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Year C, Ordinary 27, 2016 – Under Pressure

September 26, 2016 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

You are welcome for the Earworm. 😉  The three passages for Ordinary 27, Year C, bring to mind times of great stress. In Lamentations, the poet has just seen the city of Jerusalem fall to the Babylonians. How could this happen? Isn’t God in the city, in the temple? Isn’t the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob able to create out of nothing, and hasn’t this God chosen this people as God’s own? Has God turned away? I think the feelings of despair and devastation in the first chapter of Lamentations are very familiar to anyone whose life has fallen apart. The brighter, more hopeful images in chapter three help lift heads if not spirits, and if handled with great care, they may give congregants struggling with their own pressures a sense that God can and will make something of great value out of present hard times. The pressure in Timothy is a little more subtle; Paul is in prison in Rome undergoing his own time of trial, and he writes to his young colleague to prepare him to take over, either for a limited amount of time or permanently. Timothy may have expected this inheritance from Paul but knowing it was upon him may have raised his heart rate a bit. And in Luke, Jesus is STILL trying to shape experiences and words for the disciples to understand what he is on about. He is drawing ever nearer to Jerusalem and crucifixion, as well. We can imagine what stress that put on him. All in all, the passages for today reveal people dealing with stress, frustration, confusion, and pressure. I am reminded of a quote: “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she is in hot water.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

This week’s texts are:

Lamentations 1:1-6 & 3:19-26  [01:59]  – For Word smart, we suggest following the example given in this text in Hebrew – write an acrostic poem expressing pain or frustration or fear concerning an experience you or your congregation has had. Then, flip the page and write a declaration of God’s blessings. For Self smart, we suggest keeping this poem in a prominent place for a while to remind you of God’s presence in the midst of chaos. Also for word smart, you might read this passage with two voices – a narrator and the widowed Jerusalem. If you choose to do this, we suggest using costumes for the widow applying Eye smart. We have some suggestions for using hymns, or the blues, for Music smart. For People smart, we have a story about a woman invited to share her grief with another.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [03:55]
    • {MWD} Word – We lose a lot in the translation from Hebrew to English, but this entire book is written as an acrostic poem. Commentary I read (linked below) suggests that using this literary structure allows the poet the opportunity to sit and dwell with the grief and devastation brought about by the destruction of Jerusalem. The poet does not attempt in any way to brush away the pain and the terror of what this person has witnessed and experienced. In fact, by “cataloging the woes”, the poet deliberately looks the pain in the eye and begins the process of corralling the pain into something less overwhelming. My own personal experience with pain and trauma, when I look right at it, sometimes lessens the impact of the original event. I don’t “just get over it” but I do learn to shape it (and myself) into a new form that won’t destroy me. Like the Poet, God is with me in this process, giving me assurance and mercy.
    • {D2} Self – I would say Word, as Molly does, except that people are going to hear this in English instead of Hebrew, so they won’t know it’s an acrostic poem until you tell them. So I think what they will experience is the author’s pain, humiliation, and despair. That’s all internal work set up by external circumstance, so I’m going with Self as the primary.
  • Smarts – Word – SFX [03:55], Eye – SFX [06:36], Music – I/SFX [07:30], People – I [08:37], Self – SFX [09:15]
  • Lamentations 1, 3 worksheet   

 

2 Timothy 1:1-14  [09:43] – In Word smart, we wonder, what stories have you heard from your youngest days that shaped your life? What stories does your congregation tell that affect how it lives and moves? Words have a lot of power; how are they being used to build up and offer correction? In Eye smart, we look at verse 10 where Paul speaks of grace being revealed and appearing in Jesus Christ. We offer some examples to illustrate how sudden appearances can be wonderful, awesome things! Blessings and charges are part of our corporate worship so in Body smart we suggest a way to do it that includes everyone present charging and blessing one another. We’ve used this before, and while sometimes people (teens) can be giggly with it, this can also be a truly powerful experience of giving and receiving. We offer some old and new music to illustrate kindling faith for Music smart and look how heat and pressure can create gems in Nature smart. What gems do you now possess because of pressing times? In People and Self smart we offer some questions for groups and individuals to reflect on people from our past who have given us jewels of faith and trust.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [10:37]
    • {MWD} Word – I am reminded of Elijah and Elisha reading this passage from Timothy. Just as leadership was given from one to the other, Paul is handing his ministry to someone else and reminding him that he is fit for undertaking it and that he has a long history of faith provided by his mother and grandmothers’ example. In these verses, I hear words of blessing, a last testament, and a great deal of encouragement. Wouldn’t it be great if all people charged with leading Jesus’ flock had a personal letter like this? If you do, read it again. If you do not, read this passage. Maybe think about writing a letter to a younger colleague, as well. We can all use some well timed refreshment in our ministries!
    • {D2} Self – This whole letter seems to be the charge from one generation to the next, and there is a great deal of pathos that goes with that. Paul expresses longing, memory, and hope in this passage. While the target for his writing is Timothy, it is hard to escape the sense of author infused in the text. Also, Timothy is encouraged by the letter to be introspective to a degree, reflecting on his past to prepare for his future. So I think it is another Self smart passage.
  • Smarts – Word – SFX [11:20], Eye – I/SFX [12:08], Body – I/SFX [13:07], Music – I/SFX [14:55], Nature – I/SFX [16:07], People – I/SFX [17:00], Self – I/SFX [18:18]
  • 2 Timothy 1 worksheet   

 

Luke 17:5-10 [20:41] – In Word smart, we have a suggestion for how to read the passage so that people hear what Jesus is expressing. We have three options for a special effect in Eye smart, and we really want to know how it goes if you use any of them! The illustration in Body smart could become a special effect if you find someone who is disciplined, and in Nature smart we talk about berries and seeds. For People smart, we have specific questions for some verses and have an idea for a skit for a special effect. We did not write one yet, but would love to see yours if you choose to do this! And finally for Self smart we have quoted a story Will Willimon tells and have some questions to ponder about our own service to God and one another.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [21:32]
    • {MWD} Self – How big is your mustard seed? I sort of hear Samuel L. Jackson asking that question in my mind. In this parable or saying, Jesus instructs his disciples that their faith does not have to be HYOOG; it just needs to be sufficient. We as a culture have a hard time determining what is sufficient. Finding where to stop takes discipline and self understanding which is to say it is difficult, but not impossible. These two parables in Luke give individuals and congregations plenty of food for thought in tiny, bite-sized seeds.
    • {D2} Self – I’m just being consistent. But seriously, folks, Jesus is trying to instill some attitude and confidence in the disciples. It happens to be mostly an attitude of humility, but also of capacity. You have it within yourself, he seems to be saying, to do powerful things and to serve in various ways, and still have capacity for more. It’s like a coach pushing her team to exceed their self-imposed limits, which means going inside to find where that strength and faith live.
  • Smarts – Word – SFX [22:07], Eye – SFX [22:47], Body – I [25:18], Nature – I/SFX [25:54], People – I/SFX [27:23], Self – I/SFX [29:30]
  • Luke 17 worksheet   

 

Links

… in Lamentations 

 

… in 2 Timothy

 

… in Luke

 

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