Stumps and Stems
2007-12-03 by Tom Steagald

Walter Wink used to say something to the effect that images are so powerful because they are able to unite both dimensions of our thinking--serve as a bridge between the hemispheres of our brain. Linear and spatial relations are gathered up in images, and so no surprise that parables, metaphors, etc, excite us in a way that discourse often does not.

I think of that coming to the Isaiah text for this coming Sunday, this picture of stems and stumps. Not one image, but two really--combined in a way to enhance both.

The stump--old certainties cut off and dead. Calvin taught us, of course, that all texts have discreet histories and so we see here the end of the Davidic line, the remnants of what had been the great promise of Israel as a blessing to the nations, an ensign to the people, the tree of life not only for the Hebrew people but for the world. And now it is dead. Not only dead but cut-off, chopped down, the glory of Israel and God's presence used as firewood for the pagan kings.

The stem---new life and growth, but not a complete innovation. This stem comes from the root, its promise sharing DNA with what is, apparently, dead. If the old certainties are hard and cold with the passage of time, a new green appears, a new branch, and as remarkable and miraculous as the notion of long dead Jesse producing a son from the dust of his loins.

This new king will be like the old ones but not like the old ones. He will be what they should have been: one third (along with prophets and priests) of God's incarnation among the people (the incarnation of God's rule, at any rate). This king will evidence the kind of gifts God's Spirit provides--six gifts (in Hebrew), seven (according to the Septuagint and therefore the KJV)--which will enable him to judge justly.

Of particular interest to me in this text is this: "he shall not judge by what his eyes see or decide by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth..." Which is to say, he will not be swayed by mere appearance, will not fall victim to spin, but his discernment and rule shall be gracious and equitable.

Peace is the final evidence of this king's rule. He does not suppress his enemies but makes his enemies into friends--his and each other's.

In this fevered campaign season, when spin and appearance and panacea promises fill the airwaves, comes the abiding vision of Isaiah, of One who would come to Israel as king and Messiah and set things straight.  Christians read this text and say, "I can see that, too...One is coming. And so too is his reign of peace."

This Week!
2007-12-03 by David Howell

Dave, I always remember what Tom Long said...something about if a preacher is going to do out-of-the-ordinary things in the pulpit, like dramatic monologues, etc., then the preacher had better be good at it. So if you are a good crower, it's probably okay, although traditionalists sometimes have difficulty with novelty (still, a solid pastoral relationship with folks overcomes many a pulpit blunder). I bet the young people took notice!

Tom Steagald is our guest blogger. He is pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Stanley, NC, a town near Charlotte trying to re-emerge after the textile bust. He and his wife Jo tend a mostly-empty nest (save for an English Bulldog named Chester). His recent work includes Praying for Dear Life: A Reason to Rise, Strength for the Day, Courage to Face the Night (NavPress, 2006) and Every Disciple's Journey: Following Jesus to a God-focused Faith (NavPress, 2007). Both books are available at your local Christian book store, the occasional Borders, and on line at Amazon or

Enjoy a cup of Mistletoe Joe this week and the art of The Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the Sermon Feedback Cafe. The Festival of Homiletics will be held in Minneapolis (a city of the arts), May 19-23, 2008.

New recipes are going up in Divine Cuisine. Go to HOMEPAGE and to Share It! Remember to share your recipes, stories, book/movie reviews (click Submit Your Own)

There is a massive amount of material available for subscribers on this site. The current issue of Lectionary Homiletics, plus 17 years of back issues, plus lots of recent sermons and articles.

A Crow and a Question Regarding the Second Coming
2007-12-02 by David von Schlichten

This morning, I preached about keeping awake. Two-thirds of the way through the sermon, I crowed like a rooster as a humorous way of underscoring the message of waking up and keeping awake.

Do you think the crowing was too gimmicky or silly? Any thoughts?

Also, my seventeen-year-old son Michael asked, "How can Jesus, who is God, not know when he will return while the Father does know?" I offered some explanation, but I am wondering how others would respond.  

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Song Title?
2007-11-30 by Tom Steagald

Like everyone else, I am struggling with the two dimensions of the season--call them eschatological and cultural, prophetic and priestly, declarative and demanding (The King is coming, the church said to the world; to heaven the church said, Would you please COME ON?!).

Liturgically, the church is split between joy and penance, anticipation and dread, the Good News of the Day of the Lord and the very bad news of the Day of the Lord (see especially the three clusters of judgment following the Isaiah lesson for Sunday).

My sermon title (a meditation, as we will celebrate Communion) is "With a Bright Purple and Blue." Get it? Think it would make a good lyric or song title, too?

Me neither.

Hustle and Wait with a Baptist's Will
2007-11-29 by David von Schlichten

I posted my sermon at the cafe. Go back to Homepage, then Share It!, then Sermon Feedback Cafe to order a cranberry muffin and give me feedback. Will you, please? 

Thank you to Bishop Willimon for your statement about preaching on John the Baptist to which many of us can relate. I've only been a pastor for ten years and am finding it hard to get excited about preaching on John the Baptist again. I'd rather preach on Joseph.

John often strikes me as a guy who has wandered into the wrong testament. Then again, the testaments, in some ways, really are not so different. Besides, the Gospels are at the beginning of the New Testament, right at the border, Malachi visible from Matthew's genealogy, and we know how God is about crossing borders and sending people across them.

Maybe here in the hot tub, amid all this warm, bubbly water, we can come up with a new-old word about John.  

Some help may bubble up (sorry; I am a hopeless paranomasiac) from Scott Bryte's entry below about the conjoined-twin-nature of Advent. Please scroll down to read.

Enjoying the tub's masaging jets, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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