Often when the lectionary cuts out verses of a passage, it’s to avoid something uncomfortable. This week, it cuts out our discomfort with hearing lay liturgists try to pronounce 26 beauties of old Hebrew names, though I confess there is a small part of me that thinks it would be amusing to schedule someone to be liturgist and hand them the list: “Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah…” I mean, I’d never do it, of course, but a little daydreaming never hurt anybody.
Once you read around all those names, you find actually a touching story of a community hearing the word of the Lord, read and proclaimed, and finding all the mixture of emotion and knowledge that comes with a real encounter with the living word.
Perhaps you’ll be contemplating how the creation proclaims the word–while many of us in the north are experiencing something like the dead of winter, and others farther south wondering if winter will ever appear (or dealing with record heat in southern hemisphere summer), it’s easy to forget that human language isn’t the only way to experience God’s goodness. The psalm reminds me of the Celtic understanding of the big and little book. The written scripture is of course crucial (as the psalmist says), but it’s the little book–we can also read of God’s grace in the big book of creation.
The two New Testament readings lend themselves, in my opinion, beautifully to annual meeting season. When we reflect on who God calls us to be as a community, and how we have lived that out in the past year and how we might do so in the coming year, what better place to begin than with Jesus’ mission statement? Or with Paul’s vision for the church? So often we are captivated by the mission and vision statements we write in committees, only to be forgotten until the next annual meeting. How do we live out this vision and mission passed down to us in scripture? Both would make stellar prayers of confession, I think–so often we pursue our own self-interest rather than that of the whole body, so often we sanitize the mission of Jesus into nice healing and teaching and bleeding and rising. What does it mean to be the body of a Christ who says he is here to be with the poor, captive, blind, oppressed?
What are you contemplating this week? Do you have any ideas for visually enhancing the worship space this week? For calling us to generosity in the offering? For assuring us of forgiveness in the midst of our brokenness? For calling us together to worship? Affirming our faith?
No matter how formed or unformed your idea, stop in to the comments for conversation and inspiration!
Andy James says
I’m taking a few minutes after the inauguration to stop by the office and try to get a head start on the week, so I turned to the lectionary. The Nehemiah and Luke texts evoke much of what I saw and heard earlier today: a retelling of our story, with reinterpretation of it to fit the present day. Isn’t this what we spend our days doing, trying to figure out what old words mean for a new world? The gift of Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was a reminder that this is our American cause just as much as it is our responsibility as a church: to take words that are so easily misappropriated and interpret them anew for our time and place so that they might build up our world. Since I have a lead on this sermon already, I might just be writing later today… 🙂