Guest Blogger 6/14 - 6/20
2010-06-14 by Jeffrey Nelson

Greetings, all.  I'm Jeff Nelson, and I will be your guest blogger this week.  I serve Emanuel United Church of Christ in Doylestown, Ohio, and have done so for 5 1/2 years now.  I recently returned from a 5-week sabbatical that included my first trip to the Festival of Homiletics, and it was so enriching that I can't imagine not attending in upcoming years.

But to the task at hand.  My original plan was to work with the Luke text, in which Jesus drives the demon "Legion" into a herd of swine and deals with the fallout from that episode.  This is the only time that a demon gives its name in the Gospels, and I was going to explore the meaning of that.  "Legion" wouldn't have been lost on 1 Century hearers due to the reference to a grouping of Roman soldiers.  Also, naming the demon gives Jesus power over it.  What demons in our own lives--addiction, greed, workaholism, etc.--could we name in order to finally overpower them?

Late last week, I changed my mind and decided that I'd focus on 1 Kings 19 instead.  Elijah has angered corrupt authority and is on the run.  He settles in a cave for shelter, and God soon passes by: not in the earthquake, not in the wind, not in the fire, but in the "sheer silence" (NRSV).  Other translations say "still small voice," and there's an entire meme devoted to blocking out the noise to listen to God's "still small voice."  

I wonder if there's more to this episode than learning to block out the noise.  Elijah doesn't center himself in that way in order to perceive God.  Instead, one noise after another (and these are dramatic noises!) follows until there is sheer silence, and that is when God passes by.

Is this story an invitation to spiritual practice or to moments with less busyness so that we can hear God?  Or does the sheer silence signify something else?





Unsure Why, But Thankful Nonetheless
2010-06-13 by David von Schlichten

I'll bet at least ten people told me they appreciated the sermon this morning, which I posted at the sermon feedback cafe. I almost never receive that much of a response.

Based on Psalm 32, the sermon was on repentance. Essentially, I said that God is not a wrathful ogre hungry to condemn us to hell but that God is eager to forgive us. God calls us to forgiveness, which then leads to liberation. Not repenting, by contrast, can lead to guilt and other burdens.

The key sentence of the sermon was: "Repentance leads to release." Throughout the sermon, I repeated this sentence with accompanying gestures.

Grateful for the hearing-healing, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Psalm 32 and Sin-Pain
2010-06-11 by David von Schlichten

This psalm speaks of the suffering of the person who will not confess tron ("tron" means "his or her") sins. The psalm suggests that the suffering is the result of God's punishment or pressure, but, in light of the rest of the Bible, especially the gospels, this understanding no longer endures scrutiny.

Nevertheless, it is true that resisting confession can be painful. This Sunday, I may preach on the psalm and consider how rejecting the confession/absolution process can be deleterious for the believer and how embracing the process is liberating and rejuvenating, thanks be to God.





One Option among Many (Luke 7)
2010-06-11 by Safiyah Fosua

“Shall we go to brunch, or to the early service, or to the golf course, or shall we just sleep in?  When I read this week’s gospel passage, I am reminded of the indifference of the Western Church and how worship services are quickly becoming just one option among many.  Though I try to resist the urge to make comparisons, some days I cannot help but compare current attitudes about the importance of worship and personal devotion to the urgency and fervor of the African Christians we served alongside for a number of years as missionaries.  In Luke 7 Jesus suggests that an awareness of our need for God is a major factor that determines whether we nurture a blazing fire or resign ourselves to dying embers.

What language do we use to communicate this teaching to the Church?  Do we contrast blatant sinners with lifelong always-been-in-the-church don’t know that they need Jesus church members (more simple stated prodigals vs. elder brothers)? Do we discuss the difference between Christianity as a life’s vocation and Christianity as a hobby?  Or, do we simply create an environment for profound worship and talk about weightier things sometime after the cloud has settled?    





Safiyah Fosua; David, Adultery, and Forgiveness
2010-06-09 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to our guest blogger, who provides palatable insights about the dangers of self-idolizing leaders and the us-them pseudo-community. Scroll down and savor.

My first reading is the story of David and Bathsheba. I might talk about adultery, both how wrong it is and how it, too, calls for forgiveness. We Americans tend to see adultery as unforgiveable, but God offers forgiveness and healing to everyone.

What are you chewing on as you study the lessons?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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