Sermon Outline on Luke 15:1-10 (and 1 Timothy) (Sept 16)
2007-09-13 by David von Schlichten

Man, this outline came hard. I need a nap. 

Frankly, there were so many good ideas in Lectionary Homiletics and at this site that I had difficulty focusing on a topic or text.

At my Wednesday Bible study, a point that one of my parishioners brought up was, “If we are not to associate with bad people, then how are we to welcome outcasts and eat with sinners?” That was the second time in three days that I had heard, in substance, that question, so I feel called to address it in the sermon.

Still, I struggled with finding a main point of focus. I returned to Holly Hearon's blog (scroll down to read blog). I was struck anew by her statement that, in the Gospel reading, we are asked to identify, not so much with the lost, but with God. That seems to be main point-material.

Thank be to the Holy Spirit, here's a start:

The Good Lord Is Trying to Tell Us Something

text: Luke 15:1-10 (and 1 Timothy)

main point: Our calling is to focus on, not wrath, but compassionate love, a calling that has stunning implications for how we respond to outcasts. At the same time, this calling directs us to see that God shows us compassion, too, just as he did with Paul.

I. When you hear the word “God,” what do you think of?

A. Many of us will say “Love and mercy,” but we often fixate on rules, wrath, scolding, and judgment instead of love and mercy

B. “Sure, Jesus died for me and loves me, and now I better get my act together, so he doesn't send me to hell.”

C. “Of course Jesus loves my enemies, but they better shape up, or he's going to get them!”

D. Act of God = natural disaster (why not beautiful weather?)

E. When something bad happens, people often say, “The Good Lord is trying to tell us something,” which means that God's mad, and we better shape up (How come the Good Lord is never trying to tell us something joyful? Ah, but he is.)

II. Luke 15:1-10 presents a view of God that runs opposite to words of judgment

A. There is a wrathful side to God, but Luke 15 stresses mercy to the judgmental religious leaders Jesus is talking to

B. In explaining why he eats with sinners, Jesus tells stories about searching for the lost and being jubilant over finding them; God is the same with sinners who repent

C. Implication: We are to be likewise; seeking the lost, jubilant over their return

D. This message of joyful forgiveness dominates Christ's ministry and Scripture in general

E. The whole point of the cross and the empty tomb is joyful forgiveness

III. What if we lived this way, responding to the people we label as outcasts by seeking them out and being joyful over their return?

A. But won't I become one of them if I associate with them? Not if you stay focused on the Gospel

B. Will they hurt me? There is risk in reaching to outcasts

C. Is seeking them out condoning their behavior? No, it's caring for them

D. Some people you just can't talk to; true, but let's not be too quick to give up; remember Paul in 1 Timothy; he was a terrible sinner, but he was far from hopelesss

IV. As we do all this, we remember that God has sought and saved us, too, and is joyful over our return; each time we fail, God will seek us and throw a party upon finding us

Something like that. Open to the Spirit, I'll keep working right after my nap, ever

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier





Response
2007-09-13 by Rick Brand

Listening to all this good material, a conclusion which seems to be forming for me is that all of them talk about what God is doing and the texts really don't worry too much about what we humans do. God is the actor, and our place is to receive, rejoice and share.   But I guess that would make it too easy.



Response to Hearon and Highlights of This Week's Articles in "Lectionary Homiletics"
2007-09-12 by David von Schlichten

In her blog entry and response to a reader's question, Holly Hearon shows how a preacher can smoothly integrate the readings. She emphasizes the contrast between the judgment-oriented passage of Jeremiah and the grace-oriented passage of Luke and suggests that 1 Timothy works especially well with the latter and that the Jeremiah and Luke passages can work as two sides of the same coin (what some of us call the law-gospel dialectic). 

Hearon also provides helpful information regarding the Gospel, including background on the silver coins. See below for Hearon's blog entry.

(Also, see the "Free Samples" section (under samples for the coming Sunday) for an article by R. Alan Culpepper. The article is about Luke 15:1-10.)

Hearon's highlighting of grace works well with what I have lifted up from this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics:

“Exegesis”

Brian K. Peterson writes that, like the sheep and the coin, Paul in 1 Timothy is the lost who has been found and that the gospel does not merely save us but also transforms our lives, according to 1 Timothy.

“Theological Themes”

Roger J. Gench, whose congregation is in Washington, D.C., writes of General David Petraeus, war, and the current civil war between liberals and conservatives in the United States, including in the Church. Gench explains that, in his manual on how to deal with insurgency warfare, Petraeus advises at one point, in a nutshell, “Don't shoot, take risks, and get involved” (p.58; the quote is Gench's summation of a Petraeus quote). Gench suggests that conservatives and liberals should heed this counsel to stop shooting, take risks, and get involved in relationships with one another.

1 Timothy says that Christ came into the world to save sinners. Just as Christ stopped shooting, took risks and got involved for our salvation, we are to do likewise. Such instruction may sound naïve, but, Gench says, a little “second naivete” may be in order, “second naivete” being a term from Paul Riceour that means to have faith in our mysterious God, despite our knowledge that could produce doubt.

There is much more in Gench's article, including intelligent writing about both Riceour and Martin Luther King, Jr. The essay is first-rate.

“Pastoral Implications”

Along similar lines, John C. Carr writes that defensiveness and aggressive counterattacks tend to be deleterious reactions to hostility. What if, instead, following 1 Timothy, we Christians responded with greater love and less defensiveness when people attack our religion or even our nation? Respectfully and sensitively, Carr wonders what would have happened if Western nations had responded in such a manner to 9/11?

“Scripture and Screen”

Dan R. Dick writes about the TV show “Heroes.” Heroes have a super-power. For us Christians, "our salvation is our super-power" (p.61).

“Preaching the Lesson”

David J. Schlafer, in an exceptionally well-written essay, unpacks the word “confession,” pointing out the different ways people may construe this word. In 1 Timothy, Paul's confession is neither “self-justification nor self-condemnation” (p.62). He states what he has done and then says that he has been saved by God. Schlafer writes, “The author is clear: God does not value people because they are worthwhile; people are worthwhile because God values them” (62).

“A Sermon”

In his sermon, “Attitude Up or Attitude Down?,” D. William McIvor proclaims with notable clarity that we humans tend to live in an attitude-down world but that God calls us to be an attitude-up people. In other words, we tend to be judgmental, but God calls us to be, not judgmental, but merciful.

Thank you to Dr. Hearon and everyone for such graceful work.

Willing to be a bit naive, I am

Yours in Christ,

 David von Schlichten, poedifier





Question on 1 Timothy 1:12-17
2007-09-11 by Holly Hearon

Dr Hearon

Thanks for your thoughts on Jeremiah and Luke on GoodPreacher.

I am preaching on 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

Could you share some thoughts on 1 Timothy and how that text might be preached with either Jeremiah text or Luke text?

Thanks!

The 1 Timothy text picks up on the theme of God's grace towards sinners (1:15). In dialogue with Jeremiah it could explore the need to recognize not only our personal sin but ways in which we are culpable in terms of systemic evil ("The only thing evil needs to flourish is for good people to do nothing"). In terms of Luke, the 1 Timothy text could be woven into the invitation by the parables to view others through the eyes of God. Where do we seat ourselves? Among the pure or among the sinners? There is a tension in the Christian life between striving to do what is good and right, while maintaining an appropriate humility that acknowledges our potential for failure and our ongoing need for mercy - from God and towards one another.

(Holly Hearon is Associate Professor of New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary.)

 





Reflections on Jeremiah 4 and Luke 15
2007-09-10 by Holly Hearon

The first thing that strikes me is the tension between the Gospel lection and the reading from the First Testament. The gospel focuses on the familiar theme of God’s persistence in seeking those who are lost. In contrast, the passage from Jeremiah speaks a hard word of destruction and desolation brought about by the hand of God. One way to reconcile the two passages would be to zero in on Luke’s repetition of the phrase that God rejoices over one sinner who repents, reading Jeremiah as a call to repentance. The challenge with such a move is that it may rely on fear as the motivation for change; while fear can be a strong motivating factor, it rarely produces genuine conversion. Another approach would be to examine the character of God, who is described both wielding destruction while seeking genuine relationship with humankind. Do we simply reject the one while embracing the other? What kind of God is it who metes out judgment indiscriminately? Conversely, does God overlook justice of the sake of reconciliation? (Here, it should be obvious that we need to avoid the false dichotomy of the “God of the Old Testament” vs. the “God of the New Testament”; grace and anger find equal expression as characteristics of God in both Testaments.) Another way to think about the Jeremiah passage would be to ask how we participate in creating and promoting destructive forces. From Jeremiah’s perspective, the destruction doesn’t come out of nowhere; it is the consequence of false pride and political posturing. How often do we simply sit in the rubble and pray to God to come and clean up our mess? What I find appealing about trying to work these two passages in dialogue is that neither passage leaves us with an image of a sanguine God who sits placidly by, removed from human folly. This is a God who is fully engaged: who rages, who weeps, who continues to search for the lost.

 

The religious leaders in Luke seem to want a world where the holy and pure are protected. I think there is a little bit of that streak in all of us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just got along and never did anything to hurt other people or ourselves? Then there is the fear of contamination: if we sit with sinners, will it rub off on us? Surely we don’t belong with those who sit stunned in Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, wondering what it was that hit them. The parables invite us to work on our attitude. We are not asked to identify with the lost so much as we are asked to identify with God (“which one of you . . . “). The shepherd figure echoes Ezekiel 34 where false and faithful shepherds are compared. Luke adds some touches to the story which are not found in Matthew’s version (Matt 18:12-14). In Luke the shepherd going off into the wilderness in search of the lost sheep The wilderness (the place of Jesus’ temptation) suggests going into desolate and dangerous places. When the shepherd finds the sheep, he lifts it onto his shoulders. This is a real and familiar action, but adds a kind of poignancy to the story, anticipating the father’s warm embrace of the prodigal son. The party that the shepherd throws further invites us to hear in this the story the story of the prodigal son (15:11-32). The sheep, then, are those who, by an act of volition, wander off. Luke pairs the story with that of the woman who has lost one of her ten coins. This story, too, invites us to identify with God, the woman. The silver coins are drachmas, each one about a day’s wages in peasant culture. The coins would help a family survive for not quite two weeks in case of famine, illness, or unemployment. These coins are of real value: the difference between eating and not eating. Unlike the sheep, coins are inanimate objects. They don’t wander off on their own; but they can roll away, slip into a crack, or disappear in a shadow in an unlit room. The woman, a diligent household manager, faithfully keeps track of every coin. We are invited by these images to re-orient how we look at and value one another. Perhaps if we did, the story in Jeremiah would have a different ending.  





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