July 08, 2011
In Preaching and Reading the Lectionary: A Three-Dimensional Approach to the Liturgical Year, O. Wesley Allen Jr. advocates for a what he calls a cumulative preaching strategy that focuses more on the sweep of a year’s worth of preaching than any one particular sermon. As Allen explains “all pastors know (or at least hope), deep in their hearts, that the great power of preaching lies less in the individual sermon and more in the cumulative effect of preaching week in and week out to the same congregation, to the same community of believers, doubters and seekers…sermons offered Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year weave together to have an immeasurable cumulative influence on individuals’ and the congregation’s understanding of God, self, and the world.” (ix) To that end, Allen examines the patterns of the lectionary and the way the lectionary can be used a whole year at a time.
June 27, 2011
Zechariah 9:9-10; Matthew 11:25-30
In an October 13, 1813 letter to his former political rival, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson described his work on a short book, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. This was Jefferson’s own distillation of gospel texts, in which he meant to include, “the very words only of Jesus,” while eliminating all elements Jefferson deemed irrational. Jefferson assumed the parts he found superstitious were simply the result of ignorant men who misremembered or misunderstood Jesus’ “pure principles.”
When he was done with his editing, Jefferson wrote, “There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.”
June 20, 2011
Pentecost 2, Year 2 (Sunday, June 26, 2011): Genesis 22: 1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6: 12-23, Matthew 10: 40-42
Here we are. The latest Advent to Easter cycles of the Christian seasons have now been rounded out by the great gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, the formation of the church and time to reflect on the Trinitarian God we worship. The church, now equipped with everything it needs to proclaim to the world Christ, crucified and risen, begins the long season after Pentecost of ever deepening discipleship. And what a story we have to start off with – Genesis 22!
June 14, 2011
Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Matthew 28:16-20
One of our church members, Sally, is serving a sentence in a regional jail. She joined our church on Pentecost last year, and though she had been baptized as a child, had never been brought up in church. She’s had very little Christian formation, so she set out to use her incarceration to engage in an intense study of the Bible. The growth that she is experiencing during this time is phenomenal. As they say in my neck of the woods, “The Holy Spirit has really gotten hold of her.”
When I visited her this week, in a very excited voice she said to me right off the bat, “I finally understand what family is all about!” She went on to tell me that a woman in her family, Kelly, just discovered that man she had always known as her father was not indeed her biological father. This discovery completely rocked Kelly’s world. In despair, Kelly asked Shawn in one of their visits, “Will you still be my family member?”
June 11, 2011
An Ascension Sermon by Ed Searcy
(please note Ed’s diagnosis and pray for him)
Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16). Sometimes Paul is frustrated with the church. Sometimes he is exasperated with the church. Sometimes he is just plain mad at the church. But not always. When Paul prays for the little church in Ephesus he is filled with gratitude for a congregation that trusts its life to Jesus and, as a result, has an abundance of love for one another. I know what it is to be filled with gratitude for a congregation that trusts its life to Jesus and, so, is marked by love and affection for one another. Three weeks ago, when the doctors confirmed their suspicions and told me that I have multiple myeloma, I was shocked and sad and grateful.
June 06, 2011
Acts 2:1-11(or 2-21); 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13; John 20:19-23
The Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is, ideally, a process lasting many months, during which unbaptized catechumens and baptized but unconfirmed candidates learn from and discern with sponsors and other members of the church community they hope to become part of. My home parish takes this seriously. While the rite is meant to lead to reception into the church at the Easter Vigil, there’s no rushing, no shortcuts, no simply going with the flow. The rigor and probing reflection often make me wish I hadn’t completed my own initiation so young.
From Easter to Ascension, newly-received members (called neophytes, which means “new living things”) wear their white robes each Sunday at liturgy. Like all of us, though far more visibly, they are engaged in mystagogy, forever entering the bottomless mystery of Christ and his people. On Ascension Day, after the readings have been broken open in the homily and just before the neophytes publicly set aside their white garments, one of their number is invited to share some thoughts on his or her experience.