Post-Sermon Reflection and Talking Birds
2009-10-05 by David von Schlichten

Sunday's sermon in response to the Mark 10 divorce text seemed to work well, thanks be to the Paraclete. (Isn't it interesting that we teach a parakeet to talk while the Paraclete teaches us to talk?)

Anyway, in my sermon I proclaimed that the divorce passage urges us to take marriage seriously but that the Bible also teaches us not to be rigid about the rules. We are to place love over legalism. Therefore, at times divorce is morally good, even though Jesus speaks such a strong word against divorce.

A few parishioners expressed that they agreed with the sermon. One parishioner called the sermon "difficult." I don't know what she meant, and I plan to follow up with her. She didn't seem angry; just troubled, challenged, or both.

How was your Sunday?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Karen Hundrieser and Stephen; My Mediocre Sermon
2009-10-03 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Karen, our guest blogger, for her timely, timeless sharing. She does a good job of helping us to think about divorce, relationships, and World Communion Sunday. Stephen Schuette, as always, adds wise assistance.

My sermon is available at the cafe. In terms of artistry and theology, it is pretty ordinary, but it is a message my congregation needs to hear. I have one parishioner, especially, who will benefit from this proclamation, I pray.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight; Love over Legalism
2009-09-30 by David von Schlichten

"A Sermon"

Father David I. Giffen reminds us of the importance of context when proclaiming the divorce passage. In Jesus' day, there were no shelters and other resources for women. A strict divorce policy was needed to help protect women from being tossed aside via divorce and thus made highly vulnerable. Christ was concerned about helping the vulnerable, the underdog. Indeed, "Christ stood for those who could not stand for themselves" (p.14).

If we become legalistic with Jesus' stern words regarding divorce, we are missing the point. Jesus has always been about doing that which is most loving. We are to be loving in our relationships and loving in our consideration of whether to end a relationship.

We are to place love over legalism.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Beyond Avoidance
2009-09-30 by Stephen Schuette

Well, gee, errr, ahhh…how’s the weather where you are?

That’s me avoiding this text.  To tell the truth I’ve avoided this Gospel reading for the past three cycles, the past nine years, while I’ve given Hebrews a good work out.  So what I have to offer are just some ramblings and some questions…

Remember in Matthew how Joseph was going to dismiss Mary quietly because he was a “righteous man?”  It’s not clear whether his righteousness is in regard to dismissing her or because he’s going to do it quietly, but we give him the benefit of the doubt – out of tenderness toward Mary he wants to do it quietly.  Yet divorce is never quiet.  As a colleague suggested it’s the most public expression of our failure in relationships.  But that’s not to suggest that Jesus’ concern is about the public (or Pharisaic) perception, surely?

What’s the relationship of these teachings with the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8?

In Mark 3:34-35 Jesus describes whoever does the will of God as mother, brother, and sister.  Are these relationships stronger than blood and marriage?  Underneath the divorce talk is Jesus suggesting that leaving the faith community is an unpermitted divorce?  Is Jesus’ real focus on covenantal relationships in the New Order?

I appreciate that there is honesty in this text that gets undone if the whole focus is an apology for the teachings of Jesus.  But how can you preach this to a congregation in which many couples have gone through divorce without some explanation? I recall a lay person whose take on this was, “You make your bed, you lie in it.”  Was that really what Jesus was trying to say?

It’s the Pharisees, after all, who brought up the specific example of divorce. Jesus doesn’t shy away from speaking to their example.  But could it be that the larger context in which Jesus is teaching has to do with the covenantal relationships that bind us to one another in the Realm of God?  Is Jesus, through this talk about divorce, really trying to point the way to wholeness in all relationships?  At least this places the context outside of religious legalism, which I can’t imagine is Jesus’ point.

I was moved by the story of John Muir in the Ken Burns’ films on the National Parks currently airing on PBS.  John had lived in the wilderness most of his life.  Then he marries, quickly has two children, and works sun up to sun down to provide for his family.  He loses weight and in general does not thrive in his work on the ranch.  In response his wife sends this magnificent and generous note:  “My dear John, a ranch that needs and takes the sacrifice of a noble life ought to be flung away beyond all reach and power for harm.  The Alaska book and Yosemite book, dear John, must be written.  And you need to be your own self, well and strong, to make them worthy of you.”

That kind of tenderness, loving sacrifice, and concern for the well being of the other must be closer to the heart of Jesus’ message than a legalistic notion.  In fact, if Jesus is pointing to genuine wholeness in relationships then our relationships can’t be prisons in which we are bound, even while they aren’t disposable, fleeting diversions either.  It could be that Jesus is inviting us to imagine relationships in which there are never any failures in love anymore.  That takes some imagination!


Meditation on Psalm 26
2009-09-30 by KAREN HUNDRIESER

The news article is from and the verses (in italics) are from Psalm 26 (NRSV):
Derrion Albert was different from the other boys in the often violent and tense neighborhood of Roseland in South Side Chicago.  "He had a different attitude.  And I'm not saying he was perfect, but when you ask him to turn his hat to the back or take it off, he wouldn't put it on the back or hang it off his head or say to you, like the other boys do, 'F**k that!'  He would just do what you asked," Ameena Matthews said.  Matthews works with Cease Fire, a Chicago, Illinois, grassroots organization founded in 1995 to try to curb gang violence.  She grew up in the neighborhood that has drawn national attention since a video captured Albert, a 16-year-old honor student, being beaten to death with a railway tie, kicked and punched by other teens.
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.  Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind.  For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.
Matthews is a mediator, which means kids come to her and tell her that a dispute is about to boil over into violence; she picks up the phone and calls the two sides and talks it out.  Last school year, Albert complained to her that some boys were threatening him and that his leather jacket and shoes had been stolen from his locker.  "That boy tried.  He complained to his teacher; he complained to me," she said.
I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.  I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.  O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.
But Albert, like many kids, hung out with some of the same boys who were known to menace other children in the neighborhood.  That's the way it is, she said.  You hang out with who lives in your neighborhood.  "Kids are not going to say, 'Oh, this kid is a gangbanger.  I better stay away.'  All of them want to be friends with the kid who lives next door or in their project.  People outside who don't understand this neighborhood want it to be simple, and it's not simple.  No kid is really bad or really good. It's complicated over here.  Because it's war in this neighborhood, nobody's really safe.  Boys got lots of guns. 
"I think [gangs] tried to recruit him, and he said no, and he just tried to go home, and they just jumped on him," the Rev. Victor Grandberry, who met with Albert's family after Thursday night's killing and is acting as their spokesman, told WGN-TV.
The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that teenagers are scared to go to school or to be in school.  Parents are yanking their kids out of [school].
Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
Albert's grandfather, Joseph Walker, told CNN affiliate WLS-TV that his grandson was a good kid.  "He was in Bible class this Tuesday night.  Church on Sunday," Walker told WLS.  "I have no trouble out of my grandson whatsoever.  This thing that happened to him is so horrific that we just don't know what we're going to do.  We lost a really dear friend in my grandson.  He was a blessed child."
But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.  My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.
A moment back to Mark: What are the issues of young people in your neighborhood?  Once again - what are they bringing to marriage?  And once again - the conversation is really not about divorce, but about hard heartedness.

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