In the TNT that will come out later today, Tripp and I talk about how he would love to start a Lectio-Cast with a Biblical Scholar. Since I am only 2 years into my use of the lectionary, I often look a couple of weeks ahead and think ‘I wonder how preachers in Mainline circles are going to handle that?”
It’s a funny situation – I preached every weekend in an Evangelical church for 11 years. I am very familiar with how I would have handled a lectionary text - which we didn’t have – in an environment that I am no longer in! I neither preach every weekend nor am I in that familiar setting. It really is a foreign feeling!
I looked at the texts for this upcoming weekend of January 13 and I thought to myself, “There seems to be a major issue with each of the 4 selections. I wonder how the deacons are/would approach them?”
January 13, 2013 [White] Baptism of the Lord First Sunday after the Epiphany :
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Here then are the 4 texts and after each I will express my concern, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Isaiah 43:1-7 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
- When I hear passages like this, I cringe at how it could easily be taken with a Zionist flair. Do you dare not mention the present problems in the Israel-Palestine conflict? I don’t know how you wouldn’t.
Psalm 29 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!
- These are the kind of anthropomorphic – personification texts that I hesitate to address now. It’s not that I am afraid of them, it’s that I want to honor them and their initial intent. I don’t want to speak against this antiquated imagery. I want to let the word of the Lord be heard… but really? Breaking trees and King imagery? It seems like everyone BUT the Bible quoting church has moved on from this kind of thing. We stick to 3,000 year old word pictures / poetry and … no wonder we seem kind of irrelevant to our contemporary audience.
Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
- Now, I know exactly what I would have done with this text 5 years ago! We would have a time at the end of the service for those who wanted to receive the Holy Spirit to come forward. We would lay hands on and pray for them. That is easy application! But what are Mainliners going to say about this text next weekend? I am truly curious!
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
- I got a similar one last year! What do we do with that dove? I said that Holy Spirit descended as a dove descends (gently) not AS a dove! But do we continue to say “a dove descended and people somehow knew it was Holy Spirit presence?” or that the spirit of God took on the form of a dove? or … I’m not sure what value it has to insist that something miraculous happened – the kind of thing that no one in the room has ever seen – just to be ‘faithful’ … without dealing with the hermeneutics a little bit.
So there is what I see as the trouble with this week’s texts. I checked out ‘Year B’ and they are no better. I would love your thoughts.