As I reflect on this week’s readings, I’m enjoying a little vacation before my kid goes back to school. This week’s readings almost make me wish I were going to be in the pulpit this Sunday. Almost.

I’ve been sitting with Jeremiah for most of this year and have committed to using it for personal devotion for the next two years in which I will be in service to my denomination. Preachers, you have his call story from which to draw this week. This is one of those texts we preach from so much that it can often feel “stale” unless we read it with new eyes. The eyes with which we need to read this text, however, are the eyes that see Jeremiah’s whole picture. Especially if we don’t intend to extend this into an entire sermon series on Jeremiah, we immediately have to introduce his larger context to the hearer. Here was a prophet appointed by God to a difficult task, one that would make him a target of opposition, oppression, rejection, and violence. It is with that understanding that we know the LORD’s assurance to Jeremiah isn’t a romantic notion or a celestial “there there” encouraging pat on the head. Rather it is preparation for the road ahead of the prophet.

On a related note, I imagine Psalm 71 echoed much of what Jeremiah might have prayed in his prophetic work (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he recited it often). There’s the expression of desire for protection and that we not be put to shame for sticking our necks out there in response to our call. I might be tempted to preach from this Psalm, which I don’t often do for the Psalms. Psalm 103 could also present some opportunities for weaving into the stories of Jeremiah, Jerusalem, or the disabled woman from the Luke reading. It speaks of God’s healing, vindication, and forgiveness. It also helps us understand God’s promises as communicated to Moses, which Hebrews takes up.

If you’re using the text from Isaiah, you almost have to accompany it with the Gospel reading, both of which address proper approach to the Sabbath. Post-exilic Jerusalem, fresh off of a generations-long exile in Babylon because of religious apostasy, is reminded of the communal and devotional focus of the Sabbath. The enemy of Sabbath-keeping is self-interest, and in that way Sabbath-keeping has an inherent link to justice. Remembering/focusing on God will/should lead to right relationships with our neighbor –a fact that the synagogue leader in Luke 13 seemed to have forgotten. Mercy is not to be forsaken simply because it’s the Sabbath, and if so, clearly we’re not Sabbathing right.

And, finally, we have the richness of Hebrews from which to draw. We have the frightful imagery of Sinai and Moses’ reception of the Decalogue, the vision of David’s city (which we can accompany with the Isaiah text), and the shaking of both earth and heaven. The message is clear: listen and listen carefully! Even with signs and wonders of old, God’s people have a tendency to be thick-headed and miss the message!

Preachers, what about you? Where are you headed in your reflections on the texts? What is God saying, and how are you hearing it? And whose church should I be visiting on my day off? 😉

19 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Listen Up!

  1. So, we discussed the Luke text in my clergy bible club this morning and I was really draw to the bit about shame. The shame of the religious leaders called out as hypocrites in front of all the people. The shame of the woman bent over for 18 years. And now I am reading psalm 71 and there’s a plea to God,don’t let me be put to shame.,,
    We are so motivated by shame. We can get so stuck because of shame. We lash out in reaction to our shame. Maybe the “hand of the wicked” (ps.71) we need rescuing from is shame?
    Not sure where this is going, but I’m interested enough to explore a bit more…

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  2. I’m drawn to the woman bent over for 18 years – nameless, unseen, and yet deserving of being made whole as a Daughter of Abraham and a beloved child of God. Who are the other children if God that we do not see in the world around us?
    I’m considering to do part or all of my sermon as a monologue from the woman’s perspective. This will be my last Sunday of pulpit supply at a church where I have spent most of the summer, and I have just confirmed that there is a wireless microphone that will free me from behind the pulpit.

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    1. This sounds like it could be really powerful. My daughter and I were just talking about how important it is to hear the stories of those who are being hurt in their own voices, with their own words. She was talking from the standpoint of someone who wants to use fiction or memoir to effect social change around human rights abuses. But the same action could happen with your listeners.

      How might you help them make the move from caring about this one woman with her particular bondage to seeing and caring about all these other types of bondage? (This is something I’m trying to figure out for my own sermon)

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      1. I’m still trying to work that detail out! I may try to use the nameless woman’s voice to point out others around her (and us) who are unnoticed by the majority, but if I can’t work it out, I may need to step back into my preacher-voice. I’ve learned from past experiences though, with this style of sermon, that it is more powerful if I can stay in the character’s voice, so that is my goal. Tomorrow morning will be my writing time so that I can have several days to practice.

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      1. Pastorsings – lovely! I didn’t read yours until after I had written mine, since I wanted mine to be in my own voice.

        I am going in a slightly different direction at the end. After telling her story, the woman who was healed is going to plead with the congregation to remember her in the days ahead. Remember her and look around them for the other unseen people in our world. Open their eyes and see them, the way that this Jesus that they follow opened his eyes and saw her and touched her and restored her humanity, reminding her that she was a beloved child of God.

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        1. Yes! That’s how I would end it now, after serving this congregation for three years. Then, we were still new to each other, and I was learning a lot in those first few weeks. I am not preaching this week, and my lay speaker is going with the Hebrews text, but if I were doing this one again, I would go where you are going with it. God be with you as you bring the Word!

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  3. I am preaching this Sunday after a hiatus. The text from Luke, with a nod to the Isaiah text, on Sabbath. The emphasis understanding a two-process approach to Sabbath. The first from Exodus and that Sabbath is rest and celebration of creation. The second from Deuteronomy where Sabbath is all about being set free.

    I wrote early this week (which is not usual) and the first draft started out well and then exploded into about 14 different directions. It was not a pretty sight. I took David Lose’s suggestion to explore the text from the bent over woman and the synagogue leaders place in the story. I added a Jesus section as well.

    For those of you who know me…Parker Palmer was also essential in getting a handle on how we begin to orient ourselves in this new direction.

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  4. Christian Century’s Reflections on the lectionary really spoke to me this week, so I think I’m going with widening of vision, and the importance of getting away from self-interest that makes a wider vision possible.

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