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Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary and/or the Narrative Lectionary

See older posts from 2006 to 2014 on the blog archive site at blogarchive.kairosucc.org

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Genesis 21:8-21 AND Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17, Jeremiah 20:7-13 AND Psalm 69:7-18, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39

Shaming and bullying have been around for a long time, probably at least as long as there have been human beings, and some of it is likely rooted in earlier animal instincts.

We may not like the way it is described or expressed in some of this week’s lectionary passages. I don’t take these stories as models to be followed, or detailed and accurate descriptions of God’s behavior. They are real life and invite us to consider experiences of shame and shaming, or bullying, in our own lives and in the world around us.

In a mild way, those things happened to me regularly when I was an adolescent. An ardent, and perhaps bit offensive, conservative Christian, I endured the taunts of my peers when I didn’t conform to “the ways of the world.” Although I had a cadre of close friends (mostly religious), I often felt a bit isolated.

Shame is defined as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety, . . . a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.” When it is used as a verb, it means to deliberately cause someone to feel that pain, guilt, or disgrace, whether it is deserved or not. Often, these days, at least, it seems to be something done with the clear intention to hurt---sometimes pushing the victims to suicide.

So, let’s look at the human experiences and expressions in this week’s readings.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7 AND Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19, Exodus 19:2-8a AND Psalm 100:1-5, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:25-10:23

It took a long time for me to venture into texting. Now I find great joy in the enhancement of family connections it has brought. Even if you don’t text, many of you have probably heard LOL, which stands for “laugh out loud” or “laughing out loud.”

There’s a bit of laughing in our reading from Genesis this week, but what I want to say takes us beyond laughing. In making a call for more laughter in our response to God, let it be a call to unrestrained exuberance, to the full expression of feeling and emotion.

Psalm 100, another of this week’s readings, calls us to “make a joyful noise . . . Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing . . . Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:1-2, 4) Feel deeply and let those feelings overflow. Offer them up to God.

There’s a plaque that moved with me from office to office during my ministry. “Feel deeply, enjoy simply, think freely, take risks, welcome love, be who you really are.” It now hangs, believe it or not in my bathroom. Make of that what you will. It begins with feeling deeply.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Genesis 1:1-2;4a, Psalm 8:1-9, II Corinthians 12:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20

Although the body of Christians, in general, through the ages has considered itself Trinitarian, some, in the United Church of Christ, may sit a little loosely with the doctrine and we generally don’t talk about it much. The word Trinity, you see, isn’t even mentioned in the Bible, and there is certainly no developed doctrine of “The Trinity.” A couple of verses, included in this week’s lectionary texts, offer a Trinitarian formula which was probably used in worship and maybe in greetings in the early church. It’s a matter of discussion whether these phrases were in the earliest documents or not, perhaps added from later church practice.

It wasn’t until a few centuries later, after of vigorous discussion and debate, that things were formalized in the (Nicene Creed (and, to a lesser degree, in the Apostles’ Creed), and, even then, the part about the Holy Spirit didn’t seem very definitive. Here are the relevant paragraphs from the Nicene Creed:
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
“And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Acts 2:1-12 OR Numbers 11:24-30, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, I Corinthians 12:3b-13 OR Acts 2:1-21, John 20:19-23 OR John 7:37-39

Okay, I don’t know why certain things pop into my mind, which you won’t hear more about until near the end of this blog entry. The great leaps that seem to bring them there never cease to amaze and puzzle me. This week it started with the texts leading me to think about the power of God’s Spirit to bring us together.

It’s Pentecost Sunday, you see, so it’s no surprise that the texts are about God’s Spirit. It is a day which the Christian community has set aside to celebrate the Holy Spirit. It remembers that occasion, 50 days after Easter, described in the second chapter of Acts, when the Spirit came upon a group of believers gathered in Jerusalem. They were “devout Jews from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) celebrating an ancient Hebrew festival, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), a harvest festival combined with a commemoration of the day the Hebrew people received the Law. Some Christian see it as a celebration of the birthday of the Church.

This is what stood out for me about the work of the Holy Spirit as I read this week’s passages. The Holy Spirit brings people, in all their diversity, together. It is a message we desperately need to hear when people attack one another so easily just because they are different.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings:
Ascension Day: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47:1-9 OR Psalm 93:1-5, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53
Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35, I Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11

So much of our theology is an attempt to explain what isn’t easily and readily understood. It’s been so ever since humanity has shaken in awe in the presence of volcanoes or the movement of the stars through the heavens. We’ve seen wonders too great for words, yet we try to use words to see if we can’t capture and hold the wonder for use at another time.

We have a lot of that going on in these weeks that span the season from Resurrection Day to Pentecost, with Ascension Day along the way. In my opinion, all three stories---the story of Jesus being raised from the dead, the story of Jesus being borne into the heavens, and the story of being empowered by a mighty outpouring the Holy Spirit---are attempts to explain or make sense of what those earlier followers of Jesus were experiencing.

At its simplest (and it is not something I would describe as simple), here it is. Jesus was with us; Jesus is leaving/has left us; Jesus is still with us.

Thoughts on the Lectionary Passages for May 14, 2017 (Fifth Sunday of Easter)

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16, I Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

Every week as I look over the lectionary readings for the coming Sunday, there is a place deep within that trembles. There is so much here, so much richness, so many different perspectives and insights. Who am I to pick and choose? Even the words of my best day of writing are insufficient to translate the power of these stories and the experiences of my faith journey.
Yet I go ahead and do it. Why? I could give true, but relatively shallow answers. My experience is that the most fumbling of attempts touches someone at an area of need in that person’s life. I saw it again and again when I was preaching every Sunday. I would include something in my sermon, stop, notice, and wonder to myself, “Now why did I put that in there?” Other times something would find its way into the sermon and more or less escape my notice entirely. If one of those things survived the editing process, someone on the way out after Sunday worship would refer to that specific part of the sermon saying how much it meant to him or her. You never know what is going to make a difference. Words offered that touch even one person are worth speaking or writing.
On a deeper level, though, in matters that may seem much more fearsome, what is it that keeps us going? I don’t have a simply, neat, and profound answer, but this week’s texts encourage me to consider a strength of spirit that is even willing to face down death.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23:1-6, I Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

Each week during worship, after we have been meditating in silence upon some of our human shortcomings, Pastor Jeanne quotes a couple of verses from Jesus’ words. One of those is “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” the final verse in the Gospel reading for the coming Sunday. There are those who seem to believe in something called “The Gospel of Wealth.” Just believe and diligently practice your faith and you will get rich. In fact, there was a pioneering sociological study that claimed Protestantism brought forth people with a strong work ethic who, as a result, were strong achievers in life, contributing to the rise of capitalism. (See The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber)

Now, I’m sure that’s not where Pastor Jeanne is coming from, or going, with this verse. I’m also pretty sure it isn’t where Jesus is coming from, or going, either, but all of this week’s readings remind us of a certain abundance that comes from the grace of God.

First, let’s look at some definitions of the word, abundance.

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