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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Heart Burn Edition

At our house we are not strict about much, but we pretty much will only watch or listen to Jesus Christ Superstar during the 40 days of Lent. However, long after the season has passed, the music still bumps around in my brain. So the song I'm thinking of right now, when I read about Jesus appearing to these "nobodies on the road to nowhere"* is this one:
Why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?
If You'd come today, You could have reached a whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.
Dont get me wrong...
I only want to know...
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Who are you, what have you sacrificed?
There are so many things to love about the Emmaus road story, but this might be my favorite - that Jesus makes the biggest impression coming to us in ways that haven't changed much in all this time.. A chance encounter. A small conversation between a few people. A meal at someone's house. A word of truth spoken at just the right time. No mass communication for Our Risen Savior

On the other hand, mass communication certainly has its uses, and I'm guessing most of us have spent some time in front of some kind of screen this week, as dramatic world events have unfolded. A man in the mountains of Pakistan tweets about the unusual noises he's hearing late at night. A president's words are broadcast around the world instantly on television. And before he even finishes speaking, the internet commentary begins.

So, preachers, what method of communication are you using this week? As always, when one story seems to take over the collective conscious, we preachers will be wrestling with how the Word meets the world, no matter the scripture we choose. Let us know where you're headed, in the comments.

Links to this week's readings here. First image you get if you Google Emmaus Road, found here.

*Hat tip to Debbie Blue. You can find more from her over here in a sermon I wrote for a contest a couple of years ago.


  1. Hi all. This question is primarily directed at the American preachers here. Others should feel free to join in on the question as well.

    I'm wondering how/if you'll be addressing the issue of Osama Bin Laden's death from the pulpit or in the liturgy?

    The fact that Christ is found in the places we least expect has really been nagging on me lately. I'm not there yet, but I feel like there is something to be mined from this in relation to the OBL issue.



  2. At this point, I have no idea. I've been away for a week, and I need to take the temperature of the community on this matter. That's not to say I'll be making a "safe" choice, but trying to determine where the Spirit leads.
    When it comes to current events, if I don't mention the event in the sermon, I will do so in the Pastoral Prayer. What I won't do is write liturgy that demands others use my words to address a current event or fresh tragedy. I want to leave space for people's feelings and let God work.
    I can already see people moving toward a more nuanced view of the events, and I'm glad we have almost a full week after the announcement before we meet in worship. I'm disinclined to slam people who have a primary loyalty, for instance, to our military -- honestly, I'm not even fully aware who has a relative serving -- but I also don't want to leave an opening for someone to "celebrate" at Joys and Concerns, because that is a pretty vulnerable time, at least in our congregation, for seizing a teachable moment. Blessedly, it comes after the sermon, so I guess I'm saying I'm likely to address the complexities of faith and empire in the sermon. And I think that can work with Emmaus, that beautiful, gorgeous story I love so much. Sometimes the road we think we're walking isn't the road at all. Sometimes the stranger isn't a stranger; sometimes the bread is more than bread. That's our Christian story, and we have to decide how we live it alongside our American story. Something like that.
    Enough rambling! I'll look forward to seeing where others are headed.

  3. I'm not preaching this week; however, I am preaching tomorrow night at our usual mid-week service. We have expanded it by 15 minutes so we can spend more time in prayer in response to Bin Laden's death.
    I haven't really begun to decide what to say, though. It seems to me that however we choose to respond to his death, we will tick off somebody. I've already seen some of that on FB as I'm sure you all have, too. I do know that we need to confess this wrong even as we acknowledge that it was necessary.
    My congregation is used to getting an emailed prayer from me on Monday mornings. I posted it Sunday night. Then I heard of the death of a parishioner's sister and emailed them again with that news as well as prayers. So I can't imagine how surprised they were to receive a third email asking them to come together for prayer on Wednesday! We'll see what the response is.

  4. I have a mandate - from the pastor where I am supplying - to preach a "mother's day sermon" this week, which is supposed to morph from honoring mother, to talking about those who are not included on mother's day, to women in ministry. And we are off lectionary.

    And then there's the Bin Lauden thing.

    I have no idea yet where I am going and how to put all the disparate peices together in one sermon that reveals the astounding grace of God.

  5. Great questions and insights. I see a link to Mother's Day in the fact that the two disciples walking to Emmaus may well have been a married couple, Mary and Cleopas/Clopas (only he is named there but she is named as his wife at the cross in another Gospel, John IIRC)--but are always assumed to be two men. My own creative sermon on that possibility, with a gorgeous icon and the hypothesis that Mary was a bereaved mom--like some of the women we are careful to honor in Mother's Day preaching/liturgy is at my place.

    The link to the Osama killing that I see is that God is our loving Mother as well as Father and both loves us and calls us to repentance when we act against love--him and all of us. And that he had a mother and a wife who is the mother of his children (I think) who are grieving him just as the people slain in 9-11 and the ensuing wars, and all the other violence in the world--as the founder of Mother's Day intended it to mark--were mothers, and/or had them. And that if all the mothers of the world united to demand a stop to the violence everywhere it could happen.

    I am feeling grateful I only need to address the issue in a small weekday service and praying for those of you who do so in the much more large and complicated and, as Martha points out, vulnerable setting of Sunday worship.

  6. PS I sent the icon as a gift to a former seminarian on her graduation and when she began to open it and saw the "gradua..." from "were not our hearts gradually catching fire within us" she thought: "a graduation icon--where did she find that?!"

  7. WEll I absolutely LOVE the Road to Emmaus story. ANd so it is an easy choice. (Unfortunately Communion is next week on Good Shepherd Sunday). However it is also that semi-religious mainly Hallmark holiday Mother's Day, or-as the UCCan has referred to is for years-Christian Family Sunday. Not sure that name is much more helpfuil though.

    My plan is to do something explicity Mother's Day/Christian Family Sunday-ish for Children's Time and then talk about family meals for the sermon. My opening thoughts are here.

    More exciting, I have someone else taking leadership of the end of the service (post-sermon) so i can go down and visit with the SUnday School!

  8. Oh, man, totally forgot about Mother's Day. We do have a person who usually brings a lot of flowers to give a way on Mothers Day. I am on vacation this week and will have to check and see if she is planning that this year.

    We will also be introducing our first class of Stephen Leader trainees. Goodness, it's a full week already.

    As for bin Laden, I dont know yet either. I was planning to do a first person monologue thingy from the POV of Cleopas, but world events might intrude this time. For sure it will be a prayer time issue. We do have one son of the congregation serving in Afg. (Also one in Iraq).

    I was reminded of this quote this morning. FWIW:

    ‎"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." ~Martin Luther King Jr

  9. I am not preaching this week but I am doing the lectionary study between services. And I too love the road to Emmaus.

    I am with Jim Wallis re, Ben Laden. I loved Songbird's poem re. her daughter's response to the killing. As a Christian I can be happy about the killing of another. At the same time I look to Boenhoffer as one who struggled with the same kind of demagogery.

    I think I will center my comments on the passage "Were not our hearts burning?" and focus on what happens when our hearts burning--that sense of excitement when we are caught up in a movement. But use that as a way to check out the results--or the basis for our burning hearts. It is so easy to be caught up in movements with burning hearts only to see movements get away from the basic values of our faith.

    Sometimes our patriotism fogs our basic faith values.

    In my conservative and jingoistic Texas parish this discussion could not happen in the sermon, but it can be discussed as an adult forum.

  10. I'm preaching this in a narratory/sensory recreation kind of format emphasizing relationships, the bonds shared over breaking bread, and the return to community after Jesus disappears. In terms of how it relates to mass communication, I hope to emphasize the importance of sharing the journey with each other and in doing so with God also instead of isolating ourselves.

  11. I feel like I'm re-entering a different world after a couple of days away, but at the same time it feels no different at all. OK, that sounds really dramatic, and I don't think I mean it with the same drama as it sounds.

    I have been at a meeting since Sunday afternoon at which we had limited media - - little TV (I was able to watch the speech, but nothing since), no radio, only internet. I've read a few "traditional" news websites, but have been sort of monitoring the vibe of reactions to the bin Laden news on Facebook and Twitter - - definitely a surreal experience.

    The dialogue has been shocking to me. The diversity of reactions has not been shocking but the treatment of each other in the midst of diverse reactions has. There were a whole ot of declarations of the right way to respond and feel about this from all over the religious and political spectrum.

    At the same time, though, I had just one conversation about the event in the 36 hours that followed at my synod meeting, a conversation I initiated at breakfast the next morning. I don't know if people were just trying to avoid contentious issues or if it was because of the little bubble in which we found ourselves (there were very few people with interest in or access to internet other than me), or if folks just didn't see it as momentous as the world of the internet did. Very strange.

    So, I just got back to town a couple of hours ago. Yesterday I was mentally planning a very different kind of worship service for Sunday, or at least a very different kind of message for Sunday, but now I have no idea where my local community is in all of this. I need to find some people to hang out with to get a read on feelings and experiences.

    I think if I work with these international events in my message on Sunday I will deal less (or not at all) with the morality of what happened, but more with how people experience and process and react to these dramatic events in different ways, and the need to make space for each other to work out our grief and confusion and whatever else it is, not judge each other for how we do that from the start.

    I have no idea if I'm going anywhere with it or really how I will do it if I do. I made some comment on Twitter Sunday night I think about "living with the difficulty," referring to the difficulty of having the impulse to celebrate and the desire for peace and life at the same time - - sometimes in the same person, sometimes in the same community. Others talking about the same thing said "living in the tension." That phrase was used ad nauseum at my seminary so I couldn't use it myself without rolling me eyes at myself, but it's what I mean. I think I might work with that theme somehow, but I need to see if it's even relevant now that I'm back home.

  12. When am I ever going to learn to completely copy my comments before trying to publish? Because lately blogger eats them, almost every time. And poof! they are gone. And now I have no time or energy to rewrite the stunning and brilliant comment I just tried to leave. ;)

  13. Whoa. Sorry for hitting send on that one and not just putting it on my blog. I was thinking "out loud" and didn't realize how long-winded I had become!

  14. (Happened to me at the same time, earth chick, but for some reason my iPad saved it when I hit the back button a few times. That never happens on the computer!)

  15. argh, Earthchick, hate it when that happens!

    sherev, from your comments, I'm riffing in a different direction than before. "havent your heard what everyone is talking about?" might be more the theme...

  16. I had planned a three week mini-series on worship and I've wrestled the last two days about what to do.

    I wrote a potential sermon, here.

    I'd appreciate any feedback or comments. I want to leave an open space for people to wrestle with the events of this week.

    It is a triage week for me with several serious pastoral care issues and a funeral on Saturday.

    Many thanks.

  17. Purple-I like it. You leave plenty of room for everyone to have their own questions and recognize questions as sometimes faithful response. And I for one need that this week.

  18. I'm not inclined to mention the Bin Laden killing...but I am generally less inclined to do "current events" than many of you. Nor are we doing mother's day except a mention in the prayers. But I really feel a little bit contrarian after reading all your comments.

  19. This week brings "Children's Sunday" at our church. I have misplaced my "Children's Sunday" file (drat and double drat!) where I have been stockpiling litanies, confessions, affirmations, etc. for YEARS...I'm preaching on Matthew 18:1-5, and the idea of wonder in our faith. I know all are so, so busy, but if you have ideas for resources I'd be much obliged!

  20. Jumping in here a day late. I am at the end of day three at my new call. What a week to begin. I have just moved to Dearborn, MI home to a large Muslim community and site of the recent Rev. Terry Jones email on Monday was innundated with comments from the local Interfaith clergy group...and each email was about compassion, gentlesness, unity, and prayer. Some spoke with despair yearning for a more pacifist response, others spoke gently about the importance of Just War. I am deeply moved and profoundly impressed by this interfaith group of leaders and the secular and government leaders of this community.

    That said, I have no idea what I am going to say for my FIRST sermon here. Good gracious.

    So, I'm off to be prayerful and mindful and gentle...and hope I come up with something that fits THIS Sunday.

  21. Thanks, Purple. I've found that most answers I've read on FB and the web, haven't been satisfying on one level or another---I suspect because answers right now might be premature. I love the sermon and it's openness to letting people wrestle with the questions with the trust that God is there in their midst. I hope you don't mind that I reposted your sermon with proper attribution and links on my blog. If this is a problem, let me know and I'll edit.

  22. I am late joining the conversation this week.
    Rev Dr Mom, I'm with you. I do include current events, but rarely allow them to be where I start planning. Being in Australia, the death of Bin Laden is big news, but i would hate for it to overshadow the Emmaus story. Also this week is a Baptism and communion. The Baptism means about half the people present will be visitors.
    It is Mother’s Day, but that does not get a lot of mention in worship - when i am leading. I have difficulty with some of what I have experienced in worship on Mother’s Day, but I am biased as a woman who tried for many years to have a child, without success.
    Songbird, love your ideas on the Emmaus road story.

  23. Holy cow, Juniper, I didn't even see that and I actually even said it! Haven't you heard? Something more for me to chew on tomorrow.

    I'm having heck of a time figuring out how I will do this one for some reason but feel I really need to address it in the sermon time to frame the language before our "open mic" sharing of joys and concerns. I wish I could do it like did it with the youth tonight, off the cuff, real language, not too crafted, from the heart. Do I dare? The crux of my message was that I felt sad that in the Christian community our immediate response, at least on Twitter and Facebook, was to judge each other's initial responses. Have we not heard how grief and shock work? That was my first piece, but then also I spoke how even though there are places in scripture that God seems to work through violence, I do not believe God hopes for violence or desires violence. Death was something God redeemed and conquered. It is something that ultimately God wants to do away with, so causing death doesn't seem to me to be something God wants us to be a part of whenever possible.

    I don't know. It just worked in person when I wasn't trying. Now that I'm trying I can't even figure out what worked.

  24. Just starting--this conversation has been so helpful. I'm struck by how Jesus joins them in walking down the road, matching his gait to theirs. May play with the conversation on the road and link to the scriptures he opened up for them--an entry point to other conversations, including the airwaves this week. Seems to me that when I really let Jesus into the conversations in my head and the conversations I'm engaged in, the whole scene shifts.

    Had originally thought of focusing on our mother Jesus, our mother God and mothering images of God. Another time.


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