Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut; Looking for a Diagnosis and Cure
2012-12-15 by David von Schlichten

We humans often respond to such horrible events by trying to identify THE problem and then to come up with THE solution. Here are some that I have heard. The shooting happened because:

1. people don't have morals anymore.

2. we took prayer out of schools.

3. we as a nation have turned our backs on God.

These three theories are really variations on the same theme. There is a notion that, back in the day (whenever that was), we were all devout Christians. Now we're not, so these shootings are happening.

There is so much wrong with this theology, it is difficult to know where to begin. One way to begin is to point out that, A. we certainly still teach good morality, although there is plenty of bad; B. you can still pray in schools (it is a common error to think that you cannot); C. plenty of people have not turned their backs on God, and, anyway, would God really respond to waywardness by allowing children to be murdered?

I'm not sure how to preach all this. One sermon would be insufficient. Perhaps the wise move is, over time, to try to instill in people that:

God is merciful and has saved us from wrath through Christ;

God does not respond to our sin by allowing children to be slaughtered;

While there is plenty of immorality, there is also plenty of sound morality;

Perhaps these shootings arise, not from a rejection of biblical morality per se, but from other issues, like the fact that we tend not to teach boys (all the shooters have been young men) how to cope with stress and self-esteem issues in constructive ways.

We need prayer and helping those in need far more than we need scapegoating. Christ empowers us to do just that. Thanks be to God!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





God Singing and Advent; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Fiscal Cliff and Our Doomsday Addiction
2012-12-12 by David von Schlichten

This passage for the third week of Advent speaks of God singing (v.17) with joy over us because of the victory; God has turned away our enemies. God will save us, redeem us, and sing with joy about us.

Note that the singing with joy is not about anything we have done but is solely about what God has done to save us. God rejoices over us inspite of us.

One of my parishioners at Bible study found the idea of God singing to be an especially touching image. Indeed, such an image could be quite effective at getting people's attention from the pulpit.

So what does God singing sound like? Where do you hear God singing? How do we clear our heads to hear the vocal music of the Almighty?

FISCAL CLIFF AND MAYAN DOOMSDAY: We humans secretly love these, don't we? We love to worry about the End or about imminent disaster. Zombie apocalypse.

Perhaps this obsession with the End or some great cataclysm is an outgrowth of our anxiety about our mortality, and perhaps it also arises from our lack of creativity and vision about the good that can happen in the future. We are better at envisioning bad scenarios than good ones. 

Advent challenges us to envision good scenarios while acknowledging the dark realities. The coming of Christ, future, past, and present, empowers us to be theoptimists.

So are we in financial trouble? Yes, but, through our troubles, Christ will be there, feeding and teaching us, and working through us to help one another.

In general, we humans are quick to think the sky is falling and slow to think that God is lifting us. Let's challenge each other to have the ears to hear the song of God.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Presidential Election, Veteran's Day, November 11, 2012, Mark 12:38-44
2012-11-09 by David von Schlichten

The gospel for November 11, 2012 warns against mistreating widows and features Jesus pointing out what most people are overlooking, a widow giving all she has. She's not flashy and fancy, not noisy or ostentatious. She is not wealthy, has no prestigious position, and she is, according to Jesus, the most important person in the room, a kind of model for the rest of us.

Of course, we can't all literally give every cent of our money away. Actually, there is nothing in the passage that says that we must imitate the woman's behavior to the letter. We are just told that she has given more than the wealthy because she has given everything. Further, while it may not be economically sound for everyone to give away everything, it is our calling to challenge ourselves in the area of giving, to push ourselves to give more. 

Part of that giving is giving to widows, that is, people in need, and God calls President Obama to help make this giving happen more effectively (He's off to a good start, and I am thrilled that he was re-elected). Indeed, all of us, regardless of party, are to put aside partisan silliness and focus on helping the widow. We may disagree on how to help the widow, but we also have areas of agreement. Let's concentrate on those.

One group of "widows" among is wounded veterans. May we do more to help those struggling with physical, psychological, and spiritual illnesses and injuries.

Who are the widows among us? How does our nation help them, and what could we do better?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Book Reviews by Randy Saultz
2012-11-06 by David Howell

Interesting and helpful book reviews on preaching in Share It.



Sandy and All Saints Sunday; Revelation 21:1-6; John 11:32-44
2012-11-02 by David von Schlichten

We do not earn our saint status. God has conferred that upon us through Christ. Now that we have saint status, we are to respond by living as the saints that God has made us into. We have been canonized; now, we live as the canonized.

Revelation 21:1-6 not only offers an eschatological vision, but also assures us that God is realizing this vision now. Verse 5 says, "I am making all things new." Present tense.

God uses us to help make all things new. What if we take Revelation 21:1-6 and use it as the paradigm according which to shape our lives? For instance, how does this eschatological vision inform how we help to make all things new for Sandy victims?

John 11:32-44 offers us a similar comfort-challenge. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Life! Then Jesus tells us to unbind him and let him go.

How do we unbind Sandy victims? How do we help them hear the call to life?

We make donations and pray, yes. Very important. What else can we do?

What if my congregation vowed to spend the next year focusing on helping Sandy victims with money, supplies, prayers, and even workers? 

We are saints. The Holy Spirit will help us to live out that saint status.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





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