Legalistic Reductionism; Readings for September 2, 2012
2012-08-31 by David von Schlichten

The readings for this Sunday are full of law and exhortation. Deuteronomy says that we are to adhere to God's statutes. Psalm 15 says that we have to be blameless to dwell in the tabernacle. James 1 urges us to be slow to speak, slow to anger, and Mark 7 has a lengthy list of sinful qualities that we are not to have in our hearts. I can just hear my Bible study saying, "See? We better get it together!"

Now, of course we are to live according to high moral standards in response to Christ, but many parishioners tend to reduce Christianity to "thou shalt not" and will likely do so when they hear these readings. We are often guilty of legalistic reductionism when it comes ot the Gospel. 

It is essential for us preachers to situate these ethical exhortations in a context of God's grace. Parishioners tend to hear "You better get it together or else." God calls us to help people hear instead, "Because Christ loves you, respond with love for God and others."

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Governor Chris Christie's Statement about Respect Over Love
2012-08-29 by David von Schlichten

At the RNC, Governor Christie spoke about respect and love in a strangely bifurcated way. Respect without love tends to beget fear. Love and respect function together.

This point ties well with our gospel for this Sunday from Mark about what comes out of a person is more important than what goes into a person. In our hearts, we are to have love married to respect. The two go together as we relate to one another.

It might be worthwhile in a sermon to develop this idea of the relationship between love and respect and how that pair is to shape positively our relationships.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

 





John 6 and Jude; Bread over Potato Chips
2012-08-24 by David von Schlichten

After the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus notices that most of his crowd has abandoned him. The teaching was just too hard to swallow. The Twelve, however, remain. Peter says, in substance, "Lord, where else are we gonna go? You have the words of eternal life. You. Are. It."

Amen, Peter. Even when God's teachings frustrate, confuse, offend, and depress us, where else are we going to go? We know that, here, we have eternal life. So we persevere.

I am not preaching on any of the lessons assigned for this Sunday but on the book of Jude, which never shows up on Sundays in the Revised Common Lectionary. That's why I chose that little book, precisely because it is NOT represented in our lectionary.

In this odd book (Michael and Lucifer fighting over the body of Moses? What?), we are warned against false teachings that sneak into our lives and try to seduce us away from the Words of Eternal Life. Like the Prosperity Gospel, for example, which appeals to so many (That doggone Joel Osteen). Jude exhorts us not to be paranoid but to be vigilant against teachings that seem like Bread but that are really just potato chips. We are to stay with the Bread, with the One who has the Words of Eternal Life.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Bread of Life Again? John 6
2012-08-17 by David von Schlichten

I have not been preaching on John 6. Instead, I've been focusing on books that do not show up for Sundays in the Revised Common Lectionary. This Sunday (August 19), I'm preaching on Obadiah.

The central lesson of Obadiah is that we are not to take delight in our enemy's misfortune. Schadenfreude ist verboten. Edom laughs at Judah's fall and prospers by it. As a result, God punishes Edom.

Part of eating Jesus, that is, consuming and internalizing the Bread of Life, is learning to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Christ nourishes us, strengthens the ligaments of our souls, so that we can respond to the evil of others, not with hatred, but with love.

What power rises from that love, thanks be to God! When we can love our enemies, we defeat evil and triumph with holy goodness. Just as the Bread, who is also the sacrificial lamb, transforms hatred into love, so do we, by God's power, transform hatred into love when we respond to our enemies, not with cruelty, but with compassion.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten. Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Olympics and Preaching
2012-08-03 by David von Schlichten

The Olympics are international, and so is God's love. People of all colors, races, nations, religions, and sexual orientations can compete. God's love, likewise, is for all, and you don't even have to qualify.

Bigger, wealthier nations have an edge in the Olympics. By contrast, with God, the poor and oppressed are often favored, although the God News is for all.

The Olympics celebrate the incredible abilities of human beings. As we watch with our jaws dropped, let us remember that God makes it all possible.

Thrilled for Gabby Douglas, I am  

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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