by Rev. Lenny Duncan
What does it mean to be a servant? I mean really. We have reduced this in the Christian church to a series of actions surrounding worship. But what does it mean really. Our reading from Isaiah points to the servant to come but also speaks a word over the people.
It means to suffer, or to join others in their suffering. So, this week I invite you into suffering.
by Rev. Lura Groen
The way I've always heard this text preached is:
“Jesus says we won't get into heaven if we don't give all our money away. But that can't possibly be true - because grace - so we must have to explain away this story somehow. Maybe it's a metaphor. Maybe it only means *this particular* young man. Maybe it's only because *he* loves his wealth too much, and we could give ours away any time we want! So we don't have to. Or maybe it's all just a trap to remind us we need God's forgiveness, right? Right?”
by Elle Dowd
The texts in this week’s lectionary readings are ones that come with some historical baggage. They are texts that have been frequently used to subjugate women and LGBTQIA+ people as well as non-human nature. With the current news cycle swirling with all kinds of triggering content for members of marginalized populations, these readings can feel more than a little bit overwhelming to the preacher.
prayer and commentary by Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin
Texts: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
Disclaimer Note: If you are using the Semi-continuous readings (Esther 7;1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 and Psalm 124) you are going to be wrestling with the story which is the origins of the Purim festival, a tale of threats, deception and victory claimed in the execution of an enemy. Beyond giving you caution that this tale can stir up feelings around abuse for survivors, especially during our present news cycle, I have no help for you this week. If you have no idea how the story might trigger folx, please don’t touch it. If you have a sense of the dangerous waters into which you are treading, you will be in my prayers as you preach and teach on the text.
Prayer of the Day
Teaching God, you nurture and shape us for life together with you and one another. Open our eyes and hearts to see the wisdom you grant us in elders and prophets from all corners of the community. Open our hearts to the partnerships you have designed for us with strangers and friends. May we always honor and value relationship with all who call upon your name.
I’m not sure how many of you might be using this text, so let’s just hit it first. It’s a text that falls solidly the camps of patriarchy and heteronormativity that raised the hair on the back of my neck when I started reading it. Though instead of ignoring it, the reading could be an opportunity to talk about how we read and understand the Bible - if that would be useful in your congregation.
by Pr. Elizabeth Rawlings
Proverbs 1 20:33
Now I know not everyone uses the semi-continuous readings, but if you can at all use this reading USE THIS READING. I mean, you could really just read this and then sit down and stare at people.
Wisdom is a black woman.
That’s what I kept thinking as I read this reading from Proverbs.
Black women have been telling us. They’ve been telling us about issues from poverty to failing schools to violence to maternal mortality rates to the 2016 presidential election (in which 95% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton because they knew what was about to happen).
But we (I write this as a white woman, so white folk, especially white women, I’m talking to us) haven’t been listening.
by Rev Elizabeth Rawlings
It’s the end of the school year, likely the beginning of combining services or declining summer attendance. It’s a tired time of year for everyone. Yet there is a lot going on in the world and these readings offer us a number of different ways of coming at our current political climate, the way we talk about and view bodies, and the thing we all probably need more of right now -- hope.
Genesis 3:8-15: Now, what I want to do here is go off on a long tangent about how this story is quite possibly about the subjugation of a feminine/matriarchal God in the name of a patriarchal God, showing that sin comes into the world through listening to the Goddess (snakes are ancient symbols of the divine feminine), with the patriarchal God punishing the divine feminine for all time. However, that’s more a Bible study kind of thing (but you should totally do this and tell me how it went). Instead, what if we think about how before sin, there was no shame in being naked. Before sin, we were not ashamed of our bodies. There is no body shaming in the Garden of Eden, there is no body shaming in paradise. There is no shame in being naked or showing one's body in the kingdom of God. And, if we are practicing kingdom living on this earth and have been freed from sin by Christ, we might do well to practice loving our bodies and other people’s bodies regardless of their shape or the amount of clothing they wear.
1 Samuel 8-20ish: OMG THIS IS AMAZING. There is so much to preach in here. Israel is asking for a king and God is like, um, guys, do you know what that will look like in reality? This is one of those readings I feel like you could just read and then stand there and let the people soak it in. This is what a king looks like. A king is corrupt. A king will steal from you. A king will send your sons to war. This is a good message for both left and right -- for all of us who (at least from time to time) look to elected officials for salvation, as well as a counter narrative for that whole God appoints kings and kings are always doing God’s work narrative. (cue Derek Webb’s Savior on Capitol Hill).
Mark 3:20-35: You could connect this to the reading from 1 Samuel and talk about kings sewing division and the house divided not being able to stand and then connect that to the fact that Christ calls us to all see one another, our co-workers for the kingdom, as siblings*. You could also use this as a stepping stone to talk about any number of things, but I would encourage you, if this scripture is calling you this week, to take some time to talk about the children being ripped from their parents arms and placed in detention centers even when their parents are following the legal asylum process to enter the country, how we would not let this happen to our siblings, and Christ pretty much tells us these people are our family. This will work especially well if, last week, you talked about how Jesus ignored the Sabbath law for the law of Love.
2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1: This is a good one if your people are exhausted and need hope (which is where I am at right now and probably many of you with all of the end of the school year activities).
16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5:1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Do not lose heart, dear friends. This journey is long and is filled with many success and failures, many trials and victories. But we are being renewed by the love of God each and every day. Do not lose heart. You’ve got this.
*please try to be aware of our trans and gender non-binary siblings and use words like siblings or cousins instead of binary language -- it’s one of those small things you can do that most people won’t notice, but trans and gender non-binary folx totally will
by Allison Johnson
The Sabbath. These two passages are built around the practice of the Sabbath for the Jewish community.
The context in both of these small passages is the same: what is permitted on the Sabbath? What can you do? What can’t you do?
We first encounter the Pharisees pointing the finger at the disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. Their snark seems ever present: “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus’ response is, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
One point really jumps out here: who/what are you serving? And, what is the outcome of that service? Are human needs being met by picking grain, or by not picking grain? Is the law to rest something that is giving life? Or is it dealing death?
by Jodi Renee Giron
My first ever experience in a mainline church was on a Pentecost Sunday. I walked hand in hand with my Grandpa into his family’s church - a small Hispanic Presbyterian community housed in an old but well loved building. It was also my first encounter with a woman pastor. I remember how she seemed so lovely and mysteriously regal in her red stole. The tiny sanctuary was decked out in red balloons blowing with chaotic glee from the blast of a few window fans. Men in bright red jackets and ties were gathered around a radio in the fellowship hall listening to the Broncos game while the the women set out coffee and put on a festive parade of dresses in every Pantone of red, crimson, and scarlet. There was joyous liturgy in Spanish and English. Hymns sung and blessings passed with gregarious hugs. My little Baptist self was overcome. This was really my first time going all in for the Holy Spirit.
Truth Telling: The Spirit of Pentecost, the moment of Possession, the experience of the Holy Spirit and the embrace of the Divine
“Black Power, in short, is an attitude, an inward affirmation of the essential worth of blackness. It means that the black man will not be poisoned by the stereotypes that others have of him, but will affirm from the depth of his soul : "Get used to me, I am not getting used to anyone." And "if the white man challenges my humanity, I will impose my whole weight as a man on his life and show him that I am not that `sho good eatin' that he persists in imagining” Dr. James Cone, Ancestor
There’s been a lot of vulnerability that has erupted because perhaps there is a paradigm shift. Or maybe perhaps the anger, frustration, suffering and oppression that many of humanity have experienced in our lifetime. Or even, because we realize of the responsibility that our Ancestors have placed upon us and we can no longer afford to shrug it off, expecting someone else to pick it up. We realize that what the Risen Christ said to us about “loving one’s neighbor” means beyond the surface; it means going deeper and actually making an effort to put our bodies physically on the line for those as advocates, allies and co-conspirators.