This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 16, 2017.
As the mother of three young boys, my house is filled with wrestling, hugging, shouting and laughing. Like most Christian parents, I pray over my children. My husband and I do our best to teach our kids to love God and love others. One of the hardest things for me to accept is that at the end of the day, we do not control their behavior now and certainly not in the days to come. Parents have been praying for children and praying that they would walk in the ways they were instructed since the beginning of time. This particular subject is extremely personal and should be handled carefully.
The story for today is about the promise of God, prayer, family conflict, and the grace of God working through flawed people. The Bible is filled with examples of children who have grown up in homes of faithful parents but have chosen a different path. Consider Noah and how quickly his sons turned to sin or David and the rebellion of his sons, Amnon and Absalom. There are numerous examples from modern day of minister’s kids and missionary kids walking away from the faith of their parents. Ultimately the heart of the story is about Esau and his rejection of his spiritual heritage.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 2, 2017.
In this selection, Jesus takes up the topic of whining. Which is appropriate since the parable contained within it will prove perplexing enough to elicit whining from any preacher who finds it assigned by the lectionary.
Jesus starts off by wondering out loud how to allegorize his contemporaries, what image best captures their character. What he settles on is not one of his clearer statements. Straightforwardly he might have said, “Y’all spend so much of your time whining that you miss what treasures sit right under your nose. You’re like a bunch of whining kids who fail to realize that they’ve been handed the keys to the kingdom.” Not Jesus, who goes on not only to give his not-clearest-parable ever but also to praise God’s mysterious nature, that God reveals truths by keeping things “hidden” “from the wise and intelligent” even while giving them to infants (that is, children who are not even quite children yet), such is God’s “gracious will” (v. 25 and v. 26).
Two interpretive questions arise. What is meant by the parable? And why is Jesus so squirrely about its meaning? About the parable, there are, as one might imagine, competing interpretations, but the best ones underscore Jesus’ invocation of “Son of Man” in v. 19. You will recall that Jesus’ reference draws one back to Daniel 7:13-14, where God is described “like a son of man” who rides on “the clouds of heaven” and ushers in God’s glorious and powerful kingdom which the Son of Man will rule and everyone will serve. Before one gets carried away imagining Jim Morrison’s amazingly rich baritone singing The Doors’ “riders on the storm, into this house we’re born” and catapulting oneself into Heidegger’s Geworfenheit (thrownness), we can safely say that that was probably not what Jesus had in mind. Rather, the reference to the Son of Man is meant to identify Jesus with the one about which Daniel prophesied. If that is the case, then those who might think Jesus a “glutton” or a “drunkard” or who defamed him because of his association with tax-collectors and sinners are made to look a bit silly and juvenile. Jesus is not to be judged as John was in announcing Jesus. No, Jesus brings the power and the glory, ushering in the arrival of the Kingdom and declaring his judgment of everything, including those who dared to judge him.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 6th, 2016.
This is no easy text to preach, but it poses an additional challenge for those preachers who observe All Saints Sunday on the Sunday following All Saints Day (Nov 1st). Add to the difficulty of the text itself the reality that many loved ones will be in attendance to remember those saints (“soulmates”) who have passed on, and many preachers will be passing on this text in favor of one of the other lectionary options. There’s also an opportunity that accompanies this challenge, though, to offer theological interpretation over and above sentimentality.
The Sadducees, most likely deriving their name from Zadok (righteous), the first high priest of Solomon’s temple, did not believe in the resurrection. They followed the Torah, but not any oral traditions, which put them at odds with Pharisees. Because the Torah did not allude to an afterlife, the Sadducees did not believe in it. As they follow on the heels of consecutive stories in chapter 20, where Luke highlights the attempts of the religious establishment to ensnare Jesus in religious legalese, the Sadducees bring up a practice from Deuteronomy 25 known as Levirate marriage. We see a couple examples of this in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, the most prominent being the story of Ruth and her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 4, 2015.
At first reading, we are presented with two very different texts. The first turns the preacher’s stomach in knots as she considers how to preach on divorce. This is not exactly the text that lands on the congregation’s top ten list of Gospel highlights. But then, who does not love Jesus embracing children? Now, what is the preacher to do? Should he pick one text over the other? Is there a way to faithfully preach these two texts in one sermon? Could it be that one text informs the interpretation of the other?
Mark 10:1 states that Jesus is moving southward. Just before, he was by the Sea of Galilee. Now, Jesus is making his journey to Jerusalem—as in “the” journey to Jerusalem. As crowds follow him, he is approached by a group of Pharisees who attempt to trick him with a question about divorce (preacher be warned, questions like this are still tricky). It could be they wanted to draw Jesus into ongoing debates among the Pharisees about what constitutes legitimate divorce (we know from first century documents this was a hot topic both socially and religiously). More likely, they remember well what Mark records in 6:18. John the Baptist informed Herod it was unlawful for him to divorce his wife. That warning cost John his head. Perhaps, the Pharisees are attempting to draw Jesus into a political argument with deadly consequence.