The word of the LORD was rare in those days,
visions were not widespread.
Our eyesight grows dim,
our ears play tricks on us, like echoes
whispering indistinctly around hallowed halls;
and truly – it is just as well
that our eyes and ears deceive us
for the word of the LORD is wholly discomfiting,
upending home and authority of even
the most favored of the LORD;
listen: rather than crying for want of God’s word,
now the people will hide from its coming
lest it know and change them.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
What then shall we do, if God knows all and sees all?
How shall we live our lives if not one breath
is our own to measure, if not one rest
is ours to take in private retreat?
How shall we live under
the gaze of God?

Do you not know that you are not your own?
Yes… No… What we mean to say is: You, O God Most High,
know the fabric of this fragile flesh and the flight of this roving spirit,
so when it comes down to it, yes, we know that we are yours
but we still want, very much, to be our own.

Do you believe because I told you that
I saw you under the fig tree?
Yes, LORD, we believe
because you know too much;
we draw close to you with trembling
because fleeing from you is an impossibility.
So yes, LORD, we believe.

How do you preach the fear of God?

Personally, I find that it’s often helpful to substitute “awe” for “fear” so that we understand “deep reverence” as distinct from “skittish fright,” but when I read the Revised Common Lectionary passages for this coming Sunday, January 18th (the Second Sunday after Epiphany), I think that “fear” is an entirely appropriate word! How do you preach a theological message on the theme, “Holy crap!”?

Because before we knew ourselves, God knew us.
Whatever our location, whatever our thought, God knows.
Asleep at night like Samuel or casually eating figs
beneath a fig tree like Nathanael,
God sees and God knows.

Coming off of the Christmas season in which “God with us” is good news, this Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary readings press the point: God is with us. ALL. THE. TIME. Is that still good news? How do you preach it? And how do you preach it (here in the States) on the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

I’ve raised more questions than answers.

One avenue into the texts alongside MLK Day: Preach Psalm 139:17-24, that troubling stanza at the end of the psalm that is avoided by the lectionary. Preach the tension of claiming that God’s thoughts are a mystery (verses 17-18) while asserting that we can accurately identify God’s enemies (verses 19-24). Preach any number of the times in history — and in current events — when we have arrogantly lifted up God’s name as a war banner. Preach confession for the ways that we try to use God/religion to control the world in order to eliminate our fears of the unknown, confession for the ways that we behave in our comings & our goings & our thinking & our speaking, confession for the ways that we close our eyes and ears to God’s ongoing epiphany. Most of all, preach humility.

Where are you being led in your sermon preparations, RevGals and Pals?

4 thoughts on “Lectionary Leanings: Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide

  1. thinking of talking about a call to women–how I had not seen a woman pastor until 2006…though I’m still open…and have MLKJr in my freewriting. Good insights here. Thank you.

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  2. I shall preach on Samuel; after the horrendous events of the past couple of weeks, we need to look at this very dark story – far darker than the bowdlerised version we teach our children – to see where God is in all this.

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  3. Having preached last week on ‘You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased’ I am following this up with something about God knowing us outside and in, and calling us to service because of who we are and not for what we may become.

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