2010-03-19 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Stephen Schuette for his post about living including meaningful relationships, and thanks to Guy Kent for his Einsteinian reflections. I, also, find that I have a richer, vaster understanding of God than I did even a few years ago. Often in the church we cling to old, brittle pictures of God when we are wise to go back to the ancient-new glimpses of God which are far larger and more multivalent.

I'm thinking about the perfume Mary pours on Jesus' feet and am wondering how we can do that.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Something Behind That Needle
2010-03-17 by Guy Kent

Isaiah 43: 16-21 - Psalm 126 - Philippians 3: 4b-14 - John 12: 1-8

Krista Tippett in her wonderful new book, Einstein’s God, quotes from his autobiographical notes published in 1949:

Why do we come, sometimes spontaneously, to wonder about something? I think that wondering to one’s self occurs when an experience conflicts with our fixed ways of seeing the world. I had one such experience of wondering when I was a child of four or five and my father showed me a compass. This needle behaved in such a determined way and did not fit into the usual explanation of how the world works. That is that you must touch something to move it. I still remember now, or I believe that I remember, that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. There must be something deeply hidden behind everything.

Tippett comments: “He spent his whole life seeking to comprehend the order “deeply hidden behind everything” and to describe it mathematically. Einstein often spoke of this as his longing to understand what God was thinking.”  [Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit; Copyright by Krista Tippett 2010; Penguin Books; ISBN 978-0-14-311677-6]

“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, ... I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you perceive it? [OT Text]  

There’s something behind the movement of that compass needle.

“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. [Reading from the Psalm]

There’s something behind the movement of that compass needle.

“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” [Epistle Lesson]

There’s something behind the movement of that compass needle.

“Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’” [Gospel Lesson] 

There’s something behind the movement of that compass needle.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to put away some of my old youth fellowship conceptions of the nature of God. Often I’ve just come to doubt a lot of what was my former religious makeup. Simultaneously, I’ve discovered a bigger and bigger universe, a creation so vast that it is incomprehensible; I’ve even grown into a different understanding of Jesus. Through it all, however, faith grows stronger as the mystery deepens. For after all:

There’s something behind the movement of that compass needle. 

Man, That's Living!
2010-03-16 by Stephen Schuette

It’s no surprise that images of life and death are prevalent in the texts on this fifth Sunday in Lent.  A new way, a new life is offered to Israel.  Paul regards everything he lost as rubbish (you can substitute a more “fragrant” word, if you wish) because of the new life he’s found in Christ.

And in John there’s Lazarus sitting at the table beside Jesus, taking nourishment.  Talk about images of life!  But along side that is Jesus’ own reference to his burial…a burial that will be made, in an odd way, different from the usual odor of death, and different than the odor that met them when they opened Lazarus’ tomb (11:39).  Mary’s devotional anointing speaks to that transformation, both in the gratitude it expresses to Jesus for what he has done, in the present table fellowship that they share, and in the future that Jesus is already holding in his imagination.  You can’t help but have the sense that this anointing bridges time as we know it, at least in John’s rendering.

“Living” can be defined many ways.  It could be sipping a cool drink on the Riviera with a view of the Mediterranean.  And I’m not saying that can’t be inspiring.  Or it could be in service to others, which can also be inspiring.  But let’s be honest.  Sometimes our service is clouded in self-interest.  Sometimes it can be done simply to help us feel good or to let us rest with a degree of satisfaction rather than to meet the genuine need of our neighbor.

But this intimate story will not let us define “living” without genuineness of relationship.  And as this story unfolds isn’t that where the disciples will experience the risen Christ, in their community with one another?

One colleague said, “Mary’s act is not rational or strategic.”  Indeed, I’m astounded at times how unstrategic Jesus is, not confronting Judas’ own “strategy” but simply letting him be.  Could it be that the Gospel is not so much a plan but a love story (3:16)?  I sometimes think that God honors each person far more than I would if I were God, and more than I think is good for God’s own good!

But God stays steady in love pointing the way to fullness of life.  God remains God, not me.  God’s ways are not my ways.  Good thing.  This way life still has a chance with me, and you.

Post-Sermon Reflection
2010-03-14 by David von Schlichten

I preached that the Lord is lavish with love and that we are to be, as well, regardless of which son we are. You can read my sermon at the cafe. 

I also proclaimed that the lavishness of the Lord's love is primary in Lent, not our lenten disciplines and our shortcomings. Many of us see Lent as a time to take on disciplines so we can become better people. That practice is valuable, but it is to be understood in the larger context of the Lord's lavish love, which we experience in a supreme way through the cross and empty tomb.

I started the sermon with humor about how I have not been doing that great of a job at keeping my lenten disciplines. One parishioner said that the humor helped him to be more attentive.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight and Shift from Competition to Cooperation
2010-03-11 by David von Schlichten

In "Sermon Reviews" Scott D. Seay writes about a sermon by Anna Carter Florence that uses the Norman Maclean's memoir A River Runs Through It, in which Maclean recalls his brother killing himself through dissolute living. Florence proclaims that we all need to be able to tell our stories of pain to a loving community. Telling our story effects healing, just as it does for Maclean.

In "Scripture and Screen," I write about the movie version of the memoir, making the point that the father in the movie is not as prodigally gracious as God the Father. Then again, no human is as prodigally gracious as God. We are all to show more grace, but no one shows greater grace than God.

I am thinking of preaching on encouraging people to shift their thinking from competition to cooperation when it comes to the kingdom of God. We tend to compete - why does my brother have more than I? - when we are to cooperate - thanks be to God my brother is alive and found!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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