Outside-the-Box-but-not-Outside-Scripture; Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
2010-04-17 by David von Schlichten

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911) was an American writer and devout Christian who used writing to address social injustice. She was especially concerned about the mistreatment of women. She often wrote for women to help them find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom in a society that frequently denied them all three.

Although not well known today, Phelps became internationally famous when she published her novel The Gates Ajar in 1868. Phelps had observed that millions of women grieving the deaths of male loved ones (the Civil War had ended in 1865) were not receiving adequate consolation from the male-dominated pulpit. These preachers often talked about the afterlife in abstract and bloodless terms that failed to comfort women who wondered what heaven was like for their dead loved ones.

Phelps therefore wrote The Gates Ajar, a novel that described heaven in concrete terms, such as having houses with porches. Phelps was meticulous about supporting her claims with Scripture but nevertheless received heavy criticism from the theological community. Even so, the novel was a huge bestseller and was translated into four languages.

Phelps's outside-the-box-but-not-outside-Scripture understanding of heaven fits with Revelation 5, which tells us that ALL CREATION will sing praise to God. This image is one that many of us have failed to meditate upon, but such meditation could reveal outside-the-box-but-not-outside-Scripture sermons on the end times that would be nourishing for the people. Further, this portrait of all creation singing has ecological implications, a point especially germane given the nearness of Earth Day.

I am hoping to do something along these lines on Sunday.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Harmony in the Eschatological, Egalitarian Choir
2010-04-17 by David von Schlichten

Revelation speaks of all creation singing together one day, and a reader wondered what that will sound like, given that some people can't sing on-key and many animals do not make pleasant sounds. I don't know what that will sound like, but I am sure God will find a way to make it all magnificent. I'm looking forward to it!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





The Same - But Different
2010-04-16 by Stephen Schuette

So here’s Peter at the end of the story doing the same thing as when Jesus first found him – fishing.  I wouldn’t press the analogy too far, but it’s a bit like Dorothy finding herself back in Kansas and wondering, “What was that all about?” or even more seriously, “Was it real?”

What Peter finds is that it’s all the same – but totally different.  (Maybe Pleasantville is another movie analogy that works.)

Reality is met when the extraordinary is found in the ordinary.  The purpose of the bread and fish become glaringly clear.  The community that they realize with the living presence of Jesus among them affirms that the vision is not lost.  Jesus is powerfully present.

I’m building on some remarks I heard (second-hand) from Diana Butler Bass.  She speaks of a curve that is rising through the ‘40’s and ‘50’s and ‘60’s, and peaks somewhere in the ‘70’s.  Following that there is the beginning of a decline which is rather dramatic and still continuing.

What does the curve represent?  Pay phones!  (And the Church, of course)

Things have changed…changed dramatically in these years.  When’s the last time you used a pay phone?  Do you remember those dial codes you carried in your wallet?  Looking in an isolated way at this data you might think communication has decreased.  Not true, of course.  We all know what the curve for numbers of communications would look like…straight up!  But the way the message is shared is through other means.  And if the presence of Christ gets stuck in our minds with the medium we may erroneously think the graph is directly related.  Not so!

God is still providing plenty of fish and bread as well as the means to share it with one another.  Like Peter, it’s a matter of seeing the opportunity.

I think of the last chapter of Leander Keck’s book, The Church Confident or Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis.

It’s all the same – but totally different!





Earth Day and Revelation 5
2010-04-14 by David von Schlichten

Our second reading for this Sunday speaks of all creation singing praise to God. The passage makes everyone equal; there is no hierarchy in this choir. Everyone is singing, humans and non-humans alike. The passage is egalitarian and inclusive. Christ is risen!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Reflections on an Eco-hermeneutic for Preaching
2010-04-13 by Leah D. Schade

Lucy Atkinson Rose in her book, Sharing the Word: Preaching in the Roundtable Church, suggests "conversational preaching” as a way to gather the voices around the homiletic table that have been particularly overlooked, ignored or suppressed.  I believe that one of those voices that has been missing, silenced and disregarded in the pulpit is that of Earth itself.   I propose Earth as one of those conversation partners around the homiletic roundtable. 

There has been a disconnect between humanity and God's creation.  Human beings are alienated from the soil, water, flora and fauna of the planet we share.  A rupture in the relationship has divorced us from those with whom we share this oikos.  Preachers can become vital partners in repairing this rupture and rebuilding the relationship.  I assert that the fields of ecology, environmental justice, and ecofeminist liberation theology are profound sources of insights for preaching.  How can Earth help set the church's agenda?  How can the life-restoring Earth, which has been excluded and silenced, be valued and invited into the conversation?      

Re-listening to Scripture with ears tuned to the voice of Earth is a way to begin that task.  The eco-minded preacher must include an eco-hermeneutic when reading scripture. When you are approaching texts for a sermon (and this goes for any Sunday – not just Earth Day), ask yourself, “How might Earth hear this text?  What in this text might be ‘good news’ to Earth?  Or could this text be interpreted in a way that is oppressive to Earth?  What is God doing in this text that is liberative for both the human and non-human members of the Earth community?”  Viewing the Bible through a "green lens" brings into the preacher's study resources that expand upon traditional biblical scholarship so that the words themselves may open themselves in their fullness and allow the Gospel to be proclaimed to Earth and all of Earth’s inhabitants. 





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