Post-Sermon Reflection
2009-11-08 by David von Schlichten

I didn't receive much feedback on the sermon. Such is often the case, isn't it? How can we elicit feedback on sermons?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight
2009-11-04 by David von Schlichten

"Sermon Reviews"

Audrey Schindler summarizes "The One to Watch" by Barbara Brown Taylor. Taylor notes the similarities between the poor widow and Jesus: Both give their all. Taylor also notes that Jesus points out a person whom most people at the Temple were overlooking.

This idea of Jesus noticing the overlooked is probably the focus I will give Sunday's sermon.

Then again, last night one of my parishioners died suddenly, leaving behind his wife of 60-plus years. Last night in the ER she sat in a wheelchair, barely able to hear and see because of her health, shocked over the death of her beloved, newly widowed . . .

Where Is God In This?
2009-11-04 by Guy Kent

Ruth 3: 1-5; 4: 13-17

A pastor friend called me about this Sunday's text, specifically the Ruth reading. His church, as does mine, uses the excellent Seasons of the Spirit Sunday school literature. He, as do I, preaches on the text that lectionary based literature focuses on each Sunday. This Sunday it's the Ruth reading.

Where is God in all this?” he asked.

I thought back on the story. Here is Naomi arranging for her daughter-in-law to manipulate Boaz into marriage. This is an earthy story; it is a story of the nitty gritty of life, a story of survival and that never ending quest to assure the next generation occupies a better position that the present one.

Where is God in this?

I remember so vividly the day they came to my office. Their home was three houses up from the church. Occasionally they contributed to the church financially, but they, during the decade I was the pastor of that church, never attended a service. Now here they sat. They wanted to get married and has asked me, “the neighborhood pastor,” to officiate at the ceremony to be held in their garden.

They had lived together for fifteen years. They were not married. I could not help but ask: “After fifteen years of living together, why do you want to get married now?”

She looked at me with a look that communicated she was surprised at my ignorance. “Because, I told you a couple of weeks ago my daughter is having a baby. We thought it just wouldn't look right for her if we weren't married.”

I didn't ask the obvious question of looking right for the daughter. Here they were, asking me to marry them because they wanted it to look right for the yet to be born grandchild.

Where is God in this? Did an unborn fetus lead them to the church? Where is God in this?

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son.... they named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Where is God in this?

Most of us never experience the big miracles of life – the parting of the sea; the healing of the leper; the blind made to see. But all of us live in the nitty gritty, in the stories of love, of scheming, of survival. Most of us live where God is.

Sacrificial Giving
2009-11-04 by Guy Kent

Mark 12: 38-44

I can remember her vividly even today. It was at my second appointment as a United Methodist pastor I encountered her. She was not a member of my church. But as is so often the case in rural parishes, she was related to several of my members. They called her Aunt Laura. Memory tells me she was not an aunt to anyone but rather an only child who never married. Nevertheless, she was Aunt Laura.

In my mind's eye, I can still see Aunt Laura walking down the road. Aunt Laura did not drive or own a car. It's Saturday morning. In her arms are clippings of flowers from her bountiful gardens. She walks at a rapid clip, born of a lifetime of walking everywhere she went, that belied her eighty-two years. The morning is cool which accounts for the purple sweater that tops her ankle-length dress. Cars passing her on the road honked in greeting. To some she held up the arm not cradling flowers and waved. The passers-by smiled. One could not tell if Aunt Laura smiled or not. Her face was covered by a surgeon's mask.

At her church, Aunt Laura let herself in with her key. She proceeded to the altar table, laid her cuttings down, removed last Sunday's array from the vase, carried them to the trash container, returned and arranged the fresh flowers in the vase to bring beauty to the next day's worship.

Every Sunday Aunt Laura's flowers decorated the altar of her church. It was her gift to God. Every weekday she labored heartedly in her gardens. One garden was for the vegetables she canned to provide her income. The other was for the flowers she grew to glorify her Lord. Every day one could pass by her place and see her weeding and pruning, fertilizing and cultivating. And every day Aunt Laura's face would be covered by the surgeon's mask.

Most of the people in the church were appreciative of Aunt Laura's offering. Very few of the people in the church were aware Aunt Laura was allergic to the flowers.

Giving as a Subversive Act
2009-11-03 by Stephen Schuette

The contrast is stark.  On the one hand there is the formalized practice of religion that is socially established and grounded in custom.  In this Jerusalem has become almost Greek-like, its temple on the hill and all of its business and political life ordered around it.  And ‘round and ‘round the wheels turn.  And the lubrication that keeps the wheels turning is part of the exchange.  I’ll compliment you on your nice long robe if you frequent my stand.  “Beautiful day, huh Charlie?”  “Sure is, Gert.  I’ll have two pigeons.  I hear there’s a race tonight out past Golgotha.”  “Yep.  I’ve got my tickets.  See you there.”  The conversations are so numerous they accumulate into a buzz.  Just another day at the temple.

And under the radar of others but noticed by Jesus is the woman who can’t participate in the business and political circles.  And she’s outside the social circles as well.  She’ll get no compliment because she has nothing to exchange for it.  She comes alone and she’ll leave alone, quietly, no word spoken.

But there she is.  And along with her she carries a faith…a faith that has been tested and tried, a faith that knows some things that others don’t.  And out of that faith she searches out the two small coins and pours them forth.

If the intent of Jesus’ ministry is the Kingdom of God here is radical faith envisioned and acted.  She is not a participant in “things as usual.”  She hopes for something much more because her hopes are not grounded in the usual circles of expectation.

I marvel at her thinking which is not bounded by the customary.  In this she is very much like the widow of Zarephath who, in her shortage, divides what she has in order to discover more!  What an odd math that exists outside zero-sum thinking.

Giving itself is odd.  Done bliblically, without thought of the repayment circle, it demonstrates that my posessions don't own me, that I am free enough to give, and that the real hopes of my life are not limited by economic circumstances but are themselves a gift of God. 

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