Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

Revised Common Lectionary: Exalted and Humbled Edition

How do you pray? Between last week’s persistent widow and this week’s Pharisee and tax collector, there are lots of examples of prayer in Jesus’ teachings at this point in the lectionary. Will you be exploring the topic of prayer with your community this week? Alternately, the point about the humbled being exalted (and vice versa) is counter-cultural and hopefully good news for your listeners. Maybe this is the message to focus on this week. Or perhaps you have found another sermon direction for this Sunday. Please share your ideas and insights below!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther Revised Common Lectionary themes this week include righteousness and judgment (in 2 Timothy), beyond judgment to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2), and trust in God’s forgiveness (Jeremiah 14). If you’re in the middle of stewardship season, the alternate lesson from Sirach provides a great tie-in!

October approaches the end of the season of Pentecost, or ordinary time. It’s a good time to plan for the liturgical days and seasons that are soon to come, but also a time when other events sometimes get squeezed in because there aren’t church holidays. What is important to your congregation at this point in the year? Perhaps it’s time for a topical sermon series, a harvest festival, or a celebration of some specific ministries of the church. Wherever you find yourself in your thought process and preparation, please join in the conversation!


canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, occasional hospital chaplain, freelance writer, professional canoeing instructor, and Star Wars enthusiast. She blogs occasionally at Provocative Proclamations.


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 Leanings–Remember

For some of us, this weekend is World Communion Sunday. Our text for Sunday is from Exodus. It is our first dip into the waters of this book, having finished Genesis last week, and we are dropped right into the instructions for the Passover.

Will you do some interpretation to get people from A to B? Or just let the text stand on its own?

Exodus 12:1-13 and 13:1-8

Working Preacher’s resources are here.  The Text this Week is here.

As we’ve been hearing the story of the people of Israel, I keep thinking about which stories in our lives we lift up for posterity. Moses instructs people in this text to “remember”. We never just remember something from the past. We always remember it and interpret it in light of where we are now.

The other place Christians often use the word “remember” liturgically is at the Table, when we remember Jesus, the night he was betrayed…. And at the Font, we tell people to remember their baptisms.

I was an infant at my baptism, so I don’t remember it, exactly. And I wasn’t there the night Jesus was betrayed. I wasn’t there in Egypt either. And yet, I can remember, I can connect those stories to my story today.

Where does the text speak to you today? Where are you leaning?

Please share ideas for Children’s messages. And if you celebrate World Communion, those ideas may be helpful for others too

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Revised Common Lectionary: Good Samaritan, Bad…

Last week I met a retired pastor who told me about the church he attends in Sahuarita, Arizona, The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ. He is proud of the ministry being done there, a commitment to save migrant lives in the desert. The ministry is called Samaritans or Los Samaritanos.

There are many ways people support the work of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans:

  1. Come to a meeting
  2. Desert searches for migrants needing assistance
  3. Basura clean-ups of the desert
  4. Humanitarian visits to Mexico to aid returned migrants
  5. Preparing food packs for searches
  6. Maintaining search vehicles
  7. Public education
  8. Writing letters and articles
  9. Fundraising
  10. Make a tax deductible donation

Of course, not everyone likes the work the church is doing, my retired friend told me. In fact, the church attracted a picketer, who would walk back and forth in front of their building carrying a sign that said, “Good Samaritan, Bad American.”

Why would we want to help people who don’t look like us, talk like us, worship like us? That seems to be the frame of reference of the picketer, who also sometimes carried a sign reading “Say No to Social Justice.” That particular church understands its faith in one way, and the protester understands the same faith in another way. This is much on my mind as pundits argue over whether the ISIS-encouraged/planned attacks creating horror during Ramadan are a blot on all Muslims, or a sign that ISIS isn’t really Muslim at all. We may want the latter to be true, in order to make the case that our Muslim neighbors are not all the same. Sound bites are too quick for nuance.

In a sermon, we get more than a sound bite, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes to unpack the things we find important in relationship to a very familiar story told by Jesus to explain what it means to be a neighbor. (Find all the texts for this week here.) Who are the neighbors your church community passes by on the other side?

Here’s the moment in my retired friend’s story that confirmed for me how much Good Shepherd Church is doing right. One day the picketer came to the door of the church and asked to speak to the pastor. “I’ll be away for a few weeks,” he said, “and I don’t want you to worry that something has happened to me.” He figured they would care. He knew they would be a neighbor to him, too.

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Be sure to check out RevGal Denise Anderson‘s approach to the Good Samaritan in this great video from Theocademy, and use the comments below to share your thoughts on this week’s texts.

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Martha Spong is the Executive Director of RevGalBlogPals and a United Church of Christ pastor; she lives in South Central Pennsylvania (US) and blogs at marthaspong.com. She is the editor of 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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Revised Common Lectionary~Unexpected guest edition 

The RCL readings for the Fouth Sunday after Pentecost are here

After a long sojourn through the Gospel according to John, I for one am glad to be back in the narrative world of Luke. We picked up Luke’s gospel a couple of weeks ago just as he had finished his “sermon on the plain,” and we’ve followed along as Jesus healed the centurion’s servant and brought the widow’s son back to life in Nain. Now, skipping Jesus’ conversation with the messengers from John the Baptist, we find Jesus at dinner with Simon, a Pharisee.

At the suggestion of Lucy Lind Hogan at Working Preacher  I’ve been considering how Luke uses the gospel narrative to show his audience just who Jesus is, and what that means for them – and for US. So far we’ve seen Jesus as one who acts with compassion to one who is a stranger, even an enemy, one who heals, who speaks and acts with authority, and who is able to recognize faith in unexpected places. This week’s gospel  continues to add pieces to the puzzle of just who Jesus is – annd the most obvious bit is that Jesus is one who forgives. Luke  illustrates this clearly in Jesus’ conversations both with Simon and with the woman who comes uninvited and interrupts dinner to anoint Jesus’ feet with perfumed oil, and wash them with her tears.

JESUS MAFA. Jesus speaks about forgiveness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

The theme of forgiveness is one that comes up frequently in the gospels, and one that can weigh heavily on us today. As Jesus shares the parable about the debtor with Simon, and when he addresses the woman to offer her forgiveness, the text provides multiple preaching opportunities to touch on forgiveness:

  • How does knowing that Jesus offers us forgiveness touch us?
  • And what about knowing that Jesus expects US to forgive others?
  • When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses/sins/debts as we forgive those who trespass/sin/debt against us,” do we fear that our own forgiveness might be dependent on our willingness or ability to forgive others?
  • What does it mean to truly forgive, especially acts that seem, at their root, unforgivable – thing like infidelity? Or causing someone physical harm? Murder?
  • Is there a limit on what we must forgive? Is there a statute of limitations on our forgiveness?

Another preaching possibility comes from the unexpected woman herself. The text identifies her as a “sinner” – and many over the years have assumed her sin is prostitution, although the text never says so. Her presence at this dinner party is major transgression itself; she enters the home of a Pharisee uninvited, touches the feet of his guest, an act some believe has sexual connotations, and anoints them and wipes them with her hair, in a culture in which respectable women woul not let their hair even be seen in public. And yet, Jesus forgives her without hesitation What do her identity and her actions reveal to us about Jesus? And what might they show us about what Jesus expects from us?

Finally, at the very end, as Jesus moves on, we here that he is accompanied by other women – Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast seven demons, Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward, Suzanna, and others who “provided for them out of their resources.” This might be a good opportunity to consider all the women mentioned in Luke’s gospel (including the unnamed woman in the story) and talk about Jesus as one who included women amongst his disciples, despite the social taboos against doing so.

LOTS of preaching opportunities with this gospel – and I’ve only name a few. Do you know where your sermon is headed? Do you have particular insights on Luke? Or are are you tackling the readings from Hebrew scripture? Join the conversation and bring your questions, your inspirations, whatever you’ve got!

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The Rev. Dr. Kris Lewis-Theerman (the blogger formerly known as Rev.Dr. Mom) is an Episcopal priest currently serving a small parish outside New Yok City. She lives in the city with her husband of almost a year, where they love to wander the city streets admiring architecture and parks. Kris occasionally posts sermons at Run Amma Run.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via e-mail 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 e-mail revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Revised Common Lectionary: Sons of Widows

The readings for this Sunday include two stories about a widow’s son being raised from the dead. Elijah raises the son of the widow at Zarephath, who has provided for him while he was in hiding. (Both alternatives for the OT reading include this story!) Jesus raises the son of the widow at Nain, a stranger he had never met, but who moved him to perform this act of compassion. These miracles could be interpreted in so many ways for our communities. For starters…

  • It seems that the raising of both these young men was done not for their sake, but for the sake of their mothers. What did the sons think about being brought back from death? We never get to hear their side of the story.
  • Does God have a particular concern for widows? Without these sons, the women could have ended up destitute in a society with minimal rights for women and even fewer employment opportunities. With these miracles, the widows would be cared for and respected because they had a man to look out for them. Or perhaps God’s concern is for powerless people in general?
  • If the widows needed a man to look out for them, according to society’s rules, and God miraculously returned their sons to life, isn’t God just playing in to the sexist rules of society? If God can perform a miracle that brings a dead person back to life, why not perform a miracle that upsets the societal order and gives women a better place in it? mgDyroW
  • The widow at Zarephath cared for Elijah, but when her son dies, she accuses him of being guilty of his death. She demands that Elijah fix it, because she has earned something better than this. So, did she? Does Elijah perform the miracle because she’s worthy enough? And what does it take for someone to be worthy of such a miracle?
  • Jesus had never met the widow at Nain, but was moved by her grief. What was so special about this widow or this funeral?
  • When there’s a death of a young person in our communities, or when someone loses their only remaining family member, why doesn’t God bring about a miracle like these for us?

Perhaps you have other questions about these passages, or a new way to apply these stories to the life of your congregation. Maybe you’re doing a series on Elijah for a few weeks, in which case you may need to explain that the stories come to us a little bit out of order. Or maybe you’re following Galatians, introducing your modern community to this very early Christian community, through Paul’s letter. Maybe you’re turning to the Psalm for some preaching inspiration. Whatever your focus this week, please share your ideas and questions and suggestions below!

 

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canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and posts sermons on her blog: canoeistpastor.blogspot.com. Katya enjoys knitting, Star Wars, board games, time with her family, and of course, canoeing.

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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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Revised Common Lectionary: Do not doubt, but believe!

 

If it’s the Sunday after Easter, it must be Doubting Thomas Sunday. Or Faithful Thomas Sunday, if you prefer, since he’s the first disciple to recognize Jesus as God. It’s a familiar story about a faithful disciple getting a bad reputation that endures for 2000 years. What will you say about Thomas that you didn’t say last year or the year before? When the Revised Common Lectionary assigns the same text for all lectionary cycles, it can be a challenge to come up with something new each year. Please share any ideas or insights in the comments, to help out your fellow preachers! You can also check out the commentaries at Working Preacher or The Text This Week.

 

This Sunday’s reading from Acts can be an inspiration for the burned out pastor. After Holy Week, many of us need a day (or three) to sleep, get a massage, do laundry, and just recover from the long work hours and emotional stress of explaining or enacting the betrayal, execution, and resurrection of Jesus. Holy Week is an emotional roller coaster for church professionals. The Acts reading reminds us that burnout and frustration is not a new thing for those who proclaim the Word.

 

Take the time to read all of Acts 5. It’s a rich chapter with interesting stories. Just before the assigned passage for Sunday, Peter and the rest of the apostles had been arrested for proclaiming the Gospel and performing healings. It would have been easy for them to become discouraged and need a break from evangelizing. But when he was brought before the authorities, Peter continued to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel, even knowing that doing so would continue to put him and his peers in danger. mvzVswC.jpg

 

If Peter can preach in such circumstances, then so can you!

 

And if Peter can find new ways to tell the story of the Resurrection, even under severe pressure, then, dear colleague, so can you. Even if you’re at the end of your rope and don’t feel the usual spark of inspiration for writing this week, the Holy Spirit will be with you to guide and embolden you along your way. I will be praying for you and your proclamation this week!

 

In our congregation, a member recently went to a workshop on biblical storytelling. She will be telling (from memory) the story from Acts in worship this Sunday. It’s a helpful reminder that the most important thing we can do as preachers is to continue to tell the story of Jesus and his love. The Easter story is still meaningful and important a week after the fact. In this culture of short attention spans and only momentary news coverage of any single event, our congregations may just need to hear the Easter story again. It’s the basis of our faith, and worth telling and retelling as often as we can. So, happy preaching this week! Please share your ideas or frustrations and join the discussion below.

 

 

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Revised Common Lectionary ~ If it’s last Epiphany…

…it can only mean one thing: our gospel reading is the story of the Transfiguration. When I hear the word “transfiguration these days, Professor McGonagallimage appearing as a cat outside the Dursley home in the first Harry Potter book is the image that comes to mind. As fantastic as transfiguration is in the wizarding world, it may be easier for us to imagine that what happened on the mountaintop with Jesus.

Readings for the week can be found here. This year we get Luke’s version; eight days after Peter proclaims that he “gets” who Jesus is, he ascends to the mountaintop with Jesus, James, and John, where he and his compatriots are “weighed down with sleep” while Jesus meets Moses and Elijah. When the three amigos awake, they see a transformed Jesus, alight with the glory of God and in the presence of the prophets, and Peter  immediately suggests erecting dwellings for the three. But after God speaks, instructing the disciples to listen to Jesus, Peter, James, and John descend from the mountain and tell no one what they’ve seen.b0c9e-transfiguration3

 One commentator refers to the Transfiguration Sunday as a “major Christological festival” For Peter, James, and John the transfiguration should have served as a clear and definitive sign of Jesus’ true identity – God’s son, the Messiah, the Chosen One. Yet after descending from the mountaintop, rather than than loudly proclaiming this to the crowds, or even sharing it with the other disicples, they tell no one what they’ve seen,

One thing I’ve been pondering is what marks a major “Christological event” in our own lives? When and how do we recognize Jesus for who he was and is? How are we changed by our encounters with him? Are we ever overly transfigured, marked by our encounters with the holy in such a way that it is obvious to others? (Thinking here, too, 0f Moses’ shining face after his time with God on the mountain in our Hebrew scripture reading.)37c80-transfiguration2bmosaic

Another preaching tack I’ve used for this Sunday is to talk about why we hear about the transfiguration every year this time. Could it be that seeing Jesus in his full glory, hearing God’s words confirming his, identiy, being instructed to listen to him is just what we need to bolster us as we move into the long, dark days of Lent, and the unremitting journey to Jerusalem and the cross?

If the whole notion of transfiguration is more than you can deal with this year, the lectionary gives us the option to include the healing story that follows. Jesus’ disciples had been asked to heal the boy, but had  failed. Jesus seems to show his very human nature as he expresses some frustration; nonetheless he casts out the demon to the astonishment of the crowd. What, if any, is the relationship between Jesus’s experience on the mountain and this healing? Mountaintop experiences, as wonderful and transformative as they can be, are fleeting, and the needs of the world soon press upon us once more. How might we connect the two?

Rich readings this week – where are they calling you? Are you setting the stage for Lent? Or winding up the Epiphany season some other way? Bring your questions, your ponderings, and your inspiration, and join the discussion!

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Revised Common Lectionary: And Not a Drop to Drink

 

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Preachers, it is the second Sunday after Epiphany (you may find the texts here), and we are still in posture of exploration and discovery. Now that Christ has come and has been revealed to us, we’re still coming to understand what that means.

I’m very much attracted to the story of the wedding at Cana, mainly because I think we tend to miss its humor. Here we have a mother essentially pushing her son into helping out. She comes to him and simply says, “They have no wine.” After he (fruitlessly) protests, she ignores him and says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you [emphasis mine].” Jesus is put on the spot by his mama! Not only that, but apparently he creates a superb vintage from not just any kind of water, but ceremonial washing water — not intended for drinking — a miracle indeed! There’s a lot of humor in this familiar story that might lend itself to some powerful preaching.

What does the use and transformation of non-potable water into great wine in this miracle suggest about Jesus’ ministry? What of Mary’s involvement? What could we draw from her maternal meddling? A sister-friend intends to relate this story to the current crisis in Flint, Michigan here in the U.S., which is suffering from dangerous lead levels in its water supply. Flint is largely working class, and the state has been slow to respond to the crisis. What hermeneutical application could the text have for this situation?

Maybe you’re not even touching the wedding at Cana. Maybe you’re preaching on spiritual gifts and using 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 to exhort your congregation to walk in their gifts. Many of us are having our annual meetings around this time of year and electing officers. Surely, that would be a timely message for your context.

Maybe you’re preaching from the Trito-Isaiah text, where Judah’s restoration from a very long exile is in view. That text is filled with hope and may have some value if you have been ushering your congregation through a difficult time (who isn’t?!?).

I tend to weave the Psalm into the liturgy, but there is a powerfully inclusive tone in Psalm 36 that might have some preaching potential for you. God’s salvation is extended to humans and animals alike. All are able to find refuge under God’s wings. Here in the U.S., President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address tonight, in which he is expected to talk about immigration, Syrian refugees, same-sex marriage, and undoubtedly a number of other issues related to the vision of a wider circle. I imagine some of us may find ourselves addressing the same issues in our sermons as a way of relating current events to the text.

There is much to imbibe from this week’s readings. What about you? Where are you leaning in your sermon crafting? What text is speaking loudest to you right now?

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Revised Common Lectionary: Of Stars, Water & Fire

Somewhere in the east, a star is shining — bright and beautiful against the backdrop of dawn’s blush. And in the hushed suspense before the sunrise, it seems possible that the star’s brilliance alone could save the earth, could save your own heart from its fatigue and cynicism, could save us all and convert us to peace. If it could just hold still there and hold us so graciously in its gaze, perhaps a Star could save us.

Are you preaching the hope of a star this coming Sunday?
(Here are the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Epiphany.)

Once upon a time — precisely in one of those times when the world was in chaos and wisdom seemed to have disappeared and false prophets preyed on fears and daily life was all that people tried to survive — into that worrisome time, the voice of the LORD whispered, “Do not fear.” Into that worrisome time, a man stood by the river and encouraged, “Trouble don’t last always. Watch for the One who can burn away the chaff!” And despite that worrisome time, the earth continued to shout, “Glory!”

Are you preaching God’s glory in water and fire this coming Sunday?
(Here are the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the Baptism of Christ.)

The text is rich with tales to tell! What is the story of good news you are preaching this Sunday? Share your sermonizing ideas & influences in the comments.

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Revised Common Lectionary: Fleeting Christmas

The Christmas season is so short! Many teachers and students started their winter break during Advent, and will return after the last Sunday in the season of Christmas. This crucial season in the church year, when we celebrate the arrival of our Savior as a newborn child, is as fleeting as the infancy of a real newborn child.

The Birth of Jesus - Luke 2:1-20

The Birth of Jesus with Shepherds, Jesus MAFA

So, as we prepare to welcome Jesus into public ministry with the story of his baptism next Sunday, where do you find yourselves this week? The Revised Common Lectionary gives the following options for Christmas 2C:

Jeremiah 31:7-14 – God promises to bring the people back from exile, and they will rejoice when they return! “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” (NRSV)

Psalm 147:12-20 (to accompany the Jeremiah reading) – a song of praise to God, who has given the Word to Israel and no other nation. “Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion!” (NRSV)

Sirach 24:1-12 – Holy Wisdom describes herself as the divine Word, originating in the mouth of God, and dwelling among God’s people in Israel/Zion/Jerusalem. If Sirach is not generally used in your tradition, this week might be a good opportunity to check it out.

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21 (to accompany the Sirach reading) – a song of praise to Wisdom, who led the exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, a role traditionally ascribed to YHWH or God the Father.

Ephesians 1:3-14 – humankind has been adopted by God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and given a divine inheritance. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (NRSV)

John 1:[1-9] 10-18 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God! An introduction to the one-ness of Jesus and YHWH, and the role of John the Baptist as precursor to Jesus.

In my congregation, we are celebrating Epiphany this weekend – the beginning of the season of light, the arrival of the magi and their gifts to the child Jesus. Anyone else taking this route? Or perhaps you’re honoring the Holy Name of Jesus, the feast assigned for January 1.

Whatever your focus, however far along you are in your preparation, welcome to the discussion! Please share questions, ideas, suggestions and sermon drafts in the comments. Blessings on your writing.

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