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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings~~Can I do that on Sunday? edition

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

I'm getting ready for the second part of my vacation (time with family--hurrah!) so my mind is firmly fixed on "summer" but the brisk weather of the last few days reminds me that fall is just around the corner. Many of us are knee deep in preparations for the start-up of fall activities, but we still have those sermons to prepare. Do you know where you're headed for this week, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost?

For those of us following the RCL (readings here) we have a choice between two prophets for our first reading. We hear the story of the call of the prophet Jeremiah. This passage is evocative, both in the way God says,  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you," and in the way Jeremiah responds to God's call and is reassured --haven't many of us experienced something like this? The alternative reading comes from Isaiah, so-called 'third Isaiah' this time, in which the prophet speaks to a post-exilic community, admonishing a people struggling to rebuild their vanquished city to remember their obligations to care for others and to honor God sincerely and promising God's blessings if they do so.

The new testament reading comes once again from the letter to the Hebrews and like the reading from Isaiah, both admonishes its hearer to remember their duty to God and encourages them on their way, reminding them that , "indeed, our God is a consuming fire."

In our gospel reading we continue to follow Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. It's the Sabbath and we find him teaching once again in a synagogue, where he encounters a woman bent over and unable to stand straight. When he heals this woman, the authorities call him out for breaking the Sabbath; Jesus responds, justifying his action and reminding us that our traditions can become hindrances when we adhere to them too strictly or for the wrong reasons.

Are you hearing God's words speaking to you yet? Feeling pulled in one direction or another? Finishing up a summer series? Wherever you're head, wherever you're floundering for that matter, join the discussion! We need each other!


  1. Current thought process is to focus upon the Luke text. Having just done a wee series on 'faith' based on Hebrews over the last 3 weeks, and finishing up last week with running the race as God's everyday saints/ God not calling superheroes, the Luke passage is looking like a good way of linking up faith with action. Wondering about dividing the sermon into 3 smaller sections over the body of the service: 'Him', 'Her', 'Us'.
    1st I'll write a reflection from the point of view of the guy in the synagogue: trying to paint him in a sympathetic light - he is, after all, only doing what is expected... will reflect on Sabbath rest as a reminder that for the Israelites, it is linked in with being liberated from bondage in Egypt.
    2nd reflection I'm thinking of writing will be from the pov of woman who is healed - from a life spent looking down at the sidewalk to a life where she can stand up tall, freed from the burden, and look into the eyes of others, and look up to the stars [might riff on Abraham's descendants being numerous as stars... she can now see them]
    3rd section will pull both reflections together, talking on tension between rules that are made to help becoming rules that bind... tension between that and grace/ compassion... where do our eyes focus - what are we seeing? The rules? Others? And think about the word Jesus uses - she is 'free' - what is it to be free, what stops us as God's everyday saints from being free/ how do we burden others or free them to hear and experience God's good news? And think a little on matters of social justice in this context.
    So, that's my random ramblings at this point in the week :)

    1. Your "random ramblings" are very helpful! I like your three sections idea. Thank you!

    2. I like the 3 points of view idea. Thanks for sharing.

    3. I like this a lot. Thanks for the insights. You might also contrast freedom with the bent-over posture, which seems to me to be the posture of bondage. I imagine a slave literally bent over to carry some heavy load.

    4. Yes, I like the posture thought there Heather :)

  2. The gospel text from the RCL is one of those NT Sabbath discussions that can sometimes lead us to assert and affirm a lot of dubious stuff about the nature of first century Judaism and Jesus' opposition to its supposed "rules" and the binding and burdening of people, especially women. Before we go there, it might be important to remind ourselves that we are reading the story through two lenses--the evangelist's post-Temple agendas regarding the status of the church vs the synagogue, and our own 21st century 'progressive' hobby horses about oppression and liberation--both of which sometimes lead us to oppose Jesus to his own Jewishness unnecessarily (and maybe untruthfully). I have found Amy-Jill Levine helpful on these things, especially the first chapter of The Misunderstood Jew, "Jesus and Judaism." To oppose law and grace in this text may not be the way to go, or at least it may too easily play into our own biases, and maybe even cement in our listeners' heads some mistaken notions about the nature of the law itself and the way it was experienced, observed, treated in the first century. Just a thought, just a suggestion.

    1. absolutely Mary. For me, it isn't necessarily an 'opposition' but rather the tension between law and grace that I personally find worth pondering.
      I think Jesus' teaching on divorce would be a good case in point re. his adherence to - and beyond - the law... spirit of the law/ letter of the law.
      Good thoughts and worth thinking some more on however, Mary.

    2. Mary, thanks for those helpful words. I heard Amy-Jill speak on this topic a few months ago and had to (mentally) take back a lot of sermons from earlier in my preaching career. I just ordered the book.

  3. I'll preach Luke. Might also read the Isa 58 passage.
    What I've noticed in the Luke text so far is that the woman can only look down. Can only see her feet right in front of her.

    Jesus heals her (not at her request--maybe she was okay with her view?) and she can look up, look ahead, and have a bigger perspective.

  4. I'm preaching the Luke passage, at two different pulpit supply congregations. One will be my farewell, as they are calling a new pastor. I'm not sure if that will make it in the sermon or not.

    My title is "Be Set Free," as I was caught by that "free," too. Wondering how the woman, and the synagogue leaders, and maybe the rest of the congregation, were set free. Maybe how Jesus himself was? Just noodling there. And how are we set free, what do we need to be set free from, what do we need to be restrained from. Much to ponder.

  5. I am not preaching this weekend (church camp out). But I remember what I did 3 years ago....

    My thought is that we ALL have something that bends us down. SOmetimes temporarily, sometimes for years. ANd so there is a time when we all need to be reminded to Stand Up Straight.

    I also suspect that sometimes we don't even know we are being bent over, or that freedom is possible. WE just assume that "life's like that".

  6. I am also ruminating on Luke. The woman bent double who stands up and praises God is one of my heroes and "totems" (wrong word, but I hope you understand) these days.

    Pope Francis recently gave one of his daily homilies on this passage. His take, and criticism, of the woman, was that she was turned in on her self, bent double in a narcissistic (my interpretation of the Pope's words)way. That really caught my eye, and not in a good way!

    I take it rather as many of the Rev Gals and Pals have, as a kind of bondage or submission to "the power over." And so it strikes me to ruminate further on interpreting another's "bent over" status. And to point out where we see others bent over, when others do not see.

  7. I'm a week behind all of you and will look back at last week's discussion in a minute, but my reason is this: I've never been in a church with so many actual bent over women. Their medical diagnoses range from osteopororis to degenerative disk disease. I have to confess that I've never taken this passage literally before. I don't deny the possibility that Jesus saw a woman bent over and healed her, but I've always had the freedom to be metaphorical. Here it becomes more of a story about healing that we want but can't get or haven't received, and that feels touchy for a sabbatical pastor on her way out the door.
    So I'll be turning the page back to Jesus and his desire to set things ablaze. This church is celebrating its 150th anniversary, so I'll be posing the question, what are you on fire for in the next age of the church? It's a leadership UCC church in this conference, the first to be ONA among other things, but Jesus doesn't call us to sit back and enjoy what we already did. Something like that. Sermon title: "This Girl is On Fire."

    1. And to clarify, I'm a week behind because we had an off-lectionary guest preacher this past Sunday, talking about the church's 150 years.


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