Last night we had the first meeting at St. Stoic of the Lectionary Discussion Class, and three members showed up. I was thrilled, because these were three “quality” members, persons who I know will tell others if they enjoyed the class, and who also were prepared and ready to discuss and not just hear a lecture, which I had not prepared, anyway.

We discussed Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16 and Mark 8:31-38.

For the Genesis passage, this question bubbled up: Why Abram? What was it about Abram and Sarai that made God want to choose them to be ancestors of God’s people? For any of us who have felt the call of God on our lives, why us?

I told the group my story of call, and how a certain chain of events led me to understand that there was a specific purpose for my life that I hadn’t expected, that my life was pretty well settled, just as Abram and Sarai’s was. Although Sarai had been barren, they had remained faithful and found another way for them to be a family. And just when it seemed that they had it all figured out, God changed everything with the covenant, and the promise of a son for Sarai. There is nothing too great for our God, the God of second chances!

Mark’s passage prompted many questions about what it means to give up one’s life. The longer we discussed these questions, the more parallel the two passages became. What does it mean to live faithfully? What are the rewards,and what are the consequences? These are the questions I will be pondering this week.

What are your preaching thoughts this week? As always, please share your wisdom with us, even if you aren’t preaching!

8 thoughts on “Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

  1. Every Monday morning we hold a bible study to discuss the text for the upcoming Sunday. This week’s bible study was particularly insightful.Discussing the Mark passage, we talked about human things versus divine things – wondered how and when we are Peter and rebuke God – when do we tell God that the divine is not doing as we know our deity should.We also had a good conversation about denying oneself. The New English translation (I believe) reads “leave yourself behind.” We talked about self-denial not being a punishment or without purpose, but moving away from the orientation to the self toward the orientation to the divine. This denial does not just sit lifelessly, it is moving forward, toward God. It is putting your mind on divine things rather than human things.

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  2. Living faithfully is such a subjective and nebulous state of being. Who is to say what it really is? For example, let’s say Minister X think the faithful living out of her ministry involves an hour of intentional prayer in the sanctuary every morning. But Mr. Smith calls during prayer time and can’t understand why the minister is not available for him. It is not an emergency, but he feels shut out and becomes annoyed, accusing her of not being faithful to her call.You see, the word “call” itself is problematic. I would probably describe it much more broadly and spiritually than my M&P committee, who would understand it more as a matter of function, or job description. I have no idea how I’m going to approach these readings this week. All I know at this point is that there is often a huge disparity between what clergy and their congregations see as living faithfully. It’s not so much a problem where I am now, but I see it in so many of my colleague’s churches. Something tells me it’s about boundaries. We’ve been encouraged to hear this “lose your life” language as an encouragement to work yourself into burnout for the sake of the gospel. But I don’t see it that way anymore. Even Jesus knew when to establish boundaries and find time for spiritual renewal. One thing I do know: setting boundaries in ministry won’t make you a lot of friends, but it just might save your life.

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  3. Here in Egypt most churches hold their main service on Friday and a smaller one on Sunday, meaning that when I preach this week I have to be ready by Friday morning! AAA!I am thinking mostly about re-naming as a sign of the covenant, and wondering how to fit Peter’s renaming (as Satan, even if temporarily) into that. I have also been wondering if Peter’s rebuke was because Jesus was so open, and therefore setting one’s mind on human things has less to do with Peter’s expectations for a Messiah and more to do with PR. Back to the naming thing: I’m going to start by talking about how much thought people put into names for children…then about places we get names or nicknames (family, church, etc…old traditions of baptismal names, changing names upon enterin monastic life, etc)…then about “I have called you by name”…and then, well, I’m not quite sure where it’s going yet. BUT: i still have two days.

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  4. I’m interested in what this moment was like for Mark’s very human Jesus. His sense of temptation must have been very real to lash out at Peter that way! It’s very different from the times he delivers a more subtle putdown to people who are getting things wrong. Peter didn’t want to believe that Jesus would die. Is that what he wanted to stop Jesus from saying? I’m thinking of the times we are tempted to comfort people by telling them soft lies rather than hard truths. And I’m also thinking about how even though Jesus let Peter have it, he was still among the three to walk up the mountain six days later.

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  5. I once heard a sermon on discipleship called “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” in which the pastor quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die.” But the pastor went on to point out that Bonhoeffer was a joyful person — other people loved to be in his presence; even in prison he made friends with the guards. So the Christian life is this paradox where, on one hand, we’re being asked to give up our attachments to things that make us feel safe and secure, but on the other hand we’re promised life abundant, “filled to the brim and overflowing.” If I were doing a sermon on this text (I actually am doing the sermon this week, but for Lent we’re preaching on the Beatitudes), I might include examples of Christians who live/have lived this paradox.This is a little tangential, but…there’s a great little book called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. He’s a sociologist who talks about how the plethora of choices we have (at least in affluent nations) can actually paralyze us, enslave us, make us constantly dissatisfied because we’re always second-guessing whether we made the “right” choice. It seems to me that Jesus, in the Gospel lesson, is asking us to make one big choice — one that by definition is going to push aside lots and lots of other choices. Bonhoeffer talks about living while looking ahead to Jesus, showing the way — keeping our focus always on him, not being distracted by what’s going on around us. In one sense that’s an incredibly hard choice, but on the other it’s incredibly freeing, for the reasons Schwartz talks about in his book.

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