2009-02-03 by Rick Brand
In this morning's newspaper there was a Beetle Bailey cartoon strip that has Beetle sitting under a tree. Zero comes and asks Beetle what he is doing. Beetle says he is "watching the clouds, listening to the birds, smeeling the fresh ari, seeing little animals and flowers..." Zero sits down next to Beetle and says "Wow, I didn't know so much was going on."
That is right out of Psalm 147 and I put that in my folder as a possible piece for the sermon. But I was alert to it because of the preparation I had done on Monday.
Tuesday is commentary work. Isaiah, the Psalm and Mark seem to me to be moving in one direction together so I will work on them and leave out I Corinthians.
There is a great story about the great mission champion John McKay who was touring with a group of Evangelical leaders. They went into the home of a local and the host in great humility offered the traditional gift of a glass of "home brew." The Evangelicals refused. McKay took a glass and praised the host for its great quality. The host, wanting to offer something to the Evangelicals, brought out his smoking pipe. Again the Evangelicals refused and McKay took a puff. The host brought them to his table, but the food was all local and the Evangelicals did not respond well to it. McKay took some of all of it and ate it with a smile. When the group left the Evangelical leaders jumped all over McKay. How could you drink, smoke and eat that stuff? McKay just said, "Somebody in there had to act like a Christian." Paul says something along those lines as well. But I do not think that passage fits in with the other passages about the Greatness of God and God gift to us of the ability to hang on (walk and not faint, to get up and go about our business)
We all have our favorite commentaries and some have more than others as resources. Some of the comments quoted from the ones I used:
Isaiah affirms "the promise that God sustains, supports, carries, upholds us in times of danger, distress, and oppression." "Isaiah argues for the great incomparable power of God." "God's power is visible" in every place we turn our eyes" "God always has the power to deliver us, and we must be patient in trust and not question why God is slow." "The prophet gives a reproof to the people of God for their fears and despondence in capitivity. He silences their fears that God lacks the power, intent, or concern for them. In all conditions God will provide enough for hope.Those who wait in Babylon and believe God does not care, is not working, does not have the power to sustain them are reminded of the God who has the power of creation, the power to act in history before, and is still the one who is able to give all levels of need.
Psalm 147 is another hymn of praise to God for his universal power and providential care. The Psalm provides evidences of God's care.
The Mark passage gives us the miracle stories of healing and power, but seems to down play their significance. In the commentaries we are reminded that the healing of the Mother-in-law is on the Sabbath which is always a problem. That Jesus touches the woman which is a problem, and she gets up and prepares supper for them which might have been a problem. But it is typical that Jesus healings and miracles consistently restore people to their before problem life. Seldom does a miracle from Jesus result in a lottery winning type experience. Peter's Mother-in-law is healed and she is restored to her previous role in life. Those healed that night are returned to their "average, normal, life."
At the end of the day there appears to me to be a word of reminder to people of the greatness of God to be able to keep us going, to sustains us in the hard places.
From the Beginning
2009-02-01 by Rick Brand
My Sermon preparation always began on Monday. I always felt desperate and out of control if I missed work on Monday. Other clergy may take Monday as a day off, but I found that I needed to start the process of sermon preparation on Monday.
Monday was used “to break up the soil.” It would be the first exposure to the texts for the coming Sunday. Monday was the time to sit at the desk and to make a journey through all of the texts. With pencil in hand, I would read the lessons and make notes of the questions, impressions, random thoughts that would come to mind.
a. Sounds like frustration to me. Like the parent who tells the child, “how many times do I have to tell you?” There sounds to me like a voice of one who is disgusted with his people. You have been told this from the beginning. Why have you forgotten this? How many things do we know that when time gets rough we forget? Those things that are bedrock get ignored in a time of crisis. Do I have to keep telling you over and over again that God is Lord over creation and history?
b. “Vaulted roof of the earth” – old creation image
c. “Throned”- image of King which offends our democratic ideals,
but which reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. There are no individual freedoms to do what you want in the Kingdom of God.
At the end of Monday, I have these questions in my mind. I have read the text. On Tuesday I will have found myself attracted to one or two of the texts more than others and will do commentary work on those texts.
2009-02-01 by Rick Brand
Bio for the Rev. Rick Brand, Henderson, N.C.
Susan Sparks, Blowfish, Unclean Spirits
2009-01-30 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to guest blogger Susan Sparks for her edifying thoughts. Please scroll down to read her reflections on puffing up versus building up.
I will be dealing with unclean spirits in my sermon. How does Jesus drive out the unclean spirits of our lives? How do we serve as Christ's instruments of exorcism?
I will also be watching the Super Bowl, even though I usually don't care about football, because I live in the "Steeler Nation," as we call it. Go, Troy, Ben and Hines!
Even when watching the Black and Gold, I am ever
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
paul and the blowfish
2009-01-26 by Susan Sparks
One of my favorite of God’s creatures is a blowfish. It’s how you know God has a sense of humor. It’s the ultimate sign of the great diversity of creation. Blowfish and Platypus. Jerry Springer and Jerry Fallwell.
I remember seeing my first blowfish in a gift shop in St. Augustine, Florida. You could buy a dried, fully puffed-up little fish for $1.50. It was between the blowfish or the coconut carved into a monkey head. I went for the blowfish. There was something so arrogant and funny about that little fish. Apparently, when it thinks it is in danger, it puffs itself up to approximately ten times its size to scare away predators. It looks fierce and impressive, but is in fact nothing but air.
I have to wonder if they had blowfish in the Mediterranean. I would bet yes, as Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 8:1 “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” may well have been inspired by this little fish.
Our lectionary this week comes from the book of 1 Corinthians. A bustling seaport and cosmopolitan city, Corinth gained a rather notorious reputation as a place where all things could be found and all things could be done. Sort of the Vegas of the ancient world, I guess. According to Paul’s letters, the Corinthians were a bit arrogant, had a tendency to argue with each other a lot. To puff up in their own defense so to speak. As a result, we see an inordinate number of letters between Paul and the Corinthians addressing a variety of questions from this tiny budding community.
One of those questions is whether Christians can eat meat sacrificed to idols. Now, remember a majority of the people at this time are not Christian—most are pagan—doing the idol worship thing. Also, understand that it was a common practice at that time to take the meat from a sacrificed animal and sell it in the marketplace. I mean why not, the Gods were only interested in the act of sacrifice, not a nice ox chop. So, the Corinthians ask the question: what if you go to your friend’s house for dinner who is a pagan and they served meat from the marketplace that had been previously sacrificed to a pagan god. What do you do?
Paul basically says there are two ways to approach the problem: through knowledge and through love. Our knowledge and intellect as Christians tells us that there is only the one god, and idols have no significance. Therefore eating food sacrificed in front of an idol should make no difference. However, Paul says, knowledge is not the only way to judge one’s actions. Just because we may have the technical or legal right to do something, doesn’t mean we have a moral right. He gives the example of a non-believer seeing a Christian eating sacrifice meat and being persuaded that idol worship is OK. Paul says, “If what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”
Paul’s message brings to mind my favorite little blowfish. Paul argues that while intellect alone may seem a good basis for decisions, it is nothing but air that “puffs us up;” an impressive, fierce facade, with nothing on the inside. Love on the other hand is what “builds us up.” It’s what gives a foundation of justice and righteous to our actions.
Think how many times this comes into play in daily life. Knowledge tells a landlord that he or she could technically evict someone, but love says don’t, they’ll be out on the streets. Knowledge tells us that we have no legal obligation to offer food or clothing to those less fortunate, but love whispers something different. Knowledge says you are justified in raising your voice in an argument with your child or loved one, but love says stop talking and listen. Knowledge may tell us that international law justifies a declaration of war, but love declares something very different.
How does this apply in your life? Can you think of things that your head says you have a right to do, but your heart says you shouldn’t? Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Let us think about that this week and begin to ground our conduct not on what our heads say we can do, but on what our hearts say we should.
Rev. Susan Sparks
Pastor, Madison Avenue Baptist Church
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