Jonah-Play October 10 for Un-Other Sunday
2010-09-27 by David von Schlichten

I am translating Jonah and then adapting it into a one-person play that I will peform in lieu of the first two readings for worship on October 10. I will then preach on Jonah as a story about un-othering, i.e., getting past our stereotyping and belittling of one another and treating each other as real people.

The book of Jonah shows the protagonist othering the Ninevites but God challenging him - and all of us - to un-other one another.

This day at St. James will be called Un-Other Sunday.

I am then going to perform my Jonah play for other church functions or whatever. The performance can be part of a service or can stand on its own, can be a fund-raiser or just a fun/awareness-raiser.

What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Hope and Love
2010-09-24 by David von Schlichten

I agree, Stephen. Fear can be a strong motivator, but, given God's agapic orientation, love and hope are better motivators.

It will be a challenge to get parishioners to hear that, though, because they are generally wired to think that the Church is about scaring and guilt-tripping people to action. Perhaps the Church has indeed been about such strategies, but God is about hope and love.

My sermon will be along these lines, and I will post it soon at the cafe.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Hopes or Fears?
2010-09-22 by Stephen Schuette

It’s perhaps not the whole the story but I keep being drawn by one aspect of it:  that a warning is not allowed.  Abraham explains that they already have what they need, Moses and the prophets.

The gospels all begin with a call to repentance.  But John the Baptist does his work within the context of the gospels, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Repentance is called for in order to prepare the way for the Good News.

I do not believe God wants to motivate us by threat of future punishment.  To begin with, I’m not sure it works.  They’re studies that show that corporations don’t think much beyond the current or next quarter.  We mostly are drawn to act expediently, Faust as the classic example.  And then there’s the self-interest aspect of it which I spoke about before.  But it doesn’t work for another reason.  If the goal is love, threats don’t lead to love.  Threats lead to fear.  Love leads to love.  I have to believe that it’s God’s desire to appeal to the best in us and not the worst, that God wishes to draw us into fulfilling relationship rather than threaten us with dire consequences.

Sometimes churches act out of fear.  Fear can work a strong influence over us, and it’s always motivated by self-interest.  It’s not a good reason for leadership decisions in the church.  Hope is much more in tune with the Gospel and the spirit of our Community in Christ.





Troubling Story
2010-09-21 by David von Schlichten

I agree, Stephen, that the story is theologically troubling. You have articulated the problems better than I can. 

On a related note, it is easy with this story to fall into finger-pointing. "You're a rich man who needs to shape up or else." We indeed may be rich people who need to shape-up or else, but the emphasis on the finger-wagging tends to focus on guilt and not on grace.

Rather than pointing the finger, let's call people to extend a hand. Isn't the latter really the point?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Not for Past or Future: Now
2010-09-21 by Stephen Schuette

This story is troubling for me theologically.  The final judgment that goes on forever, the chasm that has been immovably and insurmountably fixed in place, the unwillingness of Moses to send a warning when, finally, the rich man seems to be feeling a sense of sympathy toward members of his family, at least, are all challenging.  And while the beatitudes suggest this reversal is coming to see the punishment graphically described makes me wonder about the God who fixes these chasms and allows warnings to go unspoken.

There’s the often-noticed aspects of the story.  The rich man is unnamed while Lazarus is remembered.  The rich man “looks up” from Hades and this is his usual attitude.  He looked up his whole life, never down, and continues to look up.  He is a climber, a competitor, someone who wishes to ascend and this attitude and desire doesn’t change for him even in Hades.  He remains isolated in his own self-interest, even though he does finally show some interest in his family.

But the irony of this story (perhaps continuing the irony of this section of Luke?) is that this is a story about eternal punishment in which the eternal punishment is not available as a warning.  To use this story as a warning may, in fact, undermine the real point of the story – that concern about oneself and one’s own well being whether temporally or eternally should not be the motivation for a change of heart and love for your neighbor.  So rather than supporting a modern, corner, bull-horn prophet-of-doom ministry this story is actually a critique of such an approach.  People can’t be warned to love their neighbor as themselves.

The irony continues.  Could someone returning from the dead be motivation?  No, insists Jesus (!) “…neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”  We know that Luke puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on community, especially in volume 2, Acts.  In fact, community is always the setting in which the risen Christ appears.  This story where there is lack of community and stratification has the consequence of more stratification.  Does Jesus not want the resurrection to be used as personal warning or co-opted for a new stratified society?   Is the doctrinal affirmation of resurrection that someone knows only conceptually a poor substitute for a real witness to resurrection as it is lived out in genuineness of community?

Perhaps this story contains the original theology of praxis, that we don’t believe our way into faith but that we live our way into faith.  Perhaps, even within the gospels, the resurrection is not so much event as it is ongoing, lived newness so that whether looking backward or forward in the story the real setting is this moment.





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