Couple of Thoughts
2010-07-09 by Stephen Schuette

From two colleagues, these thoughts:

  1. Henry Nouwen (Sabbatical Journey) -- "Our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness and human need. If the church has a future, it is a future with the poor in whatever form."
  2. From a study Bible (not sure of the ID or publisher) on Amos 5:12 -- Eight common excuses for not helping the poor and needy:

    "1) They don't deserve help. They got themselves into poverty; let them get themselves out.
    2) God's call to help the poor applies to another time.
    3) We don't know any people like this.
    4) I have my own needs.
    5) Any money I give will be wasted, stolen or spent. The poor will never see it.
    6) I may become a victim myself.
    7) I don't know where to start, and I don't have time.
    8) My little bit won't make any difference."
  3. I was intrigued by David’s review of the classic Charles Chaplin film, City Lights, in reference to the parable and the idea that this might be primarily a parable about sight. (See Lectionary Homiletics, p. 53)  There are all kinds of stories in the Gospels:  healings that include, sight, lameness, possessions, etc.; parables, feedings, sermons, conversations…  But perhaps we too cleanly categorize them.  For Luke perhaps they are all related to his view that a basic prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus, that the anointed one brings “good news to the poor…release to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed for free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)  Isn’t it a form of blindness that obstructs the priest and Levite, even though they “see” the wounded traveler?  And isn’t it essentially a blindness about his neighbor that Jesus is attempting to cure in the lawyer?




GOOD SAMARITAN: KIYOSHI WATANABE
2010-07-07 by David von Schlichten

Kiyoshi "Uncle John" Watanabe was a Lutheran, Japanese pastor. He spent two years studying at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, but he was first and last a loyal son of Japan.

When World War II. erupted, Watanabe was conscripted by the Japanese army to serve as an interpreter for British POWs in a prison camp in Hong Kong. While Watanabe served in this capacity, he noticed that many of the British POWs were not receiving proper medical care. Watanabe started smuggling medication from outside the camp to the prisoners in the camp. If he had been caught, he would have been denounced as a traitor of Japan and could have been put to death. Watanabe was transferred to other camps, where he carried on similar activity, helping his enemies.

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Watanabe's wife and one of his daughters were in the city at the time.

After the war, Watanabe appeared on British TV to tell his story. Afterwards, a viewer approached him and said that she had always hated the Japanese, having assumed that they were heartless monsters. Having met Watanabe, she now knew better.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Thanks to Stephen Schuette; Satan Falling; SongWoman
2010-07-03 by David von Schlichten

Stephen provides some excellent thoughts on Paul, and I appreciate his affirmation of my interpretation of the Satan-falling statement from Jesus in Luke 10. I have based my sermon on this passage, and you can read that sermon at the cafe.

I have also been contemplating the woman in Song of Solomon, who offers a liberating alternative to the Whore/Madonna binary that has incarcerated women for centuries. The Song of Solomon Woman, whom I call "SongWoman," loves sex and is open about her enjoyment of sex. She is devoted to her lover/husband. She is an equal to him. She also rebels against the restrictions imposed on her by her society. All of this is evident to me in Song of Solomon. Let's hear it for SongWoman.

I wrote a poem about SongWoman which you can read at the poems section of this website.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Satan's Fall
2010-07-01 by Stephen Schuette

Interesting note:  I See Satan Fall Like Lightening is the title of one of social anthropologist Rene Girard’s books.  This isn’t the place to go into his theories completely, but such a title is linked, in his theory, to the radical new way that Jesus answered competitive (or mimetic) violence that is common in all human cultures.  That Jesus would choose to give himself over to it and trust God to conquer it out of a radical faith opens a new possibility.  Other authorities cannot hold if God rather than Satan is truly in the position of power.  This is all linked, of course, to some of the directions that seem to be suggested in Paul’s description of Spiritual community and relationships which I mention below.

At any rate, I think David is right that Luke us not interested in a fine philosophical point but in a dynamic power of God demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus and his followers.  Note the choice of the present tense in the title above.





A Spiritual Journey
2010-07-01 by Stephen Schuette

The following is based on smaller sections of the lectionary:  Gal 6:1-5; Luke 10:16-19

It’s a perfect opportunity to address faith and politics this Sunday.  I’d want to avoid creating a “civil religion” Sunday, however.  The text can lead the way toward faithfulness.

Paul’s writing invites the reader to think.  Seems to me these seemingly disparate sentences were carefully and intentionally crafted and juxtaposed.  Be gentle in your effort to restore someone.  That’s the nature of the Spirit you’ve received.  Ok.  Next sentence:  Take care of your own temptation.  Gentleness with others must be closely related to my own imperfections and the narrow distance between where I stand and where I might fall, and, indeed, have fallen.  Third sentence:  The law of Christ (a theme in Galatians, of course) encourages us to think not just of my neighbor or myself but of the whole community and the support that we give and receive.  Hymn:  Blest Be the Tie that Binds.  Fourth sentence:  Pride and arrogance is disruptive to genuine community and the nature of the gentle Spirit referred to in sentence one.  Christian community is not hierarchical.  Fifth sentence:  if we have any sense of or basis for pride it is through our service.  The key here is the standard which we use to “test” our own work.  Measured by Christ how are we doing?  And my interest in judgment is best kept on the “log in my own eye” rather than the “speck” in my neighbor’s eye.  That, too, keeps the gentleness of community consistent.  Sixth sentence:  “For all must carry their own loads.”  MMmmm.  How does that make sense given all this community talk of bearing one another’s burdens?  Isn’t it that, ultimately, the load that we bear is to serve one another, and our motive is the service itself rather than taking advantage of this and relying upon someone else to serve us?

And all of this, I think, connects with the Gospel text, especially that indication of success and authority in vs. 17-19.  This is God’s intention for us, and authority is clear when we live out that vision.  (Authority also being a theme in Galatians as Paul seeks to answer the questions of his own authority raised by the circumcizers.)

If we were to hold this authorized/authentic view of life against our national life how would we “test”/measure it?  Seems to me, if we have any national claim on greatness it has been in an ability to learn, change, transform, and live into newness.  It’s about a dynamic ability to take a look at ourselves and strive to be better, to live into a larger vision.  Many examples come to mind:  the Civil Rights movement, Reconstruction and the idea that after every war there is peace to be made in a way that lifts those who are defeated and restores them not only economically and physically but spiritually, that envisions our role among the community of nations as one who leads through service.  We know the other side.  The earth is practically crying out, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”  It’s not ours to exploit.  We know of officers who coerced confessions under torture.  There is suffering today in areas of blight and a murder rate that is an embarrassment for a so-called advanced nation in the 21st Century.  And wars justified only on “national interest” seem uninspired, to say the least.

But the vision beckons us forward.  To renew our calling will require authentic self-examination.  But in that is the potential for spiritual renewal that can contribute to our national renewal.  As Paul suggests, there’s work to be done.  But there is also a Spirit urging.





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