Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-08-04 by CJ Teets

The Reverend Deb Mechler, a pastor in the Reformed Church in America serving the Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Royal, Iowa.  Her past vocations as an education and youth ministry director, Christian education and family ministry consultant, and five years of nursing home chaplaincy have given her a rich background for ministry in the parish.  Her M. Div. was earned through Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Deb derives pleasure from observing God's sense of humor, as her husband was raised in the Lutheran church and is now an elder in his RCA church, while she was born and bred RCA and is now happily serving her beloved friends in the ELCA!

"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights, Rosemary and Tom
2008-08-01 by David von Schlichten

(My title for this entry reminds me of "Scarborough Fair.") 

Thank you to guest blogger Rosemary Beales and also for yeasty contributions to chew on from Tom Steagald. Scroll down to read both.

I find stimulating the idea of connecting the temptation narrative with this feeding miracle. I'll have to think on that.

Below are some highlights from "Lectionary Homiletics" for this week:


Osvaldo D. Vena points out that no one is surprised by Jesus' ability to feed over five-thousand people. Jesus is the liberator, so it is natural for him to provide food.

"Theological Themes"

Lewis A. Parks stresses hospitality and challenges us toward greater hospitality, borrowing from Douglas John Hall to do so.

"Pastoral Implications"

Carol J. Cook recalls the poignant and profound Raymond Carver short story, "A Small, Good Thing," which features bread-eating and the power of community and food in the face of grief.

I recommend you take the time to read that marvelous short story, as well as Carver's story, "Cathedral." Salubrious.

I'm off to Gettysburg (talk about nourishment). I'll be back Saturday night, then and now and always

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Matthew being Matthew
2008-07-31 by Tom Steagald

I don't know what that title means, except I have been reading about the intrigue with the Red Sox and "Manny being Manny"...

I do find it interesting that that in both Luke and Matthew the first of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness have to do with the making of bread. I am guessing it is not only Jesus' personal post-fasting hunger, but also the hunger of oppressed multitudes that is the fulcrum of the Temptor's seduction. "Since you are the Son of God, turn the very many stones into very many loaves and feed the very many masses."

People still do not live by bread alone, these 11 chapters later, but here he feeds them. Now, the prospect of his death (except by starvation) is not yet on the radar... but in today's lesson it is via the death of the Baptizer. Does that make a difference.

Also, now there is little with which Jesus can work (whereas in the wilderness there were plenteous stones). Does "Matthew being Matthew" implicitly or explicitly tie these stories together at all? Empty wilderness, crowded sea shore, plenty/scarcity, no/yes?

Another thought: pasturing the people here, providing still water in the next episode--could this be a part of a midrash on Psalm 23? Just a thought. 


Prevenient Emotions
2008-07-30 by David von Schlichten


I find heart-opening Jesus' emotions before the miracle: the implicit grief he feels over John's death, and his heart-breaking compassion for the crowd. It would be homiletically valuable, perhaps, to explore the relationshp between deep emotion and our ministries.

Also, it is good news that we have a God who feels at least the same emotions we do.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Feasting on Family Food Stories
2008-07-27 by Rosemary Beales

Rosemary Beales is in her last week of ministry at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, MD, where she has been associate rector for three years, and is about to begin a new position as chaplain to 400 children K-5 at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School and priest associate at St. Paul’s parish in Alexandria, VA. Her sermons have been published in Lectionary Homiletics and Sermons That Work. She is an active trainer in the Godly Play style of religious education, a practitioner of “performed” text, and a 2005 graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary. After 25 years telling stories as a journalist, she came to the preaching life because, she says, "I simply found a better story to tell." 

 Feasting on Family Food Stories 

What are your family food stories? We all have them – those tales that seem to get told every time your clan gets together around yet another table.


In my family, we still talk about the time our father, who worked odd hours, brought home piles of a delicacy that was then unknown to us: fried shrimp from the carryout place on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington, DC. We kids clambered out of bed for a midnight feast, and I don’t know which was more delicious – the succulent shrimp, or the invitation to a spontaneous celebration that broke the bedtime rules.


My kids, I suppose, will tell tales of the time the Thanksgiving turkey, left on a counter to finish thawing, fell victim to the family cat – or perhaps they’ll tell their kids that they always knew when dinner was ready because the smoke alarm would go off (an only-slight exaggeration).

 But family food stories like that ¾ of experiments gone bad, of extravagant holiday spreads, of stretching the soup to get through lean times ¾ those stories get handed down like favorite recipes, from generation to generation. From salving our grief to stoking our joy, food nourishes not only our bodies but our family connections. 

This week’s gospel serves up one of our family stories about food – one so important that every family storyteller includes it in the saga we call the gospels. It’s a story so central that we re-enact it, in a way, when we gather as a family of faith, some of us every Sunday and others on special occasions. It’s a story I love to hear, and tell -- only this week’s teller (Matthew 14:13-21) leaves out some of my favorite details.

  • Where are the questions that our brother Mark includes? (“Are we supposed to go and buy bread for all these people?” . . . “How many loaves have you?”)
  • Where is the child who takes center stage for a moment in John’s version (“There is a boy here…..”)
  • Where is the sitting-down-in-groups that both Mark and Luke tell of—an organizational feat that seems to me almost as miraculous as the feeding?

Those are entry points for me into a story so familiar that it’s hard to take in just how amazing it is. I am reminded of Tom Long’s comment that we often hear scripture the way we listen to “a senile dinner companion.” Oh, we think, that old story again, and tune out, missing the nuances of this particular telling--and the chance to connect with the teller. In the case of the gospels, we miss also the chance to connect with the Author of the story, to ponder again, Who is this Jesus, and what is he doing in this event, on this hillside?


So this week – even as I sit surrounded by boxes, preparing to move both home and office – I am going to do my best to listen to Matthew tell this family story his way. The best way I’ve found to really hear the text – to crawl around inside scripture and let it crawl around inside me – is to take the words into my body and my memory. That will be my work this week, learning the text by heart and discovering where it strikes a chord. I’ll let you know what I (by God’s grace) might hear, and I hope you’ll let all of us in on some of your family food stories.


 P.S.: Isn’t it too bad we don’t have the Genesis lesson from three weeks ago (“Let me have some of that red stuff!”) paired with this gospel? But maybe you find a connection between this week’s wonderful wrestling story and the feeding of multitudes. Or maybe you’d like to comment on Isaiah’s exhortation: “Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread?”—a challenge that often rings in my head as I trek the aisles of processed supermarket food and wonder, What are we feeding our families?     


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