Preaching

Reflectionary

It’s Tuesday, the day I meet with my lectionary study group, a collection of colleagues who gather once a week to look at the passages from the Revised Common Lectionary assigned to the coming Sunday. We’re UCC, so no one is going to be cross with us if we depart from the schedule, but we generally stick with it. I like the Lectionary. Maybe it’s because I grew up Baptist and didn’t get a liturgical year to speak of, and I’m trying to make up for it. I know that in the early and mid ’90’s my friend New York Native (mother of #1 Son’s friend, Mr. Know-It-All) exposed me to a lot of her family’s Jewish practices, and I came to appreciate the flow of the seasons and their reflection in religious rituals.

Most weeks, some theme that is appropriate to my context, and in fact often necessary to it, arises from the readings. Some weeks, though, I wish I could do something else. I wrestle with the passages, and I feel I’m losing. I moan about the passages. “Oh, that Paul. He’s so irritating!!” “I don’t think that was one of Jesus’ better moments.” “What in the heck do you suppose that could have meant?”

Usually those are the weeks I most need to preach from the lectionary.

Is this one of those weeks, or is it one of the rare times that the need in my context outweighs the value of following the calendar?

Next Tuesday is Election Day. In my ministry I haven’t been particularly political. Last fall I hoped most of my congregation was voting for—well, let’s just say I hoped they weren’t voting for the incumbent. But that didn’t feel like an appropriate thing to be handing down from on high. This year we have a ballot issue that I have spoken about, and the question in my mind is whether or not to speak to it again.

The ballot issue is an attempt to repeal an amendment our legislature made to the Maine Human Rights Act earlier this year. It expands protection from discrimination to include sexual orientation. It is not a marriage amendment, and in fact it specifically states that this expansion does not include marriage rights. The amendment gives recourse to GLBT people in Maine if they should experience discrimination in education, employment, public accommodations, housing or credit.

The effort to repeal the amendment has been driven by so-called “Conservative Christians.” They managed to get a question on the ballot asking if citizens wish to repeal the amendment to the Human Rights Act. It will be Question 1 on a ballot consisting primarily of bond issues. And the answer I would like people to give? “No on 1.”

I preached about it on the first Sunday in October, just after our statewide denominational meeting, at which the delegates voted overwhelmingly to support the efforts of the “No on 1” campaign. I felt I had said my piece on this subject and didn’t want to club people over the head with it.

But today I attended a rally on the steps of our State Capital, convened by our Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ, and I was disheartened to see absolutely no local TV or radio presence there. A newspaper photographer was there, and he was gathering his own copy, so I assume he was not even a reporter.

When the other side speaks, everyone is all over it. Why is it that Christians seeking justice are not a story?

It’s all about context this week, I think. And that brings me back to the lectionary. Is there a case to be made from the texts that they reflect their context and we must respond to ours? If you’re working with the lectionary this week and have any thoughts, let’s talk about it here.

Texts for November 6 (25th Sunday after Pentecost)

8 thoughts on “Reflectionary”

  1. This is my second week wrestling with Joshua. Every time I read this I keep coming back to this phrase: “choose this day whom you will serve”.
    We have so many choices in life; the audience that Joshua is talking to had specific ones, of course–literally whom they will worship and serve. It’s a bit more fluid for us.
    The people keep telling Joshua:”We hear you, we’re on the same side as you.” Joshua keeps challenging them, “Are you really? Because this is what it really means, and this, and this.” Joshua forces the ones to whom he is talking to really take a hard look at what following the God of their ancestors will mean, what the sacrifices will entail. We are wise to do likewise.

  2. Amos 5:24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
    I’m grieving today because of the decisions rendered by the judicial body of my beloved United Methodist Church. Not only have we defrocked a woman who was called by God to ministry, we have now given pastors the authority to turn away potential members because of sexual orientation (and I don’t believe that is supported anywhere in the UM Discipline), and we have stifled debate by voiding a statement from the Pacific Northwest Conference that there is disagreement about the issue of homosexuality. And I say “we” because the judicial body has the power to make binding decisions for the denomination.
    Songbird, you have a position of authority with your congregation. You can’t force them to do the right thing, but you can encourage them. You are so very brave to take on this issue — and we as a people should be ashamed that we consider even for a moment discriminating against our brothers and sisters.

  3. Wait, NEXT Tuesday is election day? Fantastic. I was worried my absentee ballot might not arrive in time.

  4. Kathy, it’s agonizing. My father’s family were all Methodists, and I experienced them as being totally justice-minded. How can this be happening?
    revmom, it’s all about choice, isn’t it?
    What about those wise and foolish virgins? Anybody thinking about them for Sunday?

  5. Funny I didn’t read the comments before reading the readgings
    I came up with this
    choose this day whom you will serve,
    linked with the virgins not being wiseor foolish but actually about choices
    don’t know if it hclps but that’s what I’d start to work on – if I were preaching this Sunday – which I’m not 🙂

  6. IT’s all about choices isn’t it? And that little question of what gods get in the way of our attempts to follow God.
    While I am reading the story of the bridesmaids, I will also be refrencing some of the “hard” sayings of Jesus on discipleship. Making those choices is never easy, but should never be done without thought either. A good thing to remember whenever we enter the voting booth.

  7. I’m probably going to leave the virgins be for next time. I don’t usually make a practice of forcing the texts to work together–except sometimes they do, beautifully! This next Sunday it’s all about Stewardship.

  8. There’s really too much good stuff. This morning in the office I read some commentary that pointed me toward Matthew, but maybe Kathy is right about Amos. I think, though, that I may use that line from Amos as the quote in the bulletin (when there is room I put something in for people to read while waiting for the service to start). At the moment I’m working with the idea that Matthew’s eschatology was in response to the delay; how do we live in the meantime? We live prepared, recognizing that no one can be watchful all the time (even the wise virgins slept). So then what does it mean to live in a state of preparation? What world do we want Christ to see when he comes again? Surely a world of justice and kindness and peace. Surely?

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