Our Week Together...
2009-10-05 by Matthew Flemming

My name is Matt Flemming. I teach preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and I am this week’s blogger in the Homiletical Hot Tub.  It is a joy to be able to (virtually) share in your sermon preparation this week. I am an avid reader of blogs. I find that the most effective blogs are those that foster a conversation among the community that engages the blog.  I hope that we can produce such a conversation this week. I plan to be here until Sunday. If you have any comments, questions, or you simply feel stuck, please e-mail me FlemmingM@CTSnet.edu (OR USE THE SUBMIT A QUESTION LINK ABOVE), and I will respond as quickly as I can. Feel free to send any helpful comments that may help another sister or brother as they prepare to proclaim the Word this week. If there is enough interest, I will hold a live chat from 12:00-2:00 PM EST on Wednesday. What this means is that people can send in questions and I will respond immediately. It is a way to have a running dialogue and receive near instant feedback. Let me know if this sounds appealing. If there is enough response to sustain a chat then it will be a go.

Here is how I am going to structure the blog this week.

Monday: Discerning the Word—I will post some meditations on prayerfully engaging the text so that we can bring the life of our communities to God and attempt to discern God’s claim on our church this week.

Tuesday: Old Testament Text—We will engage the lectionary passages from the Old Testament with an eye for both the theology they communicate and any potential rough edges or speed bumps that may serve to anchor our proclamation.

Wednesday: New Testament Text—We will engage the lectionary passages from the New Testament in the same manner.

Thursday: Sermon Form and Structure—We will discuss different ways of writing a sermon with an eye for what various forms and structures communicate theologically.

Friday: What Did She Say?—Now that the sermon is written (at least in theory!) we will discuss the cohesiveness and coherence of the images and arguments in our preaching with an eye towards consistency and maintaining momentum throughout our proclamation.

Saturday: The Saturday Night Special—Any questions you may have as you try to put your sermon to bed in time for you to go to bed.

Sunday: Pray for the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Deliver the Word, then Rinse and Repeat –If anybody would like to discuss how things went and offer and questions or comments for the edification of other preachers then now is the time. I will need to hand the blog off by Sunday night so please try and send  your  final e-mail by early evening EST.

Before we dive in I want you to know that I am praying for you as you continue to serve God this week.  The ministry is a wonderful but difficult calling. When times are tough, as they are for so many right now, our work can feel overwhelming. I pray that God will sustain you, wherever you may be: May the light of Christ and the fellowship of those who serve alongside you throughout the world break into the darkest corners of your life. It is an honor to serve you as you prepare your sermon. God bless.

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!


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