God, give us strength to live another day.
Let us not turn coward before its difficulties
or prove recreant to its duties.
Let us not lose faith in our fellow human beings.
Keep us sound of heart,
in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness.
Preserve us from minding little stings or giving them.
Help us to keep our hearts clean,
and to live so honestly and fearlessly
that no outward failure can dishearten us
or take away the joy of conscious integrity.
Open wide the eyes of our souls
that we may see good in all things.
Grant us this day some new vision of your truth,
inspire us with the joy and gladness
and make us the cup of strength to suffering souls,
in the name of the strong Deliverer,
our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Good afternoon (EST) Preachers! It’s Tuesday, and that can mean only one thing — time to think about the sermon! (Okay, it can mean other things, too, but we’ll concentrate on the sermon!) You’ll notice we have a new title; recognizing that we have a least two parallel lectionaries in use, and also that because Monday is a day off for many clergy meaning sermon prep isn’t likely to happen, Tuesdays will feature two different lectionary focused posts. And I’m late today because life is complicated (duh!) but in the coming weeks you can look for the Narrative Lectionary post early in the day, and the RCL post some time after noon (EST).
The Revised Common Lectionary readings for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany may be found here. The RCL gospel continues in Matthew with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This week we hear six antitheses (“You have heard it said…but I say to you…”) covering a range of difficult topics. Murder, relations with others, anger, adultery, lust, divorce, swearing…in every case Jesus takes what seems like clear rules and stretches them, raising the bar to what some see as impossible standards. These are HARD topics to deal with, no question about it, but they also touch on very real issues of hurt in our lives. Those of us who have been dealing with congregational conflict may be worried about how preaching on the need for reconciliation, for example, will be received. Yet there may be an opportunity here to also bring a message of hope and renewed promise. I find this short commentary at Episcopal Cafe very helpful, as is the commentary in the new Feasting on the Gospels.
The Hebrew scripture reading from Deuteronomy, of course, sets the stage for Jesus’ teaching on the law. Moses declares to the people, “I have set before you life or death.” What could be more clear than that? Of course nothing is every quite that simple, but it seems to me that many of our churches today are faced with making that choice….some rich preaching material here if you call into that category.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, from whence our New Testament reading is drawn, also gives us much to chew on. Paul, too, touches on the subject of conflict within the church and reminds us that first and foremost, we are God’s. It is from God we draw our nourishment and to God we give our glory, and our earthly allegiances count for naught. Brian Peterson, over at Working Preacher, reminds us that we cannot evaluate the church’s mission and ministry through the lens of our culture, something I touched on in my sermon last week and may need to return to.
All in all. preachers, these are hard texts, but they have a wealth of riches to offer. We may not feel up to the task, but remember, the Holy Spirit has our back!
Join the conversation and let us know where these readings might be calling you.
Sorry for the extremely late posting, dear ones; it has been a day!