Friday, November 28, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Advent 1, Year B

Readings for First Sunday of Advent, 11/30/14:
Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37

Isaiah 64:1-9:
  • "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence" - Do you ever get so frustrated with the way of the world that you want to call on God to break into the scene and rile things up? I don't blame Isaiah's call. Its just that God hardly ever comes in the ways we're expecting!
  • Isaiah realizes this too, God's unexpected ways: "when you did awesome deeds that we did not expect" he says in v. 3 - what do you expect from God? Do you expect the unexpected?
  • "consider, we are all your people." Isaiah is pleading a case here. He realizes people haven't done much for God that would make someone want to stick around and continue being neglected. But remember, Isaiah reminds God, we're yours! I think God does remember.
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19:
  • "let your face shine, that we may be saved." I like this - God's shining face can save us. twice emphasized. Think about Moses' face shining after he'd visited with God on the mountain - the brilliance and glory of being in God's presence.
  • "how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?" Is God ever angry with our prayers? Probably, when they are so self-centered and calling on God to bring harm to those we deem enemies. But if we interpret God not doing what we ask for as God's anger, I think we've got it wrong...
  • "you have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure." Again, what beautiful imagery - very poetic. I'm not sure I agree with the theology expressed - but good writing! :)
1 Corinthians 1:3-9:
  • V. 9 - "called into the fellowship" - Paul means the fellowship of saints, according to verse 2 of this chapter. You are called to be a saint - believe it! That's you and me, called to be saints. Of course, Paul was talking about the Corinthians, but we can take it for ourselves too. We probably all have a short list of folks we think of as "saints" or at least "saintly". What makes you think of them that way? How can you be more like them?
  • "you have been enriched in him" - I like this phrasing. Enriched by knowing Jesus.
  • These are the opening words to the Corinthians - you can see how much Paul is trying to build them up, affirm their faith, get them to stay committed. I think we all need someone who can and will do that for us. And we can do that for someone else too - build them up.
Mark 13:24-37:
  • Advent always begins with surprising "end times" texts that probably catch parishioners off-guard, who are ready to sing Christmas carols. How do we refocus them and us? This text is about time, and expectations and waiting. So is Advent. What we do while we wait is important. Whether or not we live like something exciting is going to happen in our world by God is important.
  • For me, descriptions of Christ's second coming are not very important in the details. But what Jesus reminds us of is that he does come again. I think he comes more than once, always coming in unexpected ways. I know the passages refers to "the big one", the big final return, but I like to think we can think about Jesus returning frequently to our lives. And we're so often unprepared.
  • "you do not know when the master of the house will come" Another passage talking about end times, if that's only as far as you are wanting to look. Better to think of it this way: so often in my life I am putting things off - procrastinating - not so much about day to day things, like sermon-writing :), etc., but about big things: I will start giving more ... when I'm out of debt. I will take risks for God .... after I get my DMin. I will speak out about what I really believe .... after I'm ordained elder. But the day or hour is unknown, and will arrive unexpectedly. I should stop acting like I have something to wait for before I get to work the way God wants me to. The time is NOW.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Reign of Christ Sunday, Year A

Readings for Reign of Christ Sunday, 11/23/14:
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24:

  • This is a great passage, and goes so well with the gospel lesson for today. What vivid images of God as our shepherd!
  • God's preference is clear: "I will see the lost . . . I will strengthen the weak," and "the fat and the strong I will destroy." Which kind of sheep are you? 
  • Compare this to Jesus' teachings about who he came to serve. I will feed them with justice." What does it mean to be fed with justice? How do you feed your life with justice? Does working for God's justice in the world fill you up?  

Psalm 100:

  • "It is God that made us, and we are [God's]; we are [God's] people, and the sheep of [God's] pasture." Again, imagery of being sheep in God's fold. We belong to God. We humans have a great need to belong. The best we can belong to is God.
  • "Worship the Lord with gladness." How do you worship? Do you find joy in your worship? Meaning? How do you keep from "going through the motions" of worship?
  • "Give thanks." This is a season of Thanks-giving. How do you give thanks? Giving thanks involves more than words - "giving" is an action word. How do you take action to give thanks? 

Ephesians 1:15-23:

  • I especially like the first part of this passage, verses 15-19. These verses sound like great words of blessing to speak on someone, a person of faith. To pray that God grants wisdom and revelation, enlightenment, riches of Christ's inheritance, knowledge of the immeasurable greatness of God's power. . .
  • Aside from that, this passage seems very typical of a lot of the epistle writing. Here is set up the metaphor: Christ as the head of the church and of the body, the church as the body of Christ, and thus under Christ, who is over all things, filling all things. 

Matthew 25:31-46:

  • What passage in the gospels best describes the standards by which we gain eternal life? This passage tells us that it is our actions, not our words, that determines our eternal being. Do your words and actions match? What do your actions say about what you really believe?
  • Where have you seen Christ in unusual ways? Where have you seen Christ where you have not expected? Do you think others see Christ in you? 
  • For a cute but on-target illustration, check out "Lunch with God." 
  • We often think of poverty and hunger and need far away from us. Where do poverty and hunger and need exist right in your own community? Why is it easier to see need far-away than at home?

Sermon for Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday, Year A, "Giving Thanks: Sighted," Matthew 25:31-46

Sermon 11/16/14
Matthew 25:31-46

Giving Thanks: Sighted

Today we continue on in Matthew’s gospel, immediately following the Parable of the Talents we talked about last Sunday, and we arrive at what we call the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. It is another one that is probably familiar to you, and it is Jesus’ last parable, last major segment of teaching in the gospel of Matthew. After this, things rapidly move toward the passion and crucifixion. So in this last parable, Jesus tells about a future time of judgment when the Son of Man will gather all people before him and separate them like you might sort sheep and goats in a flock. “Son of Man” is a term used by Jesus to refer to himself which means kind of like “the human of humans.” So Jesus, Son of Man, king, will sort the people into two groups. To the sheep on his right, he’ll say that they are blessed and can inherit the kingdom that has been prepared for them from the foundation of the world. And they receive this treatment because when “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Only, those marked as sheep don’t ever remember seeing the king at all – surely they would remember something so momentous! But no, the king tells them: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then the whole scenario repeats with those on his left who are like the goats, only this time the king says they are accursed for not helping the king when they saw him in need. And again, they don’t recollect ever seeing him, and again, the king says that whenever they saw but did not help one of the “least of these,” they also did not help the king. 
This Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is one that we know fairly well. We even mostly like it, I think, this idea that in everyone we meet, we are encountering Jesus. It sounds like a lovely idea, doesn’t it? The only problem, then, as is often the case with Jesus’ teachings, becomes accounting for the wide gap between our liking of this parable, our general, “Yes, that’s right” affirmation of it, and a quick assessment of the world around us that shows the pervasiveness of those who are sick and poor and hungry and thirsty and without shelter or clothing, or who are in prison or alone, and the ongoing struggle of these persons. If we love this parable, and affirm this idea of “the least of these” being ways we can encounter Jesus, come face to face with Jesus, how come so many are still hungry and thirsty and sick and alone?
            As I read through this familiar parable again, I started to focus in on this phrase, the repeated question in the text: “When did we see you?” Both those identified as sheep and goats ask this question: “When did we see you?” they ask. “When was it that we saw you hungry and did or didn’t give you food, or thirsty and did or didn’t give you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and did or didn’t welcome you, or naked and did or didn’t give you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and did or didn’t visit you?” And to both groups, the king says that they truly encountered the king when they saw and assisted – or didn’t – those he describes as “the least of these, who are members of my family.” But whether the sheep or goats help those they see or not, those who are the least of these, but also the king himself, both sheep and goats see the ones they encounter. Imperative to deciding to act one way or another is seeing the person to begin with.
            This, I think, is the key for us twenty-first century readers. I think we’re exceptionally clever. We like to hear about this “seeing Christ in people” stuff. But man, it is hard to see Jesus in some people, and then, when we realize Jesus really means it about the “least of these,” it’s hard to carry through on all this feeding and visiting and clothing and comforting of people he describes. But, what if we could just not see anyone at all? If we don’t really see people, then we don’t have to decide whether or not we know we’re looking into the face of Jesus, who would be able to spur us to action. Have you ever had the experience of running into someone in a store or at a restaurant who, for whatever reason, you really would rather not talk to? And then it becomes a kind of frantic, anxious game. Is it too late? Did they see you already? If they saw you, did they see you see them, or would it still be convincing for you to pretend you didn’t see them? Suddenly you are staring at your feet, or intently reading the ingredient labels, or forgot something back in the aisle you just came down, or get a “phone call” that you really must take and focus on. Sure, sometimes we really don’t see someone. We’re distracted, concentrating on other things. But how often are we trying not to see?
            When we think about sheep and goats and Jesus’ words to us, I wonder if most of the time we don’t feel like we’ve encountered Christ because we’re putting up a great show of not seeing the people we encounter. Maybe we don’t mean to at first. But I think one way or another, we try not to see people because it will slow us down. Interrupt our rhythm. We don’t have time. We’re busy and behind, and we don’t want to get into all the baggage and all the effort and all the awkwardness and all the uncomfortableness that comes with really seeing people. And so we don’t see. And in our blindness, we miss chances, foolishly, to encounter Christ, face to face.  
            Earlier this year, as part of a campaign called Make Them Visible, the Rescue Mission of New York City did a bit of an experiment for a short documentary. They had the family members of half a dozen people dress up and position themselves as homeless people on the street. And then cameras recorded these half dozen people walking by, passing right by their costumed family members. You can see in the picture on the screen this woman walking down the street – and she passes right by her mother, her sister, and her uncle. That’s her family, right there. But she doesn’t see them. This woman was not alone. Everyone walked right by their own family members. Yes, they were costumed, but their faces weren’t altered. Still, they went unseen. When shown the videos of themselves walking by their family, the individuals were shocked. Upset. Embarrassed. Would you see your family members on the street?

Who do we see? I mean so much more in that question than asking whether or not we walk by people seeking money on the street corners with our heads down, although that’s a good question to ask. One of the many traits of Jesus we can seek to imitate, that we can take as a model, is how he sees everybody. A man climbs a tree – and Jesus sees him. A woman touches his cloak – and Jesus sees her. Children are pushed aside – but Jesus sees them. Jesus sees us. And what’s more – if we’re not where it’s easy to see us, Jesus will seek us, search us, find us, go where we are. To the lepers outside the borders of the town. To the Canaanite woman living in a gentile territory. Jesus will seek you out, find you. 
            What do we see? What would be different if in every setting in life, not just on the streets but including them, we started asking ourselves who in any given situation we weren’t seeing? We just went through an election – what would change if we wondered who we were looking right over when we considered a political issue? How would the dynamics of the church – our church and the church universal change if we asked: who aren’t we seeing? How would our families be different if we asked: who aren’t we seeing in our families? Who’s been invisible or overlooked? How would our schools, our workplaces, our communities be different if we wondered: who am I missing? Who am I not seeing? And then: what might happen if, like Jesus, we made sure we saw, even if it meant we had to seek people out, instead of waiting for them to cross our paths?
            This week your homework has two parts. First, I want you keep track of how you spend your time all week. We think about time a lot – feeling like it’s moving too slowly or too quickly or that we don’t have enough of it. So keep track this week. How are you spending your time? At the end of each day, or as the day unfolds, write how you’re spending your time. Part two: Keep track of who you’re spending your time with. Try to pay attention to who you see – or who you don’t usually see. Who are you with during your week? Who aren’t you with? Do you spend your week with people who are mostly like you? Do you see all kinds of people? Keep track, all week, and if you’re willing, bring it in next week to share, along with your commitment to who you’re going to try to see more clearly in the months ahead.
            One of the things that my mom loves the most is when all of her kids are together and when we’re happy with each other. If all four of us are enjoying spending time together, then my mother is in sort of a state of sublime ecstasy, because the people she loves the most are happy and well, and showing love for each other. That’s what I think God enjoys the most too. When all of us, God’s children, are together, and enjoying each other, and showering love on each other, happy to be in each other’s presence. So when we don’t see each other, when we even try not to see each other, for God, it is like we are walking right by our brothers and sisters without seeing them. We’re walking by family. That’s what I think this parable is really all about. Who are we walking by, and who are we stopping to see? Because if we see, we’ll find the face of Christ reflected there. And it is a sight to behold.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A (Proper 28, Ordinary 33)

Readings for 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, 11/16/14:
Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 123, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30

Judges 4:1-7:
  • "Deborah, a prophetess" I think those words in themselves are pretty powerful. In a set of scriptures that certainly doesn't focus on women, it's great to find and lift out stories of strong women leaders in the Bible, the Old Testament even!
  • Not only is Deborah a prophetess, but she's also a type of military leader here. She may not physically fight in the battles, but she is making decisions about the armies and where they will go.
  • The Israelites cry out because they are oppressed, and God moves to respond, in perhaps unexpected and unusual ways. God responds to our cries for help. We have to look and see who God might use and how God might use them/us to respond to oppression. 
Psalm 123:
  • We look to God like those under another's authority look to their authority (master, mistress.) How do these images translate today? So often, we feel resentful of those in authority over us, don't we? Especially if those in authority are abusive in their power. Who is a positive authority in your life? What kind of authority do they exercise? What kind of authority does God exercise over you?
  • "we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn . . ." Sounds like a very frustrated psalmist, eh? When do you reach your boiling point? How do you call to God when you've "had enough?"
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:
  • "When they say, 'there is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them." Hm. We as a society are working awfully hard, at great expenses, for peace and security, aren't we? Our peace comes from Christ, and our security in our faith. Everything else? Maybe just cheap imitations.
  • children of light/children of darkness - just a 'caution' - be careful when using language of light=good and dark=bad. These images are valuable theologically, but can be harmful if they are communicated in ways that can have racial implications.
  • "encourage one another and build up each other" - do we do this? How often do you encourage others in their faith journeys? How do we, in tangible ways, build each other up?

Matthew 25:14-30:
  • What are the talents that you are afraid to use? Most of us have some talents we don't mind using, but others that we hide away. What are yours?
  • "to all those who have, more will be given, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." At first, this statement seems like a terrible statement about rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. But that's not at all what Jesus means. Jesus says that God will entrust to us a lot to look over if we use what we've already got. If we pretend God's given us nothing, then God won't entrust to us other things that we'll just ignore. Sort of a "use it or lose it" philosophy.

Sermon for Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, "Giving Thanks: Talented," Matthew 25:14-30 (Proper 28, Ordinary 33)

I skipped a little ahead in the lectionary for the purposes of our "Giving Thanks" theme - so here's a sermon for this Sunday upcoming's text. 

Sermon 11/9/14Matthew 25:14-30
Giving Thanks: Talented

I hope you’ve all been counting your blessings each day, as we focus on our theme of Giving Thanks this month at Apple Valley. I've been enjoying the discipline of looking back over my day and finding the joyful moments. I’ll admit to you that there are days when it isn’t easy, when the blessings come less quickly to mind than others. I know I’m blessed. But some days I feel like I could more quickly make a list of things that went wrong: I lost a treasured necklace. My mom’s car wouldn’t start. That bill was four times as much as my brother was expecting it to be. We all have days like that. As I talked about with the children today, one of the best things we can do when we’re having trouble counting our blessings is to figure out how we can offer a blessing to someone else instead. It puts things back into perspective, and takes us out of the center. We better remember our own blessings when we offer them to others. How can you be a blessing? One of the best ways we offer thanks to God for our blessings is through sharing.

One of my favorite authors and advocates for the poor is Shane Claiborne, a young man who has tried hard to live as he believes Jesus wants him to. On his facebook page this week he offered some reflections on how Christians figure out how much is enough. He shared this story: I will never forget learning one of my best lessons … from a homeless kid in India. Every week we would throw a party for the street kids … 8-10 years old who were homeless, begging … to survive … One week, one of the kids I had grown close to told me it was his birthday. So I got him an ice cream. He was so excited he stared at it mesmerized. I have no idea how long it had been since he had eaten ice cream. But what he did next was brilliant. He yelled at all the other kids and told them to come over. He lined them up and gave them all a lick. His instinct was: this is so good I can’t keep it for myself. In the end, that’s what this whole idea of generosity is all about. Not guilt. It’s about the joy of sharing. It’s about realizing the good things in life – like ice cream – are too good to keep for ourselves.” (1) 

We give thanks to God for our gifts by using our gifts, sharing them, being so excited we’ve received them that we want everyone to have a taste, to take part, to enjoy the blessing we’ve received. At least, that’s what God hopes for us. Sometimes, though, we get ourselves turned around about the gifts God gives to us. Sometimes we outright say “no thank you” to the gifts God seeks to give us. Have you ever refused a gift? In about a month, I will begin baking Christmas cookies. I make a lot of cookies. And every year, I send packages of about a dozen or two cookies to friends from high school, college, seminary, and so on. I’ve been doing this for at least a decade now! One year, after I sent out some emails to get updated addresses for mailing, one of my friends responded saying that she didn’t really want any cookies. They would go to waste. I have to admit – I was crushed! I offered her the gift that represented much more than showing off my baking skills, and she said, “No thank you.” Have you ever refused God’s gifts to you? Sometimes we receive a gift from God but we don’t open it or don’t use it. Perhaps we’ve all experienced receiving a gift we really didn’t want. A shirt that just isn’t your style. A gift card to a restaurant you don’t really like. But maybe we’ve also experienced the painful feeling of realizing you’ve given a gift that was unwanted. A gift you give and never see again! Sometimes these giving mishaps take place because the giver and receiver don’t really know each other so well, don’t have a clear picture of each other. Maybe you’re giving to someone you only know through work or school or in one setting. But God – God knows us inside out. God can’t give us a gift that doesn’t suit us. And God gives out of God’s own self the gift we have in Christ. A gift marked with our own name. This is not a gift to put on a shelf! This is not a gift to return to the store! The gifts God gives are meant to be used, and opened, and shared. 

 Our gospel lesson today is a parable – the Parable of the Talents. It appears late in Matthew’s gospel, in the midst of several other parables. A man going on a journey calls his slaves to him and divides among them care of his property. One slave receives one talent, one five, and one ten, each, we read, receiving according to ability. The slaves who receive five and ten talents immediately take them, trade with them, and double their money to present to their master when he returns home. But the slave who received just one talent dug a hole and hid the money, and returned it to his master on his return. When the master returned, he praised the faithful servants for their stewardship of his talents, and said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave. You have been trustworthy in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” But when the third slave returned the single talent to his master, explaining that he thought his Master was hard-hearted and harsh, taking what was not rightfully his; the Master rebuked the man, and took the one talent from him and gave it to the one who had already been given ten. And so, Jesus concludes with that strange sentiment: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what we have will be taken away.”

It’s that concluding sentence that I think is so hard to process at first. I think the parable is about using the gifts God gives us, and being good stewards. But then, that last sentence: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what we have will be taken away.” I can understand God wanting us to use what we’ve been given – but taking away from those who have nothing? Giving to those who already have so much? Even if we’re talking about more than just money here, isn’t that just a spiritual version of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer? Will God take anything from those who already have nothing? Does that make any sense? 

Author Luther Snow reflects on this parable, focusing in on this very troubling verse. He writes, “How can you take away something from nothing? It’s impossible. So maybe ‘those who have nothing’ do have something after all. Maybe the point is not how much we have, but how much we think we have. The [slave] with the one talent had more than nothing, but he acted as though he had nothing. He did nothing with the talent . . . He may have looked at the other two [slaves] and thought, ‘Compared to them, I’ve got nothing’ . . . It is as if the master is saying, ‘You had my valuable gifts in your hand, and you didn’t think they were valuable.’” (1) So maybe we can better understand what Jesus is saying when we think of it in this way: From those who think they’ve been given nothing, what they really do have will be taken away. And from those who feel like they’ve been richly blessed, they’ll be blessed even more. The slave with one talent didn’t have nothing. He had something precious – he just wouldn’t see it.

We’re practicing counting our blessings this month. And we are indeed surrounded by blessings. But I think sometimes it is easier for us to count the blessings that are outside of us than the blessings that are within us. Here’s what I mean: I can tell you that I was blessed this week to babysit my sweet niece Sigourney. But it’s harder for me to say to you: I’m so thankful to God that I have a loving heart that I can shower on Siggy in return. I’m thankful that in part because of me, I know she’ll know what it is like to be loved and cherished, because I have the capacity to love and cherish her. I think we find it a bit harder to see the gifts we’ve been given by God if we have to admit that we ourselves are gifted. God has put the blessings, the gifts, the talents within us, to be shared from the very core of who we are. Maybe it is hard because we don’t want to be boastful or self-centered. We’ve all met people who are more than ready to tell you how great they are, and that’s usually not an admirable quality! But it is one thing to boast in your own awesomeness, and another thing to give thanks for and treasure and use the gifts God has put in your heart with an intent to humbly and happily serve and bless others. 

I have asked most of my congregations to complete some form of talents inventory like the one you received today. Over the years, in all my congregations, I am always amazed at how unwilling people are to believe or see that they are gifted. I started adding the “three things you like doing” question because most people were unable to admit that there were three things they were good at doing. Friends, admitting you are gifted isn’t about saying that you are all that. It isn’t bragging. Saying you are gifted and talented is quite simply saying that someone – in this case God – has given you a gift, talents. And denying it – well, that is basically saying that God hasn’t given you anything! Not discovering and using your gifts is like refusing to open a present from God. It’s like burying a talent in the ground. Kind of rude, isn’t it?! And it when it comes to showing gratitude for your talents, giving thanks for your blessings, the best way to say thank you is simple – use them. Use your gifts. Use your talents, to serve and love God, and to serve and love one another. As we think about giving thanks this month, I want us to think about how we can better thank God by using our gifts and talents more fully. What gifts has God given you that you’ve left wrapped? Unused?

Before the sermon today, we sang a hymn that we commonly refer to as “Take My Life and Let It Be,” because those are the words that are the first stanza. It breaks in an unfortunate place, though, because the title is actually, of course, “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated.” That word, consecrated, as we discussed in Bible Study this week, means “to make something ordinary into something sacred or holy.” That’s what we ask God to do with all manner of ordinary things in our lives. And indeed, God makes our ordinary stuff holy – from bread and cup, to pieces of colored paper and shiny metal circles that we put into offering plates, even to our very lives. That’s what we ask in this hymn: “Here are our lives God. Please, make them holy.” Sometimes though, we act like what we really mean is what the first stanza alone communicates: “Take my life and let it be.” (3) Leave me alone. Let me do what I want. Stay just like I am. Let me bury my blessings in the ground. God wants so much more for us. 

Please, don’t bury your blessings, your gifts, your talents, all that God has given to you. Don’t live like our generous God has been stingy with you. Instead, offer it to God. Offer it to your neighbors. Offer it to the waiting world around you. And God will consecrate your life, and your cup will run over, and your blessings will be too sweet not to share. Amen.

(1), post on 8/7/14(2) Snow, Luther, The Power of Asset Mapping
(3) An idea I heard from Bruce Webster first I think!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Hunger Ministry Resource for Local Churches

Like many churches will at this time of year, Apple Valley United Methodist Church is participating in a food drive to support our local food pantry, the Navarino Community Food Pantry, which we house at the church. Along with a list of items particularly needed by the pantry, I wanted to include some bible verses, United Methodist Social Principles, reflection questions, and action ideas that would help give a little depth to what could otherwise be just comforting charitable giving. Many of you know that my Doctor of Ministry project focused on helping congregations ground their outreach ministry in justice, rather than charity. I put this document together rather quickly, and could have done more/better with it. Nonetheless, it's a start, and if you'd find it useful in your setting, you are welcome to use and adapt it (and add to it!) 

Food Drive Shopping List, Hunger Facts, and Reflection/Action Ideas

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A (Proper 27, Ordinary 32)

Readings for 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 27, Ordinary 32, 11/9/14:
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25, Psalm 78:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 25:1-13

Joshua  24:1-3a, 14-25
  • This passage is sort of an inauguration scene for leadership in the community.
  • V. 15: "choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua puts it in their hands - serving is a choice. Who will you serve? We can serve lots of people/things/gods these days. What choice have you made? How can others see you choice by your actions?
  • Joshua spends the rest of the passage trying to convince the people not to follow God because of how costly it will be and how demanding it will be. In a great reverse-psychology sort of way, this only gets the people begging, pleading to serve God. Wouldn't that be a great tool of evangelism? Telling people not to be Christians because it is too hard? Jesus, of course, sometimes uses these strategies in the gospels too.
Psalm 78:1-7:
  • "I will open my mouth in a parable" - I hadn't realized that the word 'parable' appeared in the Old Testament. But it reminds us that in Jesus' day, the people would have related to Jesus' style, more, perhaps, than we are able to relate today.
  • "We will not hide them from our children; we will tell to the coming generation" - I like these verses that convey a sense of the necessity to tell the story of a people, to make sure the history is known through time and generations. We have a tendency to forget whole chunks of our history, don't we, until we are repeating it!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
  • I'm not a big fan of this passage. Paul's aim here is to give hope by describing what will happen to the faithful ultimately.
  • To me, this image, though, is too specific and detailed, and I'd rather just be ok with being unsure about what our ultimate end will bring us, other than into God's arms.
  • What is your vision of the end - of your life, of the world? What is your vision of afterlife?

Matthew 25:1-13:
  • Jesus reminds us that we have to make our own decisions about discipleship. It seems to me that the foolish maids were almost in a sense waiting to see how things would play out for the wise maids before they themselves would want to go to the party.
  • Preparation. Jesus wants us to always live like this is it - our last day to live out in discipleship. Our society prizes living like we are immortal, doesn't it? How do you live? How would you have to change your normal patterns if today was your last day to be a disciple?

Sermon, "In Denial," Mark 8:31-37

Sermon 2/20/24 Mark 8:31-37 In Denial My sermon title is both a reflection of our gospel text for today, and a reflection of how I felt abou...