Mark or James?
2009-09-22 by Rochelle Stackhouse

I have been pretty clear since I planned my preaching schedule in August that I was going to work with the beginning of the Mark text this week, talking about the dangers of exclusivism in the Christian community. And I may still go there as I think it is a real issue that the church, even churches like mine who think they include everyone, has to face.

But then I read the James again and found myself stuck on verse 14.  I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with someone in my parish who was most distraught that a friend of hers "insisted on suffering in silence." Apparently this friend was going through a difficult time with a physical illness and family problems, and when my parishioner and others tried to reach out to her, she simply withdrew and insisted she was fine. How do you reach out to care for someone you know is hurting when they reject the caring? 

And why do so many people choose to suffer in silence, and alone?  Even, sometimes, members of churches! Not only in this little letter, but in Paul's writings, one of the gifts of the church continually lifted up is that in community we rejoice together and we hold each other in suffering, "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" as Paul puts it. Yet it happens too often that we as clergy notice that someone has not been in worship for awhile and we find out they have had some kind of illness or other trouble and didn't feel they could come to worship and be with people:  even with the community that is supposed to be there for them in these times!

So I wonder if we as the church have not always done a good job of building the kinds of relationships of trust tha would make it okay for people to come to church to cry? 

Then I began to think about the fact that James indicates that the call to pray and care for the sick is not just for one pastor, but for "the elders." The use of this term in the New Testament is vague, sometimes seeming to refer to what we would call "clergy" (specifically bishops) and sometimes to leaders in the church. At any rate, in James it is in the plural. So now I'm thinking about how we might discuss what it means for us to be a caring community and not just have a "professional carer" in a paid pastor. 

This Week At
2009-09-21 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, 5 Preaching the Lessons, 1 Scripture and Screen, 2 That'll Preach! articles, 8 sermons on Mark 9:38-50  and here (Journal)

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 3 sermons on James 5:13-20

and 1 Exegetical perspective, 1 Theological perspective, 1 Pastoral perspective, 1 Lesson and the Arts, 1 Sermon Review, 1 Preaching the Lesson, and 2 sermons on Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

and the additional sermons and essays in Unlectionary and topical files


Prayers for Worship

(See Back Issues and Journal)

All for less than $1.00 per week!

2009-09-21 by David von Schlichten

Starting today, I will provide the following each week here at the hot tub:

1. POST-SERMON REFLECTION: Around Monday, I will reflect on how Sunday's sermon went.

2. LECTIONARY HOMILIETICS HIGHLIGHT: Around Wednesday, I will highlight at least one of the articles in Lectionary Homiletics for the week. I will also respond to the guest blogger's posts.

3. LOOKING BACK AND AHEAD: Around Friday, I will reflect on the week's blogging, including the guest blogger's posts, while looking ahead to what I will preach on Sunday.

I hope these features are helpful. I welcome feedback.


Yesterday I preached on faith, focusing on the importance of God's faithfulness to us. We tend to emphasize our faith, but God's faithfulness is far more important. Without God's faithfulness to us, our faith is not.

I don't know how the sermon went. Useful feedback is notoriously elusive. However, I do believe that stressing God's faith over our own is important for people to hear, given that most of us tend to turn the spotlight to our own faith, as if our faith is its own discrete entity, a personal mini-god, rather than that which comes from and directs us to the one true God.

How did things go for you on Sunday? 

Welcome to the tub!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Kim and Stephen; God's Faith
2009-09-18 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to both Kim and Stephen for their tub-blogging this week. Kim, especially, has provided several useful entries, including reflections on the importance of children and other often invisible people. Please scroll down and soak up.

Both Jeremiah and Psalm 54 look to God for help and trust that God will indeed help, will be faithful. My Bible study participants this week lit up at the idea of God's faith or faithfulness to us.

"We always talk about our faith, but not God's faith," was the group consensus.

I said to them, "That might be a good sermon topic."

They replied, "We think so."


Starting next week I will be posting more frequently here at the hot tub. I hope you will join me,

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator


Seeing the Invisibles
2009-09-17 by Kim Justice

My sermon seems to be in the “cooking” phase today, which more or less means I don’t have a lot to say.   

But here’s what I’ve been thinking about today, while my sermon is baking: What does it feel like to be invisible?  

If you ask a group of kids which super power they wish they had, some will say they wish they could fly, some would wish to have x-ray vision, but a good chunk of them would wish to be invisible.  My husband, who is a twenty-eight year old kid as far as I can tell, still wishes to have this power.  And I can promise you that the reason he wants this particular power is so that he could be in all sorts of mischief and not get caught at it.  Now on the other hand, I would also choose invisibility, but for a vastly different reason.  I would love the “fly on the wall” view.  And I guess, not only that, but sometimes I think it would be nice to simply blend in, not noticed.

That is, of course, until I wanted to be noticed and wasn’t.  I have actually been invisible.  In fact, it’s happened just enough that it’s a joke with our family.  As a child, my mom, dad and I would often go out to eat.  More than once, we sat at a table in a somewhat empty restaurant and waited for many, many minutes without so much as having our drink order taken.  We’d finally flag down our waiter, only to have him say, “Oh, sorry.  I didn’t see you there.”  I’ve not had this experience,  but my dad did:  he was waiting in line, and the clerk actually leaned around him to say, “Next!”   We’re fairly ordinary people-- apparently too ordinary. 

But I’ve bet we’ve all had those times when we felt invisible.  Who of us hasn’t had the experience of being a small child in a big crowd?  When you’re a child in a sea of folks, all you can see are pairs of legs.  I hope we’ve all also had the experience of a kindly adult who realized our plight, and swung us mightily up on to his shoulders.  

Maybe what Jesus is asking of us is something that simple. Notice the un-noticable, and love them enough to do something about their situation.

Simple.  But then again, if we all did it,  the world just might be a different place.   This isn’t a cutesy story about Jesus holding a child.  It isn’t a story that should be relegated to a stained glass window portrayal.  Jesus is being really subversive.  After all, what would our world look like if we suddenly not only noticed those we’ve worked so hard not to see, but interacted with them.  And not only all that, but what if we dared to love them?

Do you understand how that would rock our world and social orders, Jesus? What are you trying to do to us--make us like you?

Oh, wait. 

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