False Choices
2010-03-02 by Stephen Schuette

Brueggemann’s book Cadences of Home suggests that exile is an appropriate metaphor for our times and that, similar to the exilic period for Israel, there is a need for identity, to be shaped by the text rather than culture, and that it is, in fact, a rich and imaginative occasion.  Brueggemann closes the book with comments on II Isaiah, including this particular passage.

Since the original traditions of Israel were reshaped during exilic times the story of wilderness is metaphor for II Isaiah even as exile is metaphor for us.  So “food” connections are made, contrasting the bread of affliction with the manna of Exodus 16.  But the same poem also looks forward to Daniel’s refusal to eat the food of Babylon.  And then Brueggemann moves forward dramatically, referencing the odd close of the story of the storm on the Lake, which follows the feeding, when Mark comments, “They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”  (Mark 6:52)  “Hardness of heart consists, perhaps” suggests Brueggemann, “in the notion that we already know and control all possible forms of bread.” (p. 131)

We might also make connections with the prayer Jesus taught his disciples.

Moving to the Luke passage it seems to me that these recent Lenten texts flow from the first reading of the season – the temptations. 
The questioners would tempt
Jesus to join the fray.  The questions contain an inherent offer for Jesus to abdicate the Kingdom to which he seems so committed and come down on a side:  either you’re for us or against us, Jesus.  Which will it be?  It’s always what the Empire attempts to do with exilic people as well, to get at their loyalties, breaking them down, triangling with all the leverage it can muster.  And it’s the mistake of those opposed to Empire to fall for the trap of indentifying themselves vis-à-vis the Empire.  After all, don’t you know what side your bread is buttered on?  And to this Jesus affirms that his identity and commitment will not be negotiated.

Well, one hardly needs to mention institutions that are gridlocked in artificial ideological frameworks.  One is certainly tempted to despair.  But the imaginative stories pull us away from such cynicism.  Hoped for fruit may yet be produced.  Patience and clear identity are important.

See also the recent film The Hurt Locker in which this suggestive quote is shown at the beginning:  “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”





Lenten Sermon Series
2010-02-28 by David von Schlichten

On Sundays I am doing a series based on the word B-I-B-L-E:

First Sunday: Beelzebub is Beaten

Second Sunday: Our Citizenship is IN heaven

For March 7 I will need an L word. Suggestions?

On Wednesdays, I am doing meditations on Christ's last twelve hours that include reflections on the Lord's Prayer.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Thinking Further...
2010-02-24 by Stephen Schuette

A more focused title might be "The Burden of Faith."  The point isn't really that life in general is hard/challenging.





Life is Hard, Avoidance is Harder
2010-02-23 by Stephen Schuette

My grandmother knew that life was hard.  Her husband died of pneumonia before penicillin.  As a child when I asked her she told me how she sat by his side while his breath left him at age 36.  She went to work to raise three kids on her own, moved to town, the widow who went to the back door of the bakery for bread.

There is such struggle in each of these passages this week.  For Abram it appears at the beginning of the passage when he hears the words of God but presses for the reality behind the promise.  Then it appears even more poignantly near the end when, exhausted from butchering (like “rending”?) all those animals without powered steel blades, ripping through bone and raw sinew, a “terrifying darkness” descends upon him.  The sun goes down and the darkness descends twice.  Talk about word-painting!   Living with the promise as still promise is not easy.  In a way the promise itself is Abram’s burden.  I wonder if he wished he had never been a person of faith?

Paul begins personally with “imitate me.”  Superficially it may seem egoistic.  But it’s possible to take the rest of the passage personally too.  Living as an enemy of the cross of Christ, with their god as their belly, their glory in their shame…  He might have added, “And this is my story.  I’ve been there. ‘They’ is me.”  And so he needs to believe that crosses of humiliation can be transformed since in his own dark night of the soul he’s struggled with his faith and lack of faith and all he has done.

Jesus will have his own dark night of the soul too.  And the lections in lent pick up the foreshadowing.  The Pharisees, like Peter, and like the devil last week seem to keep suggesting to Jesus that there’s a way to avoid all this.  One colleague observed that there is a clash of wills in this passage.  (wants, desire, not willing…)  But in the end your house is left to you and you must decide, and until it’s fulfilled you’ll have to bear the struggle.  Faith is not a guard against struggle.  In fact, it may be the source of the struggle.

I’m told that on the Tavis Smiley show this weekend it was related that MLK, Jr. was troubled with hiccups until he came to terms with his own death when they mysteriously disappeared.  It remains to be seen how the Tiger Woods story will unfold.  But in his struggles he may be closer to the possibility of redemption than ever before.  One colleague hopefully observed that at least he avoided the use of the word “mistake,” as in, “it was just a mistake.”

John Shea tells the story of lying in the sun on the beach when a shadow suddenly blocked the light.  When he opened his eyes instead of a cloud he saw two young people standing over him.  He wore a white shirt and tie, she a blouse and skirt.  They were carrying their shoes and Bibles.  They looked down and asked, “Do you know the Lord Jesus as your personal savior?”  He responded without hesitation, “Unfortunately, yes.”  (Stories, p. 79, Acta Publications)

God’s grace and peace be with you as you search for the “way” with your message for your people this week.





Post-Sermon Reflection
2010-02-21 by David von Schlichten

The sermon was an affirmation for Maddie and seemed to convey the power of temptation and the even greater power of Christ against it. Thanks be to God. 

Yours,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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