This is my first week to write the Lectionary Leanings and I am really excited. Or at least I was until I looked at the readings for this week!

Luke 15-4

(You can find this week’s RCL readings here)

I am struggling with the juxtaposition between the Old Testament Readings and the New Testament Readings. The God described in Jeremiah and Exodus does not seem to jive with the God revealed in Christ that we see in the Gospel and 1 Timothy. How are we to reconcile the two?

In Jeremiah God threatens to pour out hot winds, the kind that devour. How can we read those words in light of the terrible wildfires that have recently struck the land in which many of us live? What kind of hot winds of judgment might be threatening your own community? Psalm 14 echoes that people have gone astray, so far that they no longer claim that God actually exists. These people have no respect for the Lord or those the Lord loves. They, like the hot winds, are devours of the poor and oppressed. While it may be tempting to focus on the desolation in these texts it is worth noting that at the beginning of Jeremiah chapter 4 God says “This is what’s in store IF, if you don’t repent and turn from your evil ways” This destiny is not set in stone, but rather a warning of what might be ahead.

In Exodus we again get a picture of God as angered. God goes so far as to tell Moses to do something about the people Moses brought out of Egypt. I tend to read this with the same tone I use to tell my husband that HIS children have been misbehaving. I want no part in the identity of those brats! Moses gently reminds God that God brought them out of Egypt and that God has a lot at stake on their survival. While they have sinned, a complete cutting of ties is not necessary. The promises made in the past must still hold strong. And God’s anger is tempered and God’s mind changed.

The psalmist in Psalm 51 asks for forgiveness, cries out for a cleansing of the soul. The psalmist seems to know that God’s anger has been kindled and that nothing short of full repentance will make any change. But the psalmist cannot make that change alone. Calling out to God, these are requests for God to take action, to participate and even initiate the cleansing and purifying. What might we need cleansing from that is too much for us to handle on our own? In what ways do we need God to take action to help us as a Christian Community to be whole with a new and right spirit?

1 Timothy paints a picture of God’s grace and mercy. While initially seen as a stark contrast to the earlier reading, I think it actually compliments the Old Testament. The words of the Old Testament come from the vantage point of unrepentant, un-confessed, un-turned hearts. Paul in this letter has acknowledged his sinfulness and can see where God has brought him from wrath to mercy. If we were to reflect on our lives without God or without acknowledging God’s presence, how might our vantage point have changed?

The Luke passages from 15 are much loved and preached upon. Again we have the image of God’s mercy being upon God’s people. God cares so much for the lost that God will leave the others and search them out. While this may be comforting to the lost sheep, not doubt it causes fear in the remaining 99 who find themselves without the visible protection the shepherd has offered. I like the thought of a seeking God, one who is determined to find that which has gone astray. But perhaps that is the same God described in the Old Testament readings. Maybe the anger and frustration we see come from a God who is seeking time and time again only to have those for which he seeks run farther and farther away. I know when one of my three littles wonder off they may take my yelling their name or frantic searching to be a sign of anger or potential punishment, when in reality it is my concern for their welfare that causes these reactions.

This is what I am pondering today. What thoughts do you have fellow preachers?

 

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The Reverend Cardelia Howell-Diamond (blogger known as RevHD or cpclergymama) is a Cumberland Presbyterian Minister currently serving a congregation in Alabama. While a part of her heart resides in Texas, the land of her birth, the rest of her lives with her clergyman husband and their three littles ages 11,8, and 4. Cardelia posts sermons at randomrevhd.blogspot.com  and has links there to her publications.

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18 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Will the real God please stand up?

  1. Thanks for getting us started! I’m moving back to RCL after 4 years on the Narrative Lectionary. It’s funny how different it feels in ways I can’t describe just yet.

    I’m think I’m going to work mostly with Exodus and Luke. I, too, felt that tension you refer to, but I think I’ve found my way. I like God’s persistent character that comes through in the Luke parables, but God didn’t feel so persistent in Exodus. What is persistent, though, is God’s promise. God has every right and reason throw in the towel on humanity, or cut off those sinners and just stick with the righteous, but when reminded of the promise, God is faithful still.

    There’s an unreasonableness to God’s grace. It doesn’t make sense. It is isn’t fair or logical. It’s silly to risk the safety of the 99 to go after the 1. It’s kind of dumb to spend all that time looking for one coin. It’ll turn up or if it doesn’t it’s just one lost. Better off spending time making sure the others have a safe spot in the future.

    Moses reminds God of the unreasonable promise. Jesus points it out to those who question his social circles. We, like Timothy, benefit from it and need to remember that it’s central to our mission as the church, the Body of Christ.

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    1. Thanks Stephanie! Welcome back to the RCL. There is so much to mine this week in the texts. I like the connection you have found between Luke and Exodus. The promise does not change and wee are only some of those who benefit.

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  2. We are doing Messy Church for the first time this coming Sunday! We will be outside and we will follow a usual order of worship with Messy Church as the sermon time. We will all participate in activities after the telling of the story of the lost sheep. I will start the story by telling the story of the Good Shepherd to give the lost sheep story context. At least it works for me in my brain:) The Good Shepherd knowing each one of us and that we know God’s voice gives an image of intimate relationship with God. I don’t see God loosing focus on the others while looking for the lost though. That one of the magnificent things about God is that we are all, lost or found, always in God’s loving gaze.
    One of the activities will be getting things together and setting the table for communion. I’m really looking forward to this experience. We have talked about it for a while now so it will be good to see how it goes.

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    1. Deborah, your service sounds amazing! I pray it is blessed and appreciated. Messy church sounds like a fun idea.

      Preacher Lady

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  3. So glad to have you blogging the RCL! At the moment I’m trying to wrap my head around a church office with no admin for the foreseeable future. I’ve only gotten as far as writing the bulletin and still have to get my head around the actual texts!

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    1. Oh My Beth! That poor goat. Thanks for sharing. I would hope I’m not that difficult to shepherd but all too often I’m afraid it might be too true!

      Preacher Lady

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  4. i am working with Luke, and maybe Timothy. Pondering celebration, and how much, and what, we celebrate as a church. Also, it is one year since i started in ministry with these two congregations.

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  5. if you are looking for a children story of ‘The Lost Sheep’ there is one here
    the ‘Lost Sheep’ series has 27 animated stories – pictures only. It costs $10 AUD per story, for Mac or PC or PowerPoint.

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  6. Working with Jeremiah here….and how we are called to hear the our behavior matters AND that God does not abandon us even as God calls us to something better.

    Fascinated by a commentary at WP noting how a portion of Jeremiah reads like a reversal of the creation story – and yet, just as with other times when it seems like the world was on the brink of destruction, God pulled it back (think Noah for example).

    Not sure how all this will play out…

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