Welcome to the Lectionary Discussion for February 24th
2008-02-18 by Cindy Rigby

Greetings! I have the privilege of helping guide our discussion of the lectionary texts for Sunday, February 24th, the third Sunday in Lent in Year A. My name is Cynthia Rigby, I am an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA), and I teach theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I don't preach every Sunday, as many of you reading this blog do, but I do preach a lot for a professor-type. I myself will be preaching on the 24th, and am just beginning my sermon. I look forward to walking through the week together, as we study, reflect, support and inspire each other, and claim our common calling of proclaiming the Word. I'll be posting some of my reflections later on today (but it might not be until this evening, since it's presidents' day and I've got my two kids, who are off from school!). Meanwhile, please feel free to post any comments you have. Again: welcome! All best, Cindy

Tom, Rick, Dave and "Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-02-15 by David von Schlichten

It has been therapeutic fun listening to Tom Steagald and Rick Brand engage in intelligent discussion of Nicodemus here in the hot tub. In addition, our guest blogger, David Carr, has offered some helpful comments while soaking in the tub.

These conversations have me thinking of preaching on both Abraham and Nicodemus. Genesis 12 and John 3 both contain a call narrative. We do not understand always to what God is calling us, but we can still answer the call, at least by undertaking the journey.

For more guidance, go to Share It! and click on “Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics” to read Janyce C. Jorgensen's exegetical article on John 3 (I remember Janyce from Gettysburg Seminary.).

On a related note, here are highlights from this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics.

Pastoral Implications”

Lisa M. Hess writes about how, like Nicodemus, we often don't understand what Christ is teaching us, but “[t]he text urges us to keep listening in that kind of place or an uncomfortable time, maybe even for a while” (p.23). Further, even though we are struggling with understanding, we have the assurance that “[ . . . ] God smiles in the holy darkness. The world is in good hands, no matter what” (p.23).

Sermon Reviews”

Dale Rosenberger writes of a sermon by David Leininger that encourages mainstream Christians who reject the evangelical “born again” doctrine to give it a second chance. We Christians tend to get stale. There is wisdom in taking seriously the idea of regularly starting over, of regularly making a decisive, new beginning.

Preaching the Lesson”

Anna Carter Florence also considers the phrase “Born again.” Among other things, she reflects on the idea of being born of the Spirit. Florence notes that being born of the Spirit is not something we can do ourselves (you cannot bear yourself). Being born is painful, difficult, so we can assume that such will be the case when we are born of the Spirit. This activity is hard and not something we can do on our own; being born of the Spirit, though, is the only way we can be born to “God's realm of new possibilities” (p.26).

I have the flu, and these swirling, warm waters of wisdom from my colleagues are therapeutic.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

I agree
2008-02-14 by Tom Steagald

I think we are not at odds here. What I am suggesting is that Jesus' answer is the real answer, just that Nicodemus may not even know what question he is asking. When he says he knows, he really doesn't. But like many who come for counseling, say, the presenting question is the cover for the real, needing-to- be discovered, question.

For my part, I find myself less concerned with the (honest?) questions of the atheists than I am with the smugness of the faithful (and a preacher like me among the rest, because I think I have it figured out After all, I know that Jesus is...), that we in fact understood what Jesus says when in reality we are all of us in the dark, as it were.


2008-02-14 by Rick Brand

From the rural outpost of Henderson, NC, I do struggle as the semi-blind attempts to lead the semi-blind in faithful living.

My take on it this time around the lectionary is that Nicodemus does have a real question and a real intellectual curiosity. Why come and night if he wanted to confound and confuse Jesus or argue with Jesus? Your probably are right that he is trying to fit the answers he gets into his paradign but that is not strange. The fact that Jesus could not give him an intellectual answer that fit and changed his paradign at the same time means for me today that the rational debate will not satisfy anybody. We will not change the atheist by arguments. Just my opinion

To respond to the emailed question: I read the born by water as our natural birth from the womb, and by the spirit as that birth that happens when we are so caught up in a message to us that the Holy loves us that we suddenly discover that our past does not bind us, all fear is gone, and we begin to dance in the promises of a new future. The new life, the new birth, begins when I really accept that God loves me and wants me as a part of his Kingdom. And I find that my joy is really now in living like the Beatitudes.

Of course being, as pointed out, way out here in rural North Carolina, I may not have gotten the latest version of the Good News.

Hey, Rick
2008-02-14 by Tom Steagald

But is Nicodemus asking a question that can be answered? Which is to say, is he asking the real question?

My sense is that Nicodemus is trying to assimilate Jesus into his world view (for lack of a better term, though I know that expression is discredited among us post-moderns), instead of taking Jesus on Jesus' terms. I wonder if some of the "honest questioning" we do is, in fact, an act of hubris, meaning that we demand Jesus/God to do business with us as we set the rules...

I am thinking here of Job, too, who demands audience with God and God answers exactly none of his questions. The presence of God is answer enough, I guess, and the presence of Jesus to Nicocemus (who comes seeking but the wrong thing, I think) might ought to be...

But of course Nicodemus represents us, does he not, meaning the religious professionals. I have heard Willimon say something to the effec that the only time Jesus demands "new birth" on the part of his hearer is when he is talking to a preacher. Sobering, that.

So perhaps the issue is not the questions of atheists but our own questions, and then only if they are the real questions, the ones that are asked (and perhaps even answered) deeper than our presenting perplexities.

Just thinking "out loud."

By the by, are you not in Henderson, NC? My wife is from Henderson and attended FUMC there long years ago.

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