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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings~~Bringing fire to the earth edition

God of all the nations,
you rescued your people out of the Red Sea
and delivered Rahab from battle;
you rescue the lowly and needy from injustice and tribulation.
Surround us with so great a cloud of witnesses
that we may have faith to live by your word in our time,
courage to persevere in the race set before us,
and endurance in the time of trial. Amen.

It's that time of year: for some vacations are in full swing and for others the school year is beginning. And in the RCL, the readings are full of division and discord, warnings and judgment, interwoven with notes of faith and hope. Is this enough to get your preaching juices going?

We begin with a reading from the prophet Isaiah, who uses the analogy of a carefully planted and tended vineyard nonetheless producing wild grapes to describe what God has in store for God's chosen people if they don't mend their ways.The other OT choice comes from Jeremiah, who warns against prophets who preach word they were not commissioned to speak. Is not my [true} word like fire God asks. 

The gospel passage promises fire as well as Jesus announces that he comes to bring not peace but division, setting families one against another. The NT reading from the letter to the Hebrews provides the most hopeful note, as Paul continues to rehearse God's mighty acts of salvation in response to faith. 

These are not easy readings; how do you handle Jesus' hard sayings? Where do you find the Good News? Are you leaving these readings aside for the narrative lectionary or a summer series? Join the discussion and let us know where the Word is beckoning this week-- and if inspiration is yet to hit, join in anyway. Often one preacher's questions become another  preacher's fodder. 


  1. First, I don't think I've ever introduced myself here. I'm a 60-year-old PC(USA) pastor four years into her first ordained call in a resort/retirement area of Ohio on Lake Erie. Hello to Wil and Heidi, whom I knew when studying at LTSP (Lutheran, Philadelphia).

    That said, I'm starting this week by looking at a sustainable sermon from three years ago, which I called "Jesus: Pacifier or Passer of Fire?" A couple of points I'm looking at again: (1) there's no promise that a life of faith will be easy -- putting faith ahead of other parts of our lives will cause dissension; and (2) fire is destructive but also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. I'm also planning to have us sing John Bell's "First Born of Mary":
    First born of Mary, provocative preacher,
    itinerant teacher, outsiders' choice;
    Jesus inspires and disarms and confuses
    whoever he chooses to hear his voice.

  2. How do I handle Jesus' hard sayings? Two words: run away! :D

    Actually, I've inadvertently found myself doing a 3 sermon series on faith [inadvertent, as I had not been down to do 3 in a row in the original preaching plan]. Having discussed 'who' we put our faith in, followed by 'the opposite of faith is proof', this week we'll move to a theme of following in the footsteps of faith... and that 'running the race' is less an individual pursuit and more like a relay...the generations who have gone before us passing on the baton of faith - the communion of saints, and that we live out our faith in community
    There's also the delicious thought of us as guid Scots Presbyterians pondering saints: my old friend John Knox would be blanching in his grave.
    Currently thinking about how I might explore that lovely Oscar Wilde quote 'every saint has a past, and every sinner a future'... also thinking about us as God's 'everyday' saints.
    Might use this clip from 'Chariots of Fire' but not sure yet:

    The organist is going to play 'When the saints' as a recessional :D

    However, before any of that wends its way into a sermon, a funeral to sort out first.

  3. THree years ago I preached ON Jesus Family Values and used the hard sayings...Here are my early thoughts from that week

    This year I am going with Isaiah. Whereas Isaiah sees the vineyard going wild solely as punishment, there is a part of me which wonders if it might be part of how we go forward? Do we need to embrace the wildness, the breaking down of "decency and good order", as part of being faithful to where God is calling/pulling/leading us? My title is Renewing the Vineyard

    1. RevGord-- that puts me in mind of G.M.Hopkins' poem, the one that ends, "let them be left, o let them be left; long live the weeds and wilderness yet!" There's a tremendous book-length reflection on the relationship of people to The Wild/wildness/wilderness (perhaps not easily acquired, but a great read once you can get it). It's a series of interviews with people in a wide range of disciplines, called "Listening to the Land." Editor's name is Derrick Jensen and I think it was published by Sierra Club Books. I heartily recommend it.

  4. I'm thinking about the 50th anniversary, this month, of the March On Washington. Trying to tie together the readings from Hebrews & Luke... something about faith and fiery trials in the early church, in the 1960s, and now. Maybe something, too, about the way weather lore is passed on from one generation to the next, and how we need to re-connect with the wisdom and witness of our ancestors in the Early Church and the struggle for Civil Rights, so that we can gain wisdom and strength to face the weather of our time.


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