Stephen; Prayer; Lord's Prayer
2010-07-24 by David von Schlichten

Stephen Schuette has provided thoughts about prayer as an act of courage. Scroll down to read his post.

My sermon for July 25 will be a reflection on the Lord's Prayer, which is so overused that it is under-focused on. I will be drawing from Martin Luther's Small Catechism, which offers re-orienting insight regarding the Lord's Prayer.

My sermon's key point will be that the Lord's Prayer does not only guide us on how to pray but also is a summary of how to live. We are to live so that God's name is hallowed,  to live to help bring about the kingdom, to live to feed one another, and to live to forgive and reject evil. Praying the Lord's Prayer is saying, "God, according to you, this is how I am to live. Help me do it."

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

God Too Human?
2010-07-21 by David von Schlichten

Why do we need to be persistent with God in prayer? How can Abraham actually get God to change God's mind?

Passages such as these show God as being rather human. Is God really this way, needing us to bug God repeatedly or to change God's mind?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

2010-07-20 by Stephen Schuette

Have you ever thought of what a courageous thing it is to pray?  If we are addressing ourselves to the greatest power conceivable, the source of everything that is it is awesome to even imagine.

Abraham shows this courage.  Look at the variant reading note for Gen. 18:22:  “The Lord stood before Abraham.”  Many claim the variant as original since it is the “harder” reading, and some scribe along the way would be more likely to soften it to “Abraham stood before the Lord.”  Understood this way, out of the Covenant Promise Abraham is claiming his full relationship with God and asking to clearly identify God’s self.  This relationship will not be confined to a narrow channel.  It is broad and open and honest.

But perhaps for lack of courage we often keep our prayer confined to narrow channels.  We pray “appropriately.”  We often pray with customary words and out of tradition more than honesty about where we are.  Think of the breadth of prayer in the psalms!  The scriptures are extraordinary in this openness.

Somewhere in Barth (I’m not sure where), it’s suggested that prayers of praise are static prayers.  They are prayers content with what is.  OK.  To a degree that’s legitimate, and can be authentic.  But if that’s all we pray, if we never move to a bidding, asking, seeking prayer, a prayer that challenges what is and imagines what could be if the fullness of God’s promises are realized then our prayer is limited indeed.

And I hear Jesus as a cheerleader for us in this.  “Ask…” he says.  Push for it, persisently.  Knock.  Be courageous!  I’m quite sure Jesus doesn’t want lily-livered, weak-kneed, yes-people for disciples.  In fact it may be that prayers which lack imagination and largeness of vision are a problem not because of us, because they make us seem too demanding.  It may be that prayers which lack vision really lack faith in God’s capacity to do great things.  So, take courage!

Mary and Martha as Portrait of Praxis; Mountain Genocide
2010-07-16 by David von Schlichten

Mary and Martha remind us that we need both action and listening/reflection. Both are open to women, and indeed to all of us. We need to listen to Christ. We need to take action. Listen. Act. Listen Act. All with Christ's guidance.

This week I listened about mountaintop removal mining happening in Appalachia. To save time and expense corporations blast the tops of mountains off and dump the rubble into a valley. This is done for easier coal extraction. The result is the devastation of at least the top third of mountains that are among the oldest in the world. You can imagine what happens to the animal and plant life on those mountains and in the valleys below.

The enormity of the destruction is most obvious from the air looking down. The once lush mountains resemble a moonscape.

God led me to hear about this horror. Now I'm taking action. Then I'll listen some more, sitting at Christ's feet. Help me, Great Spirit.

For more information on mountaintop removal mining, go to:

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

2010-07-14 by Stephen Schuette

Someone offered this question/comment to me through Submit a Question above.  My response is below.

Do you think that the "urgency" of this final trip to Jerusalem might have been in the back of Jesus' mind in this instance? I don't think that Jesus altered his message from his early ministry to this point, but he was running out of time in trying to explain what was going to happen to him to his followers who still did not understand his purpose on Earth. So in Mary and Martha, he sees one who understands the need to sit and listen to what he has to say, and one who doesn't. It then becomes not that Martha is doing the "wrong" thing, but that Mary is doing the "right" thing. To me, the actions of these two women sum up the two responses of those who followed his ministry. Jesus knew his time was almost up on Earth, and in these two women he found one where he wanted all of his followers to be, and one who didn't grasp the importance of his visit in this late stage in his life.

My response to this unknown questioner:  I like your focus on Jesus.  That seems like a faithful way to hear the text, and so would offer a word of appreciation about that.  And I'd agree that Jesus is concerned about his followers after he is gone.  But I wonder if he is concerned for himself or for them?

I'm trying to get at a basic problem with the story that troubles me.  Apparently Jesus has received and benefited from Martha's hospitality.  To partake of that and then to turn around and side with her sister and to suggest that she should not have been offering that type of hospitality at all but should have been doing what Mary was doing all along doesn't make sense.  Jesus, and presumably Mary too, have stomachs that are full and appetites that are satisfied all due to Martha's hospitality.  What I'm suggesting is that if Jesus desired that attention from both Mary and Martha he could have invited it before eating the meal.  To do so afterward, and then to make comment at Martha's expense makes Jesus almost abusive of Martha's energies and efforts after he has benefited from them.

To be sure, Jesus appreciates Mary's devotion and attention.  But I suspect that while eating the meal he also appreciated Martha's devotion and attention, as he appreciated the woman who anointed him with oil at another meal(Luke 7:45ff).  It could be that Jesus isn't judgmental about the way in which people show their devotion and attention.  The only requisite is that it be genuine.  But he is consistently judgmental of judgment.  That is what clearly betrays a lack of genuineness in the devotion toward Jesus (and the great commandment) and is of concern in believers’ relationships with each other after he is gone.  After all, if either Martha or Mary can triangle Jesus there'll be no end to it among the followers of Jesus in the Church.

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