"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights
2008-02-05 by David von Schlichten

Susan Eastman has provided a salutary blog entry below. Also, you can enjoy Paul Galbreath's “Theological Themes” essay by going to Share It! and then Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics.

We are lively here in the tub as we splash around the highlights from Lectionary Homiletics, careful not to wash off the ashes on our foreheads.

Here are those highlights.

Lesson and the Arts”

Anne Ramirez recalls John Milton's lesser known Paradise Regained, in which the great poet retells the story of Christ's temptation. Milton presents the three temptations of the story in the Gospels but with embellishments.

First, the devil approaches Jesus disguised as an elderly shepherd searching for a lost sheep. The shepherd beseeches Jesus to change the stones to bread, not just so that Jesus can feed himself, but also so that Jesus can feed the poverty-stricken people who live in this isolated, rural area. Of course, Jesus recognizes the shepherd's true identity and does not fall for the trick.

Later, Satan tries to convince Jesus that he should obtain glory and also be a king, since God the Father is a powerful king. Jesus explains that the time for his kingdom has not yet come and that the pursuit of glory could lead to downfall, as it did for Satan.

Satan also shows Jesus a vision of Rome and says that Jesus can expel the emperor if Jesus draws from the devil for help. Jesus responds that maybe he should expel the devil, who has made the emperor the way he is in the first place.

Finally, the devil troubles Jesus with disturbing dreams. When Jesus awakens, the devil says that the dreams portend what awaits Jesus if he keeps obeying the Father. Jesus can free himself from it all by throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, but Jesus does not give in to this temptation, either. Instead, Satan plummets back into hell.

Preaching the Lesson”

Anna Carter Florence suggests that the text warns us against “[ . . . ] the temptation to have faith in what we do rather than who we are” (p.19). The devil tempts Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God, then do something.” In times when we are famished, we are quick to forget that we are the baptized, God's beloved, and we start to think we need to prove ourselves. The devil tempts us to think that God's love is conditional instead of unconditional, that we need to earn grace, instead of remembering God's mercy and giving thanks.

A Sermon: Not Failing in the Wilderness

One feature of Scott Cowdell's sermon is that he compares Jesus' victory over temptation in the wilderness to Israel's moral failure in the wilderness in the Old Testament. Israel complains about not having bread, showing a lack of faith in God. Israel puts God to foolish tests, such as at Massah and Meribah. Finally, Satan promises Jesus lordship, and the people of Israel must understand that they will not gain the Promised Land on their own but only through God's power.

Remembering that I am dust and meditating on the temptation, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Free Fat Tuesday
2008-02-05 by CJ Teets

Last year on Fat Tuesday we had an open day on GoodPreacher.com. We’ll do the same this year. For a few hours, you may review our extensive library of sermon preparation material. We are loading new material every day (so some sections are not complete).

Username: dh Password: jjj

Enjoy. We’ll do the same thing next Tuesday, if you want to tell other pastors.

Festival of Homiletics 2008 continues to have record registration. Over 1600 pastors are registered. William Willimon’s workshop (that was full) has been opened up to anyone who wants to attend. Keep checking this website for more developments. Hotels are filling up fast, but some rooms (and campus housing) are still available.

Looking forward to Festival of Homiletics 2009, we have Barbara Brown Taylor, Fred Craddock, Walter Brueggemann, Thomas Long, William Willimon, Brian Blount, Gary Charles, Adam Hamilton, Thomas Troeger, Otis Moss III, and many more.

Susan in the Tub and Ash Wednesday
2008-02-04 by David von Schlichten

What fun to have Susan in the tub with us this week. I brought doughnuts for us to share in honor of Fat Tuesday, but they're getting soggy. Sorry.

In any event, Susan has fascinating thoughts about the temptation narrative and Jesus' step downward toward identifying with humanity. Read her blog and respond.

Also, over at the cafe is my sermon for Ash Wednesday. If you give me feedback, I'll buy you a drink and a not-soggy doughnut. Just go to Share It! to get to the Sermon Feedback Cafe link.

Hoping for Hillary, I am

Yours in Christ and in the tub,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

First Sunday in Lent
2008-02-04 by Susan Eastman

Observations on Matthew 4:1-11/ Romans 5:12-19

By Susan Eastman

Mt 4:1-11

Rom 5:12-19

Gen 2: 15-17, 3.1-7

Ps 32


    If last week’s gospel reading was a “mountain of a text,” this week’s gospel encompasses the whole world. It begins in the desert wilderness, progresses to the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, and thence to a very high mountain, whence all the kingdoms of the world are visible. Paradoxically, this globalizing “upward” movement is paralleled by Jesus’ resolute “downward” movement into total identification with the human situation. The pattern is parallel to, and continues the trajectory of, Jesus’ baptism in 3:13-17. There Jesus “fulfills all righteousness” by submitting to John’s baptism for repentance, even though he does not need to repent. The supreme paradox of the passage is that after this, the Spirit of God descends on him and the voice from heaven declares him God’s beloved Son. That is, it is precisely in and through his identification with sinful humanity that Jesus’ divine identity is revealed.

   Similarly, that very identity is under attack by the devil, in today’s passage: “If you are the Son of God,” prove it! Prove it by exercising your power and escaping from the frailty and dependency and weakness of the human condition. The testing and temptation take place immediately at the fundamental point of identity and calling. And the stakes are high; we will hear the same question and challenge at the very end of Jesus’ ministry, as he hangs on the cross: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt. 27:40). It occurs to me that at one level, this is the kind of God we think we want; certainly the kind of hero we prefer. We want heroes who win over evil, not heroes who die, perhaps because we want the security of following a deliverer who will help us avoid suffering, not take us through it. Jesus never promises such an escape; in fact, his own time of testing is entirely God’s will, led by the Spirit.

    Jesus’ identification with humanity takes place on two levels in this story. In the first place, markers in the text remind us of Israel’s story. In his baptism, Jesus passed through the waters of the Jordan, recapitulating Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Like Israel, he is identified as God’s son. Like Israel, Jesus then goes into the wilderness, fasting forty days and forty nights, just as Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, being tested by God.  Like Israel, Jesus hungered. The closest parallel text from the Old Testament is Deut. 8:2-5. Jesus is recapitulating Israel’s story, carrying it forward.

    Jesus also in some ways recapitulates Moses, as we know from the story of the Transfiguration last Sunday. Moses also fasted forty days and forty nights when he went up Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the law (Deut. 9:9-11). The parallel reminds us that when Moses came down from the mountain, he discovered that even while he communed with God, Israel was sinning against the Lord (Deut. 9:12-21). God threatens to destroy the people and makes Moses alone great (Deut. 9:14), but instead Moses again fasts forty days and nights, interceding for the people (Deut. 9:18). All of these parallels suggest that Jesus is, like Moses, interceding for the sins of the people. And unlike the people of Israel, he does not yield to temptation. Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:15 come to mind.

    The second level of Jesus’ identification with humanity is developed in today’s lessons from Genesis and Romans. Jesus joins with the situation of all the children of Adam and Eve, all of us who are heirs of Adam’s temptation and fall. Romans 5 gives us the glorious outcome of Jesus’ full entry into Adamic humanity. Identifying with Adam, but not yielding to the temptation to exploit his privileges (Phil. 2:6), Jesus undoes the damage done by the first Adam. Here everything is grace and free gift (Rom. 5:15, 16, 17, 20, 21), which exercise a power diametrically opposed to the conditional logic of the devil in the temptation story. There, the logic is “if. . .then”: “If you worship me, then I will give you the kingdoms of the world.” But here, a different logic reigns. Despite humanity’s total and abject failure, enslavement and condemnation, Jesus’ obedience means that we receive the gift of righteousness freely, without precondition, and thereby enter the kingdom of the Son where grace reigns (5:21).

    Greetings, everyone in the tub. I'm Susan Eastman, and I teach Bible and Christian Formation at Duke Divinity School. Previously, I pastored for about 20 years as an Episcopal priest, from New York to Alaska to Oregon. I look forward to hearing your comments!



Bill Carter and Sermon
2008-02-02 by David von Schlichten

Bill (and everyone else),

I posted my sermon at the Sermon Feedback Cafe, which you can find by going to Share It!

I look forward to feedback.

Not rooting for the Patriots,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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