God n' Me
2010-09-08 by Stephen Schuette
There is a possible parallel between grumbling in the wilderness and the grumbling of the Pharisees at Jesus. In both cases there is a persistent resistance to what is unfamiliar and a seeking of false security. God is simply too free in being God, in being God’s own self to be comfortable. So a settled, domesticated, manufactured God is more manageable. The radical forgiveness of 1 Timothy also shows a God who is free to choose to forgive, even as in Exodus this God is also free to judge. Either way, it’s not a God that we made.
For if we did make a God we could make it adaptable to our personal needs and wants. This personal God would be consistent, would judge and forgive according to my own sense of right, and would bend mostly toward me and my perspective and away from those who challenge my own life-assumptions. It would be a God with whom I could be cozy in a challenging world….God n' me…
And, wonder of wonders, the real God even offers to be that God for Moses! Or was it just in Moses’ imagination? Either way, Moses ultimately resists the temptation and instead remembers the promise.
The push of all three texts is larger than “God n' Me” and toward community. Moses intercedes on behalf of God’s own people, recalling before God a covenant promise that is not logical but was made, nevertheless, and has moved the story forward all along. And Paul was not a forgiven sinner for himself and his own relationship with God but on behalf of a whole community of sinners for whom Paul would be an example.
And at the close of each of the parables is a party! Friends and neighbors are called to hear the story and to celebrate along with the one who has recovered what was lost. Perhaps this is the point within the point, the first point being that Jesus came to save the lost. The second point is that when the lost are found there is a sense of community that those who were never lost, those stuck in a “God n' Me” world will never know because their coziness with their God allows them the illusion that they need no one else.The eating-and-drinking Jesus, to the Pharisees and scribes, is disturbing to a settled “God n’ Me” world. Some parties have guest lists, bouncers, and are invitation only. Jesus’ parties don’t follow this etiquette. They are serendipitous, uncontrived, and grounded in real life…and a real God.
Parts of the Liturgy
2010-09-08 by Stephanie Sorge Wing
As I continue to think about the Scriptures for the week, working on the liturgy further helps to solidify a theme. Here is some of the liturgy that I have prepared for this Sunday, based on the texts.
Call to Worship From Psalm 14
L: Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
C: Israel will be glad.
God of all Wisdom, you have called us together this day to worship you. As we join in community as the Body of Christ, draw our hearts ever closer to you, that we would seek first after you, and find our hope, our refuge, and our strength in you alone. As we worship, by your Spirit strengthen and renew us for lives of faithful discipleship, following Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.
Call to Confession based on Luke 15
Like a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep to find the one that is lost, like a woman who will not rest until she has found her lost coin, God continues to seek after us with love, mercy, and compassion. Assured already of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ, let us together approach the throne of grace and confess our sin to God.
Unison Prayer of Confession based on Psalm 14 and Luke 15
God, our Creator, you made us in your image, and made us to seek after you. Too often we reject your wisdom in favor of the wisdom of the world. We think that we can find our own way through the wilderness, but we are like lost sheep in need of our shepherd. Forgive us for the many ways we go astray. Forgive us for the evil that we do to each other, both in our actions and in our silence. Forgive us for the ways we turn away from you, our hope and Redeemer. Reconcile us once again to you, and to each other, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Assurance of Pardon based on 1 Timothy 1:15
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Hear the good news – we have been forgiven through Jesus Christ!
Prayer For Illumination
Let us pray. Lord, through your Holy Spirit, lead us into the wisdom that draws us closer to you. As the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, open our hearts to hear with joy what you say to us today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Thoughts on the Texts
2010-09-07 by Stephanie Sorge Wing
I have looked through the Scripture passages a few times, letting them all ruminate together in my head. Rather than immediately choosing a passage for focus, I often look for the ways in which the passages converse with one another, and that helps me begin to formulate a theme of sorts.
Jeremiah 4 and Psalm 14
Jeremiah and the Psalmist both invoke the categories of wisdom and foolishness. Fools say there is no God, and the foolish people do not know God. The verb used in Jeremiah, y'ada, is to know in the relational sense. True wisdom is right relationship with God, which leads to right relationship with others and a path of righteousness. Fools follow their own way, which leads to destruction. Jeremiah envisions the whole ordered creation laid in ruins. Knowing God, being in right relationship with God, and living a life faithful to that relationship, leads to abundant life - for all of creation. Corruption, evil, and injustice can only lead to destruction.
1 Timothy 1
If Jeremiah and the Psalmist give us a general view of foolishness and wisdom, our passage from 1st Timothy uses Paul as an example of a life lived on both paths. In Paul's ignorance and unbelief - in his lack of right relationship with God - he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. Once he begins to learn - through God's self-revelation - he becomes wise, seeking after God, and serving as an example and a witness to God's transforming grace.
Turning now to the Gospel reading, we see the welcome party that God is just waiting to throw to those sinners who turn to the path of wisdom, desiring to know God through Jesus Christ. Back in March, John Bell lectured and preached at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (my alma mater), and Andy and I went to hear him. His sermon texts included this passage from Luke, along with Psalm 23. Psalm 23 was recited dramatically by a student with a rich, deep baritone voice, who made his way slowly from the back of the chapel to the chancel while reciting this often too-familiar Psalm. We worshipers in the pews were surprised by the start of the reading behind us, and turned to see this student, legally blind, making his way down the aisle without any assistance beyond his cane. It was utterly stunning, and I will never hear or read the 23rd Psalm the same way again.
Stephanie Sorge Wing and James Howell
2010-09-07 by David Howell
Stephanie Sorge Wing will be blogging in the Homiletical Hot Tub this week. After a summer break, James Howell's Preaching Journal resumes!
2010-09-07 by Stephanie Sorge Wing
Our church is old and "traditional" in many ways. Our history goes back 227 years to the founding congregation, while we have had a series of buildings and a few different locations, our current sanctuary still dates back to 1853. It was used as a hospital for both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. Like many other mainline churches, our numbers have dwindled and our population is aging, for the most part, though we have seen some growth in youth and energy, too. Our worship services are decidedly "traditional" - led by choir and organ, and stand in contrast to most other churches around us.
On this particular Sunday, we anticipate having at least a handful of guests from Harrodsburg High School Class of 1960's 50th Reunion, which is this weekend. We will also be welcoming some new members into the congregation, and later in the afternoon kicking off Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, so all of that will be on my mind as I write the sermon, as well.
I always start with the Scripture texts, and often think liturgically, musically, and sermonically all at the same time, or at least in some kind of permeable flow. Since it is God who gathers us together, I always like to use Scripture as the Call to Worship, and have already worked out a Call to Worship based on Psalm 14. I also like to incorporate the lectionary readings into the liturgy where possible - in prayers, etc... We will use part of the 1st Timothy passage - 1:15 "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the foremost" - in the Confession/Assurance of Pardon. Based on the 1st Timothy reading, I have chosen "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" as the opening hymn of praise (#263 in the Presbyterian Hymnal).
More in my next post as the texts continues to marinate.
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