The Gospel Lesson
2007-11-14 by Tom Steagald
I think that this week's lesson is rich in the same kind of assertion that Charles sees in the Isaiah text. What is interesting to me in the Gospel is something I have never noticed before...a kind of tetralogue: four commandments to the disciples as their world comes apart.
The disintegration of the Temple and the cultus, the warring and redrawing of maps, the change in regimes and the consequences of that--even the deadly disruptions that come to the family--are an announcement of the failure of human institutions to sustain us or bring peace. All these things must take place, Jesus says, but the end is not yet. What happens in the interim?
There are four commands, as near as I can see: Do not be misled--by those who use the instability to their own advantage. These could be apocalyptic preachers, stylish politicions, or prosperity teachers.
Do not go after them, Jesus says. That is the second commandment. Instead, I would suggest, we follow Jesus alone,
Do not be terrified. That is the third. We are so easily frightened: a 300 point drop in Dow Jones; Putin's plans to stay in power; the "threat" of "that other party's candidate for president"; the never-ending insurgency. When all of the certainties we depend on are uncertain, the Christian's true north is faith which allows us to not be terrified.
The fourth is a bit dicier: Do not prepare a defense. But I think that is a summary of "This will give you an opportunity to testify," but it must not be canned, cliched, but prophetic in the very sense Tillich and Charles say: not announcing the doom (contra the dispensationalists) but so certain of the certainty of God that we can speak powerfully when all around us are weak.
At least, I think that is what I see there.
Grant-ed Guidance and Thanksgiving
2007-11-14 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to guest blogger Charles Grant for his wise reflection below on the lessons for Sunday, November 18. Scroll down to see how Dr. Grant incorporates the wisdom of Tillich into his entry.
I also enjoy Charles' important point that the 2 Thessalonians passage is not best used as an anti-welfare text. Indeed, one of my dear, well-meaning Bible study attendees this morning responded to the passage by saying, "There are people on welfare who shouldn't be."
She's right, but I tried to explain that the 2 Thessalonians passage is really dealing with other matters and that we are to care for people in need.
As I squint to make out the sermon forming inside me, I find myself leaning toward talking about God as the God of all times, past, future, and present.
We give thanks for the God of the past who helped our ancestors, both the wandering Aramean and the Pilgrims.
We also give thanks in advance for the resplendid future toward which God pulls us.
Finally, we give thanks for God overseeing the cycle of building up and tearing down, the cycle of leaf dropping and blossom budding.
This same God also, in various ways, allows eternity to penetrate the present proleptically, thus giving us new life even as dying envelops us.
I look forward to more entries from Dr. Grant and others, as well as to comments on Share It!
Also, I am signing up to attend my first ever Festival of Homiletics, which will be in Minneapolis on May 19-23. What a proleptic word-feast that'll be! In addition, I'll get to see what everyone looks like. ;-)
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
for November 18 by guest blogger Charles Grant
2007-11-14 by Charles Grant
First let me ask you to be gentle with me – this is my first time. J I would hate to be greeted by the blogging world with persecution and betrayal – wait, that’s part of what’s going on in this week’s Luke lection. I am not preaching myself this week, so I am working on the upcoming Christ the King (more later). But I do have some thoughts about what is going on this week’s passages – just to get the ball rolling a bit.
As the lectionary winds down for the year, the texts take on a more apocalyptic tone – reaching for those early texts of the coming Advent season. Here in America, the stern warnings of Advent seldom find a receptive audience in December – much less in November! I am drawn more to the Isaiah passage and 2 Thessalonians. The former certainly has much to say to us in these uncertain times, and the latter raises some provocative thoughts for the coming Thanksgiving celebrations.
Those opening words from the Isaiah lection, “For I am about to create new heavens and a earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Always send me back to a couple of classic sermons by Paul Tillich (available online) from that little volume The Shaking of the Foundations. The title sermon is not based on Isa 65. The tie in is the way Tillich leads us to prophetic voices. As you read the Isa and Luke texts, consider these words from (prophet) Tillich: “Why were the prophets able to face what they knew, and then to pronounce it with such overwhelming power? Their power sprang from the fact that they did not really speak of the foundations of the earth as such, but of HIM WHO LAID THE FOUNDATIONS AND WOULD SHAKE THEM; and that they did not speak of the doom of the nations as such, but of HIM WHO BRINGS DOOM FOR THE SAKE OF HIS ETERNAL JUSTICE AND SALVATION. Focusing on the God who speaks and acts - more than the anticipated actions - is certainly one entry point to the apocalyptic world.
In that same volume the final sermon is based on the Isa lection, "Behold, I am doing a new thing". The sermon is a meditation on the old and the new. Again, a potential sermon starter.
The 2 Thess lection raises a provocative point for Thanksgiving: “Keep away from believers who are living in idleness…anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Now, such words could easily be used as fodder in the anti welfare canon. But consider of whom the writer is speaking: he is warning of false prophets who prey upon the faithful, expecting the community to support them in their idleness. Ouch! We “professional” clergy need to be listening here. Remember the adage of the Didache – How do you know a false prophet? He’s a visiting evangelist who stays more than three days. I wonder who might be included in the false prophets category today... The text also sets up an interesting context for considering that for which we are thankful in these days of great abundance for some and scarcity for others. Especially if you couple this text with the gospel text for Thanksgiving Day, John 6:25-35 – “do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
Weigh in folks, and rescue this floundering blogger…My next comments will be looking ahead to Christ the King.
The Second Coming, Highlights from this Week's Articles in "Lectionary Homiletics"
2007-11-13 by David von Schlichten
I am looking forward to guest blogger Charles Grant's contribution this week, as well as to hearing from whoever wants to contribute. Dive in; the water's fine.
The gospel for November 18 has an apocalyptic focus. Sometimes I wonder if the Second Coming is going to happen. Perhaps we are to interpret eschatological passages metaphorically, not literally. I don't know.
I do know that we have much to be thankful for in our articles this week from Lectionary Homiletics. By the way, you can read for free Patrick Willson's “Preaching the Lesson” article if you go to Share It! and click on Free Samples from Lectionary Homiletics.
Here are highlights from this week's articles.
The last sentence of Kristin Johnston Largen's essay is a compass: “The time for discipleship is now; it is up to God to determine the rest” (p.55).
Steve Frazier makes clarifying use of Moltmann (who, by the way, released an engaging and thorough autobiography this year, published by Fortress Press), who, Frazier writes, sees the eschaton has happening, not in the future, but whenever “eternity breaks into time” (p.55). Frazier writes, “In Christ, the end has already come. In Christ, the end has been overcome” (p.55). When we experience God and share the God News with one another, we experience the end in the present.
Hmmm. As one of my excellent professors at Drew, Bill Stroker, used to say, “That's intriguing.”
Scott D. Seay provides eye-opening quotes from stunning preachers. Barbara Brown Taylor proclaims in the conclusion of her sermon on this text that “ [ . . . ] holding on to one another is how we hold onto our Lord” (p.57).
Seay also cites Tom Long's sermon, in which he contends that our temples are not only our buildings but are also “whatever structures we erect” that “hold our faith together” (p.58), such as marriage, family, or religious beliefs. When our structures collapse, we are tempted either to rebuild them exactly as they were or to be passive, assuming that the world is ending and that there is nothing we can do about that. A wiser response, according to Long, is to work at being the Church while also trusting that God “governs the cycle of destruction and renewal” (p.58).
These points from Long remind me of Thanksgiving, a time when we tend to look back with gratitude (and, often, grief) while also lamenting the present and future. What if we responded to Thanksgiving by resolving to continue to love God and neighbor while trusting that God is in charge of the raising and razing?
In “Good Enough for God!” William R. Ellis, Jr. elevates an Afghani Muslim woman's loving, tough courage as an example of the embodiment of Christ. Accused of being an infidel because she promoted education for girls and human rights for women, she challenged the Taliban by citing the verses in the Quran that supported her position and then declaring that the Taliban could put her to death once they had checked the authenticity of her citations. The Taliban may kill her, but she has gained her soul. Wow.
The Holy Spirit seems to be calling me to preach on Thanksgiving this Sunday, but the Spirit also seems to be compelling me through these articles to preach on this passage from Luke. Perhaps the two fit together in a way that will work for a sermon.
Maybe something like this:
Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks for God's ongoing powerful presence throughout the centuries - in the 1600s among the Pilgrims and here with us today and tomorrow. God is in charge of the cycle of creation and destruction (like the seasons). We keep giving thanks, in part by persevering, as did the Afghani Muslim woman.
Praying and ruminating, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2007-11-12 by David Howell
Our guest preaching blogger is Charles Grant, pastor of Bon Air Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA. Prior to coming to Bon Air, Dr. Grant held pastorates in Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri. He wrote an adult education course, "How God's People Can Address Injustice," with Robert C. Linthicum.
In the Sermon Feedback Cafe this week, enjoy the special of the week, Pumpkin Spice Latte, and the art of The Westminster Gallery of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. Westminster Presbyterian and Central Lutheran churches will host the Festival of Homiletics, May 19-23, 2008.
It's time to share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes at Divine Cuisine. Go to Share It, click on Divine Cuisine and then Submit Your Own. Check out the "Picture-Perfect Maple Glazed Turkey Recipe" and "Mary Lou's Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe." I understand that we have an "Oyster Dressing" (stuffing) recipe coming!
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