Whenever I’m preparing a sermon, I start by reading through the lectionary texts for the week and writing down my initial thoughts. This week, I’ve decided to try sharing them. I know I’ve found it helpful to read blogs from others who share their (relatively) unfiltered thoughts about the lectionary texts, so perhaps others might find my thoughts helpful. Posting these initial thoughts may become an ongoing practice for me, but I’m not sure yet. This will be only my second time preaching on internship!

Again, these are only my very initial thoughts without doing any research into the context or background of these passages. I could very well totally disagree with something I wrote hear by the time I get to the actual sermon next week! [Update: Here’s the actual sermon that came out of these thoughts. Also, we didn’t do the Psalm in worship.]

Lectionary Initial Reading Notes for August 30-31, 2014

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.

I am called by your name? Like summoned? Or like addressed?

Jeremiah seems to be rather depressed. Under the weight of your hand I sat alone…Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. He assumes that because things aren’t going well (that might be an understatement), that God isn’t faithful, that God’s causing the problems.

The Lord promises to take Jeremiah back, if he turns back (repents? metanoia?)

The call to proclaim (whatever he’s proclaiming) will be hard, but “I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord.”

God is with Jeremiah even when Jeremiah thinks he’s been abandoned. He is still – always – invited to turn back to God, who is faithful.

Danger: Sounds like God is causing the pain…at least, that seems to be what Jeremiah thinks.

Psalm 26:1-8

Give judgment for me, O Lord, for I have lived with integrity.

Ouch. Don’t think I really want to pray this Psalm. I haven’t been perfect. Unlike the psalmist (or perhaps like him…I’m not convinced he’s being entirely honest), there are definitely times when I have faltered in my trust in the Lord. I’ve tried to do things on my own. I need to not be judged on my own merits; I can only survive being judged because I’m covered by Christ.

The section about I have not sat with the worthless, nor do I consort with the deceitful. I have hated the company of evildoers; I will not sit down with the wicked. That sounds nice on some level, but doesn’t sound much like Jesus. Jesus sat with the “worthless” (not that ANYONE is worthless, but with the people the Psalmist is presumably talking to.) Jesus came for the sick, for those who think they’re worthless. Aren’t we called to do the same? Isolating ourselves from people isn’t serving them or ministering to them. And of course, the “them” here is each other, too.

Good thing the Psalm for the day stops before verse 9, which is Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty. We are all sinners.

Romans 12:9-21

Love this passage! Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. This is just a great passage!

Although, it’s definitely not easy. It’s awfully difficult to bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. That’s also in direct opposition to Jeremiah’s attitude, where he wrote, “Bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.” (hmm…I bet that’s why these readings are paired with each other…)

Similarly, verse 16: Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Compare that to Psalm 26:4 – I have not sat with the worthless, nor do I consort with the deceitful. See? Paul agrees with my complaint about the Psalm.

I’ve never liked that bit about feeding your hungry enemies and giving them something to drink if they’re thirsty, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. True, I suppose, but shouldn’t we have better motivation than wanting to heap burning coals on them? While I might want to be nice to my enemies in order to embarrass them (non-violent resistance/protest?), I feel like as Christians we are (or ought to be) called to something better…like, say, the genuine love from verse 9. Note that the burning coals bit is a quotation from Proverbs 25:21-22.

Great passage overall, but so so challenging. Good picture of what the Christian life ought to look like. What would seeking to outdo one another in showing honor actually look like? What f we never repaid anyone evil for evil, and sought as much as we possibly could to live peaceably with all? How can we be better at extending hospitality to all?

Matthew 16:21-28

Peter wants to defend Jesus, but instead he gets in his way and gets rebuked. How do we try to defend God? When we try to explain everything, are we getting in God’s way?

Let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Strong words. Don’t sugarcoat it. A “cross to bear” is a brutal method of execution. It’s not merely when your car is older than you like, or your window is drafty.

Life in Christ – those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Not (only) literally, I hope. Giving up our lives, dedicating our lives to Christ. What does that mean?

There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Does it help to think of the kingdom very gradually coming? (“With every act of love, we bring the kingdom come” – Jason Gray)

All Scripture quotations taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 

Lectionary Thoughts for Proper A17 August 31, 3014
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