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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings~~Figs, justice and grace/better late than never edition*

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Collect for theThird Sunday in Lent Book of Common Prayer

We're approaching the midpoint of Lent, and the lectionary brings us increasingly challenging texts. Or so it seems anyway.  Our OT reading comes from the end of the section of Isaiah commonly referred to as "Second Isaiah," inviting the exiles to uproot themselves and return to their homeland. Commentator Patricia Hull at Working Preacher suggests with reading's emphasis on nutriion, preachers might consider  the economics of food and water today. In the NT reading from his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds his audience not only to follow his example but also to learn from the mistakes of their ancestors and avoid idolatry, a great opening for us to consider what 21st century idols lure us away from God. 

In this week's gospel, Jesus uses the stories of two accidents to remind his followers that human suffering is not related to human virture or the lack thereof--it is not divine punishment for sin. Nonetheless, those who fail to repent are placing themselves in peril. The parable of the fig tree, which closes out this reading, offers a reminder of God's ever present grace, available for all of us.

Tough texts, preachers. Where are they calling you, half way through Lent? Do you have questions? Insights? Thoughts for a children's message? Join in the conversation and let us know where these readings (or otthers) are taking you.


*So sorry for the late posting; I am out of town at a workshop without my laptop, and fatigue conspired with my iPad to keep me from getting this up last night, and this is the first time I've had a chance today!

12 comments:

  1. I am actually swapping this week's and next week's readings, so this Sunday I'm reading about the people crossing into the promised land and celebrating the passover (Joshua) and the prodigal...working on a theme of "being rooted in the rituals of our faith tradition"--so why do we have these rituals, and why is it important to participate in them?
    Next week I'll be back to pick up all the wisdom of those of you who deal with nurturing the fig tree and Isaiah 55...I can't wait. Isaiah 55 is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible.

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  2. I am preaching Isaiah for this week's spiritual practice of Practicing Thirst, and 2/3 of my bulletin insert on spiritual practices (had to be finished today for the secretary) is about becoming aware of the lack of clean water as a world issue. I emailed it in, all the while wondering how I was going to merge that with the practice of being thirsty for God -- and then I found Patricia Hull's commentary -- so helpful!

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  3. ??? Two of my commentaries have Isaiah, but RCL says Exodus - Moses & burning bush
    ~~bythesea

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  4. Textweek has Exodus down for RC and Episcopal churches.

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  5. We're leading up to Easter in March with a theme focusing on the "Persecuted Church" proposed by the NGO Open Doors. (During Holy Week we're going to open our building with an exhibition on the subject, and will also have an evening conference on Religious Freedom - a hot topic in France.)

    To kick this off, I'm leading an all-age service on Sunday, using materials proposed by Open Doors around Jesus calming the storm. The children have been working on a mimed reading of the text. I'm doing 2 short talks (5 minutes on Jesus' authority over nature as a clue to his identity and then 15 minutes on the idea that following Jesus can actually get us into a whole heap of trouble). "Health and wealth" style teaching is an ongoing current where I am, and has influenced some members of the congregation so it might be a bit of a controversial topic for some...

    It all seems very clear in my head - but less so when I try to get it onto paper so far ! I'd also really like to do this one with notes rather than a full manuscript - we'll see if I feel brave enough !

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    1. just to add I usually comment as "Alison-in-France"

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  6. I took a short shower this morning so I didn't have a lot of sermon thinking time. But you have just given me the lead I needed for this week. It's the collect line about not having power within ourselves and the story of the fig tree. Without the intervention and care of the gardener, the fig tree would have been toast! And so are we without God. Thanks very much!!!
    BTW, we always follow the RCL and haven't had any of the Isaiah readings. Not sure what's up with that.

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  7. I've decided to wade into the waters of what we've been reading and hearing in regards to God's response to Sin...Does God choose to cut us down (punish us) because of our sins, or does God choose, instead, to fertilize us and help us grow and become fruitful...are the bad things that we have in our lives punishment for sin, or the natural consequence for "buying that which is not bread"?
    Difficult? Yes...but, especially as we hear, more and more, people claiming that the bad things that happen are God's punishment to us, I think it's a conversation that we *need* to have...

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  8. Thanks Leanne...I may use your prompt!

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  9. Wow. I didn't get to the texts until today. I think with such a difficult gospel, that is where i need to go. I'm thinking about walking the tension in the reading itself. reptance vs. grace (vs. maybe not) how about "reptenance and grace". They don't negate one another. The parable of the rig tree doesn't undo the need for repentance. The need for (immediate?) repentance does not mean jdugment is stronger than grace.

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  10. Tough RCL gospel text for this Sunday. For what it's worth, I just posted my take on it over at www.sicutlocutusest, "Who's to Blame?"

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    1. Wow, sicutlocutusest, your take is fertile and beautifully written. Thanks very much.

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