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!
Tom, Rick, Sadducees, Teen Doubt
2007-11-09 by David von Schlichten
Please give me feedback on my sermon at the cafe. Go back to Homepage, then to Share It!, then to the Cafe. Chef Jean Paul has baked some fantastic pumpkin bread, so be sure to stop by the cafe.
I am grateful for Rick and Tom's exchange below. They blog about veterans being among the neglected in our society, just as the widow in the Sadducees' hypothetical scenario is among the neglected. Yes, our society sometimes glorifies veterans, but there also lie forgotten and marginalized legions of veterans who gave much for the sake of others.
Also, the idea of seeing the Sadducees' story from the widow's point of view is refreshing. I never thought of that and may use that perspective for the sermon.
I must confess, though, that my mind stares in another direction. This past Tuesday, my seventeen-year old son Michael expressed doubt about God's existence and indicated that he has little desire to attend worship. We had a calm discussion about all this. I indicated that doubt is part of the believer's journey and that I have been full of doubt myself at times. I also explained that, for several reasons, Sunday worship is still worth doing even if you don't want to be there. The conversation was productive and level.
In any event, at the intersection of Michael's sincere questioning and the Sadducees' dubious questioning stands my sermon, I think. I'm just not sure where that intersection is.
So I have pulled over to the side of the road and am now asking you for directions.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Veterans and the Lessons
2007-11-08 by Tom Steagald
I wonder if there might be some way to relate all of that to the texts for Sunday--the Haggai text seems especially apt at least as a word of comfort for those for whom the promise is a "past glory," and not just the returning veterans but all of those who remember a time (after WW II, say?) when it was different that this. There is challenge woven into that text, too, as the rebuilding begins.
And the Gospel text speaks to what, in the hypothetical case proposed by the Sadduccees, was the failed promise of levirate marriage. This "institution," which left the care for and hope of the woman to immediate family, did not produce what was intended. She was left, in a manner of speaking, homeless.
Clearly, the aim of the story and its telling is different, but I have never thought to think through the parable from the woman's point of view. And just as clearly, Jesus' response is aimed past the "earthly," but the greater scope of his hospitality and regard could help us here.
What is the church but refuge for those for whom all other resource is lost? Whose only hope is in God and God's people? And what does that mean in terms of our daily work? Pretty powerful questions.
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