Omaha and Isaiah
2007-12-06 by Tom Steagald

I am spent with grief on account of the shooting last evening in Omaha. I am sure it will find its way into my sermon somehow (the rough draft of which is at Share It, in the Sermon Feedback Cafe). Something like, "they shall not hurt or destroy either on the holy mountain or the Great Plains."

I feel so sorry for the shooter who, as the news reports this morning, spent several months "in the fetal position chewing his fingernails." That, apparently, because of "problems" with his stepmother. Sounds like Walt Disney gone horribly wrong. So he loses his girl and he loses his dead-end job, and that makes him dead-end people he did not even know: so many others now have lost their girls and guys.

"Now I am going to be famous," he says, and when and where and why did it happen than our disaffected came to imagine that this is the way to be famous? Then again, in the ethos of American Idol, perhaps if you can't sing you shoot.

And why was his landlady not alarmed? A sad and bitter child showing off his assault weapon?

I pray for the dead and their families. They were doing their Christmas shopping. Got up yesterday morning and dressed and had lunch and went shopping for their kids, their grandkids, their parents, their spouses. A nice afternoon at the mall, feeling the Christmas spirit. They had no reason, nor did their families, to expect that this Advent would be any different than any other, except for this other advent--this dark coming of this poor, blind soul and his assault rifle. 

And so I recall, somewhat eerily, the Gospel text from last week: two were in the boys department, and one was taken; two were trying on shoes and one was taken; but know this, that if any of them had known at what time the boy was coming they would have stayed awake or stayed away and not let the thief into the mall.

Especially so, come quickly, please, Lord Jesus.





Let Us Blog
2007-12-05 by David Howell

Tom is inviting you to have a blogging conversation with him. Just click on Submit an Article above to share your thoughts. (Or Submit a Question to email him a question.)

If you have a long submission, type your submission in a word processor and then paste. If you are typing directly for a long period of time, the site might "time out" and you would lose your work.

Also, go to HOMEPAGE, to Share It! and to Sermon Feedback Cafe to read and offer Tom feedback on his sermon.

Let us pray... I mean... blog.





Rough Draft
2007-12-05 by Tom Steagald

And I do mean rough, but my first go at it for this week should be found shortly at the Sermon Feedback Cafe.

I am sure that it needs a couple of more rewrites--and I assure you that I will rewrite before Sunday (for me, editing is a matter of deconstruction and reconstruction!)--but I am asking whover might be willing to wade through it to see if my treatment of Isaiah and Paul seems fair, if it gets traction, etc...

It may as yet be too discursive. I am not sure I have done what Frei said, and what I mentioned earlier in the week, about tapping the "universal" experience in both the Romans and the Isaiah text. Maybe I need to do something with our own stumps and stems (and not just politically). 

I like the notion of the steadfastness of the Lord's promise making us steadfast, but are those just words? Have I evoked that in any sense?

One thing I would hope for our future blogging is evidence that it produces thought and converstation. Sometimes on this side of it it feels more like a monologue, and what I happen to be thinking at a given moment is not that interesting except as it produces interaction. As John Wesley said, it is Christian "conferencing" that can become for us all a means of grace. 





Neither Optimism Nor Denial
2007-12-04 by Tom Steagald

Kathleen Norris has written that the "twin religions" of America are optimism and denial. If so, the prophecies of Isaiah (among the rest) are, if not palliative, then therapeutic, and ultimately curative.

I find myself drawn to the Hebrew Scriptures during the Advent season. I do not preach as much on the First Testament at other times in the year; but at Advent, without fail. I am not sure it has always been so. Early in my ministry I preached with relish on John the Baptist and Joseph and all--but how many times can you tell of John's God-craziness without it becoming banal? How many times can you quote Auden's insight that Joseph is the first Christian because he had to accept and act as if the Incarnation were true even without proof? I mean, all that is good stuff, but where does it get traction for us?

And so I turn to Isaiah again--noting its discreet history, of course, the waiting of the Hebrew people for more and better than they have received, their hope against experience for a king who will be the presence of God's justice and reign among them. But in the text I also see our own experiences and waitings gathered together.

Hans Frei has written that, for Easter proclamation, it is impossible for preachers to duplicate the agony and the awe, the despair and the wonder of the empty tomb. We already know how the story ends. And indeed, in our Advent preaching, it is impossible for us to in anywise capture all of what waiting meant for the Hebrews. Still, Frei says, preaching will be convincing or true by virtue of its embodying or echoing of what he calls "universal experience." We are all of us waiting--but for what? For Whom? I think that in this consumeristic age, where one evidence of our lostness is our ever-changing assessment of "what we have always wanted," the naming and tapping of deeper desires provides plenty of fresh material for preaching.

If we are bored--if we know the Story too well, its arc and players, its conflict and conclusions, where we are and where we are going--then perhaps we look back. We make sure the old time religion is old enough. We go back to where we have come from, the rock from whence we are hewn, find echoing in that quarry the plea of Israel which is a harbinger of our own plea: that God might come to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and make peace not least.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed is God who has promised the making of a deeper and lasting peace yet. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.





Highlights from "Lectionary Homiletics"
2007-12-04 by David von Schlichten

Already in the hot tub this week is guest blogger Tom Steagald, who has a talent for bringing refreshing perspectives to the Good News. Scroll down to read his first entry, and be sure to check back for more.

Below are highlights from this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics. By the way, you can read for free Paul Redditt's exegetical article on Matthew 3:1-12 by going back to Homepage, clicking on Share It!, and then clicking on Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics.

Exegesis”

A.K.M. Adams provides a valuable article full of insights about Romans 15:4-13. For instance, Adams teaches that the incorporation of the Gentiles into the community of faith does not demand that everyone be identical to one another but that there be a “divine harmonization of the difference” (p.13; isn't that a lovely, alliterative phrase?).

At the same time, this cooperative integration does not permit believers to live any way they wish. Believers are to conform to the Body of Christ and are to respect each other's differences. We will disagree, but we are not to be contentious.

Instead, Adams seems to say, we are to strike a balance between honoring each other's differences and being one as the Church. We can be different and one at the same time.

Pastoral Implications”

Suzanne Mayer reflects on the idea that, not only do we humans wait for God, but that God often must wait for us. For instance, Mayer notes that Christ waited nine months in the womb, then three decades before beginning his ministry.

Likewise, God waits for us to “welcome one another as Christ welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). Mayer adds that, according to Paul, the God of patience is also the God of hope. God is patient with us and gives us life.  

This point of God's patience rings throughout me. Last Sunday I preached about, among other things, the idea that we who are to keep awake may also need to “wake up” God, an idea Tom Steagald gave me last week in the tub. This idea that God is patient with us would make a helpful complement to my first sermon.

Hmmmm. I'll meditate on this insight here in the tub. Bubbling, bubbling, bubbling.

Lessons and the Arts”

Gary B. Reierson provides twenty-two favorite quotations from various poedifiers on the importance of hope. Here are a few that struck me (from p.16):

I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward. (novelist and poet Charlotte Bronte)

The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it. (Helen Keller)

To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it. (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

When we look around our lives, one of the easiest things to do is find refuge in cynicism [ . . . ] What's hard, what requires risk, boldness and audacity, is to hope. (Barack Obama)

Preaching the Lesson”

Anna Carter Florence will be the author of this section throughout Year A, and, as usual, she offers keen insights.

She emphasizes encouragement as she notes Paul's declaration that “whatever was written in former days was written for our encouragement, so that we might have hope.”

In other words, the Old Testament, that which was written in former days vis-a-vis Paul's time, is not all about fire and brimstone (as many tend to think) but provides encouragement and therefore hope.

A Sermon”

Eileen Parfrey likewise stresses hope in “The Signs of the Times: Hope” while also writing about the importance of repentance as a necessary companion to hope. Real hope demands repentance that bears fruit, and the Messiah is the one who saves us from those sins that otherwise would condemn us.

I am watching President Bush, who is talking about Iran. So much misinformation, as well as confusion and hubristic defensiveness.

Gazing upon the Tree and looking forward to January 20, 2009, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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