Initial Thoughts for October 9, 2011
2011-10-02 by David von Schlichten

Nobel Week: This week (starting October 3), we have the Nobel Prizes being announced. A laureate's work might inspire a sermon illustration. The peace prize-winner is especially likely to do this, so keep your eye on the news.

Columbus Day: This is a day of celebrating a major discovery, but it is also a day of mourning how people exploit each other. We have, then, a good opportunity to remind Christians to unother one another.

Exodus 32: The golden calf. What idols do we have? Besides the usual (money, fame, power, sex).

This story also shows Moses changing God's mind. Is it really possible for us to change God's mind? Do we have any recent examples of this? How do we preach this idea that prayer can change God?

Psalm 23: This is a psalm that people think they know so well that it tends to glide right over them. How do we keep that from happening?

Philippians: This passage has the promise of the ultimate peace and exhorts us to give thanks and rejoice no matter what. That's easier said than done. How do we proclaim such a message in a way that will sound real to hearers and not like naive preacher-talk?

We also don't want to suggest that people are not allowed to be upset. The Bible makes it clear that humans may experience all their emotions. How does one do that and still rejoice?

Matthew 22: What excuses do we make to avoid the banquet? Note that the good AND the bad are invited. What is the wedding robe, and how do we make sure that we are wearing it?

What thoughts do you have? Feel free to email me or to submit a post for publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator


Sermon Ideas for October 2, 2011
2011-09-29 by David von Schlichten

The feast of St. Francis is coming up, so this might be a good opportunity to reflect on his life. It may also be a good opportunity to talk about respect for nature.

Speaking of respect for nature, stewardship is a "popular" fall theme, so you may want to preach on stewardship in a way that gets people thinking beyond money, such as by preaching on the idea of being stewards of creation.

Exodus 20: The Decalogue. People get caught up in thinking of these as rigid rules instead of as guiding principles. One could preach about helping people break from the self-justifying, legalistic, reductive "thou-shalt-not mindset that often paralyzes the Church.

Isaiah 5: The Song of the Vineyard. One could preach on how the passage warns against straying from God without preaching that, for instance, God has turned his back on America because of gay marriage or teaching evolution or whatever. How do we preach about God's wrath on this side of the resurrection? 

Psalm 80 is a cry for help, a plea for God to stop being angry and rescue us.

Philippians 3: All those resume credentials we boast about amount to zip without Christ. Regard it all as dog poopie and cling to Christ. Granted, our accomplishments do matter, but they are not to interfere with our relationship with Christ.

Matthew 21: In what ways do we, the religious insiders, kill the heir, crucify Christ? Remember that this passage is a warning to the insiders, us.

There is a lot of wrath and judgment in these passages. It is important for us also to proclaim God's loving mercy, because that aspect of God is paramount to who God is. One way we can do that is by preaching about how God forgives us when we repent and about how God helps us to be fruitful vine-members.

Through holy communion, for instance, we drink from the vine that which enables us, members of the vineyard, to bear good fruit. How else does God enable us to bear good fruit?

What thoughts do you have? Feel free to email me or to submit a post for publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Initial Thoughts on October 2, 2011
2011-09-26 by David von Schlichten

Note: Someone submitted a question or comment to me last week, but, for whatever reason, the message sent to me did not have any content. Thus, I was unable to respond. I hope that person will resubmit the question or comment. I regret the inconvenience. 

Here are some thoughts about this Sunday's texts: 

Isaiah 5:1-7: The Song of the Vineyard. This passge talks about God punishing Israel for yielding "wild grapes." I can already hear my Bible study saying, "See? That's what's going to happen to our country unless_____" Fill in the blank with whatever you think is the downfall of America: gay marriage, illegal immigration, Lady Gaga, whatever. Such an interpretation of Isaiah 5 is not helpful or accurate, but what do we preach instead?

Psalm 80 says the same kind of thing but then asks God to show mercy.

Philippians 3 says that our fancy resume/cv amounts to nothing without Christ. Throw it all aside for God. Think about what we think is impressive and then think about how it doesn't matter without Christ.

This passage also talks about pressing on toward the prize. If Christ wins salvation for us, then what is that prize?

Matthew 21: Here we have the parable about how religious insiders reject God and kill Christ, the son of the landowner of the vineyard. In what ways do you and I kill Christ every day? Remember that we are the religious insiders.

How do we apply all this vineyard imagery to congregations in which most people are probably not familiar with vineyards? Is there another image that can serve as an analogy? Should we do research on vineyards so we can speak about them more effectively?

What thoughts do you have? Feel free to send me an email or to submit a post for publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator


Initial Thoughts for September 25, 2011
2011-09-18 by David von Schlichten

Scroll down to enjoy some thoughts from Dr. Dee Dee Haines. Her reflections are always helpful.

Exodus 17: Water from a rock in response to complaining. How does God make water come from rocks in our lives? How does God respond to our complaining? Is it wrong to complain to God? What role does complaining play in our relationship with God?

Ezekiel 18 is an alternate first-reading. We are told that we are no longer being punished for our ancestors' sins but only for ours. You need not be a prisoner to family dysfunction. 

Philippians 2: Kenosis. How do we empty ourselves, become obedient as Christ is obedient? What is a kenotic life? What junk do we stuff ourselves with instead of emptying ourselves?

If Christ saves us and we don't save ourselves, then what does Paul mean when he says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?

Matthew 21: In what ways do we say yes to God but then do not follow through? In what ways do we do the opposite? What are examples of an outcast who does right?

Michael and All Angels: That feast day is September 29, so this might be a good time to preach about angels. We can help people to think aright about angels instead of worshipping them as magical fairies who look out for us. Angels are not magical creatures. They are God's messengers and agents.

What thoughts do you have? Feel free to email me or to submit a post for publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

God's Ear to the Ground
2011-09-15 by Dee Dee Haines

Just as God heard their cries of oppression, so God’s ear captures the grumbling of the people.  This is not their first grumble, nor will it be their last.  One thing is for certain, this is a God who has an ear to the ground.  But are the people ready to be saved?  Can they commit themselves to this God and the unknown path ahead of them?  One day they say yes, but when the next day arrives their words and actions reveal their doubts.
Perhaps the relationship between God and Israel is going through some growing pains.  The people seem to be unable to grasp the significance of this God in their midst (despite parting seas and bread falling from the skies).   If the plagues were not for Pharaoh alone, but were also a witness to Israel itself, we see what short memories they have.  When God gives instructions and makes demands post Red-Sea salvation, the people will appear unable, or unwilling to follow instructions (even though following the detailed Passover meal instructions demonstrated that death passed them over).
At one moment they are filled with joy and thanksgiving, at the next they are complaining and wanting to turn around (back to Egypt and the status quo). Could it be that this kind of dialogical movement (narrative, body and mind) is part of the nature of relationship?  If uncertainty about the future is part of the reality of our life together, how do we cope with this knowledge?  How does a life of faith inform our identity, even in the midst of uncertainty?
Perhaps the dialogue between God and Israel is a part of the way that relationship works.  It is only when there are no voices (internal or external) that we come to an impasse.  When bread falls from heaven, God’s love is delivered in the most intimate of ways.  Each piece is alive with the tastes and textures of freedom.  Each morsel communicates God’s commitment to life for God’s people.  Could it be that what the Israelites have yet to learn is that freedom is accompanied by responsibility?
Rev. Dr. Dee Dee Haines
Tromode, Douglas
Isle of Man

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