“How long, O Lord?” — it’s a biblical lament many of us have found ourselves asking, even crying, in these past few weeks. Here in America, we are weary with the extra judicial killings of black and Latinx people and cold-blooded executions of police officers. The world weeps for Turkey, France, and every place where violence and unrest have become too common. Sometimes despair takes hold so strongly that prayer can feel futile. Theologically, we know better than that, and yet we’re tired. We groan inwardly. In a weary form of prayer, we ask,”How long?”
For RCL preachers wrestling with this week’s texts, perhaps there is some balm for that hurt and words for that lament.
If you are taking on the Genesis text, you have Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (and, by extension, his nephew and his nephew’s family). Abraham wants to know if the righteous will be swept away with the wicked, which isn’t dissimilar to the questions we ask. “Why do the innocents suffer?” He bargains with the Lord, bargaining, by the way, being a stage of grief in the Kubler-Ross model. Perhaps there is some potential in this reading to engage grief in your congregations.
If you’re one of the courageous souls preaching from Hosea, you’ve got a difficult task. Problematic sexual politics, harsh naming of children and judgment upon Israel — you’ve got it all. We don’t even get a glimpse of restoration and redemption until the last verse in the pericope, verse ten. What implications might there be for God’s propensity toward restoration in this text? How will you engage and interrogate the sexual politics in the text?
The 138th Psalm offers hope in the declaration that when the psalmist called, the Lord answered (verse 3). In times when prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, the psalmist reminds in this song of thanksgiving that God is listening. I’m guessing this would be great to preach from or weave into the liturgy as a way of soothing despair and reassuring the worshiper of God’s provision.
The potential in the Colossians text, as I see it, is in its instructive on the fullness of Christ and complete provision in him. Religious observance — “philosophies,” as they were — should not obscure the assurance that Christ is enough. We’re coming off of Paul’s assertions of all things being in subjection to Christ. Play with the language of enfleshment here — the talk of Christ’s body, his life, death, resurrection, the “spiritual circumcision,” the talk of “substance.” There is a sense here that the body matters along with the spirit. There is “meat on the bones” of our faith. When we talk about whose lives matter, can this text instruct us?
And, finally, we have the Luke text with the Lord’s Prayer followed by Jesus’ admonition to continue praying. Christ assures the listener that, on the strength of God’s love alone, our petitions are heard. Perhaps a way to use this familiar text in a particularly resonate way means that we concentrate on this promise, particularly because it’s incredibly therapeutic. If your people are looking for resolve to keep going, there is potential for that here.
Our world wonders if God is hearing us as we pray for peace and unity in a time that often seems devoid of those things. Preachers, we have the important task of renewing the resolve of believers to keep holding on. I’m praying for and with you!
Where do you feel led so far with these readings? What is challenging you? What are the needs in your ministry context to which you hope these texts will speak? What’s stumping you?
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