"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.
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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
2008-07-10 by Deb Mechler
The parable of the sower comes at a time in my congregation when 1) we are talking about Sabbath living, 2) we are planning some exciting new outreach and 3) we are becoming stewards of large bequests, one of which is designated solely for mission. As we discuss what to do with the bequest money, we will need to keep returning to the image of the sower who scatters the seed broadly. This is in contrast to our rural context, where farmers calculate yields and plant each seed precisely. We will have to act counter-intuitively to sow with such abandon!
The parable is also relevant to our Sabbath living. Trampled earth does not receive the soil well. Our soul-soil is often more trampled than tilled and open to the Word. The thorn-cares and shallow soil-soul are also results of not letting the soul-soil lie fallow or having it tilled by the hearing and integration of the Word-seed.
Yet the heart of the parable is the sower. After listening again to Walter Brueggeman's message at the Festival of Homiletics, I'm inclined to contrast the "exuberant generosity" and extravagant love of God to our frequent choices of excess and exhaustion. We are called to choose our X's wisely!
Elizabeth Mortlock and Questions
2008-07-10 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to guest blogger Elizabeth for filling the hot tub with masaging questions to revive our thinking. I look forward to others at least dangling their feet into the tub to join us.
I never thought about how negative the word "barren" is for describing a woman who cannot have children. I will be more sensitive from now on. Thanks, Elizabeth.
Regarding the sower-parable in Matthew, perhaps the point is to get us to ask ourselves, "Am I listening? Really listening? What is the seed doing in me?"
I also find in the parable a word of relief for us preachers who get frustrated when some people just do not hear the Good News, no matter how we say it. The parable suggests that such is the way of holy broadcasting. Of course, we are not to be fatalistic and give up on people, but, at the same time, we can protect ourselves from excessive self-blaming by recalling this story, thanks be to the Spirit.
Finally, I wonder if John Calvin saw the sower-parable as supporting his doctrine of double predestination. Perhaps my Reformed tradition siblings can help me here.
Come on into the tub. Let all who have skin feel the Good News.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2008-07-10 by David von Schlichten
Lectionary Questions for July 13
2008-07-06 by Elizabeth Mortlock
Our blogger this week is Rev. Elizabeth Mortlock, a member of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She serves as Pastor of the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Virginia. She writes:
Summer can be a time of reflection, of questioning. It is a time to be free from finding the “right answers” prematurely. In that spirit of asking and wondering, I offer the following questions as springboards to our discussion. I look forward to your responses and further questions this week:Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23 – Parable of the Sower What is the seed of the good news that is so broadly cast?
In our country, where theological viewpoints among Christians can be markedly diverse, how do you name what the seed is? Is it salvation in Jesus Christ? Is it salvation in Christ alone? Is it the good news that we are loved by God? Is it the hope that if we are faithful, a harvest will grow? What is the seed?Where do we put our endeavors in ministry?
In the parable there are three places where the seed falls – 1) on rocky ground where there is no chance whatsoever that there will be growth for evil prowls 2) on a path where there is no need for deep soil as it is in fact a path. A path is not meant to be a field to be useful. 3) well-tilled soil that is fertile and ready to receive the seed. Are we to throw the seeds of ministry as liberally as the sower? What about throwing the seed at evil? Is it worth it? Does our action change things? What about throwing the seed of our ministries at a place where, in fact, there is no chance of the path becoming a field? What about tending the field so that it is prepared to hear the word of God? Can we tell which area is which in life? Are we meant to throw the gospel liberally as the sower does, or to discern and focus? Is our task simply to prepare the field so that when the sower comes the field is ready for the word?What about those crowds?
Jesus spoke and such great crowds gathered around him that he went into a boat. Is there a correlation between the local church speaking the word and doing the works of Jesus so faithfully and genuinely that great crowds gather? Or can one speak the word of Jesus faithfully and genuinely and still find a small number in the pews? Or can we never hope to come close to the power of Jesus and are we to simply be as faithful as possible in our proclamation, not worrying about the numbers?Genesis 25: 19-34 – Jacob and Esau What words in the Bible repel some people in the pews?
Are there words in the Bible that repel some who might otherwise respond to a story or teaching? Is the word “barren” too strong or is it acceptable to describe a woman who does not bear a child? Does it suggest an utter wasteland of the body? Of the mind? Of the soul? Is this an accurate representation or an offense?What is God’s response to prayer?
When Isaac prayed for his wife he no doubt did not expect that while the prayer might be answered, the response might carry in a new challenge in life. In this case the prayer is answered, yet there are two nations divided in one womb. What are our prayers? When answered, how do they sometimes carry in them further challenges in our lives and spirits?Brotherly love?
Two brothers. Two nations. Two careers. Two personalities. Does this sound like family relations at odds? Does this sound like race relations at odds? Does this sound like international relations at odds? Is such a conflicted situation destined for eternal conflict? Is that just life as it always is? What does it take to reconcile warring nations, warring brothers in a family? What scripture and teaching in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament would shed a new perspective on this conflicted situation, bringing such conflict into a new and reconciled place?What Would Make You Sell Your Birthright?
What are the gifts that we have been given in life, just by virtue of being born into God’s world? How do we cherish them? Which of them do we covet? What makes us give up something precious for something urgent? What are the permanent implications of this choice?Psalm 119: 105-112 – Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet What oaths do you swear to? What ordinances do you follow?
What oaths do you swear to? What ordinances do you seek to live by? How do these ordinances sustain you even in the face of trial?Who are the wicked?
Does this polarization of the faithful and the wicked work for today’s world? Can we afford to name others as wicked? Does naming others as wicked simply serve to make us feel righteous? Or is there true and unadulterated wickedness in some who God created? Are we judicious in naming who is wicked? Are we judicious in labeling others?Where is that Lamp? What is it Lighting?
How do you see the light of God illuminating your path? What does your path look like? Where are you moving to? How does the light assist in the movement forward.Romans 8: 1-11 Is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?
If we are saved, can we sin? Is a committed Christian free forever of sin? Is Paul right here?What’s wrong with the flesh?
Can we live with this dichotomy of body and spirit? Is it faithful for Christians to see integrity of the two? Is the body corrupt? Is the body the temple of the Holy Spirit?In closing . . .
Is it enough to simply ask questions? At what point must we seek answers and live by them? Can an answer ever be more than provisional? Are there clear sacred truths that can be discerned which become brighter and brighter as life goes by and faithful discernment grows? Who do we share our deepest questions with? Who might we join together with to ask questions and seek answers? And, once found, how do we commit ourselves to live with the answers?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. May everyone who reads this be full of God’s grace this summer as you go forward with the word of God, a map unto your feet and a light to your path.
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