2007-10-12 by Rick Brand
My mother always told me I could ruin any good story. My wife calls me too "damn logical." But the story in Luke about the ten lepers always has left me troubled. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the Priest. His command is to go to the Priest. "On the way" they were healed. The nine who continued on were doing what Jesus told them to do. We do not know if they would have come back to give thanks after the priest had seen them. The one who turned back disobeyed Jesus. He never went to the Priest. I get the point about how seldom we give thanks and recognize the source of our healings, but something in me keeps wanting to go slow in the condemnation of the others who did what Jesus told them.
2007-10-10 by Nora Gallagher
The story of the tenth leper is a resurrection story.
If we understand the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate new story–that is, out of the chaos of death and execution, something new was written and revealed. And something new happened not only to Jesus but to his disciples. They went into hiding after the crucifixion. They were shattered and lost. But after the resurrection appearances, they walked back out into the world. They were braver and stronger; they visited strangers, and healed the sick. It was not just what they saw when they saw the resurrected Jesus, but what was set free in them.
What if the resurrection is not about the appearances of Jesus alone but also about what those appearances point to, what they ask of us? We can make the resurrection into a magic act, or use it as a profound stepping stone to new life.
When I look at this gospel story again, I see that the tenth leper understood that something had happened to him. He no longer “kept his distance.” He didn’t have to. He was no longer a pariah. He walked right up to Jesus and fell as his feet. He may have even covered Jesus’ feet with his newly healed hands, just like the woman who bathed Jesus with her tears.
He found a new story. I don’t think he completely abandoned the old one. I don’t think that finding a new story means we become someone entirely different. We are still the same person, with the same history. But now, what was unreadable, misunderstood, or chaotic, has a thread of meaning. That man, newly healed, did not go on living as a man on the margins or wander away like the other nine, seeking some sort of certification from the religious hierarchy. That man, turned back, to the person who had touched his poor skin, and he thanked him. It was not just what he saw when he saw Jesus, but what was set free in him. And that’s what makes this gospel a resurrection story.
It’s not only that he was healed. If it was only about that, then he would have gone off like the other nine. It was what was set free in him. Maybe it was something he already had: humility? Maybe. Or a little piece of gratitude. Or maybe it was generosity. It takes generosity to thank someone.
2007-10-10 by David Howell
There is lots going on at GoodPreacher.com!
We are blessed this week with stimulating blog posts by Nora Gallagher, David von Schlichten, and Tom Steagald. (Nora and Tom both have book reviews in Book Reviews in Share It!) Nora's books are available at Booksense or Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Check out the stimulating feedback on sermons at Sermon Feedback Cafe. They had to buy another coffee maker!
Susan Briehl just shared with us a Kenai Salmon Cake recipe at Divine Cuisine. It is really interesting to hear some of the stories behind the recipes. I received an email that Russell Pregeant's Shrimp and Okra Gumbo recipe was served at a monastery in New York last weekend.
Be sure to let Dee Dee Haines know what book you want to read. Go to Book Club (at Share It!) for Dee Dee's email. She will count the votes on Friday and let us know which book to start reading.
And be sure to share your stories, book reviews, and movie reviews at Share It!
For those who have not yet subscribed to GoodPreacher.com, there is a world of resources available to you in Journal, Back Issues/Sermons and Unlectionary. 40-60 articles per week on lectionary texts, plus sermons that will stimulate your sermon preparation for special occasions.
Remember to register for Festival of Homiletics. We are having record registraton.
Vocation and Family
2007-10-09 by Tom Steagald
I am struck in the Jeremiah text for Proper 23 that the "practices" Jeremiah announces as God's word for the reframing of the Exile experience are what might be considered traditional (in the sense of historic) family values: building houses, planting gardens, wedding spouses, having children, celebrating the generations, praying for the city in which one resides. The depression and anger attending deportation might cause the exiles to react differently--might prompt the atomizing of life and culture. But if the bad news is that Exile has separated the remaining Jerusalemites from their foundations, it has not cut them off from their essential roots of being a holy people, multiplying and fruitful, recipients of blessing in the hope of once again being the channels of blessing.
This word is vital to me right now in my place of service. Many of our new believers (though some of them are "believers again") are struggling with the energy church requires, the (oft-times self-imposed) challenges of small group meetings, work areas, services, etc. They want to be a part of it all, but it is dividing husbands and wives, parents and children, if only in terms of time and place (though the stress seems to go deeper among some). This text reminds me that "family" can be an essentially spiritual reality, the locus of spiritual development and transformation. As Luther said, famously, the family is but the smallest of congregations.
Many preachers, while eager to preach on the corporate nature and communal dimensions of the gospel, can for various reasons overlook the family as one aspect of those realities. Perhaps Jesus' own ambivalence toward his mother and siblings is the theological excuse for our inattention. Or perhaps the recent political manipulations of "traditional family values" has been (rightly) pegged as a form of judgemental nostalgia and summarily dismissed as another apt candidate of the gospel's formational and political ambitions.
But Jeremiah seems to say that the family is a place where God will work to maintain the identity and survival of the elect in the midst of a pagan culture. Indeed, this is where God has put them--another reframing of the Exile, not as godforsakenness but, emergently, as the place where God and God's people may enjoy new intimacy and the reforming of covenant.
And so the historic tasks of families become themselves spiritual practices; this word of the Lord becomes a summons, answering in obedience a spiritual vocation as sacred as any other.
Highlights from This Week's Articles in "Lectionary Homiletics"
2007-10-09 by David von Schlichten
There is much here at the website to help us endure and receive healing as preachers. See the samples section for an exegetical article on Luke 17:11-19 by Holly Hearon.
Second, be sure to scroll down to read Nora Gallagher's two poedifying blog entries, and check back for more later this week. Her first one reflects on healing, and her more recent one reflects on how our clinging to cliches, including religious ones, belies our experiences of reality.Finally, “Share It!” has been expanded to include recipes, a reading group that you can participate in, and many other exciting new ventures to nourish us preachers.
Here are my highlights of this week's articles from Lectionary Homiletics:
Susan Eastman points out the parallelism in verses 11 through 13, drawing attention to the parallelism's if . . . then “punchline” of Christ remaining faithful even if we are faithless toward him. Christ remains faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Christ.
Susan's thoughts get me imagining a sermon that echoes this parallelism. Would it be effective to imitate somehow the if . . . then structure of these verses in a sermon? I'll have to think and pray about that idea more. I wouldn't want such an imitation to come across as gimmicky, corny or parodic.
Mary Clark Moschella writes with grace and economy about a salient theme of the text, endurance. The passage, she says, encourages endurance. She writes about endurance being an under-rated virtue. The Christian life, both for lay people and pastors, requires persevering for the long term.
Addressing preachers, Mary observes semi-facetiously that when we preach a poor sermon, we may be providing an opportunity for our hearers to develop endurance. She says that pastors generally get more praise and more blame than they deserve. We are not to take either too seriously and worry about being popular. Instead, we are to be faithful, plugging along, continuing to do the often mundane work of the Church. More important than being perfect is being there, doing what we can.
“Lesson and the Arts”
Richard Stern offers a fascinating essay on bluegrass gospel songs and John McClure's categories of theological worldviews from Sermon Sequencing and the Four Codes of Preaching: tensive (just try to endure the hardships of life), oppositional (oppose evil and hope for something better in this life), equilibrational (good and evil are in balance, but good will eventually win), and permutational (the new life has already begun). There are bluegrass songs for each worldview, but many tend to be of the tensive nature. Indeed, Stern adds, such a view may seem grim for those of us who have lived the good life of middle class America, but for people who live in constant hardship or who are near death, the tensive worldview may be the most compatible.
Stern adds that while our reading from 2 Timothy has a tensive color to it, ultimately it may be closer to the oppositional worldview. We trust in God. There is hope. As Stern writes, “Trust in God makes the difference between longing and hope” (p.15).
“A Sermon: 'The Easter Faith for Autumn Days'”
This poedifying sermon by Mark E. Yurs points out that, according to 4:21, winter is approaching, so it is reasonable to think that Paul (or whoever) wrote this letter in autumn. In any case, regardless of the season, Paul is in autumnal circumstances, and so is Timothy. Persecution rusts the trees. Death howls like the wind. It would be easy to give in to the temptation to give up. Yurs writes, “People like Paul had every reason to forget about the Easter faith and give up on it as some kind of fairy tale for bright spring days. But they did not. They remembered it in their autumn days [ . . . ] They kept it because they knew it was true” (p.18). Paul, in autumn, advises Timothy, also in autumn, to endure, because Christ lives.
Endurance may be a form of healing. In this way we can connect these two themes, the theme of endurance from 2 Timothy and the theme of healing from the Gospel, which Nora Gallagher has lifted before us.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, poedifier
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