Monday, May 27, 2013

Preacher's Study - Year C, Proper 4 (9) 2013

Monday Morning in the Preacher's Study
First thoughts about next Sunday's sermon 
(2nd after Pentecost, June 2, 2013) 

John W.B. Hill

This Sunday we enter ‘ordinary time,’ and the Revised Common Lectionary offers a unique opportunity, from now until late November, to attend to three different voices of scripture, each in sustained discourse (that is, if we are using the semicontinuous readings for the Old Testament).

This is the moment, therefore, to take stock of such opportunities and choose homiletic strategies that can make the most of them.

This being the ‘Year of Luke’ (the version of the Gospel known especially for its compassion for those who are in trouble, and its attention to what God is doing in history), the Old Testament readings chosen to accompany this gospel are from the prophets, from Elijah to Haggai, with Jeremiah as the dominant voice.  Prophets are people who see what the rest of us miss, who speak truth to power, who summon us to return to the ways of God.

How then shall we honour the unique character of the lectionary during this stretch of the year?  How shall we help God’s people to weigh the cumulative force of three persistent voices, from Sunday to Sunday? 

First, we can stay alert to the recurring resonances, and draw attention to them.  This Sunday, for example, we encounter contrasts between a true prophet and false prophets, between a genuine apostle and self-serving apostles, between a teacher who speaks with authority and the scribes and teachers of the law.

Second, we can look ahead to discover how to seize the best moment for gathering up the elements (extended over a number of Sunday’s) of one particular scriptural voice, inviting people to integrate what they are hearing from week to week.  It is not necessary to preach on the Gospel text every Sunday — so long as we make clear that it is a gospel lens through which we look to discover the deepest meaning of a text.     

This Sunday’s readings call us to courageous faith.  Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal is a high-risk public drama designed to puncture the undiscriminating assumption that all forms of piety are equally valid.  But the preacher may wish to wait before commenting at any length until the second half of this story is told (on June 16).

Paul’s challenge to the disciples in Galatia is no less heated than Elijah’s challenge to his fellow Israelites.  His appeal to them will be spelled out in readings from this letter over six Sundays, so this may be the moment to introduce the letter and help people to hear the extreme tone of Paul’s concern.  Does it really make a difference what you believe about the ways of God?

Sometimes it takes a stranger in our midst to awaken us to the unique revelation with which we have been entrusted, to break through our dazed familiarity with the gospel.  So it was in the episode recounted in today’s Gospel reading: a Gentile, a hard-bitten centurion no less, has recognized something in Jesus to which his fellow Israelites are still blind.

John Hill is a presbyter in the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). A member of APLM Council, John also serves as chair for the Primate’s Task Force on Hospitality, Christian Initiation and Discipleship Formation in the ACC.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Preachers Study - The Day of Pentecost

Monday morning in the Preacher's Study

First thoughts about next Sunday's sermon (Pentecost Year C)
Todd Townshend

There are so many things to be said about the possibilities offered in our celebration of the Day of Pentecost—primarily, that all possibility for us, as Christians, is rooted in the movement of the Holy Spirit.
One element of the celebration which we may choose to de-emphasize is that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. As we struggle against our (sinful) tendency to make it all about us, why not make the day instead about God? What did God do on the day of Pentecost and how is it like and unlike what God is doing now?
Perhaps, as we lean away from an overly strong focus on the human beings, we could mix things up in a sermon taking our cue from the Sunday following – Trinity Sunday. Without filling the air with words that we learned in our theology books, without delving too deeply into theological explanations of our Triune God, preachers have an opportunity to evoke meaning from a celebration which says, “the Spirit gives birth" or, “Jesus gives life to the dead” or, “the Creator breathes and we are filled with that Spirit,” or, “here begins God’s creative reclamation”, or “the Spirit is animating your charismata!”—now what in the world does that mean, and what does that look like today, now, for me, for us?
These are some very bold, strong, astonishing texts. Storm winds, fire, bestowal of impossible gifts, all sent/given so that we will know for ourselves the power of life over death.  Our mission is, in part, to take in “the breath of the resurrection” and to “go tell / go live”.  Now preachers, please help us to see something— what in the world this action-of-God might mean, what it looks like today, now, for me, for us?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Baptism: The Moment That Lasts a Lifetime

Baptism: The Moment That Lasts a Lifetime
Ruth Meyers

During the Easter season at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, where I teach, Eucharist begins with singing the Easter Troparion: “Christ is risen from dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life.” Just before we sing, the presider, standing at the baptismal font, offers a brief prayer over the water. Then, during the troparion, which is sung over and over and over, the presider walks through the chapel sprinkling the assembly. Emphasizing Christ’s trampling down death, members of the assembly stomp their feet in time with the music.

Remember your baptism! Remember that we have been buried with Christ, so that we might walk in newness of life (Romans 6).

The identity established in baptism shapes a Christian’s entire life. Whether baptized as an adult, making the promises of baptism for oneself, or committed to the Christian life as an infant, on the strength of promises made by parents and godparents, we cannot in that moment comprehend all that it is to believe in the God of Jesus Christ and to live as Christ’s Body in the world. The moment of baptism lasts a lifetime. We spend our lives learning what it means to believe in Christ, risen from the dead. We spend our lives learning how to behave as Christians.

In its recently revised materials for baptism, the Church of England says, “One test of the liturgical celebration of baptism is whether, over time, it enables the whole Church to see itself as a baptized community, called to partake in the life of God and to share in the mission of God to the world.” Our celebration of baptism and our remembrance of baptism must be strong, shaping Christians who are able to walk in newness of life.

Here’s a question to stir the waters: How can baptism shape a faithful Christian community, enabling Christians to grow up into the full stature of Christ?

Ruth Meyers will be one of the featured presenters at Stirring the Waters: Reclaiming the Missional, Subversive Character of Baptism, the APLM-NAAC conference this June 27-29 in Chicago.  Dr. Meyers is the Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics and Dean of Academic Affairs at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and author of Continuing the Reformation: Re-Visioning Baptism in the Episcopal Church. She is currently working on a book about liturgy and mission. She is the chair of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and a member of the Council of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission.

To register online for Stirring the Waters:

For more information, printable brochure or mail-in registration form: