Do We Really Need to Preach on Passion Sunday?
2011-04-15 by David von Schlichten

On Passion Sunday, I don't preach a regular-length sermon. I preach an introduction to the reading of the Passion, the real sermon of the day. Some of you probably do likewise.

How do we set up the reading of the Passion? It really needs no introduction, but I feel like I should say something. What if, on Passion Sunday, we just put aside the sermon?

I don't know. If I must say something, then perhaps the best set-up would be a poem or brief meditation that clears people's minds to focus on the Passion.

Maybe I'll write a sonnet that calls for people to shove aside other thoughts and put themselves into the story. Fourteen lines of clear-your-head and get-ready. Then I'll shut-up and let the Passion do its work. 

How about you?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Income Tax, Philippians 2:5-11, and Passion Sunday
2011-04-11 by David von Schlichten

We have to pay those pesty taxes to help support the programs and people who keep our nation going. That is, part of living in a community is paying taxes to help run that community.

Through his kenosis (Philippians 2:7), Jesus pays the highest tax of all. King Christ empties himself that we might be filled.

In response to this donkey-riding, cross-carrying, self-emptying king's sacrifice that pays for our salvation, what do we pay to show our gratitude, to show that we are citizens of the kingdom of God?

Foot-washing is a good start.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Free Sample from
2011-04-10 by David Howell

Preaching Matthew 26:14–27:66

by Anna Carter Florence

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat: this is my body."

It was the best gift anyone has ever given. It was also a brilliant idea, considering that human beings are programmed to be (1) forgetful, and (2) hungry.

Jesus knew us. He knew how our bodies and our minds work. He knew that our bodies, for example, need food, every day. Food gives us energy and life. Lack of it stunts growth and cripples us. Forget to eat, and the body goes into shutdown mode, until we die. So the signal that we are running low on food is hunger; it is the body’s way of telling us that we need to eat again. Once we do, our bodies are sated and the hunger disappears—until the next time the food energy runs low. That is the cycle, and it is not optional: when we need food, our bodies are programmed to be hungry.

There are other kinds of nourishment human beings need in order to live, too. The nourishment of love, for instance. Or kindness. Or joy. Or peace. Jesus knew this, too. He knew that you can starve a person with lack of gentleness just as surely as you can starve her with lack of food—which is probably why we refer to many of these necessities as "fruits of the Spirit," since our souls, our spirits, literally die without them. The problem is that some of these hunger pangs are trickier to recognize; we may not always know how dangerously malnourished we are. But, when you start to feel like nothing you do is right; when you begin to think of yourself as broken and not worth fixing; when you find yourself asking, "Who would ever want to be friends with me?"…you aren’t crazy. You’re hungry. You aren’t weak. You’re hungry. And there is nothing for it except to stop and eat, because the hunger is playing tricks on you.

What kind of food? This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, poured out for you. Stop, tear off a piece of broken bread, and remember what you have forgotten, in your hunger: I gave my life so that you could have life. There is nothing on heaven or earth that can separate you from the love of God.

Jesus knew that we are programmed to run out of food, spiritual or otherwise. And here’s the brilliance of his idea: okay, maybe we won’t admit we’re starving for love, but our bodies won’t let us be hungry forever! Sooner or later, we’re going to have to eat. Pick up a piece of that bread, pass it to the next person . . . and the sacrament takes hold. Remember? I’m right here, as near to you as bread. Remember? You’re not a total loser; you’re just hungry. And the bread is not just a spiritual snack, a little pick-me-up to get us through the afternoon. It’s the kind of bread that can save your life.

Matthew’s story of the Last Supper shows us exactly why we need this bread so much. In one seat, we have Judas, the disciple who is going to betray Jesus. In another seat we have Peter, the disciple who is going to deny him. Think about it: two men who loved Jesus with all their hearts, who followed him, who were chosen by him. Two men who believed Jesus could make the world a better place. One of them would even go on to build up the church in incredible ways. But at this supper, they show us exactly why we need this bread so much, and so often, because they get up from the table, full and replete, and they go out and make two of the worst mistakes they’ve ever made.

Judas and Peter, with every possible advantage, and they totally blow it. Jesus even predicts it for them. One of you is going to betray me, he says. One of you is going to deny me. And don’t waste your breath boasting about how brave you are, how invincible, how strong. This is the truth you have to hear: you are my disciples, and you will deny me. Not just once, either. Three times. Before the rooster crows, which he does, every day. Every day!

Do you see?! There is a pattern here, Jesus says, that you are going to have to get your head around, because if you don’t, you will die of grief. Every day, the sun comes up, and the cock will crow. You will be hungry; you will sit down to eat. Break the bread, and remember: this is my body, broken for you. Fill your bellies, fill your hearts, wipe your mouths, and get up from the table. You may actually make it for three minutes, but probably not. You’ll forget that my grace is sufficient for you. You’ll forget that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. You’ll forget that you are made in God’s image, every single one you.

Don’t even bother to speculate; you just will! You are human; this is how God made you. When night comes, if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can actually count how many times you’ve denied me by denying the grace that is yours, but I don’t recommend it; better to lie down and sleep until morning comes, and the rooster crows, which he always does, and always will, right on cue. That’s how roosters are made. That’s how you are made.

That is how life is, for disciples of Jesus. Eat, drink, and remember. Deny, repent, turn around. Keep coming to the table. Keep passing the cup to one another.

Sylvia Plath and John 11:1-45
2011-04-08 by David von Schlichten

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American writer known for her bitter, dark poetry and for her fierce struggle with mental illness, a struggle she lost when she killed herself at the age of 30 by sticking her head into an oven while her children slept in the next room.

One of Plath's best-known poems is "Lady Lazarus," in which the speaker recalls two times that she almost died and says that she is in the midst of number three. The first time was an accident, but the second was a suicide-attempt. She laments that that doctors were able to save her and states that she is now a demonic phoenix who will eat the men who try to save her.

Some people just don't want to live, do they? Jesus calls us out of the tomb, but many of us choose to stay dead. Jesus also calls us to roll away the stone and unbind each other, but we don't always do that, either. 

For Sunday's sermon, I am pondering the following:

1. What kills us?

2. How does Jesus bring us back to life?

3. How are we to roll away the stone and unbind each other?

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Lazarus and the Planet and Unbinding Each Other
2011-04-04 by David von Schlichten

Christ brings life to Lazarus and to all of us, including creation (cf. Romans 8). Perhaps one way to go homiletically this coming Sunday is to use the raising of Lazarus as a springboard for preaching about our call to help care for the planet. Christ brings life; we are to go and do likewise, including for the planet (with God empowering us!).

In  general, the Lazarus text does not only show us that Christ brings life -- although that's plenty. The text also indirectly calls us to be those whom God uses to bring life.

God also calls us to unbind one another and let each other go.

So who is stuck in death? How does Christ call them to life? How can we unbind them?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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