Somehow I landed both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (U.S. holidays) on the schedule of Revised Common Lectionary posts this year. Lord have mercy! Note to self: avoid the RCL posts on these holidays next year, ha! Note to reader: see the end of this post for particular reflections about Father’s Day.

I love the LORD
who heard me cry
and made me laugh.

I love the LORD
who saw my suffering
and gave me a song.

I love the LORD
who felt my weakness
and offered eagles’ wings.

I love the LORD
who knew my fear
and called me to testify.

I love the LORD
who took my mourning
and gave me joy.

The Revised Common Lectionary readings for this Sunday, June 18, offer several dramatic (and long) stories — the promise of a child to Abraham and Sarah, the wandering Israelites’ arrival to Sinai, the sending of the twelve disciples — as well as compelling poetry from the psalms and epistles. There are extremes within almost every reading: incredulity and possibility, deep tears and wild joy, radical welcome and unapologetic dismissal. When placed alongside our own modern stories of extreme, God’s good news is all the more understood for its revolutionary nature:

the break-loose laughter
of Sarah to shed her sense of shame
and imagine:
laughter that could break
the modern shames of violence and poverty.

the cries of fear & hopelessness
when fleeing Egypt, when faced with wilderness
and imagine:
the cries of thanksgiving & possibility
when those without secure homelands can settle in peace.

the risk of the first step
without a map or a suitcase or a budget
and imagine:
the joyful kick of heels
when betrayal & hatred no longer encumber us.

Maybe it’s you — maybe it’s your faith community — that needs to hear a good & faithful word about laughter in the midst of despair or freedom after a journey of risk.

Maybe it’s you — maybe it’s your faith community — that needs space within a sermon to consider how to return endless devotion to God whose faithfulness has traveled with us through wilderness places.

Maybe it’s you — maybe it’s your faith community — that needs to meditate on the certainty that suffering will not last always, that our weariness does not limit God’s graciousness.

Maybe it’s you — maybe it’s your faith community — that needs to be challenged to take joy out of its comfortable routines and into the streets to join the resistance.

RCL preachers, how have this Sunday’s lectionary readings caught your imagination? How are you intersecting the text of scripture with the text of daily life to illuminate God’s good news? Share your sermon prep wonderings, plannings and questions with your colleagues in the comments!

If Father’s Day is an important part of your church’s liturgical year, how might this Sunday’s readings lend themselves to preaching on Christ as Father-and-Host (through the story of Abraham’s hospitality), or meditating on God as Father-and-Comforter (through Psalm 116:1), or considering the Spirit as Father-and-Guide who helps us make sense of difficulty (Romans 5)?

Remember please, in your recognition of Father’s Day, that the complexities and diversities of life experience do not make Father’s Day an equally joyous occasion for everyone and “father” is a word with diverse manifestations. Not every man is a father, not every man wants to be a father, not every man is physically capable of becoming a biological father. Some men have made it possible for others to become parents but they themselves are not parents. Some men are fathers by adopting, by fostering, by mentoring, by extending love. Having a father doesn’t guarantee that we all feel warm & fuzzy about our fathers. Many of us mourn the deaths of our fathers. And then, of course, the traditional language of “God the Father” places theological ramifications upon (and entangles with) our experiences of earthly fathers. All of which is to say: exercise your best pastoral care, preachers.

Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.

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10 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Mourning into Joy

  1. This Sunday, we have God as eagle, flying us home in Exodus, we as sheep in Psalm 100, and sheep among wolves in Matthew – to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Quite a menagery. What to make of all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your observation of the scriptural menagerie! Will you weave these animals/images together or choose one?


  2. I was the point person (taking all the extra bits) for a guest preacher on Mother’s Day and will be the preacher for Father’s Day this year. On Mother’s Day I included it in the prayer with all the caveats and am leaning toward the same this week with a tiny bit of Father language on the liturgy (mostly picking the te deum over the Alleluia after the assurance of pardon. We do one or the other.).
    Weeks ago, I thought I would preach hospitality and Genesis, but am leaning toward the sending of the disciples and the idea that God calls each of us to further the kingdom. I realize this is a bias of mine. As someone who grew up in a community that said the preacher was most important and only boys could be preachers and after the preacher the other men were more important, I say over and over again that God calls each of us, the we are all ministers, that we all have places to serve: men, women, children, elderly, everyone. I think I will own up to my bias in the sermon, and, as I preach only a few times a year, it may not be a bad thing to hear.
    I expect I will still mention Abraham and Sarah and the ministry of hospitality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rachael — a poignant and insightful blogpost. Your connection of the RCL to the Church will linger with me.


      1. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts–so powerful to take in that we are all children of laughter!


  3. Oh, I love everything you write, Rachel.
    I am preaching Genesis (via the Lectionary) all summer long, and have to admit that this passage is one of my least favorites. I am planning on preaching about how we often laugh at God’s ridiculousness- the wild things we’re called to do, the things that come at “a bad time”, the prayers left “unanswered”, and the things we just flat think God can’t possibly do. But I’m also feeling like I might be preaching the easy way out of this text, because lots of women don’t get that promised baby, this selection ignores the whole Hagar/Ishmael issue, and raising a baby at 90 years old maybe is a bit of a burden, too. So, all that is to say, I’m still working on it…

    Liked by 1 person

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