Resurrecting the Image - Ro Ruffin
2009-12-21 by Ro Ruffin
It will be the first Sunday after Christmas. This should be easy…God is with us!
The lectionary passages for this week are remarkably in-sync. Has it all been said? Who am I that I think that I can, say something new? These passages are smoothly intertwined, it seems. Perhaps I am simply proof-texting, though. But still, God is with us! Love God, your neighbor as yourself, and your enemy. The entire message of the Bible, here encapsulated; in a sentence, God is with us. And, if we are obedient, we love as Christ loved, thus glorifying God. This is what God demands of God’s children, that we be like God.
Psalm 148. First, we are to praise God. This is not simple lip service, but love in action. In obedient love and selflessness, we honor , we praise God in a very real way.
1 Samuel, 2:18-20, 26. Eli’s sons are a contrast to Samuel. They are selfish, unloving, disobedient. Samuel is not disobedient. Samuel listens for God’s voice. Samuel’s mother is a picture of the good parent , a very God-like way to be. She gives all in praise of God and Samuel is obedient, he imitates his mother, as Jesus imitates his Father, who gave his Son to all who would trust the Son.
Eli makes an attempt to correct his sons, but they have gone their selfish way. Their sin was great because they treated God’s offerings with contempt.
Now, we turn our attention to the Christian community following Jesus’ death.
Colossians 3:12-17. How exactly are we to praise…to honor God? The way Jesus did! Selflessly. Others first. This is love. And loving others is loving God. If we are to see this passage within its context, we cannot ignore the following verses. Verse 18 and on is about the Christ-commanded primacy of putting others above the self.
Luke 2:41-52. Clearly, Luke intended to compare Jesus’ situation to Samuel’s situation. There is no reason to question this most obvious point. Theologians have, for centuries, assumed that Jesus and Samuel are, for Luke, priests of God, their entire selves dedicated to God. Jesus intimates that his parents should have known he would be in his father’s house. Looking at the bigger picture, there is the suggestion that, like Christ, all of God’s children are to be in God’s house. We are all to be who God created us to be, our very lives a service and a praise to God.
In both Samuel and Luke we find women of faith giving their sons, their very lives, giving all they are and have, to God. These women lived in a world where having children (boys especially), and raising them be good people and to do great things, was the greatest honor to which they could aspire. I have been searching for an analogy from today that might be comparable. What brings women great honor in our age? A slender figure? A pretty face? Fame, fortune, and Paparazzi? These seem terribly shallow by comparison. I don’t think women today can relate. I would do anything for my child. I would sacrifice anything but our relationship. Hannah and Mary, we are told, sacrificed that familial bond to offer up their most precious gift, their lives, their honor, to God. Men clearly also understood what it meant for Hannah and Mary to have sons whose lives were totally dedicated to God. Thus, we have these writings. In the end, I can only say that it was everything to these women.
Two major themes are designated by this month’s goodpreacher.com commentators. The first is the suggestion that God is at work in the lives of the children, Samuel and Jesus, behind the scenes, guiding and governing their growth and direction (see Kenneth E. Kovacs). I don’t doubt that we are often unaware of God’s activities amongst us. But, if God works behind the scenes, it is only because we have relegated God to that position. Traditionally, the God of the Hebrews, and the Christians, has worked with the people for God’s purposes (see Huston Smith’s World Religions, for one). God with us, not God behind us.
The second major theme is a suggestion, well made by Kristen Johnston Largen. She says that as God does not give up on us, we too are to be faithful to God.
Both points are good ones. The latter, though, is closest to the ground, and the ground is where people walk. We are, simply put, called to follow in Hannah and Mary’s footsteps…called to give our all, our lives, our very selves. This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ.Okay. So, I have not come up with something new, just something old, as old as creation itself. This has been the point from the very beginning. As with all of God’s earthly creation, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemy. Afford everyone you meet grace, as you were given grace, though you too do not deserve it.
2009-12-21 by David von Schlichten
I finished my sermon series on the voices of Christ's coming. On the first Sunday in Advent, I pretended to be Satan. On the second Sunday, I pretended to be John the Baptist. On the third, I was Mary, and yesterday I was Gabriel. The goal of the series was to get people to think anew about the power of the coming of Christ, especially the first coming, Christmas.
Parishioners did indeed indicate that the series got them to think anew about the old, old story. I hope that this thinking anew was positive. It appears that it was. Parishioners indicated how much they enjoyed the series. They found it moving and engaging.
The Mary sermon seemed especially effective, because I portrayed Mary as a fourteen-year-old living in present day. That portrayal helped people to appreciate the radicality of the virigin pregnancy and birth of the Son of God.
So the series went well, and, miracle of miracles, the Steelers won against the Packers!
Not usually a sports fan, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Want to see a sermon made?
2009-12-17 by David Howell
Check out James Howell's Preaching Journal!
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"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight
2009-12-17 by David von Schlichten
Karoline M. Lewis writes about three sermons, including one by Mary Lewis that speculates about the shame and rejection that Elizabeth must have felt as a woman who had never had children, and how she could use that experience in raising John the Baptist and mentoring Mary, both of whom will likely experience rejection and shame, as well.
While we are wise to be wary of psychologizing biblical characters, there is also wisdom in some sound speculation that helps us hearers to connect with the story and learn from it about how God works in our world. One way is that God takes our suffering and uses it to beget endurance, character, and hope.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
A Mom as Prophet
2009-12-16 by Stephen Schuette
When I come to these texts I can’t help but feel like an outsider, a bit the way I felt when both our children were born. Oh I had the benefit of being there in the birthing room and not outside in the waiting room where my own Father was in the 1950’s. And I did some coaching with the breathing. But when it came down to the birth process itself I was on the sidelines. So when I overhear this conversation between Mary and Elizabeth I get the same feeling. I can listen in, but only from a distance. I might as well be mute like Zechariah. I can personally relate much better to Matthew’s focus on Joseph’s dilemmas and how he will fulfill his responsibilities.
But what’s familiar may not be accurate in terms of the real action. The literalness, the earthiness, the visceral quality of the “quickening” of life as the women speak, the identification of one with the other and their calling binds them to one another in a special sense of community. Something is happening…
And it’s clear this isn’t the perplexed Mary of previous verses. Something has already been happening to her. She’s found a voice to express a hope, a conviction about her place, a sense of the new order and her participation in it. Perhaps here is the real reason for piety around Mary: she is open enough to see and sing about what God is doing, almost presaging the ministry of Jesus in her beatitude-like words, even before Jesus is born. She is more than a vessel. She is a prophet bearing a hope in a word, the way prophets have done before, but also bearing hope in her body.
And maybe it proves the point that this Kingdom which Jesus will assert is “at hand” has always been at hand. What’s required is the openness of a Mary to see it and sing it. And perhaps the lesson of Mary for us is that our Advent work is about our own openness, our willingness, our responsiveness to God’s vision for us.
OK. Now I feel included since it’s obvious I have work to do.
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