All I have to say...
2008-11-11 by Tom Steagald

is that right now, today, the guy who puts his money in the ground looks like the wise steward! Those that went out and traded with them lost their shirts when the Dow-Jones tanked.

I wonder if this current financial crisis helps us see this parable in a way that keeps it from turning into, as it often gets preached, a moralizing stewardship sermon.

Do we bury our faith in the ground right now for fear of losing what we have? Or do we keep trading with them in this greatest gift entrusted to us?

This week's guest lectionary preacher is
2008-11-09 by CJ Teets

The Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop, an ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a theologian.  She received her Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN and her PhD in Theology and Ethics from Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  Marcia has served churches in Chicago, IL, Tampa, FL, and Oakland, CA.  She is currently serving an eight month stint as the Theologian in Residence at University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, NC, that began this fall (2008).


Marcia is a national board member of the Multicultural Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and just completed work on a group Lily Grant that involved studying pastoral excellence in the context of multicultural ministry with five other ministers from Oakland, CA.  She is also involved in a “Repairers of the Breach” clergy group in North Carolina charged with reconciling and building relationships with clergy who differ on various social issues that divide the Church.  Marcia grew up in Kentucky and is the fourth generation ordained to the ministry in her family.  She has worked in church, academic, and community settings on racial reconciliation and awareness.  Her book entitled Let the Bones Dance:  Embodiment and the Body of Christ is forthcoming with Westminster John Knox Press in 2009.  Her husband, John Mount Shoop, is the Offensive Coordinator for the University of North Carolina football team.  They have two young children.

Anna Carter Florence
2008-11-08 by David von Schlichten

Soon Year A will be over, and Anna will cease to be our author for "Preaching the Lesson." We will have other strong authors fill the void, but we will miss Anna's incisive and witty contributions each week.

This week she asks, "What fills your oil?" She also reminds us that waiting for the bridegroom is not to stir up fear but joy. We cannot wait for him to get here!

Anna does a brilliant job of helping us to hear these old texts in new but old ways.

By the way, I am not preaching this Sunday, so I will not be posting a sermon.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Jerry Sumney and the Anti-Christ
2008-11-07 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to guest blogger Jerry Sumney for his timely blog entries on our texts for Sunday. Among other things, he reminds us that the eschatological language of 1 Thessalonians is to be taken symbolically, not literally, and the Matthean text mainly admonishes church insiders, not church outsiders.

The point of such passages is not to get us all left-behindy about the Second Coming but to get ourselves, by the Spirit's power, right-minded. Being right-minded entails loving God and others in accord with God's grace.

What if people stopped worrying that Barack Obama might be the anti-Christ and instead focused on the anti-Christ that dwells within the self and yielding to God's grace to exorcise that anti-Christ?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionay Blog Moderator

God's promise; our (un)faithfulness
2008-11-03 by Jerry Sumney

The Joshua reading begins the final speech of Joshua (both the book and the person).  Joshua has led the people through the conquest of the land of Canaan and is now about to retire.  He begins the speech by giving the people a stark choice, they can either worship the God of Abraham and that God alone or they can worship the gods of the peoples around them.  These are supposed to be mutually exclusive options.  This is, of course, very odd.  No other god expected exclusive worship, so they are being asked to do something quite extraordinary.

In the section that the reading skips, Joshua reminds his listeners of all the wondrous and powerful things God has done for their ancestors and for them.  God called Abraham, brought the Israelites out of Egypt, preserved them in the desert, and has now given them the land.  They have seen God’s power and how God can preserve and bless them.  Now they must choose.  If they want to maintain their relationship with this God, they must enter the exclusive relationship.  When Joshua makes the initial offer, the people are quick to accept God’s offer.

Joshua, however, is not ready to let them make this choice without think about its fuller ramifications.  They are not just siding with the God who has power, they are committing themselves to a relationship that has demands. 

It is crucial to set this passage not only in its literary context (the end of the Conquest), but also in the context of its final composition.  Joshua, like other books within the Deuteronomic histories, was finished as Judah tried to make sense to their defeat and exile.  If their God was truly the God of the cosmos who was over all other gods, how could it be that they had suffered such a devastating defeat.  The writers of these books put the blame squarely on the unfaithfulness of the people.  Joshua’s warning that God would punish unfaithfulness has already come true when this passage takes the form it has in this book.  It serves as much as an explanation for where they find themselves as it does as a warning.

Set in this context, these warnings assume, perhaps emphasize, the patience and mercifulness of God.  This sounds odd, but when we read the following stories in Judges and 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles it becomes obvious that the people never live up to the commitment they make in this text.  They never worship only God, so they should expect bad things to happen to them.  Yet, God keeps taking them back.  Now that devastation has come, it should be no surprise.  The account of the life of Israel and Judah in these books intends to show how patient God had been and how long they had deserved the terrible things that had finally befallen them.

We need to emphasize here that the preservation of the nation for as long as God saved it, must be seen as an act of pure grace.  If God had fulfilled the conditions of the agreement as it is set out in Joshua, the people would have existed for about two weeks!  Their unfaithfulness, however, does not move God to reject them.  The stories of Judges and then of the monarchy tell of remedial judgments, but not of final rejection—at least until the fall of the northern kingdom.  So the evil done by the people could have, should have, brought judgment earlier.  This is not because God is mean or vindictive or judgmental.  Just the opposite picture of God is seen in these stories.  When we read the stories in isolation from one another, we get the impression that God is mean, waiting to punish the slightest infraction.  But they intend to convey precisely the opposite message.  As a group, these stories show a pattern of the people’s unfaithfulness and God’s patience with them as God constantly takes them back when they turn (however briefly) to God to ask for help.

This passage in Joshua calls preachers to remind their congregations of the great blessings God has heaped upon them.  The proper, indeed required, response of the people is faithfulness to God.  Unfortunately, most of us are little better at faithfulness than our spiritual ancestors.  That call for repentance should be accompanied by the reminder that the gracious God who continually restored the Israelites still seeks relationship with us and has shown us this posture in that most dramatic act of sending Christ.

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