Initial Thoughts for June 12, Pentecost
2011-06-06 by David von Schlichten

For many churches, this is Holy Spirit Day. Of course, we are always to be attentive to the Spirit, remembering that the Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son. Unfortunately, quite a few of us treat the Holy Spirit as somehow less than the Father and the Son. Why is that?

The third article of either the Apostles' or Nicene Creed can be helpful in thinking about what to preach on this Sunday, given that those articles deal with the Holy Spirit and what She does in the Church. That is, because of the Holy Spirit, we have the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and so forth.

FORGIVENESS: In John 20:19-23, Jesus gives the apostles the Holy Spirit and then tells them that they now have the ability to offer and withhold forgiveness. It would be valuable to explore the implications of that power. For instance, why would one withhold forgiveness? Do all Christians have this power or just clergy?

ONE SPIRIT, MANY GIFTS: 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of the many gifts we receive from the Spirit. It would be useful to help people think about what gifts they have received from the Spirit and how to use them for the common good.

ACTS 2:1-21: The Holy Spirit is given, not just to the twelve, but to many believers and is given so that the Good News can extend to all people, not just to certain people (such as people we like). What does it mean to share the Good News? How do we share the Good News with atheists or people who have no intention of converting to Christianity?

How do we share the Good News with terrorists? Sex-offenders?

What thoughts do you have? Please feel free to send them to me privately or to post them here.

I'll offer more on Wednesday.

Yours in the Ruach,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Sermon Ideas for June 5, 2011; Heaven's Tickertape Parade; Pentecost's Advent
2011-06-01 by David von Schlichten

1. The gospel, John 17:1-11, talks quite a bit about glory. You could do a topical sermon on glory. What is it? How is Christ glorified? Verse 10 says that Christ is glorified "in them," i.e., all that he shares with the Father. What does that mean? Is Christ glorified in us? How?

2. You could preach on John 17:1-11 more generally, such as by proclaiming the text's message of reassurance that Christ, ultimately, never leaves us, even when he leaves us.

3. You could use this Sunday to get ready for next Sunday. What does it mean to be waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit? This Sunday is to Pentecost what Advent is to Christmas.

4. 1 Peter 4:8: In what ways does the devil prowl like a roaring lion in our lives? How are you tempted, and how does God lead you not into temptation but deliver you from the Evil One? The Seven Deadly Sins might help to stimulate thought here.

5. THE ASCENSION: What does it mean that Christ ascended? Why is his ascension important?

6. I have this idea of telling the ascension story from the perspective of heaven, where everyone is getting ready for the tickertape parade that they will have when the triumphant Jesus returns to heaven.

7. The End: The disciples ask in Acts 1 if this is the time when Jesus will restore Israel, and he says that they are not to worry about that but instead are to be witnesses (That's a wise message for us all to heed, Harold Camping.).

8. Clouds: Cloud-imagery appears in Acts 1 and Psalm 68. You could use cloud-imagery in some significant way homiletically.

9. Luther notes that the Ascension is not our doing. That is, humans play no role in making the Ascension happen. It is purely God's doing, purely a gift.

10. John 17:1-11 deals with abiding, intimacy among the members of the Trinity and the followers of Christ. The passage also calls for oneness, so a sermon on how to live out that oneness and abiding could be compelling.

What ideas do you have?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Initial Thoughts for June 5: 1 Peter 4:8; John 17:1-11; Acts 1:6-14
2011-05-30 by David von Schlichten

John 17:1-11: We have part of the High Priestly Prayer, with its vision of Trinity-based oneness. It's easy to do lip-service to this idea without any real commitment. How can we challenge people toward genuine oneness?

We have been struggling with this issue in the ELCA regarding homosexuality. We have approved the ordination of openly gay people, and some folks have decided that they therefore must leave the ELCA. So I find myself wondering: How do we preserve oneness even when we disagree passionately (as we always do sooner or later)?

Acts 1:6-14: Christ is ascended. So what? This Sunday would be ideal for doing a doctrinal sermon on the Ascension. Why should we care that Christ is ascended? What if Christ had never ascended after the Resurrection?

1 Peter 4:8 warns that the devil is prowling like a roaring lion. One could run with this verse and preach on how exactly the devil prowls around us, seeking to devour us, and how exactly God keeps us firm in our faith.

I'll offer more on Wednesday.  I welcome your input, either through private submissions to me or through posts here.

Cooking on the grill while remembering those who have served in the Armed Forces and gone to heaven, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

John 14:15-21; Psalm 33:10
2011-05-25 by David von Schlichten

John 14:15-21 has several important themes. One is that it points ahead to Pentecost, which is rapidly approaching. Another is that the passage reassures the disciples that, even when they are alone, they are not alone. A third is that Jesus exhorts the disciples to remain faithful to him by keeping his commandments. Love demands adherence to the commandments.

In general, love means faithful action. If we say we love a person, we need to SHOW that we love that person, or our words are a noisy gong. So also when it comes to our relationship with God. Indeed, as it says in 1 John 4, if we say we love God but hate our sibling, then we do not love God.

Psalm 33:10: God has tried us just as silver is tried. What does this mean? God refines us, but how? Does God send misfortune to us to refine us? Does God punish us to refine us? Answering yes to these questions is theologically problematic but is also rather common.

So then, how do we talk about God refining us without perpetuating the notion that a person's suffering is a God-sent affliction for that person's own good?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator


Initial Thoughts: Unknown God, Descent to the Dead, Memorial Day
2011-05-23 by David von Schlichten

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 29, 2011

Acts 17:22-31: Paul talks to the Athenians about their Unknown God, and it occurs to me that many of us today worship an unknown God. That is, many of us humans have, at best, a vague sense of the Divine and spirituality. We talk about Faith and "I'm not religious but I'm spiritual" and everything happening for a reason and the power of prayer without really knowing what we're talking about. What I mean is that many people speak of God in general, vague, nebulous terms. There is a need for greater clarity.

This Sunday could be an especially good opportunity to provide some of that clarity. In other words, the sermon this Sunday could imitate what Paul does in Acts 17. Paul responds to this Unknown-God-notion of the pagan Athenian culture by using the idea as an entry point for talking about Christianity. What if we did something similar this Sunday? After all, many in the pews know little about the religion they claim to believe in.

(I don't mean to be snarky or cynical. I mean to be diagnostic.)

1 Peter 3:13-22: This passage offers much, including verse 19, which speaks of Christ proclaiming the Good News to the "spirits in prison." This verse is one of the supports for the creedal declaration that Christ descended into the world of the dead or hell (see also 1 Peter 4).

What an intriguing doctrinal sermon we could have here. Christ is so powerful that not even death and hell can keep him out!

Memorial Day: We want to be careful of falling into civil religion, but we can use this day as a springboard for proclaiming the importance of Easter. Your loved one has died, but s/he is not gone, thanks be to Christ.

I'll provide more thoughts on Wednesday. In the meantime, feel free to provide your own or to send me a question or comment.

Not raptured but elohim-enraptured, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

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