John 20:1-18 – “…a lot of running…”

“John’s Easter account begins with a lot of running.  When Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty, she runs to tell Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple.  Her words, like a shot of the gun that begins a race send the two disciples running to check it out for themselves.” 

 Martin B. Copenhaver, “Feasting on the Word; Year A, Vol 2”. p. 370.

Lectionary Quotes

brush stroke

"brush stroke of particularity"

So I notice the dip in the ratings when I use the word lectionary…well, too bad.

Here are a few quotes from this weeks readings – which are I Samuel 16:1-3; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 11.  They all come from Feasting on the Word, Year 1, Vol 2.

“One way to approach preaching Psalm 23 is not to preach it. Just read it slowly — preferably in the King James Version — and sit down.  This will not score points among the serious intellectuals in your congregation, but the middle-school crowds will love you for it.  The over-seventy crowd will thank you for not over-talking a text that is so rich in history and meaning that simply the sound of its words and the rhythm of its cadence sing us into the presence of a mystery that can not be touched by rhetoric.”  David M. Burns

“In Advent we celebrate the light of God coming to the world in Jesus Christ. It is God’s act.  God bring the light to earth and to us. In Lent we witness darkness creeping up to, circling around and apparently overcoming Jesus.  Yet here again God is once again the actor.  God brings Jesus to life…”   Laird J. Stuart (Ephesians 5:8ff)

“Most of us, whether in pulpit or pew, have already heard plenty about the awesome powers of darkness.  What we most need, as bearers of Christ’s light, are glimpses of  our possibilities for exposing that works of darkness.  This means offering the people brushstrokes of particularity that bring to life Christ aglow in each of us.”  Don Wardlaw  (Ephesians 5:8ff)

“Just because you had a holy moment with mud does not mean that the rest of us will stop scraping it off our boots, right?”   Anna Carter Florence.  (John 9:6ff)

I particularly like the idea of “brush strokes of particularity…”

Suffering’s Value – Romans 5:1-5

A Little Preaching here…

Romans 5 describes a process.  The process of the Israelites was Suffering leads to Arguing. (Exodus 17:1-7)

Here is a better process.  It is not a How-To project.  This does not describe what we should be doing by ourselves.  It is what God does in our lives.  We can fight against it and make it worse, or we can work with God and make it work better.

 

We encounter suffering.   You will face hardships.  Jesus was lead into the desert by the Holy spirit, where he fasted for 40 days and faced the Devil.  He did not suffer because he disobeyed, but because he obeyed.  This is just how Israel was in the desert and they faced trials.  They did not face trials because they disobeyed – that was God’s plan.  Their problem was that they fought and resented the ways of God.

We persevere.  When we face suffering we can quit or we can continue.  This is true of many things.  Start to play the guitar and your fingertips will get sore and red, but you have to continue, and then they harden.  Start to exercise and you will have pains, but it gets better as you get into shape.  When we continue forward, despite the suffering, we gain perseverance.

We develop character.  As you continue, you become a different person.  As you face hardships you learn;  Your personality changes.  Instead of crying like a baby, you become more mature and learn how to handle problems.  Crying is fine for the helpless, and it is even ok for adults, but we have to move forward.

Character results in hope.  Here is where we learn from our experience.  In Exodus 17, Israel forgot that in Exodus 16 god sent Manna.  They should have said, “If god send bread, he could also send water.”  But they did not learn or develop character. So every new problem was a crisis.

When you face hardships, and you survived by Gods’ grace, you lean that God is faithful.  You learn to have hope.

 

Let me say a couple of things about this process.

1.  It is not as neat and tidy as a chart.  Our hardships do not come with labels on them.  So when you get a flat tire, there is not a large blue box that labels that hardship. And when you face that problem with a car jack, it does not have the sign “character” or “hope” written on it.

2.  You do not go through this only once.  This is constant, you are maybe part way through one lesson on character, and another starts.  Don’t think that you can say, I went through that now, I am a graduate!. Maybe so, but if you were in 1st grade, now you are in 2nd. Or if you were in high school, now you are in college. Of if you were in middle age, now you are a senior citizen.

3. It is not automatic, like a machine.  It is much more personal than that.  There is not a process inside of us.  There is not data inside of us.  There is not “something” inside of us.  There is “someone” there.  This is a personal thing, not a mechanical thing.

God has poured his love into our hearts in the person of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who gives us encouragement. He is the one who helps us to understand God’s promises, and later to remember them when we need them. It is the Spirit who prays for us in words that we cannot form for ourselves

 

Lectionary – plus and minus

 

So as I explore using the Lectionary here are some things I have observed:

  1. You need to have or have access to an extensive library for study – early in my ministry I would buy a couple of commentaries for each sermon series – as I generally preach by biblical book.  So after all this time the gaps in my coverage is smaller.  Having access to a university library helps.  If you do not have such a library, you would be hostage to whatever lectionary resources you have.
  2. Reading  a book like Feasting on the Word, offers an interesting and varied perspective on the passages, however one has to read discerningly.  Yesterday on Romans 5, there was a quote from Paul Tillich that sounded good, however, one needs to remember that Tillich believed in re-defining theological terms.  So this book is like the top of the funnel – at the start of reading, expose your reading eye to a lot of stuff to stimulate your thinking on relevance, issues you might tend to neglect and so forth, but the sermon comes out of the narrow end, after you have studied and winnowed the wheat from the chaff.
  3. Connecting passages is kind of fun.  The complaining Israelites (Exodus 17) lacked Water, as did the Woman of Samaria (Jn 4) and God “pours out his love” (i.e. like water) in Romans 5, and Ps 95 links to the Isralites habit toward complaining.  For me this is new and kind of fun, but I feel also that this is one groups way to explore the inter-related themes of the Bible, not the only one.
  4. Some Urban Ministries are following this idea of following the lectionary, church year and related parts of our heritage.  For a conference I am reading “Sacred Roots” by Dr. Don Davis of The Urban Ministry Institute ( www.tumi.org/sacredroots ).  This is kind of surprising to me, it will be interesting to see.
  5. The concept of centering your calendar on the Life of Christ as opposed to the color scheme of the shopping season at Walgreen’s is very appealing, but when do Roots become Routine only?

Lent, Lectionary and an EFCA Pastor


We in the Evangelical Free Church do not usually follow the Lectionary or Lent.  I am certainly against any such rule being imposed as a mandate from above.  Our real mandate from above are the Scriptures.  However, as a voluntary spiritual discipline, these can be useful.  I am preaching this season leading up to Easter (i.e. Lent) from a thematic collection of Scriptures (i.e. Revised Common Lectionary) and making use of a preaching resource (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 2).

If you would like to read along, I have this guide and explanation from my adult class.

Click – WhyTheCross?

I find that the Church Year, which is focused on the life of Christ, has much to comment itself – and is to be preferred that following the commercial/florist holidays of popular culture.  I’m just sayin’.