Haiti
2010-01-15 by David von Schlichten

How do we help preachers respond to the crisis in Haiti in a way that leads, not only to assistance for the Haitians, but also to a change in thinking that propels us Christians away from a mentality that enables the ongoing subjugation of peoples?

Of course we should help Haiti with all our might, but what can we do so that we are not just coming to the rescue of Haitians but are also learning about their culture and seeing Haitians, not only as victims, but primarily as people?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Effect and Substance
2010-01-12 by Stephen Schuette

The marriage imagery of Isaiah and John seems to connect with the Epistle in terms of relationship/diversity.  A colleague commented:  the most challenging aspect of marriage is that one tries to change the other.  In weakly differentiated individuals, which includes all of us to one degree or another, the anxious thought is, “I can’t be me if you’re not like me.”  So the focus on identity formation from last week on the first Sunday in Epiphany seems strong.  The question, “How are we who we are?” quickly leads to the second question, “How can I be who I am in community with others?”

One way of trying to maintain the self in relationship to others is to engage in the game of winning and losing in the effort to play it well enough to always be a winner.  That requires skill and management and the ability to maneuver.  It’s a bit like a magic trick where the magician focuses your attention one direction while the real maneuver happens.  Hours of practice and attention to the move can make what is actually misleading seem real.  You can judge whether this is simply about slight of hand or extends to serious questions of politics, even the politics of the church.

So it may be important to say that the signs of Jesus in the Gospel of John are not tricks but insights into and extensions of who Jesus really is.  Even to begin to see that may stretch us beyond the frameworks of how we usually think and function.  It calls us away from a world of gamesmanship to what we really believe, something beyond mere effect/result.

For isn’t it true that most of the presenting “issues” around which we often spend so much time and energy are not the real issues?  Frequently they cover and mask something much deeper that is trying to emerge in a genuine (true) way.  (I think of John’s emphasis on “truth.”)  Perhaps the real question is what kind of culture we want to be a part of?  How do we move from a culture of winning and losing to one that affirms calling?

I recently returned to a book that I haven’t picked up in years, Buber’s I and Thou.  He writes, “Egos appear by setting themselves apart from other persons.  Persons appear by entering into relationship with other persons.” (p. 112)  That seems very near what Paul is trying to say, especially leading forward into 1 Cor. 13.  And, in fact, it seems very near to what God is trying to say to us in Jesus.

Kierkegaard said, “Christ turned water into wine, but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult: it has turned wine into water.”  May you do the reverse for your community this week!





Thank you
2010-01-11 by Safiyah Fosua

Thank you for your encouraging words about the poem.  I often find it easier to put the "kernal" of a sermon in free verse than to write a full-blown sermon. Yet, I am not always sure that these "kernals" make sense to anyone but me.  Your comments have blessed me.

Safiyah Fosua





Stephen and Ellen
2010-01-11 by David von Schlichten

Stephen, thanks for sharing the use of the pine branch. That sounds like an excellent multi-sensory exercise. How did Sunday go for others?

I agree with you, Ellen, that Safiyah's poem is edifying. I encourage others to share poetry. In fact, we have a special site under Share It! devoted to poetry.

I look forward to more posts. All are welcome in the Tub.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Post-Sermon Reflection
2010-01-11 by Stephen Schuette

At the close of the sermon I wandered in the congregation with the President of the congregation holding a bowl while I sprinkled water from a pine branch.  Other traditions are better at this symbolism, so I tried to reassure folk that it's water! and it's a sign of life, and if they really needed to shield their glasses feel free...but feel it, and remember who you are!  Remember your identity and calling!

Folk responded positively to the combination of message and tactile reminder.  By the way a short pine branch with the longer needles (not spruce) worked very, very well.





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