Puzzled by the Parables
2008-07-23 by Tom Steagald
One of the things I struggle with is assuming that I already know what the parables mean. I have been thinking this week that surely, surely, in three years of ministry Jesus said a lot more than the red letters record. The fact that the gospel writers remember what they do means that these words were distinctive, memorable, maybe crazy. What was shocking?
Birds mess up your car and eat the fruit off your trees. Yeast is unclean, of course. WHO would have hidden the treasure and what was the occasion of discovery? Pearls begin as a foreign substance and irritation. The culling of fish here seems to stand in contradiction to the inclusiveness of John 21.
I am just trying to figure out why THESE images. Do I understand enough the scandalous and/or disjunctive nature of these metaphors to determine how they translate into our idiom? DO they?
Jesus' use of parables is his most distinctive speech. And yet our overfamiliarity with and love of them surely blunt them of their original point. My fear is that I preach them as a kind of moralizing, a self-affirming rather than church-challenging kind of metapor.
Also, I am wondering about the last sentence--the scribe trained for the kingdom. The old and new treasure...is this a catchword to the parable of treasure hidden in a field? To pearls? Is this a clue Matthew gives us for interpreting not only those two but perhaps all five of these parables?
Politics and the Good News
2008-07-22 by David von Schlichten
I am preaching a sermon series on controversial topics and the controversial Good News. For my primary text I am using Song of Solomon, but I am also drawing from the lectionary texts. This Sunday's topic is politics and the Good News.
What do you think the five parables on the kingdom of heaven say about politics and the Good News?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Some thoughts on July 27th lectionary texts...
2008-07-21 by Jennifer Fouse
Genesis 29: 15-28- The Family Dysfunction continues...
I love Genesis. I recently met a woman in a church where I was the guest preacher, and she was complaining about her bible study. "I don't like Genesis at all," she said. Upon asking her why, the woman replied, "I just can't relate to the stories." Puzzled, I asked her if she came from a dysfunctional family. She confirmed that she, like all of us, comes from a dysfunctional family, and I encouraged her to go back and to read Genesis while thinking of her own story and family in the midst of God's big story and family.
This week's lectionary text in Genesis is rich and it's no different than many of the previous Genesis stories these last two months. Dysfunction among families runs deep. In this particular pericope, there is betrayal by Jacob's uncle, Laban. Also in this text, there is no voice for the women, Leah, Rachel or Zilpah (Bilhah is mentioned in vs. 29). Leah and Rachel appear to have no say in the arranged marriage to Jacob nor Zilpah in the transition to being Leah's maidservant.
In the opening of these verses, Laban is asking Jacob to name his price for all the work he has been doing. Notice that immediately after the question of wages due, there is a statement made. "Now Laban had two daughters." Leah and Rachel. In those days, two daughters equaled two pieces of property, if you will. The role of these two sisters, both the wanted and unwanted, and their maid servants is very important in God's redemption of Israel. As all four of these women, each with a different story, are the mothers of the twelve tribes of Israel.
As we move through this story, Laban betrays Jacob, and Jacob ends up marrying Leah after seven years of labor, instead of Rachel, the daughter he wanted to marry. So Jacob stays and works for Laban another seven years for Rachel. Why did Jacob stick around? How could Jacob know that Laban wasn't going to cheat him again? I don't know, but I find it interesting that right before this chapter, we find Jacob having wrestled with God and making a vow, a conditional promise- but a promise still- before God and himself. "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God" (Gen. 28:20).
There is a continuing theme of God's redemption of Israel amidst family dysfunction. We may not see it directly in these verses, but as the story of the people of God in Genesis unfolds, we know that God is at work and determined to redeem the people of Israel, regardless of their brokenness. If God continues to work and move in the midst of this broken family, imagine how the redemptive love of God works and moves within our broken families?!
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b- Being mindful of God's presence and covenant with us...
These are the phrases that stick out to me in this psalm.
Sing to God, sing praises to God
Looking for God- be on the lookout for God at work in the world, whether in the miracles or in our mundane, everyday living. Are we really seeking God's presence continually? What does it look like to seek God's presence continually in today's world? In the silence? In the busyness? Are we mindful enough to catch God's presence and to give God glory?! Are we mindful enough of the covenant that God has made with us and us with God?
Romans 8:26-39- Nothing can separate us from God...
This is a rich passage. In our weakness, the Holy Spirit helps us. Even (and especially) when we don't know how to pray as we ought...the Holy Spirit intercedes "with sighs too deep for words." Have you ever been in a place where you don't know what to say to God? And yet, God, who searches the heart and knows the mind of the Spirit, sends the Spirit to intercede for the saints. Thanks be to God!
I was sharing some thoughts with a friend of mine, who is not clergy, on this passage. I often times forget to ask my non-clergy friends what they hear in the scripture. Even with all the comfort that this pericope can bring, she had a difficult time with vv. 28-30. Even though God through Christ is for us, she was snuck in these three verses. Recent events in her life (a long illness) had caused her to stop on these words. There, in these verses, are the words- the ones that cause some of us to be uncomfortable- "predestined," "called," "justified," and "glorified." These words cause many of us to take notice and to be confident or confused. These words often bring about a conversation of who are in and those who are out in the kingdom of God. Maybe you don't have that reaction upon reading these words but what about those in the pews/chairs? Are these words comforting?
Personally, I didn't have the same reaction that my friend did; nevertheless, these verses (and their difficulty for some folks) should not be ignored. They are wonderfully thick theological words that should be explored.
Nothing in all creation- will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. When the rubber meets the road, these words are the words that stand out to me in this passage. No matter what I can do with or say about those thick theological terms above. These words- of God's unconditional love and sacrifice- have always been the glue and foundation of my faith. Even our inability to communicate with God cannot separate us from God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God for that we are more than conquerors through God who first loved us!
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52- The kingdom of heaven is like...
Five parables about what the kingdom of heaven is like. Five, somewhat confusing and random parables. Random and parable may be an oxymoron?! Five parables that could easily be divided up and preached separately. The kingdom of heaven is like...1) a mustard seed, 2) yeast, 3) hidden treasure, 4) fine pearls and 5) a net thrown into the sea. At what length will God go to in order to seek us out, communicate God's love for us, etc.? Jesus, once again, uses everyday things in his explanation of what the kingdom of heaven is like and many of us don't get it. How do we communicate these parables today using these everyday things? How do we communicate what the kingdom of heaven is like in our everyday lives?
Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-07-21 by CJ Teets
The Reverend Jennifer E. Fouse.
Jennifer is an ordained PC(USA) minister and is currently serving as the Presbyterian Campus Minister at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.
Dean Seal; "Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-07-18 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to guest blogger Dean Seal for his hot-tubbing. Scroll down to read his helpfully hydrating contributions.
Below are highlights from some of the articles for this week in Lectionary Homiletics.
Loida I. Martell-Otero teaches that the concept of reign is important for understanding Matthew's gospel, where this concept is more prevalent than in any other New Testament book. “Diversity, not divisiveness, defines the Reign,” Martell-Otero avers.
She adds that the proper question is not whether one is wheat or a weed but, “Under whose reign do I labor?”
Martell-Otero also reminds us that the reign of God is not a place but more of an action.
“Preaching the Lesson”
Anna Carter Florence offers a garden of nourishing and savory questions, such as: “What are the weeds in your life teaching you, that you cannot learn any other way” and, “Have you ever had the experience of discovering that the wheat you thought you were growing, really amounted to nothing bu weeds?” (p. 67)
She adds that only God can separate the weeds from the wheat. Our job is to learn about ourselves and our crop. We also are to learn that we need God, the only one who can do the harvest correctly.
Larry Lange, in “A Certain Manner of Envy,” provides a creative elaboration on the parable. The entire sermon is his extended description of the Farmer, the Enemy, and the crop, and we the hearers are challenged to overcome envy and anger so that we can trust in and rejoice with the Farmer.
I am still doing my sermon series on Song of Solomon and controversial topics. This Sunday's topic will be gender. I will post my sermon shortly.
Trying to learn and not weed, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
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