God is Where We Are, Like It or Not!
2008-07-14 by Dean Seal
Psalm 139: 1-12, 23-24
God is Wherever we are,Like it or Not.
The songwriter is first describing a warm feeling of being known, the pleasure of knowing God's company is always there. The next thing we hear is a pretended effort ot escape, but why bother? God is going to be with us wherever we go. The darkness described in v. 11 and 12 should be taken metaphorically as well as literally; we know that God is with us at night. We can sleep in that knowledge. But more importantly, God is with us in the dark night of the soul, when we cannot see the coming of the good news; when we are pushed down, face-first into the dirt of this life, and we cannot imagine coming out of it, and cannot imagine why God would join us in those horrible moments.
Knowing that God is with us at all times is a small but potent piece of truth when you ponder things like the Holocaust. Where was God, one might ask, as the Christians pushed the Jews into the ovens, and then took communion every Sunday within sight of the prisoners? Here we see God was not somewhere else. God was there. And in the traditional understanding of our pain, God's heart was the first to break. If God is infinite, God's ability to understand our pain is infinite. If God is loving, God's ability to love us, and to suffer with us, and to keep us company in the worst of times, is infinite.
The final two verses are inviting God to work in collaboration, to help the songwriter take stock of his own inner life, and to ask God for help in moving towards the encounter with the infinite, to be lead "in the way of the everlasting." To encounter the sacred and the divine in this life, to move into what Jesus described as the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. It is all around us, and so is the God that created it.
Jacob's Dream: God's Fullfillment of Rebekah's Dream?
2008-07-14 by Dean Seal
Gen. 28: 10-19a Jacob's Dream: God's Fullfilment of Rebekah's Dream? The story of Jacob is a complicated one, and always needs a back-story before you can launch into understanding and unpacking a segment like this. This portion, called a pericope in the trade, tells the story of Jacob's dream where he has his first encounter with God. This confirms his status as a Patriarch of the Hebrews, and in fact his name will change to Israel before his story is out. Why does God pick this guy? Didn't he just cheat his brother out of his birthright? Didn't he lie to his blind father, trick him into a blessing he had no right to? Why is God picking this crook? Well, let's untie a knot or two here. According to his mom, Rebekah, his hand was the first one out- she tied a string to it, and then Esau came out. Jacob took advantage of his brother's short-sightedness by insisting that he give up his birthright for a pot of beans, but Esau would have to take half the blame there for accepting such a baldly bad business arrangement. And finaly, it was Rebekah's idea to sneak Jacob in, with a special dish of food that she prepared herself, and mask Jacob's feel and scent with wool on his arms, and Esau's clothes on his back. It was Rebekah who wanted this deal to go through more than anyone, it seems to me even more than Jacob himself. This is a rebellion against the traditions of the system. If there are two sons, the youngest could expect to get a third of the estate, and the oldest to get two-thirds. It's not a small matter economically, but it's not the business side that is crucial. It is the blessing. A business deal could be changed, but the blessing of the father onto the son can only be spoken once, because at this point in time, a man's words were a sacred bond (have we progressed in that department? Or were those sheepherders more civilized than we are?). What God has done in this dream, then, is confirm the work of Rebekah. He has blessed the one she arranged to bless. God has circumvented the system of primogenitor, and granted the wish of the female head of household. Jacob will have to endure his own victimization in the con to unload two daughters that Laban runs on him, so Jacob does not get off without getting a bit of his own back. But the promise here is from God to him, announcing protection, providing a huge family that will spread "like dust" and making him fruitful. God can change the direction we think we are going, and God can change the rules when God sees fit.
Rev. Seal's Biography
2008-07-14 by Dean Seal
Rev. Dean J. Seal PC(USA) is ordained to the Interfaith Dialogue through the Performing Arts. He is Artistic Director of Spirit in The House, which is a producing non-profit that juries a ten-day festival of Interfaith Performance in Minneapolis; also producing two weekends a year of a cabaret of the same; and offers classes to kids in the summer to learn how to turn parables into short movies and plays, set in our own time and place. Seal teaches Christian History and Interfaith Dialogue at Augsburg College in Minneapolis as an Adjunct Professor. He has also been a writer for A Prairie Home Companion, HBO, MTV and Comedy Central. More information is available at spiritinthehouse.org
Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-07-14 by CJ Teets
Dean J. Seal.
Dean is the Artistic Director for Spirit In The House based in Minneapolis. In a former life, he was a writer for Prairie Home Companion.
"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights; Song of Solomon
2008-07-11 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to guest blogger Elizabeth Mortlock for her hot-tub reflections. Scroll down to read her helpful questions as well as the input of other bloggers.
Click on Share It! and then Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics to read about a special offer to gain temporary free access to all of GoodPreacher.com.
Below are highlights from some of the articles for this week in Lectionary Homiletics.
Michael Barram points out that this parable is for a large audience and not for just the inner circle. We, also, are sitting in that group, and Christ exhorts us to listen. In the explanation of the parable, however, Jesus is talking directly to the disciples. Barram goes on to make several important points, chief among them being that hearing is the text's key theme. Seed producing fruit means hearing and then responding with lives of fruitful faith.
Kenneth Kovacs reminds us preachers that scandal is essential to parables. The allegorical interpretation in verses 18 through 23 is valuable but also can contribute to taming, descandalizing the parable. Most likely, the parable originally stood by itself without the explanation of those later verses. Kovacs wonders what we preachers can do to help people hear anew the parable's fecund, scandalous nature, which can help us to appreciate with new intensity the kingdom's prodigality.
“Preaching the Lesson”
Anna Carter Florence also teaches that the parable is more than its explanation in verses 18 through 23. She proclaims that we Christians who cling to this parable as an explanation of why some people don't come to church are missing a fertile point: the extravagance of God. The seed can produce thirtyfold on up. What a luscious message that is. They that have tongues to taste, let them taste and tell!
I will begin on Sunday a four-part sermon series entitled, “Contoversial Topics and the Controversial Good News.” This series was inspired in part by Barbara Lundblad's galvanizing lecture on race that she gave at the Festival of Homiletics. The topics we will cover are:
July 13: Race and the Good News; July 20: Gender and the Good News;
July 27: Politics and the Good News; August 3: Sexuality and the Good News.
Song of Solomon will serve as the central biblical book for the series. Shortly I will post the first sermon, the one on race, at the Sermon Feedback Cafe. I pray you'll stop by to let me know what you think. I'll be the one sitting in the corner drinking iced tea with lemon and eating a large, salty pretzel with mustard.
One reader advised me to take a stand on these various issues and not simply present sides without commitment. I agree, so I will be doing that. Thanks, Wise Reader.
Trying to hear, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
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