I’m reading RevGal Wil Gafney’s new book Womanist Midrash, which — if you haven’t yet purchased it — should be considered essential for your bookshelf of exegetical resources. Wil leaves no stone unturned in her examination of the told & untold stories of women in Hebrew Scriptures, and it is Womanist Midrash‘s (and womanism’s and midrash’s) spirit of honest questioning that lingers with me as I read through this coming Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary texts. I have so many questions:

If the LORD repented of the urge to burn & consume the ancient Israelites for their worship of a golden calf, why didn’t Moses repent of the same? Exodus 32:19-29, if we put Exodus 32:1-14 into context, describes Moses’ wrath against the people and the slaughter 3000 people as punishment for idol worship (for which Moses blesses the sons of Levi and says that they have thus “ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD”).

+ A related question, cross-referencing Exodus 32 with Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23: Why do we remember Moses for his intervention with God and not for his violence against his own people?

+ How do we contend with God who is both destroyer and refuge? Isaiah 25:1-9 praises God for both. If your theology maintains God’s reputation as a holy refuge, how long must people wait on God to show up as a refuge? Waiting is called for in Isaiah 25:9, with the added admonition in Philippians 4:6 not to worry as we wait, but what is gained while refugees wait for shelter, while mourners wait for laughter, while Caribbean islanders wait for drinkable water, while the impoverished and those with mental illnesses wait for society’s disgrace to be lifted, while the disenfranchised wait to have a seat at the banquet table?

+ Why didn’t Jesus challenge the institution of slavery? Matthew 22:1-14 is just one of Jesus’ parables that includes violence against those enslaved; Jesus also healed a centurion’s slave in Luke 7. Why didn’t Jesus speak out against slavery in any of these moments?

+ Are we tired of shepherd metaphors yet? No joke, I’m heretically bored with Psalm 23. Are the shepherd images in your church (whether in paint or in stained glass or in children’s bibles) sacred cows from a prior generation?

+ Which sends me back to Exodus 32:1-14, what are the idolized sacred cows of the Church — the whole Church and your own particular faith community? Is it a hymnal or songbook? Is it a certain theological perspective? Is it a program that no one is willing to bury for the sake of something new? Is it a white Jesus or a male God?

God is ever-creative and eternally-resourceful in unveiling good news that gives us hope, but we hold onto our hard questions on the way to hope. We even hold onto our hard questions alongside of hope.

9f8b4-questionmarksWhat questions are you bringing to the Revised Common Lectionary texts this week, RevGals and Pals? What questions are stirring within your own life and which ones are stirring within your faith community’s life? Share your sermon prep & questions & encouragements with one another in the comments!

Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her upcoming book with co-author Martha Spong, Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, is full of hard questions.

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

9 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Questions

  1. Last Sunday I preached about putting Jesus first, above all else, following the example of Paul. Considering following up on that this week. What was the sin of the invited guests who wouldn’t come to the banquet? They put their own priorities above the king’s. What was the sin of the guest who was cast out of the wedding banquet? He refused to put on the wedding robe, which would have been provided for all the guests.

    At the same time, I don’t want to equate the king figure with God – something more along the lines of human institutions will sometimes be the vehicle for testing faithfulness, rather than God condemning someone to hell for wearing the wrong thing.

    Still unformed, and no idea if/how I can tie this in to the stewardship theme this Sunday. What do you think? Suggestions welcome!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So if last week was “put Jesus first,” maybe this week is “put community first,” i.e. don’t value yourself above community — valuing your busyness and refusing to participate in the banquet, valuing your own cultural context and refusing to honor the community’s traditions of wedding robes. Maybe that saves the king from being a metaphor for God?

      Of course, there’s a whole lot of nuance & conversation around “what if the community’s wrong” (e.g. if the wedding robe represents a community’s habits & history of racism, let’s discard that thing) but even so the idea of putting community first challenges us to wrestle with individualism & to test faithfulness in community. (And maybe “shared faithfulness” is the tie-in to stewardship?)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m preaching on Matt 22, and using the “obstacles to gratitude” series ideas from “A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series” (WJK 2016). This week’s obstacle is entitlement. Huge subject! Thinking about approaching it as “things we assume” and using Phil 2:1-11 as the second reading to get us thinking about Jesus’ example in this regard. Still lots to ponder.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The obstacle piece is very helpful as we celebrate UMVIM Sunday as well as Laity Sunday. Thanks. What’s holding us back from actively participating in the life of the church? What is holding us back from going on a mission journey? I’m sharing about a recent mission trip to Zimbabwe. Nothing was held back in the welcome the team received at each mission site we visited. Is the welcome at the local church laced with yes..but or yes…and?


  3. I am also doing Stewardship month and planning on preaching on Exodus…at least that’s what the bulletin indicates. I am thinking about what the sacred cows in our setting along with the Working Preacher commentary and the idea that we replace God with money. My church likes to throw money at charities, not so much work to fix the deeper systemic issues, so I’m thinking about reminding them that stewardship means working on problems outside of the church.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m preaching on the Exodus passage this week as a guest in a colleague’s vacation pulpit. The congregation is building a new church and exploring a new way of doing ministry since their assoc. pastor for youth and children (another colleague and good friend of mine) retired, and they have decided they cannot hire a full time (or even half time) replacement. Makes me want to wonder aloud if the building is the idol that stands in the way of ministry to children and youth, but I won’t (wonder that aloud).

    The sermon title is “God Matters,” mostly because it was the one of the three in my file from Seasons of the Spirit that I liked and thought I could work with (which is usually how I choose titles in advance of actually writing the sermon), and also because it could be GOD matters, or God MATTERS, or god matters, so it leaves my options open. Beyond that, I do not yet know where this is going. So many options … so little time …. I’ll probably be hanging out with y’all whenever I can this weekend! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

We hope you'll join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.