God is the Rock, So Don't Throw Stones, Be a Stone
2011-05-17 by David von Schlichten

Here are more thoughts about the readings for this Sunday.

Acts 7:55-60: THROWING STONES

The stoning of Stephen prompts me to contemplate what stoning goes on today. If by stoning we mean condemning and killing a person in some sense, then what stoning occurs?

One form of stoning is bullying. Another is scapegoating. Racist and sexist comments that pummel someone's spirit can be a form of stoning.

Then there is the stoning we Christians receive for doing the right thing. For instance, how often do people hurl stones at members of the gay community who feel called to serve as pastors or at people who support gay clergy?

1 Peter 2:2-10: BEING STONES

This passage declares that, with Christ as the cornerstone, we Christians are living stones. What a peculiar image. What does a living stone look and act like? 

Here, being a stone means being like Christ, being a part of the building called the Church, and, of course, being strong, solid. Being a LIVING stone means not being passive but being organic, active, growing. 

We are to be strong but also growing and active. Stone-strong but not petrified.

John 14:1-14: GOD IS THE ROCK

Granted (or granite; ha, ha), this passage does not use stone imagery, but it does assure us that, even though he is leaving, Christ is still with us and thus we still have unassailable might. He is the way, truth, and life, and we are not alone or forsaken. Christ is rock-faithful.

So then, when Christ says, "Ask for anything in my name, and I'll grant it," he's not saying, "I'm your genie, and you have unlimited wishes." No, he is saying, in substance, "Even though I am leaving you to die on the cross, rise, and return to heaven, I will still be with you to help you do the work of the church, indeed to do even greater works than I have done."

(It would be fruitful to preach about how the Church has indeed done greater works than Christ did in his earthly ministry. Of course, this success has been possible only because of Christ's matchless death and resurrection.)

In short, Christ is our rock who calls us away from casting stones and makes us into living stones.

What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Sermon thoughts for May 22, 2011; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:14
2011-05-15 by David von Schlichten

1 Peter 2:2-10 speaks of us Christians as living stones, members of a royal priesthood, a holy nation. What profound language this is. One could devote a whole sermon to helping hearers contemplate what it means to be a living stone or a priest.

John 14:14 declares that, if we ask for anything in Christ's name, Christ will do it. This is clearly a statement that requires some elaboration. How do you interpret this promise?

How do these two passages connect? For instance, could we proclaim that part of being a priest is asking Christ for that which a true priest would ask for? That is, if we are asking Christ for things AS priests, then we will not ask for, for example, revenge or selfish riches, but for that which serves God and neighbor. Make sense?

I'll provide more thoughts later this week, and I welcome your input.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Psalm 23, Acts 2:42-47, Socialism, Our Stuff
2011-05-09 by David von Schlichten

This coming Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, on which we hear from biblical passages containing shepherd imagery. It's easy to trivialize and sentimentalize these passages.

We also have a tendency to preach about how stupid sheep are and how, well, we are, too. I'm not saying that it's wrong to point out human foolishness. I'm just saying that it gets done a lot when sheep show up in the lessons (I wonder if sheep really deserve such a bad reputation.).

I don't know what I'm preaching on this Sunday, but I find intriguing Acts 2:45, which tells us that at least some in the early church sold their possessions and then distributed the proceeds to all according to need. We capitalists tend to frown upon such an economic system, but Acts mentions it a few times (cf. chapters 4 and 5).

We Americans are possessive of our stuff. "It's my money. I'll decide who gets it. I'm not working hard only to have someone else receive a hand-out at my expense." Yet here is Acts, presenting a more communist or socialist economics. Marxist Christianity anyone?

Psalm 23 tells us that we shall not want because the Lord is our shepherd, yet many faithful followers around the world are starving, wanting. Perhaps the not-wantng arises at least in part from us following the shepherd's voice, and part of following the shepherd's voice is making sure that we take care of our fellow sheep. That is, part of following the shepherd is that we are to work together to free each other from want.

What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Osama bin Laden, Preaching, and Praying
2011-05-04 by David von Schlichten

How do we preach and pray about Osama bin Laden? Do we thank God for bin Laden's death? Do we celebrate the violent demise of a human being? What do you think?

What if we prayed/preached something like this: God of us all, we have mixed feelings. We are grateful that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat. We thank you that his death probably brings closure for at least some of the many people devastated by 9/11. We thank you for watching over our soldiers involved in the attack on bin Laden.

At the same time, God, we do not take delight in the death of one of your children. We find tragic that bin Laden lived by the sword and died by the sword. Guide us not to rejoice over someone's death even as we recognize the good that may come from such a death.

Lead all of us humans to work for the day on which there will be justice and mercy for all with violence and death for no one. In the name of our forgiving, crucified Lord we pray. Amen.

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Mother's Day, Preaching, Emmaus, and Not Being Trite
2011-05-04 by David von Schlichten

We want to avoid sappiness and triteness in the pulpit, and Mother's Day tends to generate both. If we are really going to revere our mother-figures and, more importantly, the gospel, then we want to eschew corny acrostics and the like. Here are some suggestions.

1. Tell stories about mother-figures that point to the profundity of the Good News. For instance, the Emmaus story shows us Christ being recognized in the breaking of the bread. This story clearly refers to holy communion, but are there other meal-moments through which we recognize Christ, and what roles have mom-figures played in those moments?

2. Preach about Mother Church.

3. Preach about God as Mother.

4. Sunday is the commemoration day of Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic. Even though Julian wasn't literally a mother, she has been a spiritual mother for many. It would make sense to spend time reflecting on her life and work.

What ideas do you have?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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