Our guest blogger this week is
2009-04-20 by David Howell

James Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist, Charlotte NC, and adjunct professor of preaching, Duke Divinity School.
He is author of a dozen books. He is most importantly married to Lisa, and father of 3 children.
See his first post below.




Easter 3 - season of lament?
2009-04-19 by James Howell

     The whole notion that Easter is a “season” is totally counter-intuitive.  It happened, the eggs have all been found, the crowds in worship have dwindled – so how can it still be Easter?  Yes, there are more texts, and I suppose in the year 30 the Easter aftershocks lingered for a few weeks. 

     But in the Acts text (rather weirdly appearing as the Old Testament reading? …this is an odd season indeed…) Peter demystifies the miraculous by sternly reprimanding those who are “staring” at him.  Nobody stares at us Christians, much less the clergy, and our big need is to point to God instead of to ourselves.  Then he blasts the Jews – the very people I’ve been working hard to befriend where I live, a friendship hard to win because people like Peter blasted the Jews in our Bible readings!  His conclusion, “You acted in ignorance,” could as easily be turned on Peter himself.

     So I’m in a mood?  You bet.  No miracles, impossibly prickly texts – and I’m trying to get a third week of sermons out of the resurrection.  Only the Psalm text (which really is in the Old Testament) gets it right:  “How long shall we suffer shame?”  How long indeed!  Could it be that Easter, on this side of eternity, is not best construed as a triumphal season of celebration, but more like that other complicated season we never get the hang of – Advent?  It is a season of crying out, not a period of fulfillment but a zone of frustration, of exasperation, time to plead with the Lord, to pour out our hearts because of the impermanence of resurrection.  Lazarus died again, as did the little girl Jesus raised – and Jesus didn’t stick around, didn’t right all wrongs, didn’t establish the kingdom of God.  Just when things got good, he left – and we miss him, we wish he had stayed, we wish he’d gotten more accomplished. 

     And so our mood is one of lament.  Jesus did eat broiled fish, as Luke 24 reports.  Unsure what to make of such a mundane detail…  Sounds like a healthy choice, but Jesus of all people had no need for a healthy diet!  When I was growing up, fish was the school fare on Friday, for reasons vaguely attached to the Catholics, although I do not believe I knew any other little boys who happened to be Catholic; they lived on the other side of town, I believe.  And why Friday?  Jesus died on a Friday, he uttered the ultimate lament on a Friday – and even in his post-resurrection state in which he ate fish, he talked not one word about our great delight or our security in the teeth of death.  He spoke of repentance, remorse, and lament.

     Perhaps my post-Easter funk is just the right preparatory emotional reflex to gear me up to preach what nobody really expects:  a sad, doleful sermon.  Christ is risen… and we rightly hang our heads and weep, for the world is still broken, almost more broken because we had one glorious morning, so now we know the difference.  Christ is risen… and we fall on our knees in guilt and sorrow over our lives as hollow as Jesus’ tomb.  Christ is risen… so we eat a little fish, so that in at least some small respect we are very much like Christ.  Maybe that’s why he ate it, anyhow.




Carmen Nanko-Fernandez
2009-04-18 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to our guest blogger for her insights in the tub this week. Among other things, she helps us understand that the Acts passage about having all things in common is not an unrealistic utopian ideal but a call to self-sacrificial solidarity.

This idea will be the core of my sermon this Sunday. I will post the sermon soon at the cafe.

Scroll down to read all of Carmen's posts.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Good Preacher Seminarian Award Winner Is...
2009-04-17 by David Howell

Sink or Swim: Just Get Out of the Boat by Matt Landry

He will receive a free Festival of Homiletics Registration/Free Room/$200 Expense Money!

The other two top vote receivers were:

They prepared YouTube versions of the sermons. Click on the links above.

Thank you to all the seminarians who submitted sermons!





A Call for Solidarity
2009-04-16 by Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Terms like Communism tend to make Christians in the United States nervous, let alone biblical texts that suggest wealth be redistributed so that none are needy.  In this day and age, with so many of us facing economic instability, the observation in Acts that “[t]here was not a needy person among them,” invites a deeper scrutiny.

As a Catholic, I am very influenced by a body of social teaching from within my faith community that challenges us to evaluate our social and economic decisions from the perspectives of their impact on the community, and in particular from the perspective of those too often left on the margins of decision-making processes. 

These teachings articulate an invitation to solidarity, a reminder that we are all interconnected, so much so that the pain of one really does impact us all. Solidarity calls us all to assume responsibility for each other and is insistent that we all are partners in the communal life.  Our kinship is grounded in our shared acclamation of a Creator God in whose image we are all created. 

In the words of the late Pope John Paul II, solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all (Sollicitudo rei socialis #38).”

The Psalm for this week underscores the fruits of our solidarity: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity (133:1)!”





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