How are you reading this week’s texts?

Personally, I dreaded this week because of the Proverbs text. Not that I have a problem with it — okay, it’s been read and preached on at a few too many Women’s Day celebrations I’ve attended. And after doing all that she does and exhibiting all the qualities she exhibits, I’m tired for this sister! Is she another impossible ideal for women? And what of the implications of her example for men? RevGal Dr. Wil Gafney’s commentary on this reading over at Working Preacher might be particularly helpful to you as you prepare (or decide) to preach on this woman of valor.

Speaking of ideals and displays of valor, this week’s texts are full of those things. The Markan text continues with the “Messianic Secret” motif, and Jesus’ confounding teaching about himself. His disciples argue about who will be considered the greatest from among them, until he steps in and presents them with an ideal they’d perhaps not considered.

Our “weeping prophet” Jeremiah gives an opportunity to delve into the drama of broken covenants and the threat of personal violence, simply for operating in his calling. When sticking to your guns and holding onto your ideals puts you in harm’s way, what should you do? How should you feel? What should your posture be? Jeremiah’s is — defiant? Trusting? Valiant? It’s worth exploration, and would make for some great preaching.

The Psalm could have been Jeremiah’s feelings in that moment put to music. Except they are (traditionally) David’s feelings as he is trying to hide from a king and mentor who wants to kill him because his call and very existence pose a threat — not unlike Jeremiah. The psalmist’s conclusion is to trust in the valor of the LORD even as his life is in peril.

And in James, we see what valor is not. We are taught what not to do. We are taught what the exact opposite of valor is; greed, selfishness, and envy. The ideal is submission to God.

“…a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

“…for to you I have committed my cause.”

“But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.”

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.”

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

In all cases, our strength — our valor — is in our trust.

Where are you going with these text? In what directions are you leaning? I’ve decided that, for tackling these readings this week, you, preacher woman, are pretty darn valiant. So, with that, Eshet Chayil!

8 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Eshet Chayil!

  1. first week leading worship in a new placement, and back to RCL after working with the NL for a year. With a change of Prime Minister this week, the discussion between the disciples as to who is greatest has some resonance. I am thinking of the greatest is the one who welcomes the least, and asking who are the least in this area.

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  2. I am thinking I will draw on the context of what immediately precedes the Mark text. We have the transfiguration where three disciples get this fancy special experience with Jesus. Then they come back down the mountain and find the other disciples who have just failed to cast a demon out. No wonder they start arguing about who is greatest – as they compare stories of success/failure and worry about their position with Jesus. Will there be enough room for me at Jesus’ Table? And Jesus turns it around and says “You’re looking at it wrong. The one who is the greatest is actually the one who serves and welcomes people in. There is more than enough room at the Table. You don’t have to fight for your spot.”

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  3. I have a baptism this Sunday so that will be the focus of my sermon, but I’ll connect to the readings somehow….I think I am going to talk about baptism as the way one becomes part of community and the formation that one can acquire from being part of community – perhaps that will connect with the disciples arguing over who will be greatest by suggesting that God calls us to be community of equals not people arguing over who is the greatest? I think I’m going to begin by referring to my baptism at the age of nine and why I wanted to be baptized – not to be “saved” – that really wan’t something I was worried about even though that was the church’s teaching on baptism – BUT for community, I wanted to belong and be a full participant in the community. And then talk about when I returned to church in my 30’s and again because I yearned for community. I’ll say something about what Christian community is – how it contributes to our “salvation” and our “redemption” and the way in which we are formed and informed as Christians through community….

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  4. I’m leaning toward weaving the James and Proverbs texts together a bit. Looking at the description of the woman in Proverbs as WISDOM then, inserting that definition of Wisdom into the James reading (Keeping Will Gafney’s commentary in mind). Emphasizing the hope found in James as Hope and Wisdom discovered in a close relationship to God, a two way relationship…. at least I think this is where I’m going… I hope it pans out.

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