Sermon Ideas for July 24, 2011
2011-07-20 by David von Schlichten

Genesis 29:15-28: This is the story of Jacob working toward marrying Rachel (and gets Leah first; I love when the narrator says, basically, "The next morning; it was Leah!"). This story features trickery, deception, among family members. It also features determination in the name of love.

We have good arising from the deception, for Jacob ends up with two wives. Even better, Leah actually proves to be the more fertile of the two (as Katharine J. Dell points out in her "Exegesis" article in Lectionary Homiletics).

1 Kings 3:5-12 is the alternate first-reading for the day and tells the story of Solomon asking for wisdom. As I mentioned, it is noteworthy that Solomon already exhibits wisdom in his request for wisdom. In other words, it takes wisdom to ask for wisdom.

It is also noteworthy that Solomon asks for that which will benefit others and that he responds to the gift of wisdom by offering a sacrifice and then having a celebration with others. (This part of the story is outside the pericope.)

Psalm 128 speaks of the blessings of a spouse and children.

Psalm 119 (the alternate) is a psalm celebrating the wisdom of studying God's Torah. In this psalm, the Law/Teaching/Commandments of God are seen as bringing delight. We don't normally associate commandments and the like with delight because we think such things spoil our fun. That is not the case here. The Torah of God actually enhances our joy, rather than spoiling our fun.

Romans 8:26-39: Nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So what? (I'm playing devil's advocate.) What's so great about always being joined to the love of God? Such a union does not protect us from all suffering. What does being forever joined to the love of God do for us? Why is that something to celebrate?

Matthew 13: This parade of parables has much going on in it. Let me suggest a few:

1. The great comes from the small. (mustard seed, yeast)

2. God surprises us. Mustard seeds do NOT produce trees that can sustain birds. Mustard plants, that is, do not get that big and strong, UNLESS this is a kingdom-of-heaven mustard seed.

3. The kingdom of heaven is a treasure worth your complete devotion, sacrifice.

4. Jesus talks about separating good fish from bad. How do we do that in our lives? For instance, how do we help people to separate the book of Joel from the Joel Osteens? Most people find the latter awfully seductive.

What ideas do you have? Feel free to email me or to submit a post for this blog site.

Trying to keep cool during this heat wave, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Initial Thoughts for July 24, 2011
2011-07-19 by David von Schlichten

1 Kings 3:5-12: Solomon receives wisdom. I find it interestng that Solomon's request indicates that he is already rather wise. So then, part of wisdom is recognizing that you need wisdom. It's not that Solomon has no wisdom; it's that he doesn't think he has enough, so he recognizes his need for God. This is a truth he loses sight of later.

Psalm 119 is all about studying the Word of God, the Torah.

Romans 8:26-39: There is much one could do with this passage. I keep thinking of how 8:28, "All things work together for good . . . ," sounds an awful lot like the ever-irritating "Everything happens for a reason." There are important differences between these two ideas that need to be explicated.

Matthew 13: So many parables! Where to begin? One thing I notice is how integral to these parables nature imagery is. Can, then, these parables help to highlight the importance of caring for the rest of creation?

What are your thoughts? Feel free to email them to me or to submit them for posting here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Sermon Ideas for July 17, 2011; Wheat-deemed and Collateral Damage
2011-07-14 by David von Schlichten

Genesis 28: Jacob's dream can lead to sermons about call or our dreams. How can you tell if a dream (night or day, asleep or awake) represents God's will for us?

It is also noteworthy that Jacob is a bum, yet God still promises him great things anyway.

Isaiah 44:6-8: God's singularity. There is one god, Yahweh, no other, period. This emphasis on the idea that there is no other god resonates well with Islam's emphasis on there being only one God. The passage also warns against idolatry.

I recall Luther's quote from the Large Catechism (paraphrased here): "Whatever you rely on completely, that is your god."

Romans 8:12-25: God has adopted us. We cry, "Daddy!" because the Spirit enables us to. We are heirs, thanks be to Christ, and we are to live according to the family name.

All of creation groans in anticipation of the fulfillment of creation, the great redemption. Bugs, poison ivy, viruses, you name it. All will be redeemed.

Matthew 13: The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds: Anyone can be either at any time. Through baptism into Christ's death, we are made wheat, but we are not to act like weeds. Any weed can be wheat-deemed.

God's patience and theodicy: God holds off on the harvest so as not to uproot the wheat. Thus, one reason for the misery in the world is that, in eliminating evil, the good would be collateral damage. So the evil stays.

What do you have? Feel free to send me an email or to submit a post for here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Initial Thoughts for July 17, 2011
2011-07-11 by David von Schlichten

Isaiah 44:6-8: There is one God, no other. The gods of Babylon are bogus. The gods of today -- family, health, nation, nature, the individual, athletes, beauty/sexiness, actors, singers -- also bogus. These entities have value, but they are not to be gods.

"In God we trust." Some Christians love to cling to this statement as an expression of Christian belief (which, they say, our nation was founded on, even though history tells a more complex story), but the statement is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is a vaguely monotheistic statement. So what do we do with it? What God are "we" trusting in? Who is "we"? What does "trust" mean?

Psalm 86 speaks of having an undivided heart. What does that mean? What divides our heart? How does God heal our broken heart? 

Romans 8:12-25: All of creation is groaning as in labor. All of creation shall be redeemed, not just people.

Abba. What does it mean to call God "Father"? What does it mean to call God "Mother" (Ima)?

Matthew 13: The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds. Are you a wheat or a weed? Each of us can be one or the other at any moment. This is not a we versus they passage; everyone can be wheat or weed.

The passage is also about patience. God the Gardener holds off so as not to harm the wheat.

Further, the passage underscores that we are interelated. Uproot the weed, and the wheat will suffer. We are one, like it or not.

What ideas do you have? Feel free to send me an email or to submit a post for publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Sermon Ideas for July 10, 2011
2011-07-07 by David von Schlichten

This Sunday I will begin an eight-week sermon series entitled, "'I'm a Christian; So What?': Why So Many Christians are Unfulfilled, and How God Helps Them."

Many Christians, despite their commitment to Christ, feel a void. Sometimes they are told that, to fill the void, they need to have more faith or commit themselves more to Christ.

My series will challenge this notion, suggesting that faulty understandings of God, life, and humanity are often at the heart of the void, not a lack of faith or commitment.

THIS SUNDAY'S GOSPEL, THE PARABLE OF SOWER, is relevant to this thesis. We tend to think of God as the sower, but what if we Christians are (or are also) the sower? We scatter seed, that is, spread the Good News, but sometimes the Good News just doesn't take. It doesn't take, not because of the sower's lack of faith or commitment, but because, well, sometimes the Good News doesn't take.

What does this have to do with the unfulfillment of Christians? Perhaps this: if we Christians can accept that sometimes the sowing just doesn't take and that we have not necessarily failed due to a lack of faith or effort, then we can find some peace. In other words: the success/failure of the Church is not all about us. Actually, it's ultimately about God.

Just sow the seed generously, and thank God for the successes that happen.

What do you think? Please send me an email or submit something to be posted.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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