"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-03-13 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Jule Nyhuis for being our perspicacious guest blogger. Please scroll down to enjoy her entry.

Thank you also to Dee Dee Haines for additional helpful thoughts about Matthew 21, as well as to Stephen Schuette. Please scroll down to read their contributions. Thanks be to God for the array of intelligent, articulate preachers who take the time to talk in the tub.

Further, if you are looking for articles that focus on Palm Sunday and not the Passion, C.J. Teets recommends that you use Search and the bottom of Homepage.

I will preach little this Sunday because the reading of the Passion narrative will be this Sunday and is quite long. Anyway, it's probably better if I just shut my yap and get out of the way of the text.

If you go to Share It! and then to Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics you will find Arun W. Jones' “Theological Themes” article from the journal for the Passion narrative.

Here are highlights from this week's Lectionary Homiletics.

Lesson and the Arts”

Debra Rienstra writes first of movies that illustrate the power of choices, a salient theme when we consider that the theme has a puncturing presence not only in the Passion narrative itself but also in the challenging eschatological, exhortative parables of Matthew 25. Rienstra recalls Star Wars, the Harry Potter movies, and The Lord of the Rings, contemporary myths that feature heroes making crucial choices for good over evil.

However, Rienstra wisely goes on to note that we Christians often fail to make the correct choice. The passion is full of people making the wrong choices, from Peter to Pilate to Judas. Rienstra then meditates upon Bach's (who was Lutheran; yay! Okay, I'm done.) St. Matthew Passion. Along with librettist C.F. Henrici, Bach depicts our human failing with the choir singing, “'Tis I whose sins now bind thee.” The piece goes on to present a pronouncement of Christ's mercy upon us to the same tune used for “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.” We are guilty; Christ saves us.

Scripture and Screen”

I mention my own article primarily to correct an error. I write about whether the Passion of the Christ is too violent (I argue that, while a valuable film, it is indeed too violent) and Pasolini's 1964 The Gospel According to Matthew. I then write about The Last Temptation of Christ, but, in the article, on page 58, I call it The Passion of the Christ. I apologize for the error.

I also want to mention my favorite line in The Passion of the Christ. Pilate (Hristo Shopov), when addressing the Jews, speaks in Aramaic, but when addressing his fellow Romans, he speaks in Latin. When Jesus (Jim Caviezel) is brought before him for the first time, Pilate naturally asks Jesus “Are you the king of the Jews?” in Aramaic. The Roman looks somewhere between amused and astonished when Jesus responds in Latin. Ay! Jesus is no ordinary man. He is the Word, who has embraced humanity in a way that reverses Babel.

It is remarkable that Gibson can be so subtle – how many pick up on this bit of dialogue? - but he is so visually stentorian when it comes to the bloody abuse. If Gibson had toned down the volume of the violence, a director of his skill could have made the message louder precisely through the muting, as we see in Pasolini's more subdued film.

Preaching the Lesson”

Anna Carter Florence writes that Holy Communion is a brilliant idea because we humans are forgetful and quick to get hungry, both physically and spiritually. We need this meal to remind us and to feed us.

Also, Florence sees Peter's triple denial and the crowing rooster as archetypal: all of us deny Christ every day. The rooster crows every morning, reminding us of how much we need this precious food. We repent, eat, fail, repent, eat, day after day. She writes, “Keep coming to the table. Keep passing the cup to one another” (p. 59).

These contributions are nourishing, even though, as I said, I will do little preaching on Passion Sunday. What I will do is a brief, poedifying meditation to help people hear the Passion anew. This year I am contemplating on giving people a description of a series of aural images, the sounds of the Passion, in the hopes that doing so will help people to listen to the story as if for the first time.

Learning from the rooster and striving to empty myself before the cross, I am

Ever yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Ride on, Ride on, in Majesty
2008-03-12 by Dee Dee Haines

As the people of God, we are daily confronted with challenging choices.  We ask ourselves, “Will this trip darken my carbon footprint?  If I buy this coffee, am I assured that those who picked the beans were fairly paid?  Should I go all the way back to the car and get the recyclable shopping bag?  Do I name this policy as unjust--- even when it may endanger my position in this company?  Do I have to reconcile when I’d rather just exclude this person from community?”  Choose.  Choose some more.  Choose what is good and right in the sight of God.


Our modern context may give these choices contemporary arenas of reference but the underlying question of choosing is as old as dust.  Two people chose to put their bite marks on that shiny apple in the middle of the garden.


When we hear Matthew’s account of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, I suspect that most of us identify with the crowd.  We, too, want to lay down our coats and wave those palms.  We want to see ourselves as a part of the crowd that sings, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” As the drama unfolds, we sing with confidence, “Ride on, ride on, in majesty.”  But do we fully understand what it means?”


In The Last Week (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2006), John Dominic Crossan and Marcus J. Borg suggest that there were two processions that entered into Jerusalem on the day we now remember as Palm Sunday.  One was a peasant procession, the other a procession of Roman imperial power and theology.  Jesus entered the city from one direction, riding on a lowly donkey. The Roman procession proceeded from the opposite direction with their armoured horses and soldiers, marching feet and helmeted heads, displays of opulence and military power.


Each procession would have been received in a different way.  With a comfortable reassurance or an uncomfortable fear, some would have identified with the Empire of Rome.  Still others, desperately hungry for change and fatigued with the status quo, may have found themselves drawn to the procession of the one who entered with different symbols, heralding the promised realm of God.  Those who stood with Jesus would have recognised the dangerous position we find ourselves in when we resist the Empire, and its power, and proclaim God’s alternative.


When the drama of Palm Sunday unfolds in worship spaces the Sunday before Holy Week, we will sing boldly, “All glory, laud, and honour…thou art the king of Israel, thou David’s royal son.”  It is an act of defiance.  We claim our place with Jesus, preparing ourselves to make those choices that deny the Empire of injustice, and proclaim the coming of God’s Empire on earth.

Dee Dee Haines

Isle of Man


2008-03-12 by CJ Teets

We received an email wondering why we did not have any material on Matthew 21:1-11. Articles and sermons on that text might not be found in the Journal for this week (always look in Back Issues/Sermons). But also go to Search at bottom of Homepage and enter Matthew 21:1-11 or even Matthew 21, and you will see many articles and sermons.

Things that Shake Us
2008-03-12 by Stephen Schuette

First, I want you to know how much I enjoy and appreciate all you write…both David, and this week, Jule.  It’s good stuff!

Second, doing home communions, reading the Matthew Easter Story (a bit early, but necessary for the task), and then reading this Palm Story, I uncovered a little word in common…seismos…or the verb form of it in 21:10.  See also, 27:54 and 28:2.

This shakenness or earthquake that reappears seems to speak of powers at work.  Surely the earth must have shaken when the Centurion marched with his legion.  That would certainly have set Jerusalem in quakes of fear after the Jewish wars, approximately when Matthew was writing.  Jule already noted that Matthew gives the witness of the Centurion such prominence.

And yet the Gospel writer is convinced that the true King, the true bringer of a new Reign, the one whom stars follow and who commands wind and wave is this one…who comes humbly.

It’s true that there is great irony in this story, and not just in the way that the story turns from praise to rejection – the irony of our possible responses, but also in the images of power and meekness that coalesce together in the person of Jesus.  Jule is right… “It is as if Matthew’s writer seeks to say:  ‘Look!  Here is the king over all the earth who comes to alter the terrain of our lives.’”….seismically!

Sparkling Jule and Holy Week
2008-03-12 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Jule Nyhuis for such an extensive, creative and thoughtful blog entry. She provides intelligent reflections on the fickleness of the crowd from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, as well as provides evocative imagery useful for preaching. Please scroll down to read her entry. The hot tub's a bubblin'.

Here's a question: Many of us tend not just to hear about the events of Holy Week. We actually relive them. On Good Friday at three, we are not merely commemorating Jesus' death. We actually, on some level, are re-experiencing that death. What is good and bad about this mentality?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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