Narrative Lectionary

Narrative Lectionary Summer Series: The Lord’s Prayer

by Rev. Julie (Woods) Rennick and Rev. Marci Glass

Our Father in heaven; holy is your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive our sins, as we forgive others; save us from the time of trial and deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory – now and always – amen!

Words so much a part of our repertoire that they trip off the tongue with hardly a thought. A prayer that encompasses everything we need – God in heaven; daily needs; forgiveness and delivery from evil – it’s all there. It really is the perfect prayer.

And yet. Familiarity breeds contempt – or at least can hinder our ability to hear God speak.  So let’s take a journey together into this perfect prayer; let’s explore its nuances, its phrases, its very familiarity and let’s discover more, plummet the depths and listen again to the reply that comes when Jesus is asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

lords prayer

This short series on the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, the Jesus Prayer will, over four weeks, delve into what it means, why it has stood the test of time and why the Christian Church loves this prayer so much. 

The Narrative Lectionary divides the prayer into four sections:
Aug 14     Our Father in Heaven
Aug 21     Give us this Day
Aug 28    Forgive us our sins
Sept 4      Lead us not into temptation

Read it in Luke (11:2-4), read it in Matthew (6:9-13), compare the differences, and ask which version draws you in more – why?

Note where it comes in each gospel, too. In Luke’s record, it comes as an answer to a direct request from his followers. In Matthew, it is part of a long discourse, full of wide ranging teaching on many topics. 

The Narrative Lectionary is using the Luke version, but it is always helpful to see how else a familiar topic or passage is treated by other authors. If you have reservations about reading only the same three verses of scripture for four weeks, what other passages might you include? 

The book, Prayers of the Cosmos, Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, has an interesting section on the Lord’s Prayer, with textual notes, sections on each phrase, and suggestions for body prayer and other ways to pray this familiar prayer.

Perhaps this is a season to introduce your congregation to new ways of pray-ing. Labyrinths, contemplative prayer, prayer stations, etc. Theresa Cho has some Lord’s Prayer station ideas here.

Find as many versions of the prayer as you can – a quick Google search will give you a good starting list. If you’re a fan of Prince, he prays the Lord’s Prayer in his song, Controversy.

Try putting it into your own words – not rewriting it, but simply giving it your approach, your interpretation. (If you are a Spill the Beans user you will find a PDF template with eight different translations to compare). If your young adults and/or children are present through the summer months, try getting them to put it into their words – this can prove very interesting indeed! It is something I did many years ago when I was still in Youth Ministry and what they all came up with was a revelation. My favourite version remains this:

The man upstairs
You are the Master – Ace
I’ll see you when I get there
Have it your way down here as it is up there
Feed us when we are hungry
Cut us some slack – as we cut it to our brothers
Don’t tempt me mate; keep me on the straight and narrow
This is your ‘hood and it’s really rockin’
Always
Cheers! 

(Banchory Youth circa 1998)

The boys who wrote this included my then 13 year old son and his friends and they had such a deep love and affection for God and this prayer. Maybe your young folks will be able to stir up something that will touch you too.

What ideas do you have to add for the Lord’s Prayer? Any good Children’s Sermon ideas?
Please add to the conversation and share your ideas in the comments.

******

dreamteam

Marci Glass and Julie Woods

Marci Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. She is a contributing author of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs at Glass Overflowing. She’s an amateur cellist who enjoys hiking in the Boise foothills. She drinks her bourbon neat.

Julie Woods Rennick is minister of Earlston Parish Church in the Scottish Borders. She too is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, she blogs at A Country Girl which contains mostly sermons and at Dark Threads and Golden, which is more reflective. She writes for Spill the Beans, and, if there is any time left enjoys exploring the Scottish countryside. 

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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.
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Narrative Lectionary: Storypath

Choosing a book (rgbstock.com)

Choosing a book rgbstock.com

Narrative Lectionary users, here’s a new resource that might be of help in your preaching and educational ministry for the coming year. Storypath is a ministry carried out in partnership with the William Smith Morton Library at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. For the past six years they have been sharing weekly links to children’s literature based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Beginning in August, they will do the same for the Narrative Lectionary, with weekly posts on texts about 5 weeks ahead of the preaching/teaching dates.

Look for the links on Wednesdays beginning August 3rd at Storypath. Thank you to Ann Knox for letting us know about this great new resource. (For a sample of Storypath’s RCL work, click here.)

For this Sunday, if you are still in Job, take a look at The Trials of Job by Mary Austin and Liz Crumlish.

And if you are prepping for The Lord’s Prayer, check out this post by Julie Woods and Marci Glass

Thanks to all our contributors! Readers, please join the conversations whenever appropriate for your schedule.

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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.

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Narrative Lectionary: Hope for a Tree Edition

We are in the middle of the Book of Job now.

Job 14:7-15 and Job 19:23-27

Here is the overview post on this summer series by Revgals Mary Austin and Liz Crumlish. There are also great resources at Working Preacher.

Job’s lament is turning toward hope. And after the week we’ve had in the US, I could use some hope.

Here is Robert Alter’s translation of 14:7-9:

For a tree has hope: though cut down, it can still be removed, and its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the ground and its stock die in the dust, from the scent of water it flowers, and puts forth branches like a sapling.

I don’t often think of trees when I think of hope. And I confess when I am pulling up elm shoots that have decided to grown in my lawn and flowerbeds, “hope” is not the word that comes to mind.

The Job poet weaves our connectedness to nature throughout the entire book, though, reminding us of yet another point of contact with nature, reminding us that humanity and nature are both vulnerable pieces of creation.

In chapter 19, Job speaks the words I know better from Handel’s Messiah. “I know that my Redeemer lives.” The Hebrew word for ‘redeemer’ is different than the New Testament word, no matter how much Handel makes us think of it. It is more like Boaz and Ruth. Here’s an article about the word at Working Preacher.

Job is still in the midst of his argument. Where are you thinking of preaching this week?

Please share your ideas, resources, children’s time ideas, and videos here.

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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.
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Marci Glass

Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary.

Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).

 

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Narrative Lectionary: Laments of the week

If you’re following the Narrative Lectionary Summer Schedule as laid out by our good friends at Working Preacher, you are preparing for week 2 of Job, in which he laments. Given the events of the past week, it’s hard to cover lament without touching on the attacks that have occurred during Ramadan – or maybe it feels safer and easier to avoid them. What will you do?

Our excellent bloggers, Liz Crumlish and Mary Austin, posted their material on Job back in May, but please do take a look at it in your preparations. This week also brings us the arrival of Job’s friends. How do we serve those who are facing disaster? Can we resist the urge to compare the current losses or challenges of our friends to those we have experienced in the past? Join the conversation at the link if you are preaching on Job.

If you are somewhere else in the summer series, doing things out of order, you’ll find our posts on 2nd Corinthians here and The Lord’s Prayer here.

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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.
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Narrative Lectionary Curriculum: Life Mosaic, a Review

LifeMosaicAs you know, the Narrative Lectionary follows a school calendar as well as a liturgical one. We spend the Fall semester in the Hebrew Scripture and the Spring semester in a Gospel. I chose to preach the Narrative Lectionary because I want to connect my congregation with the Biblical stories. And I would love for them to go deeper in the texts than just our worship hour. So I approached the Life Mosaic curriculum with great hope.

But the opening words of it left me scrambling for identifiers: For what age was this curriculum created? Without any note on the sample, I assumed this text was for adults, but the activities reminded me of youth groups. What’s the theological underpinning of the text? The guide definitely has some markers of conservative theology (which is not my background). What’s the education level of the learners? The lesson was simple… way too simple for members, a large percentage of whom have post-graduate degrees.

For instance:

“Does Yahweh keep [humans in creation] under a tight rein or give them freedom to use creation as their own possession?”

This text asks questions as if there are only two possibilities. God’s complete control or our selfishness. It is possible that God’s good creation was created for us to partner with God, rather than only for God.

“Adam and Eve were not free to set their own agenda or ‘actualize’ themselves.”

Weren’t they? Couldn’t it have been that the Tree of Good and Evil is actualization itself? Isn’t it the opportunity for choice?

“The serpent asked a question that demoted God and his command to objects for discussion. Eve joined in this strange new discourse, setting in motion a downward train of events… The cost of such conversations is the loss of God’s friendship.”

As far as I can tell, God’s friendship never went away—following all the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Hebrew Bible through to Jesus’ friendship with the disciples, and God’s friendship with the early church and even to today.

As to the activity portion of the lesson, I think it may work for a high school class, but I cannot imagine an adult group enjoying things like “Have someone in your group act as an attorney for Adam and Eve,” or “Designate someone in your group as a news reporter and someone else as the serpent from Genesis.”

Finally, the application even seemed shaky to me. The lesson likens the Fall to someone making a “selfish choice,” which seems trite and quite the oversimplication. I want more. Deeper. More theologically dense.

I want a curriculum for the Narrative Lectionary, but I’ll be waiting for the 2.0 version of it.

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Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).

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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.
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Narrative Lectionary: Summer Series 2016 links

IMG_7728Narrative Lectionary preachers, we have a new format for NL this summer, with one post for each of the series suggested by our good friends at Working Preacher. You will find them at the links below. Please join the conversations whenever appropriate for your schedule.

2 Corinthians: Letter-Writing Occasions by Lia Scholl and Stephanie Anthony

The Trials of Job by Mary Austin and Liz Crumlish

The Lord’s Prayer by Julie Woods and Marci Glass

Thanks to all our contributors!

 

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The Lord’s Prayer–NL Summer Series

by Rev. Julie Woods and Rev. Marci Glass

Our Father in heaven; holy is your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive our sins, as we forgive others; save us from the time of trial and deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory – now and always – amen!

Words so much a part of our repertoire that they trip off the tongue with hardly a thought. A prayer that encompasses everything we need – God in heaven; daily needs; forgiveness and delivery from evil – it’s all there. It really is the perfect prayer.

And yet. Familiarity breeds contempt – or at least can hinder our ability to hear God speak.  So let’s take a journey together into this perfect prayer; let’s explore its nuances, its phrases, its very familiarity and let’s discover more, plummet the depths and listen again to the reply that comes when Jesus is asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

lords prayer

This short series on the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, the Jesus Prayer will, over four weeks, delve into what it means, why it has stood the test of time and why the Christian Church loves this prayer so much.

The Narrative Lectionary divides the prayer into four sections:
Aug 14     Our Father in Heaven
Aug 21     Give us this Day
Aug 28    Forgive us our sins
Sept 4      Lead us not into temptation

Read it in Luke (11:2-4), read it in Matthew (6:9-13), compare the differences, and ask which version draws you in more – why?

Note where it comes in each gospel, too. In Luke’s record, it comes as an answer to a direct request from his followers. In Matthew, it is part of a long discourse, full of wide ranging teaching on many topics.

The Narrative Lectionary is using the Luke version, but it is always helpful to see how else a familiar topic or passage is treated by other authors. If you have reservations about reading only the same three verses of scripture for four weeks, what other passages might you include? 

The book, Prayers of the Cosmos, Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, has an interesting section on the Lord’s Prayer, with textual notes, sections on each phrase, and suggestions for body prayer and other ways to pray this familiar prayer.

Perhaps this is a season to introduce your congregation to new ways of pray-ing. Labyrinths, contemplative prayer, prayer stations, etc. Theresa Cho has some Lord’s Prayer station ideas here.

Find as many versions of the prayer as you can – a quick Google search will give you a good starting list. If you’re a fan of Prince, he prays the Lord’s Prayer in his song, Controversy.

Try putting it into your own words – not rewriting it, but simply giving it your approach, your interpretation. (If you are a Spill the Beans user you will find a PDF template with eight different translations to compare). If your young adults and/or children are present through the summer months, try getting them to put it into their words – this can prove very interesting indeed! It is something I did many years ago when I was still in Youth Ministry and what they all came up with was a revelation. My favourite version remains this:

The man upstairs
You are the Master – Ace
I’ll see you when I get there
Have it your way down here as it is up there
Feed us when we are hungry
Cut us some slack – as we cut it to our brothers
Don’t tempt me mate; keep me on the straight and narrow
This is your ‘hood and it’s really rockin’
Always
Cheers!

(Banchory Youth circa 1998)

The boys who wrote this included my then 13 year old son and his friends and they had such a deep love and affection for God and this prayer. Maybe your young folks will be able to stir up something that will touch you too.

What ideas do you have to add for the Lord’s Prayer? Any good Children’s Sermon ideas?
Please add to the conversation and share your ideas in the comments.

******

dreamteam

Marci Glass and Julie Woods

Marci Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. She is a contributing author of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs at Glass Overflowing. She’s an amateur cellist who enjoys hiking in the Boise foothills. She drinks her bourbon neat.

Julie Woods is minister of Earlston Parish Church in the Scottish Borders. She too is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, she blogs at A Country Girl which contains mostly sermons and at Dark Threads and Golden, which is more reflective. She writes for Spill the Beans, and, if there is any time left enjoys exploring the Scottish countryside. 

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Looking for Job? Or 2 Corinthians? Never fear! We have you covered. Check out the Netflix-style posts for each series by clicking on the links.

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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.
*****

Categories: clergy, clergy women, clergywomen, Lectionary Leanings, Narrative Lectionary, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Narrative Lectionary Summer Series: The Trials of Job

XIR84999 Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) oil on canvas Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France Lauros / Giraudon French, out of copyright

XIR84999 Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922)
oil on canvas
Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France
Lauros / Giraudon
French, out of copyright

by Rev. Mary Austin and Rev. Liz Crumlish

Overview

Job is one of many stories – of its time and of our time – that tries to make sense of the world in which humans reside, a world in which all manner of good and evil exists side by side.

It is one of many attempts to unravel the mystery of the presence of God and that deity’s activity or passivity when bad things happen to seemingly good people.

The Book of Job has some parallels with ancient Mesopotamian texts dating back as far as the second millennium BCE and, while the written text of Job probably emerged around the sixth century BCE, the oral form is much older.

It is a text that raises many more questions than it answers and, in that, is its genius.  Nothing is certain – neither the character of God or of Job.  Even the style of the text, vacillating as it does between poetry and prose, ensures that nothing is predictable or easily explained.

The character of Job is in one moment patient and resigned and, in the next, angry, frustrated and questioning of the God whom he sees as shaping the whole of creation.  The question of life as a blessing or as a curse within the whole of creation is cleverly stretched throughout the narrative. God, humanity and fate are all given intriguing roles within this cosmic interplay. And the catalyst to this unfolding drama is the wistful dealing of heavenly beings and Satan, the Accuser – The Accuser is given divine permission to put Job to the test by messing around with his hitherto blessed, uncomplicated life.

In the early stages, Job, though his losses are great, manages to maintain faith in the benevolence of the Divine entity, remaining stoic and faithful.  However, as The Accuser reeks more and more havoc on his life and then attacks Job physically as well as psychologically and spiritually, Job begins to lament his loss and curse his birth – at length. In his angst, Job’s lament turns against all of creation.

Job’s friends, often given bad press as the worst sort of comforters, come to be with Job and sit with him for seven days and nights, recognising that his suffering is too great for words. Then, it seems, their stores of compassion run dry, and a dialogue begins as Job explores, goaded by his friends, the notion of a God who has not only abandoned him but is actively destroying him. As his friends implore him to reflect on his wrong doing that has incurred such wrath of God, Job turns from God craving isolation from such a vindictive heavenly being.

When the deity finally deigns to answer, we encounter some of the most beautiful creation poetry used to bring perspective to the place of humanity within the whole of the universe.  The nature of the soul, the extent and majesty of the universe and the existence of good and evil are all wrestled without resolution in the book of Job. There is acknowledgement that human knowledge of God’s world is pathetically incomplete but the story and the part of Job and God in that remains ambiguous to the end. It seems the more we learn, the less we know. This it has been and ever shall be.

Week One – Job 1:1-22

The opening scenes of Job’s story show us two different worlds.  First comes a glimpse of Job’s life.  We see that Job is abundantly blessed with more livestock than we can imagine, plus servants to care for them, and ten children who get along with each other.  “Blameless and upright,” Job also is a nervous man.  After his children hold large feasts, he makes offerings on their behalf, just in case they have turned away from God in the course of all the partying.  It doesn’t seem that Job is invited to the parties – perhaps he’s too good to be much fun.

The heavenly beings gather before God, and God seems a little surprised to see The Accuser among them.  The Accuser has been busy traveling around the earth, and God brags about Job, his blameless servant.  The Accuser says “well, duh!  Of course Job loves you.  He has a fantastic life with every imaginable blessing.  Why wouldn’t he praise you?!”  God seems shallow, allowing the Accuser to test Job to prove something about God.

The first time I went to a movie with a large group of African-American moviegoers, I was surprised and then delighted to find the movie patrons talking to the screen.  “Don’t do it,” people yelled, as the main character moved toward a dangerous place.  “Don’t go in there.”  We have the same impulse, wanting to yell at God, “Don’t do it.  Don’t say yes to the Accuser.  It’s not going to end well.”

And it doesn’t.  In short order, Job’s riches and then his children are all gone.  In this moment of deep loss, Job calls on God as the giver of all gifts, and the One with the right to take them away.  He doesn’t accuse God of doing him harm.

Sermon ideas:

  • The sermon might look at how we understand the gifts and the losses in our lives.  Social psychologists say that we pay more attention to losses than to gains.  Called loss aversion, this finding explains why we invest more time and energy trying to regain something we’ve lost than working on something new.  As an NPR reporter explains, “the fundamental idea with loss aversion is that you’re driving by looking in the rearview mirror. That’s what loss aversion is. It’s not a good idea when you’re driving. It’s not a good idea when you’re gambling, and it’s certainly not a good idea when it comes to national policy.”  Or the spiritual life.
  • Or the sermon might examine whether we turn more to God in good seasons of life, or in our hardest times.

Week Two: Job 3:1-10, 4:1-9, 7:11-21

Now Job’s friend Eliphaz appears, recalling all of the times Job has helped others who were in distress.  Now it’s Job’s turn to have trouble.  The friend’s counsel suggests what Job has said to other people – to examine where they might have offended God.  If Job has given this advice before, no wonder it stings to receive it.  Now Job can see how unhelpful it was.  In Chapter 7, he speaks eloquently of his sorrow, and then adds that he won’t “restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit.”  Where one his life was a joy, now Job says “I loathe my life.”  If he has sinned, he wonders, why won’t God pardon him.

Sermon ideas:

  • The sermon might look at how we respond to someone having a crisis – whether about faith or finances, health or kids. A widely circulated article by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman advises us all on not saying the wrong thing by suggesting we adopt the Ring Theory.  The person having a crisis is at the center of the ring, with family and closest friends in the next ring, and so on.  We extend comfort and support to anyone closer to the crisis than we are – the person, partner, children, parents.  We can express our shock and dismay outward.  “Comfort IN, dump OUT,” suggest Silk and Goldman.

As they write, “Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.  Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.  When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”  If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.” Job’s friends could have benefitted from the Ring Theory.

  • Job’s friends are trying to help, and reminding us how difficult it is to be useful to people.  Physician and author Rachel Naomi Remen says “Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.  Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose…From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.  Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals.”

Week Three – Job 14:7-15, 19:23-27

In his continuing distress, Job calls out to God that he wishes God would send his to Sheol, where his sorrows would end.  A tree has the hope of regenerating, Job says, but human life travels toward death, and Job is ready for the release of death.  In Chapter 19, Job continues to make his case against God, wanting to engrave his complaints on rock so they can’t be forgotten.  Job appeals to the “go-el,” the redeemer, a figure who protects the vulnerable from injustice.  Steed Davidson writes more about this idea for Working Preacher, suggesting that this call for the redeemer is part of Job’s case against God.  Christian writers have often overlaid the figure of Jesus as Redeemer onto this scripture, but Davidson posits that the redeemer here is part of the legal dialogue between Job and God.

Sermon ideas:

  • Job wants a permanent record of his suffering, and of his complaint against God’s unfair treatment.  He wants future witnesses to his struggles.  How do we bear witness to one another’s struggles?  Without being able to fix anything, how do we stand as witnesses to each other?
  • Or the sermon might explore how we understand the source of our struggles.  Are they tests from God?  Punishment?  Just the way life unfolds?  I once worked with a young couple with a very sick baby, and after many months together, asked them how they understood what was happening to them.  I loved their answer to much that they gave me permission to tell their story.  After reflection, the exhausted dad said, “Sometimes awful things happen to people for no reason.”  He had let go of the “why” questions and had already moved on to how they would live their life and care for their child.

Week Four – Job 31:35-37, 38:1-11

Here Job wraps up his case against God, and then in Chapter 38, God finally begins to answer Job.  We have to admire Job’s persistence in articulating his cause to a seemingly silent God.  He asks God to answer him, and holds onto the rightness of his argument, even in long stretches when no answer comes from God.

God finally speaks, and talks to Job like an equal.  With this persistent, Job has worn God down…or perhaps won God’s respect.  The God who allows the Accuser to test Job in the beginning of the story now seems to be much more interested.  God’s indifference has vanished, and now God has something to say.  David Henson writes for Patheos that “God just doesn’t give him an answer. God doesn’t try to explain it. God doesn’t even contradict Job’s accusations.  Instead, God responds with beauty.  Job cast a vision of a world overshadowed by pain and suffering. God responds by showing him the beauty and hope of the same world.”   God reminds Job that the work of faith is to hold both halves of the world together – the suffering and the mysterious beauty.

Sermon ideas:

  • The sermon might look at the question of what we do when God is silent.  Do we, too, fall silent, waiting for God?  Do we, like Job, keep calling out, holding onto our convictions?  How do we keep from growing discouraged when God seems to be silent?  A pastor friend used to say “A thousand years are like a day in God’s sight.  What if God is taking the day off?”  When we call out, like Job, without an answer, is it God’s day off?
  • And, if we, like Job, keep talking to God, will we eventually hear back?  Will God answer our questions, too?
  • David Henson suggests that “God needs to see Job’s prophetic grief. Job needs to see God’s prophetic beauty. If all we experience is prophetic grief like Job, we can spiral into despair, paralyzed by the overwhelming nature of the earth’s suffering. But if all we see is prophetic beauty, we can spiral into lofty ideals and become so detached from the reality of human pain that we become just as paralyzed.  Both are incomplete without the other.  Job is trying desperately to draw God’s eyes to the plight of humanity, and God is trying desperately to draw Job’s eyes beyond humanity and suffering and to the larger world around.”  If this is true, if wisdom is a conversation between God and humankind, how might we live that out?

Week Five – Job 38:25-27, 41:1-8, 42:1-6

The dialogue between Job and God continues here, as God goes on with the reminders of God’s role in creation, and of the power that created the beauty all around Job.  God is the one with the power to subdue chaos.  Job is kind enough not to remind God that God didn’t subdue the chaos in Job’s life, but instead allowed it to happen.  In Chapter 42, Job speaks again, and he is a changed man.  Job answers God, and allows himself to be recalled to a deeper faith.  He started out rich in livestock, and now he is rich in wisdom.  His experiences have hollowed him out, and God now comes into that emptiness in a way different from when Job’s life was full.  Before, Job was the one who came to friends in distress to encourage them – or perhaps to offer words as unhelpful as the things his friends say to him.  Now, Job is ready to listen, instead of speaking.  God and Job are now in a conversation, each listening and each speaking.

Sermon ideas:

  • God has been silent, but has been listening to Job all along.  Have you had an experience of feeling like God has really heard what you needed, and answered you?  (Perhaps given you what you needed more than what you actually wanted?)
  • As we are made in the image of God, and reflect God’s care, how do we listen attentively to each other in a world full of distractions?  Are we becoming worse at listening?  Does your community have people who have the gift – or skill – of listening to others?  In our public life, and in this election season in the US, is anyone actually listening, or are we all just talking all the time?

Week Six – Job 42:7-17

Now God restores Job’s fortunes, and his family returns with sympathy and comfort.  His livestock is restored, and he has ten more children.  This is a teaching story, so we don’t need to take literally the idea that his children could be replaced.  We don’t even need to ask how his wife felt about having ten more children at this late date.

Before the happy ending, God speaks to Job’s friends, chiding them. Kathyrn Schifferdecker writes for Working Preacher, “All English translations of these verses translate God’s charge along these lines: “You have not spoken about me what is right.” But note that the Hebrew can also be translated, “You have not spoken to me rightly, as has my servant Job.”  This latter translation points out what was true all along. For all their speaking about God, the “friends” never once in the book speak to God; they never once pray for their suffering friend. Job, on the other hand, moves from speaking only about God to speaking more and more directly to God.”  For all of his poverty, Job is the one who speaks directly to God.  That is the one thing he never loses.

Sermon ideas:

  • Kathryn Schifferdecker observes, “Living again after unspeakable pain is a kind of resurrection. The book of Job does not espouse an explicit belief in resurrection.  Nevertheless, the trajectory of the whole book participates in that profound biblical movement from death to life.”

Is the story of Job a story of new life, for you?  If so, the sermon might look at the experience of resurrection as we live it in our own lives.  How do we come into new life after a death or a divorce, after a long season of illness or the loss of a job?  Like Job, we don’t come out the same.  Like Job, we are changed by pain, and our faith takes new shapes.

*****

Liz Crumlish is a Church of Scotland Minister currently working on a National Renewal Project. A Board Member of RevGalBlogPals and contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, Liz blogs at journalling.

Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, serving a delightful mix of people of all backgrounds and ages.  She blogs randomly at Stained Glass in the City when inspiration strikes.

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Looking for 2 Corinthians? Have no fear; we’ve got you covered with another Netflix-style series post. 

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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.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Narrative Lectionary Summer Series: Letter-Writing Occasions (2 Corinthians)

By Rev. Lia Scholl and Rev. Stephanie Anthony

Overview

 

IMG_7728Books of the Bible rarely get much attention, but things were different when Second Corinthians was quoted by Donald Trump, back in January 2016. It made the news because Trump mistakenly called it “Two Corinthians.” He used it in a speech at Liberty University, quoting verse 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Dear Mr. Trump, I do not think that means what you think it means.

But as we sat to write the blog posts for 2 Corinthians, I found myself annoyed, confused, and frustrated with the text. It doesn’t have great flow. It’s probably at least two letters to the Corinthians mixed in together, and some parts of it may have even been written before 1 Corinthians.

The church in Corinth is in conflict. And Paul is at the center of this conflict. At points, it’s obvious that he’s answering charges against him. It’s difficult to read from the context of being a minister. It feels sort of like a good example of what not to do and say when your congregation is in conflict.

It’s messy.

We ran into the difficulty of this epistolary genre as we started to work with the texts.  The letters are written to a specific community by a specific leader under specific circumstances.  Yet, by their very inclusion in the canon of the New Testament there is an assumption that they are good and useful for the Church beyond their original context.  Does that mean the whole letter, and all letters, are immediately applicable to 21st century life?  How do we overhear this conversation and find in it what the Spirit is saying to the church today?

As we considered each passage from Paul’s second (or third or first depending on when all these different pieces really came together anyway) we thought about more recent letter-writing occasions related to the same topics that Paul addressed.  Each preaching passage, therefore, is paired with a letter or part of a letter that might be used in setting the stage each week in this sermon series.

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Preaching Prompts

 

2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.

 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

According to the Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine, all the characteristics of this passage, compassionate and merciful, and even “Father of mercies,” are straight out of the Jewish liturgy. But not verses 3 and 4, “God of all consolation.”

Consolation. That’s an old-fashioned word, isn’t it? Consolation is defined as “comfort received after a loss or disappointment.” The word in Greek, in all the forms of comfort and console in this passage is parakaleo, summon, entreat, admonish, and comfort. It comes from two words, pará, close beside, and kaléo, to call. According to the New Interpreter’s Bible, “Comfort is a word which in modern speech has lost much of its N.T. meaning. It suggests to us a kind of sedative, a palliative for pain of body or mind. But the comfort of God is no narcotic. The word ‘comforter’ applied to the Holy Spirit really means ‘strengthener’, and has its roots in the word ‘fortifier.’”

This is not a balm of Gilead. It is, instead, something that gives us strength. God give us strength.

For what? According, again, to the Jewish Annotated New Testament, the “nature of this affliction is unclear.” But we see in 2 Cor. 12:10 Paul saying, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ.”

In a culture like the United States, we face very few insults or hardships for the sake of Christ. We don’t lose jobs, face isolation, or endure stigma because we are Christian. But some of us still face discrimination, isolation and stigma for other reasons.

How does God console us? Or even better, how does God give us strength in these?

Excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s Letter of Consolation to his father after the death of his mother

Next Monday it will be half a year since mother died. It will be Holy Week and both of us will be preparing ourselves to celebrate Easter. How will this Easter be for us? You will be in the parish church of our little Dutch town listening to the story of Christ’s resurrection. I will read that same story to monks and guests in a Trappist monastery in upstate New York. Both of us will look at the Easter candle, symbol of the risen Christ, and think not only of him but also of her. Our minds and hearts will be flooded with ideas and feelings that are too deep, too complex, and too intimate to express.

……

Real, deep love is, as you know, very unobtrusive, seemingly easy and obvious, and so present that we take it for granted. Therefore, it is often only in retrospect–or better, in memory–that we fully realize its power and depth. Yes, indeed, love often makes itself visible in pain. The pain we are now experiencing shows us how deep, full, intimate, and all-pervasive her love was.

Is this a consolation? Does this bring comfort? It appears that I am doing the opposite of bringing consolation. Maybe so. Maybe these words will only increase your tears and deepen your grief. But for me, your son, who grieves with you, there is no other way. I want to comfort and console you, but not in a way that covers up real pain and avoids all wounds. I am writing you this letter in the firm conviction that reality can be faced and entered with an open mind and an open heart, and in the sincere belief that consolation and comfort are to be found where our wounds hurt most. 

*****

2 Corinthians 2:1-10

 So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you. For I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.

Relationships are messy. Family relationships, friendships, relationships between governments and citizens, even relationships within the body of Christ, the church.

Or maybe especially in the church.

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that appears in the New Testament is written to them after there has been some sort of damage done to their relationship.  It seems on a previous visit to Corinth he had some sort of encounter with one of the members of the congregation that caused him pain, not just because of the damage done to the personal relationship, but because the church community did not come to his support or defense. After that visit, Paul mentions, he wrote them another letter referenced here in v 4, which seems to have caused the Corinthian church to take action against the individual, punishing him or maybe even banishing him from the community.

Relationships in the church and among the church are messing because we always hope that people will know better or act better.  We have high expectations and standards that we hope will be met by the community of faith, forgetting sometimes that walking through the doors of the church building doesn’t suddenly turn us into perfect people. Unfortunately, even in the church we still hurt each other.  We still make decisions from selfish positions.  We still fear that which is unfamiliar and push away those who are different.  We try not to, but we do.

Paul writes from the perspective of one who has been pained first by an individual and then by a community that didn’t support him.  He also writes as one who has seen the first offender punished by the community through exclusion from the community.  While that may sound like a satisfactory, crime and punishment outcome, what Paul writes is that this is not his desire.

Instead he calls for a different way of dealing with one who has offended not just him, but the whole community with his actions.  He calls for the church to show forgiveness and offer consolation.  His concern is that the one who hurt him may end up feeling the same sorry Paul himself did when he was excluded from the community.  Indeed, he urges the church to reaffirm their love for the individual.

A preacher might focus on one of a number of themes that come up in these ten verses:

  • The vulnerability Paul showed in his lost letter, even his reflections on it in vv. 3-4, and how his courage and honesty (rather than sulking away or keeping his frustration bottled up) will facilitate, we hope, true reconciliation.
  • The interrelatedness of the community that when one is hurt all are hurt.
  • The call to reconciliation not retaliation in our relationships.

The church will always be made up of imperfect human beings. Yet, through open, honest, and vulnerable communication, with the unity of the body in mind, and with the goal of grace-filled reconciliation before us we just might end up being perfectly forgiving.

A Letter of Forgiveness

Dear Dad, 

…I bear no ill will for everything you did. The times you laid your hands on us and mom. The times you told us we were worthless.  The times you forgot my birthday.

I forgive you.

I know that deep down you loved us. Despite everything you did, you’d still take us out for hot dogs sometimes. We went fishing. You gave us good advice. Told us to be true to ourselves. I even remember the kisses you gave us before we went to bed. 

But nobody’s perfect. And I hope that after all we’ve been through, you’ve learned just as much as I have. I’m still here for you. Because no matter what’s been said and done, you’re still my dad. 

Yours Truly,

George

*****

2 Corinthians 4:1-15

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.  We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.  For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.

 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak,  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.  Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Paul had many detractors. Imagine that! And much of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s attempt at proving to others that he is worthy of being called an apostle. The hinge of this passage is in his understanding of adversity. In The Jewish Annotated New Testament edited by Amy-Jill Levine, the author says of Paul’s philosophy, “adversity demonstrates the vessels’ unworthiness and the overcoming of adversity documents divine power.”

This flies in the face of modern psychology, where we work hard to see our worth and to believe that hardships are a natural part of life, and not a sign that we are not good enough.

I got laid off from a job a few years ago. I was working for a non-profit, and the recession had affected our grants—we were losing nearly one quarter of our funding. As the last person to be hired, I was the first out. Truth be told, it was probably not as cut-and-dry as that, but I had done good work. And there I was, out of a job.

I felt afflicted in every way perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. In addition to that, I felt crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, and destroyed. I felt that my life’s work had been a sham, and that I was never going to find good work again.

I lost heart.

Losing heart is pretty common. Surely, many of our church members lose heart, too. But losing heart, in Paul’s mind, indicates an unworthiness.

I don’t buy it. This sort of shame and blame argument is wrong. There I said it. And I blame every health and wealth preacher who says if I just believe enough, I will not face suffering. I blame every person who has ever said, “You’re will suffer this until you learn the lesson you need to learn.” I blame every person who said to me, “Everything happens for a reason.”

It’s okay to lose heart. Losing heart is not a sign that we have no faith. Losing faith is not a sign that we are not worthy of God’s love. It is not a sign that we have lost favor with God. It is, instead, a sign that life is hard. We remember that we do not go through this hard life alone.

From Sarah Bessey’s Letter to Women’s Ministry

Dear Women’s Ministry:

The world can give me cute cupcake designs and decorating tips, scrapbooking parties, casserole recipes and other ways to pass the time in the first-world – Jesus is coming so let’s all look busy. But truly, with my respect and love, may I be honest? If I wanted to learn how to decorate cupcakes, I would take a class in it. If I wanted to be educated on strategies for decorating my home inexpensively from Winners, I would just, you know, go to Winners. Or Pinterest. (I love Pinterest, you know.)

But I’m here with you tonight because I want what the world cannot give me. We’re choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community. We’re trying really hard – after all, we keep showing up to your lady events and we leave feeling just a bit empty. It’s just more of the same every time.

The women of our world aren’t looking for a safe place to bitch about housework and ooh-and-ahhh over centrepieces. We’re not all mothers, some of us work outside the home, some of us have kids and others don’t or won’t or can’t. Is womanhood only about wifehood and motherhood? What about those among us that are not wives and mothers? We’re not all in the same season of life. We are – or should be – diverse image bearers of a Divine God….

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2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul talks here about the “in between” nature of the life of faith, the contradictions that are born of following God who we cannot see, of having a loyalty and even authority that is out of sight.  To whom we belong can come into question when the one we are called to count on feels distant and unresponsive to our day to day needs, concerns, and afflictions.

However, when the outer nature, the fleshy life, is being worn down, the inner nature, the spiritual life is tested and given opportunity to grow.  In Paul’s experience it is in the most difficult days, when he have nowhere else to turn, that he was able to see and rely on the strength and presence of God.

Paul offers encouragement to those who are struggling, not in a way intended to dismiss the reality of that suffering or even to glorify it, but to offer faith and the spiritual life as a way of persevering through it. Having faith in the building God builds “eternal in the heavens” is not an escape route.  It doesn’t set us free from the pains and burdens of this life, but it is a reminder to whom we truly belong.  In that way it also guides our living in the here and now.

Our confidence, Paul reminds us, is found in the promise that we belong to God.  Through the difficulties of the present, with the hope of the future that is to come, we will find the path on which we can walk in faith.

A Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD

Mis estimados:

…There will always be times in the midst of “success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen” when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for. (Read more at the link.)

*****

 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.

 If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.

So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.

According to a 2014 Pew Report, Americans are more politically polarized than they were 20 years ago. And with the current political situations, it’s not hard to imagine that we are even more polarized than we were two years ago! Polarization pits partisan people in oppositional positions.

Paul is facing polarization amongst his people. Oh, sure. It’s not polarizing bathroom bills, nor is it presidential politics, but it is just as divisive. The Corinthians are divided over who is in and who is out, and they’re basing it on how well the members follow the Law. One side says that everyone must be circumcised, and another says that circumcision is not necessary.

But Paul implores the people to look beyond the outward appearance, and to instead look into one another’s hearts, and to reconcile with God as well as with other church members.

Verse 16 tells us, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.” Instead, we look to them to see Christ in them. Because, verse 17, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” We look for the Christ in others—because otherwise, we have a tendency to see the worst.

Excerpted from “An Open Letter from Black Clergy: A Call for Racial Justice, Healing and Reconciliation

Dear Colleagues,

As members of the clergy we have been called and compelled to care for all of God’s people. Therefore we would like to offer our deepest condolences to the families of Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, Wenjian Liu, and Rafael Ramos. Together we affirm that each one of these men were children of God and that all humanity, men, women, children and youth are a part of God’s sacred (holy) creation. We stand in prayer with each of these families and all who must now face the reality of their first holiday season without the presence of their loved one.

….

We are Black clergy who represent a diverse constituency. We are therefore calling on clergy of all ethnicities and faith traditions to join us in leading our nation toward healing and reconciliation. We are asking you to join us in finding more than symbolic ways to address this issue that has plagued our nation since its inception. We are asking you to join us in appealing to your elected officials, opening your doors to protestors, holding community forums that encourage dialogue and communication between the community and law enforcement and/or doing the work in your individual houses of worship and communities that will ultimately bring about restorative justice.

Yours in prophetic hope,

Members of the Black Clergy

*****

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

‘The one who had much did not have too much,

   and the one who had little did not have too little.’

Stewardship!  In the middle months! Away from the annual campaign! Yay!

No seriously.   The current wisdom around the topic of money and stewardship is that it needs to be a year-round conversation, not just an annual theme.  Money can be so hard to talk about when we only talk about it once year, but the more often it comes up in our preaching the easier it gets.  And Paul gives us some wonderful ways into the topic in this section of his letter about the collection for the Jerusalem church.

Using the example of the Macedonian churches, he talks about the joy of giving, even when giving out of poverty.  He talks about people begging to be a part of the offering, begging to share in the ministry of the saints.

He also challenges the Corinthians to excel in generosity. A theory about excellence that first appeared in science has been back in current conversation thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.  The theory is that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill.  I don’t know what 10,000 hours of deliberate practice of giving looks like, but the idea of excelling at generosity, it seems must include being generous over and over again.

Generosity does not come naturally for everyone, maybe not for anyone. To be generous requires one to set aside that basic impulse we have to make sure we have enough for ourselves and our loved ones first.  To be generous means we might have to reprogram our minds to consider the needs of others at least alongside our own if not before our own.  To be generous we have to lose our usual lens of scarcity and instead see the world through the lens of abundance in God’s grace.  To be generous the interconnectedness of community must matter more than the success of the individual.

A Fundraising Letter from Love Wins, Raleigh, NC 

Dear Friends,

 I said something to Julie about us being a rough looking group. She asked if I had ever seen the Christmas special about Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.

“You know that Island of Misfit Toys? That’s what we’re like – nobody wanted us, people thrown us away, but put us all together, and somehow, we make it. Ya know?”

That’s the best description of our work I have ever heard. My people are all just a bunch of misfit toys – disposable, broken things, but together, we make it work.

And because of you, we were able to do it one more year. Thanks for helping with that. We couldn’t do it without you.

Grace and Peace,

Hugh

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Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013). Rev. Stephanie Anthony is a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor in Hudson, Wisconsin (U.S.); she blogs at For Some Reason and is a contributor to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths, 2015).

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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.
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Categories: Narrative Lectionary | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Summer Series Debut

IMG_7728For the next three weeks, we will be debuting our Narrative Lectionary Summer Series, and we’re doing it Netflix-style. You can find all the texts for the whole series covered in one post. We begin this week with 2 Corinthians. RevGalBlogPals contributors Stephanie Anthony and Lia Scholl start us off with an overview of the epistle and preaching prompts for each of the six weeks in the series.

There will be a weekly link to the summer series here on the blog, as well as links in our sidebar. Job will be published next Tuesday, May 24, and the Lord’s Prayer the following Tuesday, May 31.

We hope Narrative Lectionary preachers will join conversations on each page about the weekly readings. As always, we thank your friends at Working Preacher for their creativity and the additional resources they provide.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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