Across the Divides

Year A, Proper 15

Genesis 45:1-15 and Psalm 133 

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 and Psalm 67 

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Our text from Isaiah 56 gives a timely message for this week, reiterating a familiar theme for the prophet – God is bringing salvation and deliverance from oppression to the people. As part of the second generation of Isaiah texts ,often labeled Second Isaiah, the prophet of Isaiah 56 speaks in the name of the great 8th century BCE prophet and proclaims that God’s salvation is extended past the people of Israel to ALL who join themselves and commit to God’s ways. Foreigners and Gentiles are included in God’s family. “Thus says the Lord, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered” (Isaiah 56.8). God is working across the divides that humanity has made! Continue reading

True or False?

Year A, Proper 14

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 and Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b   

1 Kings 19:9-18 and Psalm 85:8-13 

Romans 10:5-15 

Matthew 14:22-33

Our lectionary texts have been so rich in story this summer! So rich that I find it difficult to suggest other stories. Some of the best and most universal stories of the world are here in our texts. So take your time with them and savor them. We will come to parts of the lectionary later in the year that are just as rich but perhaps not as obviously rich in story as our current texts. You can check out last week’s blog for a process of savoring and mining the richness of a story. Continue reading

Jacob and Jesus; Mining the Stories

Year A, Proper 13

Genesis 32:22-31 and Psalm 17:1-7, 15   

Isaiah 55:1-5 and Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21  

Romans 9:1-5  

Matthew 14:13-21

Its deep into the week and your sermon and teaching prep are no doubt well underway. Still here are a few thoughts to offer to you. We have two tremendous stories in Genesis and in Matthew this week. Two of my favorites. If you are preaching on one of these texts here are some thoughts and questions to help you continue steeping in the stories. Continue reading

Finding Spirit’s Treasure

Year A, Proper 12

Genesis 29:15-28 and Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128    

1 Kings 3:5-12 and Psalm 119:129-136 

Romans 8:26-39 

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

It has been one of those fire drill weeks in my parish. Well, actually I guess it’s been at times more like a real fire. We had a member die by suicide after struggling with a very long, debilitating and painful illness. I had been with her in many pastoral care session. Ministry is kicked up a notch at times of death and even further during the time after a tragic death. Throughout the reeling emotions and concern for her wife, family and those who cared for her, stewardship preparation for the fall goes on; other pastoral care goes on; planning for Christian Formation programming for the fall goes on. We are in the search for a new full time music director and a half-time data base coordinator. We are saying goodbye to the current beloved music director and a big “see you soon” to our senior minister as he goes on a three month sabbatical. And this coming Sunday I am preaching the candidating sermon for the position I have held as acting/interim for the past two and a half years. After the morning service there will be a congregational meeting to vote on my candidacy for the position. Whew!

I share my particular situation because I know that all of you have had – maybe are having – weeks like this. Sometimes its hard to stop and pray in the midst of it all. I have taken comfort this week in Paul’s words, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” I have pondered his assertion, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Are all things working together for good for the wife who is left alone after the death of her beloved even though she knows her loved one is now out of pain and at peace with God? I cling to Paul’s rhetorical questions, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?… Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? “ I cling to Paul’s conclusion that nothing, NO-THING, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Continue reading

Words Shape Reality

Year A, Proper 11

Genesis 28:10-19a and Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24                                              

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8 and Psalm 86:11-17  

Romans 8:12-25 

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Our passage from Isaiah definitively proclaims the sovereignty of the God of Israel, YHWH, to a cultural context that holds many gods. The writer of second Isaiah declares that YHWH is God/King of all. “… I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
let them declare and set it forth before me. …Do not fear, or be afraid;
… There is no other rock; I know not one. “(Isaiah 44:6-8). Old Testament scholar, Steed Vernyl Davidson, observes that the divine speech in this passage “gets to the ancient understanding that words shape reality.”[i]

The writer of the Wisdom of Solomon also underscores Davidson’s observation. For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people, to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly; … For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all” (Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16). In the Genesis passage, Jacob discovers and proclaims the sovereignty of his father’s, god, as he travels to Haran seeking a wife. In verses just after the end of our passage (Genesis 28:20-22) he makes a vow to YHWH, god of his father, Isaac and grandfather, Abraham, that shapes his reality and the reality of his descendants, the Israelite people, for generations. Continue reading

Story: Poetry in Motion

Year A, Proper 10

Genesis 25:19-34 and Psalm 119:105-112     

Isaiah 55:10-13 and Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13  

Romans 8:1-11  

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

For the last two weeks I have been writing about the imagery of story. Images lead us along the paths to finding the inside truth of a story…even as the young girl, Maggie, says in the book, Is That Story True?, the outside of the story didn’t really happen that way. Images lead us to the emotions of a story which strike a chord in our hearts as we recognize and remember when we have felt the same. Images lead us to metaphor and meaning. If the story is about a child finding a hidden key that unlocks a hidden treasure box, what is the metaphor or meaning of that key or that box in our own life? In the life of our community? Our world? Continue reading

Why Story?

Year A, Proper 9

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 and Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13   

Zechariah 9:9-12 and Psalm 145:8-14

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Recently I heard from one of my readers that they found the stories on my website difficult to access. I wondered if they could not find them on the internet despite my careful work with hyperlinks. Or if they did not see the connections between the stories and the scripture texts.  I appreciate feedback, particularly if it helps me to bring clarity to my writing and helps you access the stories better as you study the scripture. My goal is to enhance your ministry in preaching and teaching.

This is a good opportunity to write about imagery in story again to shed some light on how I pick and share the stories that illuminate our sacred texts from the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament. When I read or hear a story my first reaction is to notice the sense imagery – the visuals, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the textures and the muscle memory experiences. After working with story in this way for over 20 years I do this instinctively. But so do you! This is the first layer of story listening whether we are aware of the process or not. Then I notice where these images lead me emotionally and metaphorically. I move from metaphor to questions of theology and biblical interpretation. Then finally to contemporary application. Continue reading

Is That Story True?

Year A, Proper 8

Genesis 22:1-14 and Psalm 13                       

Jeremiah 28:5-9 and Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 

Romans 6:12-23 

Matthew 10:40-42

“Is that story true?” This is a question I am often asked as a storyteller. My reply is always, “Yes, it’s true! Whether it happened that way or not!” In her book, Is That Story True?, Laura Alary answers the question in very true ways as she relates the story of Maggie, a little girl listening to her mother’s bedtime stories. Maggie’s mom has wise answers as Maggie asks her question each night, “Is that story true?”

I think Maggie’s question is one we ask with fear and trembling as we hear the first story in our lectionary texts this week. “Is that story true?” Is it true that child sacrifice was something practiced in Abraham’s time? Is this a story about God rejecting that practice? Is it true that God tested Abraham? Is it true that God would go to the extreme length of asking for Isaac’s death? Is it true that God seemingly manipulates people to “inspire” faith? Continue reading

Jealousy, Fear of Compassion

Year A, Proper 7

Genesis 21:8-21 and Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17                            

Jeremiah 20:7-13 and Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18 

Romans 6:1b-11 

Matthew 10:24-39

“Jealousy is the fear of compassion.”  (Max Frisch, 20th century Swiss playwright and novelist)

Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of the child of promise, Isaac, saw Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, playing with his younger half-brother. She decided that this son of her handmaiden, Hagar, would not inherit with her son. Even though it had been her idea to give Abraham a son by Hagar so God’s promise could be fulfilled. She was hedging her bets against God. Now that God had given Isaac, Sarah takes back her gift of the other son. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away to die in the wilderness. 

Sarah is afraid of compassion. In the midst of abundant evidence of God’s grace and abundance Sarah lives in a worldview of scarcity. In this mindset one cannot afford the luxury of being compassionate and sharing. There might not be enough power, wealth, inheritance to go around. Despite Sarah’s fear, God’s grace and provision abound in the story as Ishmael’s cries are heard by God and the angel opens Hagar’s eyes to God’s abundance in the desert. Continue reading

“You Shall Be Witnesses!”

Year A, 7th Sunday in Eastertide, Pentecost and Trinity

7th Sunday in Easter

Acts 1:6-14

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35                        

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21

John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

Trinity Sunday

Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20 

As you read this blog post I am leading a Celtic Christianity pilgrimage in Scotland with my husband, the Rev. Hal Chorpenning. We are immersed in ancient Pictish Christian stones depicting God’s stories of salvation wrapped in the imagery of the historic, pre-medieval people of northeastern Scotland, the Picts. We are traveling the paths of the charismatic Irish saint, Columba who brought Christianity from the monastery he founded on the Isle of Iona in the 6th century into northern Scotland, of the gentle St. Aidan who also left Iona in the 7th century to bring Christianity to the early Britons of Northumbria on the holy island of Lindisfarne and of his successor, the mystic St. Cuthbert. They were all following in the first steps of those first disciples that Jesus speaks to in Acts 1: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Continue reading