One More Question
2008-06-05 by Kate Crawford

Great question to ponder, David.

And here’s another vexing question from the Matthew text: Jesus says, "Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (9:13). What does this open up for you, in your congregational setting?

Where I am this Sunday is a huge "whiz bang" service: our 85 year old organ, which has just been restored, is playing for the first time in 8 months; it is confirmation, communion and anniversary Sunday. Think of the balls we have to try to keep in the air! Many of them can tend to the self-congratulatory: Look at us!

Yet Jesus says, "mercy not sacrifice" and "sinners not the righteous." There is an uncomfortable quality to this part of the text as well. Reminds me of Paul’s little lecture on boasting (I Cor 1:31). Actually, one could make a handy connection to the Romans passage for today, and its celebration of the righteousness of faith.

Do your people need to be prodded? Or nurtured? Or both?





Caring for the Marginalized; Healing
2008-06-04 by David von Schlichten

Kate,

Identifying today's marginalized could indeed be a potent part of proclaiming this passage (pardon the alliteration). (By the way, if you came to our congregation and announced that you would have wanted to be a prostitute in Jesus' day, my teenaged daughter would think you were the coolest pastor ever.)

What I keep wondering about is the statement, "Your faith has made you well." I imagine this statement snagging many parishioners. It certainly s/nags me. Such a declaration vexes and perplexes legions of us.

Of course, we pastors know that the Greek here could be translated as, "Your faith has saved you," but to ignore that a person is also physically healed is to avoid a jumping-up-and-down feature of the text.

What does it mean when Christ declares that our faith  has made us well?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Caring for the marginalized
2008-06-04 by Kate Crawford

Hello David,

Yes, caring for the marginalized is an obvious connection - thank you for pointing it out.

I often think that we have lost touch with just how offensive it was for Jesus' contemporaries that he cared for those on the fringes. He didn't just reach out to moderately difficult people.. he reached out to downright disgusting people that everyone agreed were beyond the social pale. Tax collector! Prostitutes!!!! These people were ritually unclean, excluded from temple worship, and consorters with the enemy - Rome.

I once preached to a middle-class congregation in Toronto that I had often felt that I would have rather been a tax collector or prostitute in Jesus', since those people would have been closer to him. The s**t hit the fan, let me tell you! There was their young, female preacher wishing publicly that she were a prostitute! Many in the congregation were very offended - which I guess is really the point. How have we lost touch with this side of Jesus' ministry? He really upset people.

So the homiletical challenge this week - if you select the gospel - would be to ask: who would he be reaching out to now? Who is so offensive to us that we cannot even stomach the thought of Jesus loving them? Put them in your sermon, brothers and sisters!





Connection Between Parts One and Two of Matthew 9
2008-06-03 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Kate Crawford, our guest blogger, for her thought-bubbling blog entries. I look forward to people's responses. We have lots of room here in the tub.

I wonder, Kate, if a connection between the call of Matthew and the two healings is that, in all three cases, Jesus cares for marginalized people: tax collectors, unclean women, and children.

I look forward to more chatting here among the massaging jets.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





First Post - let's get started!
2008-06-02 by Kate Crawford

Welcome bloggers! I am delighted to be joining this on-line community, from the "far East" - namely, St John’s, Newfoundland, which is a stone’s throw from the most easterly point in North America, Cape Spear! Since I know that our conversation will evolve over this week, I’ll just throw out some teasers on the texts as a start, and we’ll see where the winds of the Spirit lead us. May God add blessing to our deliberations, and may they be fruitful as we prepare to proclaim Good News once again!

Genesis 12:1-9

Tough text! I read this text, promising Abram a land, a nation and a great inheritance, and my mind is pulled immediately to the contemporary situation in Israel/Palestine, where another Semitic group was promised land and a nation within the last 60 years. And look where that has landed us. Israel struggles to survive as a nation while the Palestinian people, who’s land was expropriated to create that state, languish in refugee camps. I wonder if it was any different when Abram showed up and claimed his land so many centuries ago. What about the people who were already there?

This is particularly poignant for us in Canada this week, as the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission gets under way, hearing from our native communities about the abuses against their children in residential schools run jointly by the government and the churches. Surely the legacy of colonialism, supported by a theology of colonialism, is a disgrace.

In v. 2 God promises "I will make you into a great nation... I will make your name great." It seems to me that when religion gets mixed with nationalism there is great potential for harm. When a nation believes that it has God on its side it can create a dangerous fundamentalism which equates the nation’s desires with God’s desires. The most egregious example of this would be Nazi Germany, of course, but lesser examples are abundant even today.

Romans 4:13-25

Perhaps the way to redeem the text from Genesis is to partner it with this passage from Romans, in which Abraham’s righteousness is celebrated as the consequence of his faith. By focusing on faith, and how it strengthens us for seemingly impossible tasks - like it did for Abraham and Sarah - we can turn the texts towards comfort, and away from colonialism. Please, please, please don’t forget Sarah (even though Paul pretty much did), and include her amazing faith along with Abraham’s as you speak to God’s people.

Psalm 33:1-12

This Psalm continues the connection between God’s might and the might of the nation already noted above. However, there is such a tone of celebration, of adoration, even of amazement at the power of God that the preacher can choose to lift out these sections in order to remind us of these things. Not that we ever forget - but in today’s climate of rising fuel prices, international food crisis, terrorism and fear, we need to be reminded over and over again of the goodness of God as a sort of antidote to the heaviness of the world.

Matthew 9:9-13; 18-26

I cannot see how you can connect the two separate sections of this gospel without tying yourself up in knots. My advice is to select either the Calling of Matthew OR the two miracles without trying to tease out some hidden connection between the two (although perhaps some reader will find one! Please let us know).

If you choose Matthew’s call I would suggest you dwell on Jesus’ annoying habit of eating with the wrong crowd, the tax collectors and sinners of v.10. Who would he chooses to eat with in our day, and which unlikely disciple would he select from that group to keep us on our toes, and to prod our complacency?

If you choose the two hearing stories I suspect it is because you feel your community is in need of healing or even of resurrection. Note the touching faith of both petitioners: the ruler accepts that Jesus can raise his daughter. The woman simply wants to touch his cloak. There are times in our own lives of faith when reason deserts us, when scientific evidence fails us, when external authority betrays us... when all we have left is faith (note the connection to Abram here). And we reach out to touch the hem of his garment, because in the darkness it is all we know how to do.





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