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.

Pastor Talk To Me About...
2009-09-29 by David Howell

Be sure to check out the excellent ideas and questions by the lay folks in Pastor Talk To Me About...

Mark & World Communion Sunday
2009-09-29 by KAREN HUNDRIESER

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday.  It is a day when we intentionally welcome and honor the diversity of the church universal.  If we are visual in our worship, we show images which include those with different skin tones, different dress, from different climates, worshipping in different ways and languages and using different forms of music and song, having different ages and customs for marrying, having different needs and different joys.  We sometimes even honor all the different ways in which we make "bread" by having as many kinds as possible on our communion tables.  And who knows what's in the chalice?  When I was a teenage MK in Nigeria we used Kool-Aid or Fizzies because that's what was available.  Our list could go on.  The point being that all are welcome to the table, while honoring and acknowledging our differences.  Our sameness found in being the beloved children of God.  

But we still do not wish to acknowledge those who are homosexual - either as a participant or a leader in the table liturgy.  A post from last week suggested that our exclusion of another becomes our stumbling block.  In my previous post I asked if we were preparing our children for marriage/covenant/community relationships. Our children are learning what they need to know from their friends, the internet, the world, sources of all kinds because we come to the table with a posture of exclusion.  

Hardness of heart: our stumbling block to teaching this passage on marriage/covenant/community relationships that honor?  Hardness of heart: putting asunder what God has brought together?  Perhaps we can or should replace hardness of heart with something else - but does it really make a difference in the outcome?

When we do not acknowledge all people, we do not acknowledge God.

Need Help With That Sermon?
2009-09-28 by David Howell

This week subscribers to are enjoying 5 Exegetical perspectives, 5 Theological perspectives, 5 Pastoral perspectives, 4 Lesson and the Arts, 5 Sermon Reviews, 4 Preaching the Lessons, 1 Scripture and Screen, 1 That'll Preach! articles, 7 sermons on Mark 10: 2-16

and 1 Exegetical perspective, 1 Theological perspective, 1 Pastoral perspective, 1 Lesson and the Arts, 1 Sermon Review, 1 Preaching the Lesson, 1 sermon on Genesis 2:18-24

and 1 Exegetical perspective, 1 Theological perspective, 1 Pastoral perspective, 1 Lesson and the Arts, 1 Sermon Review, 1 Preaching the Lesson, 1 Scripture and Screen and 1 sermon on Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

and sermons and essays on World Communion in Unlectionary and topical files


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