Narrative Lectionary

Narrative Lectionary: Year of God’s Favor Edition (Isaiah 61:1-11)

Surely Isaiah is talking about a different year.  Because this can’t be “the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God”. Can it?

But what would happen if such a year were to break upon us? What would the reaction be if all these things that Isaiah lists were to start to happen? Would our established norms and mores and rules about being “civilized” withstand the onslaught of the Kingdom?

ANd what is the good new to the poor and oppressed? Who is that bad news for (Because the way of the world seems to be that good news for one is bad news for someone else)?

The passage for this third Sunday of Advent (does that make it Joy Sunday in your context?) is Isaiah 61:1-11.

Working Preacher has both a commentary and a podcast to provide grist for the sermon mill.

Text this week resources for the passage are here, you may also find it useful to look at their resources dealing with Luke 4:14-31, which are in two sections: 14-21 and 21-30. Because after all, Luke uses these words from Isaiah to launch the public ministry of some fellow named Jesus of Nazareth (which opens some preaching doors, but may blind us to other potential sermonic directions — can we read Isaiah as the words of Isaiah [about the Servant, as Paul Hanson points out in the Interpretation commentary] without seeing them as automatically and only about Jesus?)

So where does the passage lead you? Years ago I was told that the “year of the Lord’s favor” referred to the Jubilee year. but in reading about the Sabbath year in Deuteronomy and the Jubilee year in Leviticus in comparison to these words from Isaiah there are few, if any, direct correlations. And yet I can’t help but think that if the debt-cancelling and slave-freeing and land-returning regulations of Sabbath and Jubilee years were suddenly implemented that would indeed be good news to the poor, would bind many broken hearts, would bring liberty and release to many oppressed and captive people.

Part of me wants to focus on the words of comfort in this passage. Reading my newsfeeds on a regular basis leads me to think that we could use more garlands and gladness, less ashes and mourning, less devastation and more rebuilding. But then I realize that to get to there we may need to turn the world upside down, change not only the rules but the whole game. We need the radical power of Jubilee.

As we process further into Advent, as the time of delivery draws near, as the birthpangs maybe are starting to be felt (though maybe they are only Braxton-Hicks contractions?) are we ready for the year of God’s favor to begin? Jesus, Emmanuel, the one we know as Christ and Messiah is about to be born. Luke will show us his birth presaged by Mary’s song of turning the world on its head. Luke will show us an adult Jesus who pairs words of blessing with words of woe, who points out that in the Kingdom of God the rules will be very different, who has the audacity to take these words of Isaiah and say they are about the work he is about to do.

What is about to be born?

Are we ready? Then again is anyone ever truly prepared for birth?

If the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, where is it leading (dragging?) you this week?

 

 

 

 


Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings


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, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Narrative Lectionary: Catching the hopeful vision (Joel 2:12 – 13, 28-29)

Joel seems to encapsulate a theme I’m often found preaching: Be the ancandle-starsswer to your prayer. Its not enough to pray fervently unless we are prepared to be the means by which prayer is answered! The prophet seems to be saying the same things about prophecy – Don’t just listen and wait for fulfilment. Don’t just live in hope – bring about the promised future. he encourages folk to be dreamers and to dream things into being. Joel encourages us to see our longings fulfilled, reshaping reality around us until change happens.

So where are those visionaries today? Where are those who paint, not just an idealised version of the world around, but a living picture of potential reality? In a world that seems so fragmented, so reactionary, so disjointed, what will it take to bring people together? What will it take to see some kind of common purpose, something worth striving for together? Where are those dreamers in today’s world? Or is it the case that folk are just too disillusioned to imagine things being any different? Have we lost faith in possibility?

Joel seems to call us back to hope – the hope that the world and humanity can change, that relationships can be restored, that the Kingdom of God will break out. And we don’t have to wait until everyone has caught the vision or embraced the hope – it can begin with you or I. Those who imagine possibility can see its fulfilment. Communities can take small steps to bring about God’s preferred and promised future.

The Incarnation started with a woman and an angel…

So where are you thinking of taking this text this week?

  • Are you examining dreams and dreamers?
  • Are you re-imagining the community you serve?
  • Are you going with the theme of hope?
  • Are you finding the rich seam of connection to Advent and the Incarnation?

You will find the text here.

And the ever helpful Working Preacher NL Commentary is here.

Please share in the comments what direction you’ll be taking with the text this week and let’s continue to inspire each other as we imagine and live into God’s preferred and promised future today.

 

 

Categories: Narrative Lectionary, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Lions and Tigers and Prayers, Oh My! (Daniel 6:6-27)

Like a modern day reality TV show, the story of Daniel moves back and forth between the officials conspiring against him, the weak and easily swayed king, and Daniel himself.  While the officials plot and scheme, and the king struggles to use his power, Daniel is steadfast in his faith in God.  As Daniel’s story comes to us on the first Sunday of Advent, he prompts us to think about what it means to be faithful to God while other competing interests swirl around us.

Our story happens in the book of Daniel after Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego endure the fiery furnace, and there’s a change in power at the top.  Darius is a new king, but he hasn’t learned  from his predecessors not to mess with the power of the God of Israel.

Read the scripture here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary here.

With all the plotting and scheming around him, Daniel has an enviable steadiness in his faith.  He’s aware of the new law passed to trap him, but he continues to pray on his regular schedule, in a visible place.  He doesn’t construct his faith to fit anyone around him.

Places of power and powerlessness pop up as the characters interact.  Daniel is an influential official in the court of King Darius, and also a stranger, who worships a foreign God.  The court officials force the king’s hand, hoping to get rid of Daniel, and ask the king for a law forbidding anyone to pray to anyone except the king for 30 days.  Then they force the king to enforce the law, in spite of his misgivings.  The king seems to be uncertain about how to use his power, and his officials are bossing him around like he’s in elementary school.  The king reluctantly puts Daniel in with the lions, leaving Daniel without any of his own power.  There, God’s power is revealed.  In his prayer of praise, the king notes the power of the lions – and the greater power of God.

In his anguish about Daniel, the king is sleepless and unable to eat, until he rushes to the lions’ den in the morning.  He calls out to Daniel to see whether God has saved him, and it seems that he’s expecting Daniel to be fine.  The king doesn’t peer nervously in – he calls out to Daniel, with the expectation of an answer.   Seeing Daniel alive and well prompts the king to acknowledge the God of Israel.  All through the story, his words have been hesitant and conflicted.  Now he speaks with clarity and purpose, praising God by saying:

“For he is the living God,
enduring for ever.
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion has no end.”

We begin Advent this year beset by national divisions and ugly politics, with a surge in hate crimes.  For anyone feeling discouraged about the election, Daniel shows us a way to live our faith in a time of exile.  For anyone rejoicing about the election, the king’s officials and the king show us how power can be used to punish, or how to proclaim God’s mercy.  The words of a foreign king remind us that the kingdom of our God is more enduring than rulers and presidents.  Advent begins with a call back to the power and grace of God.

 

Sermon possibilities:

  • King Darius doesn’t seem to recognize, or want to use, the power he has. He’s pushed around for most of the story.  None of us are kings or queens (that I know of…) but still we have different kinds of power in the world.  How do we use the power we have to proclaim our God?   In what places is our power blocked?  Where do we find God’s power at work in our lives?
  • The king expects God to triumph over the lions – and over his own inertia. Do we expect God’s victory over indifference and evil in our world?  Or are we not quite sure?
  • Are there places where we, like Daniel, live in a time or place of exile? Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon have famously said [in Resident Aliens: Life in Christian Colony] that we, as Christians, always live in a different world than the powers around us.  Hauerwas and Willimon say, “The church is not to be judged by how useful we are as a “supportive institution” and our clergy as members of a “helping profession”. The church has its own reason for being, hid within its own mandate and not found in the world. We are not chartered by the Emperor.”  How does Daniel teach us about turning toward God, instead of toward the world’s shifting powers?
  • If Advent is about paying attention, watching for God’s presence in the world, where are we finding God in the midst of turmoil this Advent?

Where are your thoughts taking you this week?   Share your thoughts in the comments section below.  We would love to continue the conversation with you.

 

Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.  The image above is from the National Gallery of Art’s Open Images program, and is Peter Paul Rubens’ Daniel In the Lions’ Den.

______________________________

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, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: The Scroll of Your Heart (Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28; then 31:31-34)

God’s message rarely gets through the first time.  The prophet Jeremiah understands God’s peculiar timing, and is willing to keep repeating God’s message.  God is persistent, and the people who work for God are called to live that persistence, too.  Jeremiah has already demonstrated his own persistence by buying a field in a doomed city. (Chapter 32)  Now he has a message for the people and for the king.

Read the scripture here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary here.

Moving from the prophet Isaiah last week, to Jeremiah this week, God continues to seek the people’s attention, and their faithfulness.  If the house of Judah hears from God, they may yet change course.  The prophet Jeremiah has acted out God’s message, and now God’s word comes on a scroll, dictated by the prophet Jeremiah, and then written and delivered by Baruch.

Interestingly, the people get to hear the message before the king does.  To hear God’s word, the king has to send for the scroll.

Curiously, the king doesn’t have the whole scroll burned immediately.  He listens to each section, and throws it into the fire, as if caught between wanting to hear that God and the prophet have to say, and wanting to stop up his ears and ignore the whole thing.  We can’t tell if he just wants to hear what the people have already heard, or if he’s interested in what God has to say.  We don’t know if he’s burning the sections as a sign of defiance, or in despair that he won’t be able to comply with what God is saying.  He is caught between what is and what should be.

Jeremiah understands that God’s plans move slowly.  He himself is confined in the palace (32:2) and he manages to speak God’s word of freedom through his own place in prison.  Before this God has announced: “See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? 28Therefore, thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall take it.”  (32:27-28)  Destruction will come before restoration, but God continues to promise renewal. “Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them.”  (32:42)  God is thorough, but not quick.

The readings move backward in the scriptures to end with a word of hope.  Despair and forgetfulness are never the last word for God.  Earlier the prophet has promised us a connection between our weeping and our restoration.  “Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
16 Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
17 there is hope for your future, says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.” (31:15-17)

God promises a new covenant, when fragile, temporary scrolls won’t be needed anymore because God’s law will live in our hearts.  We won’t need a book or a tablet or a scroll.  We won’t need someone to read it to us, or teach it to us.  We won’t need an intermediary.  No ruler will be able to do away with God’s word simply by burning it up.  It will live fully in our hearts.

We haven’t arrived there yet, but God’s promises still stand.  In a time when our own country is buffeted by violence in words and actions, when we seem to be overtaken by a spirit of division, God’s word comes back to us through the prophet.  The invaders at our gate are the inner armies of hatred and separation, but God’s promises endure for those who are willing to hear, and to live with God’s persistence.

Sermon possibilities:

·         Jeremiah is a prophet who acts out his messages from God, in addition to using words.  How do we embody God’s promises, as we convey them to people?  When the world is awash in chatter, how do we enact God’s word?

·         God is not deterred after the first scroll is burned.  God and Jeremiah join forces again to write the same message on a second scroll.  The sermon might look at the spiritual discipline of perseverance, and how badly we need that as we collaborate with God on God’s plans.  God’s work is slow, and we inevitably meet setbacks.  How can we maintain our energy and focus in doing God’s work?  How do we avoid becoming discouraged?

·         The king has God’s words read to him, but he isn’t able to take in the message.  He can’t hear what God is saying.  The sermon might look at the places where we can’t hear what God is saying, and explore what gets in our way.

·         God’s message comes through Jeremiah and Baruch, as a team effort.  Neither one could deliver the message alone.  The sermon might explore how God’s work requires us to work together.  If each one of us only has only part of the talent God needs, how do we collaborate on God’s work?  What talents do we need to complement our own?

Where are your thoughts taking you this week?  We would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.

Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.

___________________________

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.  The image above is the prophet Jeremiah, from the Vanderbilt Library of Art in the Christian Tradition.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Isaiah’s Hope

i-votedToday is Election Day in the United States, and the stakes seem as high, if not higher, than they have ever been. Today it feels like we choose between hope and fear. And nearly everyone in our nation (no matter which side of the election your politics reside) would tell you we choose between good and evil.

Which, of course, means that this Sunday’s sermon will change, based on the election results tonight (or tomorrow). This could possibly be a sermon of hope. Or this may be a sermon of fear. One pastor may preach doom and gloom, and another the bright optimism of a brand new day.

The Narrative Lectionary text is Isaiah 6:1-8. You can find the Working Preacher commentary here.

Isaiah, like preachers across the globe this Sunday, is in an unsteady time. He is tossed about by the idolatry of the nation of Israel, and the ever-present threat of Assyria, and let’s not forget about the diminishing presence of religion… Look at Isaiah 1:2:

Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.

The whole of Chapter 1 is about the sin and depravity of Judah. Contrast that, if you will, with Isaiah 2:2-4:

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

Fear, anger, and destruction versus a glorious view of the future where there is no war. These are a people torn between fear and hope.

And in the midst of it all, here comes Isaiah with a vision. That vision is both terrible and hopeful all in the same. Hopeful in the vision of God, sitting on the throne, with God’s hem filling the room. Terrible is the seraphs, with hot coals to press on Isaiah’s mouth. Terrible is the smoke. Terrible is the reminder of sin in all of us.

And yet hopeful in the answer of the question, “Whom shall I send?” the answer, “Here am I. Send me.”

When you are terrified, you do not venture on a trip. You do not leave out. You instead hunker down. You retreat. You duck. You run away from rather than to. So this is a hopeful response from Isaiah. “Send me.”

Because Isaiah has seen God. And no matter what happens with Judah, what happens in the nation, what Assyria, or Babylon, or anyone does, Isaiah has seen God’s true power, and knows that the future is held by God.

Here are some other ideas for this Sunday’s text:

  • Unpack the meaning of Isaiah’s “Send me.” Is it like Howard Thurman’s “that which makes you come alive?”
  • Is it possible to say no to God’s calling?
  • Isaiah’s mouth is burned clean with a burning coal. What things can keep you from following God’s calling? How can someone get ready to follow the call?
  • Visions. What do you do with a vision? Have you had an experience with a vision?
  • Usually our narrative pericopes are longer than six verses. Is there a text you can choose to add some to this pericope?

Where will you go with this text? I look forward to your comments!


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).


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: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Narrative Lectionary — God Loves THEM? Edition (Jonah 1:1-17; 3:1-10 [4:1-11])

On October 23, during the fellowship time after worship someone said my sermon (about the house and heir of David) made him start to think about a question. How do we get past a tribal God?

I have no idea where he got that from my sermon that day. But gee I hope he is there next Sunday. Because Jonah really invites us into that exact question.

The suggested readings (especially if you use the optional piece in square brackets) have us read almost the whole book of Jonah you can read the passages here.  All that is missing are the 10 verses that make up chapter 2. So it is a lot of text to read but at the same time it allows us to tell the whole story (something that happens rarely in my experience).  How will you break it up? How will you tell the story?

The Working Preacher commentary can be read here or you could listen to the podcast discussion.
Links to the Text this Week pages dealing with Jonah are here

As it happens this Sunday is also the Sunday prior to November 11th, the day when many pause to remember their country’s war dead. Jonah, with its message about God’s love and care for the despised Ninevites (Nineveh-ites? Assyrians?) might tie in well with such a topic.

It is also the Sunday before Election day in the US.  I have no wisdom to share on linking Jonah to that event (lest I make some unseemly connection between a certain Presidential candidate and the wicked folk of Nineveh).

I have always felt for Jonah. Called to witness to God in the midst of hell. And that was even before I read the WP commentary which outlines how nonsensical the call must have seemed to him. I suggest it is only slight hyperbole to suggest that it is like asking a mid-20th-century Jew to  witness to the guards at Auschwitz.  What else could Jonah do but head the exact opposite direction? What would I do? What would you do?

Then he finally (after a little pause in the fish belly) agrees to go to Nineveh and preach. Imagine his horror when his preaching works! The people repent and God shows mercy. I always have this vision of Jonah, after he preaches, sitting up on a hillside ready to savor the vision of the cursed city being destroyed. Only God chooses mercy so Jonah is denied even that sweet pleasure.

Part of me understands why he is a little ticked off.

And yet…
We follow the one who will say to his friends and followers

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

We understand that God is NOT a tribal God. God is not just our God, God is God, the God of the world (or even Universe).

We may not always like what that suggests.  But, like Jonah, we have to learn to live with that reality.


Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings


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: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Foreign Widow Saves Prophet Edition (1 Kings 17:1-16[17-24])

nhb7uma

image from rgbstock, used with permission

This week, the Narrative Lectionary makes another big jump, all the way to 1 Kings 17:1-16 [17-24]. The accompanying gospel text is Luke 4:24-26. Working Preacher resources for this week’s text is here.

Have you been spending time connecting the dots between texts each week? The leaps across scripture have seemed big to me. I’ve been encouraging people to read the connecting passages during the week, but still feel a need to draw some sort of line. How are you handling it?

This week, Elijah is sent to one of those foreign women the bible keeps warning us about. And despite the meagerness of her own resources, she agrees to feed him too. This story to me is about the abundance of “enough”. Her pantry doesn’t overflow as if she’s been to Costco and loaded up. She has just enough. It’s manna like.

And the enough-ness of the feeding is what sets up the real miracle, the bringing back to life of the woman’s son.

It is stewardship season for many churches, and the abundance of “enough” and the preparation for a miracle may both be helpful words for churches coming up with budgets these days.

It is also Reformation Sunday. It may be worth mentioning, even if we are hesitant to celebrate schism in the body of Christ.

Where are you leaning with this text this week? Time with the Children ideas?

Please add your thoughts here.


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. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA.

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


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: , , , , | 3 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: God Would Rather Rent than Own (2 Samuel 7:1-17)

covenant-by-alexander-libermanBuy the best house, in the best location, that you can afford, conventional wisdom tells us.  But God, it turns out, doesn’t want to be pinned down.

Read the scripture passage here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary here.

After years of war and chaos, now David is the king, ready to do kingly things.  Once he’s settled, first on his list is building a house for God.  The first king, Saul, has been killed in battle, along with his son and David’s companion, Jonathan.   The tribes of Israel ask David to be their king (5:3) and David solidifies his hold on the nation by taking the city of Jerusalem in battle.  The stronghold of Zion is now called the city of David.  (5:7)

After years of battle, David settles in one place, in a house built for him by the King of Tyre.  Living in a house, being in one place without the need to go out to battle, allows David to understand that he really is the king now.  “David then perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.”  After a last battle with the Philistines, David sends for the Ark of the Covenant, ready to bring it to Jerusalem.

Comfortable in his own home, David starts to think about a building to house the ark.  It feels wrong to him to live in comfort, while the ark, holding the presence of God, is still in a tent.  The prophet Nathan carries God’s words to David, speaking for God to say that God has been on the move for a long time now.  The divine presence has traveled with the people in a tent from Sinai, through all of their travels, into this new land, through the time of the judges.  The holy presence has never been contained in a building, and God is not ready to settle into a fixed dwelling place even now.  David might be settled, but God doesn’t want to be yet.

God reminds David that God is the one doing the building here.  God lists everything that God has done to build him up – turning him from shepherd to warrior to king.  God’s actions shifts from past to future, and we hear God make a covenant with David, promising to raise up future generations for David, to build up the nation, and to make sure the people are secure.  God will build up the household of David, giving the throne to David’s descendants.  Walter Brueggeman says that this “is the dramatic and theological center of the entire Samuel corpus . . . one of the most crucial texts in the Old Testament for evangelical faith.” (in  I and II Samuel, as cited by Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over A Wall: Earthly Spirituality for Everyday Christians)

Like Job, David is reminded of the magnificence of God, and of his own smallness, even though he is the king.  All of it depends on God, and the plans God has for him and for the nation.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, “David, full of what he’s going to do for God, is now subjected to a comprehensive rehearsal of what God has done, is doing, and will do for and in David. What looked yesterday like a bold Davidic enterprise on behalf of God now looks picayune” (Leap Over a Wall)  David’s reaction to God’s “no” is to come back to the presence of God.  “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?”  His response is not anger, but praise, remembering all that God has done for him.  He enters back into a place of humility before God.

Sermon possibilities:

  • The prophet Nathan first agrees with David about building a dwelling place for God, assuming that this will meet with God’s approval. Then God speaks up, and says no.  Have you experienced a “no” from God?  What was it like?  Painful?  A relief?  Embarrassing?
  • God says no to David’s desire to build a place to for the divine presence to dwell. Why do you think God says no?  Does God not want to be trading favors with David?  Is the glory of God too magnificent to be tamed and contained in a building?  Does God want to stay on the move a while longer?  Is God reminding David that they’re not equal, that God’s favor can’t be repaid?
  • Someone else will build God’s house, Nathan tells David. The sermon might explore how we know what God wants us to do, and how we let go of work that belongs to someone else.  Congregations are filled with resentful people who are doing too much, and bored people who don’t feel engaged.  How do we hear what God is truly asking us to do, and leave other people’s work to them?
  • Nathan brings God’s voice to David, bringing him news he doesn’t want to hear. How do we react to people who tell the unwanted, uncomfortable truth in our congregations, or in our shared public life?
  • Or the sermon might look at why David can’t hear God directly about this. Does he need someone else who knows God’s plans to keep him accountable?  Does the covenant need a witness?  Has all of the activity of the past years of battle dulled David’s ears to God?  The sermon might explore the times when we, too, need someone else to listen to God for us.
  • Where are your thoughts taking you this week? Please share in the comments section below.  We look forward to continuing the conversation with you.

Rev. Mary Austin serves as pastor of Westminster Church, a multi-cultural congregation in Detroit.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.


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.


(Image above the sculpture “Covenant” is by Alexander Liberman, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

Categories: Narrative Lectionary, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: What Hannah Wants

Girls MatterMy facebook feed has been filled with bad news for women. From this post about the lack of barriers in business for incompetent men, to this post about the “glass cliff” which posits that women are called in just as the whole organization is about to fall off the cliff, to the triggering remarks made by one of our presidential candidates, it’s been a tough couple of weeks.

So by all means, let’s put a little Hannah here. This Sunday’s text can be found here. And be sure to check out the Working Preacher commentary on this passage.

I won’t go into the full story, because Working Preacher recounts it well, but suffice it to say that Hannah has a tough life. Her sister-wife is torturing her, she’s barren, and somehow she doesn’t seem to engender feelings of trust (the priest thinks she’s drunk while she’s sitting on the Temple steps). What she really wants is a child.

But that’s not really what she wants. We all know that in Hebrew Bible times women were considered “less than” if they didn’t have children. Children (especially boys) solidified your relationship with your husband, ensured your financial security, and validated your role as a full human being.

Hannah wanted to matter. And she wanted to have some security.

Not much to ask, eh?

And today? It’s not all that different, is it? We take the jobs on the glass cliff, because we really want to make a living. We make our stand with less-than-competent men, because we want validation that our selves matter. We put up with unbearable things (like what Trump said about that actress) because we are often safer putting up with it than we are without it.

Hannah wanted to matter. I want to matter. I bet you want to matter, too.

What would it mean to live in a world where we do matter? What if we lived in a world without threat of violence, where we could let our guard down for just a moment, and not have to worry that a guy at the party will hurt us? What if we lived in a world where we were judged on our ideas, our skills, our character, rather than our breasts? What if we lived in a world where people believed in us as much as we wanted to believe in ourselves?

Hannah mattered. She mattered to God. She mattered to Eli. She mattered to her husband. And she mattered to the story of the Hebrew people. She wanted to make sure that others mattered, too. In her song she says, “He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” May we also be raised.

You might head some other directions with the story of Hannah:

  • What is the role of the church in infertility? Should we have one? Eli prays with and for Hannah, how can we pray with and for our congregants who are struggling?
  • Often with illness and despair, we promise God that we will give something in return for God’s favor. Hannah promised her son. What have you promised? And is this a valid way to pray?
  • Hannah returned to the Temple to dedicate her son to God’s service. How do we dedicate our children to God now? Does this, in some way, take away the full rights of Samuel to make his choice? What implication does this have for our parenting?
  • Hannah was embroiled in conflict with her sister-wife. How can we create models of friendship between women that do not involve jealousy and spitefulness?

Where will you go with this text? I look forward to your comments!


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).


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: , | 2 Comments

Narrative Lectionary Leanings: Impatience and Idolatry Edition (Exodus 32:1-14)

This week our skipping through the stories of the Jewish Scriptures takes us to Sinai. Not to the giving of the law but to what happens while Moses is up the mountain having his visit with God. Suffice to say that it does not go so well down on the plain…

The reading is Exodus 32:1-14 and can be found here.

The Working Preacher commentary can be found here with the podcast here.

Text This Week resources linked to this passage are here.

So Moses has led the people of Israel out into the desert. They have been less than happy with his leadership, whining about the lack of food and water and thinking that maybe they were better off as slaves in Egypt. Now he has been gone for a while and they start to wonder.

Is he ever coming back?

From Occupy Frankfurt 2001 By Blogotron (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

From Occupy Frankfurt 2001
By Blogotron (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Apparently some have decided that Moses is NOT coming back and so it is time for a new plan. And so they start to cause trouble. I note in the WP commentary that the verb used as they gather around Aaron is also used in another part of the story where it is an explicit threat. Maybe Aaron is an unwilling part of this foray into idolatry?  But at the same time the text makes it seem that Aaron is fairly easily convinced to follow a new path. At the very least we are not told that he raises any objections. In fact it almost appears that the making of the Calf is his plan from the beginning.

Earlier someone posted this link in the Narrative Lectionary group on FB which suggests how the rabbis have wrestled with this willingness of Aaron to be led (or perhaps to help lead) astray.  The suggestion they make fits quite well with the explanation Aaron offers to Moses in the second half of chapter 32, which is not part of the suggested reading for this week.

One of the questions I always ask as a part of my sermon prep is “why do we still read this story? What is God saying to us today through these ancient words?”. As I ask that today I begin to wonder if we are still that impatient, if we are still so willing to turn aside and find another path when God seems slow to respond.

If we are honest I think we know the answer to that one.

Then there is Moses. Remember him, still up on the mountain communing with God? His response is a potential sermon too. One of the wonderful things about people like Abraham and Moses is their willingness to argue with God, even to change God’s mind. I notice that we are not really encouraged to argue with God in this way. Instead we are taught to accept that “God’s ways are not our ways”. Moses has nothing to do with this. Even though Moses has despaired about this troublesome group of people he is quick to tell God that they should not be destroyed.

When do we feel we should argue with God and change God’s mind?

THe Israelites Worship the C=Golden Calf William de Brailes [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Israelites Worship the Golden Calf
William de Brailes [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Which brings us to the other main character in the narrative. How do we preach God in this passage? God as the one who forgives (after being shamed into it by Moses and even then it is not really a whole-hearted forgiveness). Or maybe we could preach the jealous vengeful God who wants to destroy the people for their lapse.  Remembering of course that 12 chapters earlier in the commandment against idolatry God self-describes as “…a jealous god, punishing children for the iniquity of parents…”. Sometimes God is not who we want God to be.

 

And then there are seasonal issues. In Canada this weekend is Thanksgiving weekend. Where is the link between a Golden Calf and Thanksgiving? I think it is in the fact that it is so easy for the Israelites to forget to be thankful (a recurrent theme in the Exodus account). Or maybe you are serving a church which is going into the Stewardship drive. I confess that a passage about an idol sets up some tempting topics for a stewardship drive but am not sure that is the wisest approach.

Where are you headed this week?

********

Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Fordo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings

*******

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: , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.