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 





Reformation Day, Halloween; October 28, 2012
2012-10-27 by David von Schlichten

REFORMATION 

In the ELCA, on October 28 we will celebrate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The day is not for Roman Catholic-bashing but for rejoicing over the saving power of God's grace. We are justified by grace through faith, thanks be to Christ.

The day is also for ecumenism. In the sixteenth century, the Church split into Roman Catholic and Protestant. Over the past fifty years or so, we Christians of all sorts have recognized the need for greater unity among us. We are to reform toward durable ecumenism.

One essential component of this reforming activity is learning more about each other and ourselves so that we can clearly articulate our own positions as well as value the positions of others. It is not helpful ecumenically simply to say, "We're all the same, all trying to get to the same place." We different types of Christians are NOT all the same, and, indeed, part of the excitement of the Church is in understanding and learning from those differences, not glossing over them.

HALLOWEEN 

This holiday can be fun precisely because we Christians know that God defeats evil. We can have fun getting scared on Halloween because we are confident that, ultimately, God defeats that which deeply scares us: sin, death, the devil. 

Indeed--and here we can unite Reformation and Halloween--we can have fun with fear on Halloween because, through Christ's death and resurrection, we experience the perfect love that casts out all fear.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Mark 10:17-31
2012-10-12 by David von Schlichten

I get that one of the points of the passage is that we humans are dependent upon Christ for our salvation. Without God, we can never make it even to the driveway of heaven, but with God, all things are possible. What a relief.

What I don't fully get is how we are to apply to ourselves the statement Jesus makes to the rich man. Jesus tells the man to sell everything he has, but it is economically impossible for everyone to do this. Granted, some of us, such as nuns and monks, do get rid of our possessions and follow Christ. However, we can't all do this, so how do we apply this passage to our lives?

Of course, the larger point is that we are to put Christ first, but what does that look like for us folks who have nice homes and cars and healthy salaries? Perhaps the passage calls for us to live simpler and give more extravagantly. So how do we push ourselves to live simpler and simpler and give more and more to help the poor? 

As we try to figure this out, we give thanks for the assurance that, even when we mess up, Christ still bestows upon us the greatest riches of all.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





100 a Sunday; Numbers 11; Psalm 19; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
2012-09-27 by David von Schlichten

Our attendance has been down by about fifteen people a Sunday. We used to have 80-100 in worship with an average attendance for the year around 100. We were at those figures for thirteen years. Last year we had about 70-90 in worship and an average attendance for the year at 97. This year has been roughly the same as last year.

This isn't a crisis, but I am not exactly delighted with low attendance. I'm trying to figure out what we can do to get more people in church on Sundays.

Of course, church isn't just about attendance, but the number of people in the pews does matter. When it comes to outreach, Christian education, and finances, we're doing fine. Thanks be to God. But that doggone Sunday attendance. Grr.

THE READINGS for Sunday remind me why attendance is significant, why Christianity MUST be a communal religion. In NUMBERS, Moses needs helpers, and God sends them. In JAMES, we hear of the importance of people coming together to pray for each other and anoint each other with oil. In MARK, we hear that those who are not against us are for us and are to be encouraged to do Christ's work. Indeed, we work to help each other to follow the law, which PSALM 19 praises. 

Both Numbers and Mark feature the idea that official outsiders are often God's insiders. So then, as we at St. James ponder how to revive attendance, we are to think theo-creatively about who could join us.

So this Sunday, I will draw from the readings to preach about attendance, not in a scolding way or in a way that fixates on numbers, but in a way (I hope) that highlights inclusivity and the pricelessness of gathering to worship God.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

 





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