Um, yeah.

So where are you headed this week, preachers?  How are these reading speaking to you? Or are you off lectionary, doing stewardship, or following another theme? Share your ideas, questions, inspirations or whatever you've got!

Readings found here


  1. Are any other RevGals following the Narrative Lectionary? This is my first year, I like it so far. This week we're looking at Hannah, though the pericope is titled "Samuel." Some lingering sexism? Or just a way to look at the big picture? I like Hannah's faithfulness, though as a childless perimenopausal breast cancer survivor, I have very mixed feelings about children being her whole goal in life. I know, different culture, different time. I'll probably jump off the justice angle, talk about the ways God lifts up the lowly among us.

    1. PrJoolie, I remember preaching on the Hannah story a few months after starting in this placement, most people knew I didn't have children, but it was a chance to speak about the way society expects women, or married couples, to have children.
      this story for me is about God bringing about something new.

    2. I'm in the Narrative Lectionary, too, and seem to be most drawn to the description of Hannah's first prayer as "pouring out her soul." I think it fits both her her prayers actually. I'm thinking of working with this idea more than the childlessness issue.

      I'm not sure, though, how prayer works is something I've been struggling with myself lately, not because of "unanswered" prayers, but because the idea of God picking and choosing prayers to answer the pressure and guilt that puts on some (If I just prayer harder/I didn't pray enough, If more people were praying about this God would hear....) just doesn't make sense to me.

      However, prayer as pouring out our souls, laying it all out for us and for God to see... that is interesting to me.

      Then I get back to struggling with the idea that God chooses to "grant" some prayers and not others and I'm back to struggling. I guess I've been thinking and wondering and maybe changing my own beliefs about God who intervenes in what feels like random ways. I don't struggle with the intervening part as much as the flip side. If God does intervene sometimes, does that mean God is choosing NOT to intervene others? If that's the case why do some longings and deep desires get more attention than others? Oh boy. I'm having a hard time landing somewhere with this one. Maybe it's too much of my issue to be a subject of a sermon yet.

    3. I struggle mightily with the whole "does God choose to intervene sometimes and not others" issue. When I was doing CPE I read a book on prayer written from the perspective of process theology that was really helpful....I don't see it here right now so it must be on my bookshelf at home. I'll try to post the title later. Might be time for me to reread it, too.

    4. Thanks for this great discussion! Very helpful as I process the passages assigned by this new-to-me lectionary. Love the comment about something being too much of a me-issue to be a sermon yet... I often think my best sermons are the most personal, when a passage really resonates with me, but agree that I need to be in a place of contentment or peace, not struggle, with the issue. I feel like I preach about prayer a lot, but perhaps Hannah provides a new angle.

  2. going with Mark, and thinking about what we value most.

  3. Wow, quiet here today! Where is everyone?

    I am off lectionary which is quite unusual for me but I'm starting four weeks of stewardship sermons. Never done anything like that and it makes me GLAD I am a lectionary preacher b/c selecting texts has been excruciating. Or maybe it's just me. Anywho,

    I am preaching on Isaiah 40:12-31 and James' Weldon Johnson's "Creation" (instead of Genesis) and the general theme of what it means to be stewards of God's creation. Wish me luck. Stewardship is a hard sell in congregation. We've been about developing a solid theology of stewardship for three years now and I'm not sure it's even started to take hold yet.

    1. Love the James Weldon Johnson poem. You could use Lift Every Voice and Sing as the sermon hymn, he wrote those lyrics. Good for you for addressing stewardship, yes it's a hard sell, we struggle with it too, but you have to talk about the hard stuff. As you know.

  4. I'm preaching Mark with some trepidation. It's hard to not talk about money and giving with this passage,and I've been told several times by both congregations that if I talk about money from the pulpit, people will leave (it's happened in the past). Of course that means we need to talk about it!

    I'm most drawn to the 'one thing missing' - what is that one thing for us that we lack, that gets in the way of our relationship with God and others. I've just read Shane Clairborn's "Irresistible Revolution" and it's call to radical discipleship.

    I'm also noodling around something I read yesterday (don't remember the site, but it was on textweek) about how Jesus' listeners would have heard this very differently than we do. We who are living in an affluent culture hear this as a hard text, but those who are poor hear this has good news.

    I'm still processing - no telling where my sermon will go.

    1. Wow, if you talk about money from the pulpit they'll leave?! Perhaps you might remind them that money was Jesus' favorite (or at least most frequent) topic!

      I thought about the "one thing" we're missing, too. Like that line of thought.

    2. Seriously - it actually happened to a pastor before me. I thought of starting the sermon with a gentle reminder (maybe using a bit of humor) that Jesus is concerned about how we use our wealth, but the bigger issue is what that one thing is.

  5. When I taught English I would have my students write a paper on the three things that they would take with them on a deserted island for their life. Most of the students would fight the grammar and use collective nouns that used singular verbs...great creativity...and I would give it to them...and they would use things like family, student body, etc...most chose relationships. While other students chose materialistic items (walkman ...sign of the times!...computers, etc). What I guess I was thinking is that maybe what was missing was the priority of the relational aspect of humility, that we are stewards and also the importance that we are connected living entities, brothers and sisters in Christ...relational imago dei


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