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Year C, Ordinary 31, 2016 – Woe to Go!

October 26, 2016 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Greetings!! Welcome to More Than Hearing! The Lectionary readings for this week all share a sense of people being pushed by circumstances that would lead most past the breaking point. In Habakkuk, we have the introduction to chapters one and two – and really recommend reading the entire book to get a feel for the color of the whole work. The prophet has seen truly horrible things and is not at all happy with God, both for allowing it to happen and because there does not seem to be an end to it. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is writing to a congregation who also has been through a tough patch. He is impressed and gives thanks for their continued faithfulness, though. And in Luke, we read the story of Zacchaeus climbing over the heads of people who are shutting him out. Each passage begins in a murky place and ends with God’s love illuminating the way beyond it into a brighter future.

This week’s texts are: 

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 [02:00]  – Habakkuk is a short book that is long on images and passion. In Word smart, we look at cries for help and God’s response as crying babies and political yard signs. We also suggest making a banner. In Eye smart, we see that God does not give trigger warnings; the prophet has seen that which cannot be unseen. Justice has been perverted and we look at how that might be demonstrated with a Play dough press. The prophet is dismayed not only by perverted justice but that the law itself has become slack and the people are surrounded by wickedness which we consider in Body smart. The Beatles’ “Help!” may work well in Music smart and Princess Buttercup’s faith in Westley coming to her rescue may help illustrate God’s devotion in People smart. Finally, in Self smart, we think the prophet’s determination to see God’s plan in action is like someone walking patrol.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [03:38] –

{MWD} People: As with most of the prophets, Habakkuk looks at the current situation of God’s people with clear eyes. He is blunt and direct about what is going on and expects God to respond. It isn’t just the voice of a prophet who has received a hopeful word that drives this expectation, either. This prophet is upset with what he has seen and how the people are surrounded by wickedness. He wants an answer; he wants God to be accountable. I am impressed by his outspokenness because it speaks to a relationship that has been around for a while and will continue to be. I think People smart gives us entry to explore the passion and commitment of relationships.

{D2} People: The prophet is keenly aware of the interplay between righteous folk and violent folk in the imagery he sees in his oracle, and consequently he is aware of the suffering that is at hand. He is longing for righteousness and peace but finds none. All of his thoughts are about interpersonal relationships. When God replies at the end of the reading, it is set in terms of those same interpersonal contrasts. That’s why I picked People Smart.

  • Smarts – Word [04:37], Eye [06:12], Body [07:42], Music [08:40], People [09:08], Self [10:55]
  • Habakkuk worksheet   

 

2 Thessalonians 1:1–4, 11–12 [11:25] – As he does with several other letters to the faithful, Paul begins this letter to the Thessalonians with thanksgiving to God for reports he has received about their faithfulness to the Gospel. He is pleased enough by their example that he tells them that he and his co-workers boast about them to other churches. For a Word smart special effect, you might get a taste of this by asking anyone in your congregation about their grandkids. We also suggest making a poster. In Eye smart, we borrowed an idea from Amy Loving for decorating your worship space with expressions of thanksgiving. Pull out some engineering principles about stress and strain in Math smart and for Body smart, remember how the Strong Man in a carnival would be so cheerful enduring his own trials. For Nature smart, look to grapes, olives, apples, and coffee beans as natural illustrations of the good that can come out of difficulties. Remember watching your favorite sports team pull off an upset? Use this as an illustration in People smart. In Self smart, reflect about how a comeuppance is a well used trope in movies and why.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [12:58] –

{MWD} Self: I think Self smart becomes the PEI if we don’t shy away from the seemingly gleeful call for vengeance in the verses that the Lectionary omits from the reading. In fact, since verses 3 through 12 are one long sentence in Greek, we don’t really understand why Paul is so pleased to keep the Thessalonians in prayer if we cut most of it out. Is looking for the “bad guy” to fall like a ton of bricks the best for our own spiritual health? Is schadenfreude a dish best served over ice cream? No, probably not but there is something in us that takes some pleasure in justice timely served. 

{D2} People: I’m going with People again, this time because Paul is boasting about the love of the Thessalonians, announcing the Lord’s vengeance for their persecutors, and encouraging the Thessalonians to continue in their faithfulness. These are all about people skills and relationships. I appreciate Molly’s thoughts on Self, though.

  • Smarts – Word [13:32], Eye [15:22], Math [16:06], Body [17:19], Nature [17:54], People [19:29], Self [20:30]
  • 2 Thessalonians worksheet   

 

Luke 19:1-10 [21:28] – Zacchaeus means “clean” or “Innocent”. This sets up a deep irony in that he has come to be considered both unclean and guilty. In Eye smart, we ponder how seeing Zacchaeus hanging from a tree branch might bring to mind the ancient curse and wonder who else might have been hung unjustly. Zacchaeus insists that he will – or has already – given half his wealth to the poor, so in Math smart we think it could be interesting for people to estimate their net worth and see just how much half of that would be. We also look at the double twist in this passage; truly this story bend a lot of expectations. In Body smart, we recommend an exercise that could be both tricky and very revealing that involves looking at pictures of ourselves. If that is too intense, we have a less risky option. Nature smart has rivers, forsythia, and spider plants as illustrations. We have a reader’s theater in People smart and in Self smart, we look at how a miracle occurs in this passage.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [21:55] –

{MWD} Body:  What is the first thing most people remember about Zacchaeus? He was a wee, little man, of course. If he were not shorter than most, he would not have climbed a tree, and we would not have this tale. Our bodies have a close connection to our life story; how we are perceived by others as they first encounter us, how we perceive ourselves as we come to learn how to control out bodies as children, and how our bodies grow and mature and eventually begin wearing down will play a significant role in shaping who we are. That Zacchaeus was short is a physical description of the man – and sets the stage for his memorable encounter with Jesus.

{D2} People: Again, Molly makes a good point. Nevertheless, I’m going for the triple by picking People Smart for all three texts this week. There is so much rich interplay between Zacchaeus, the crowd, and Jesus that I can’t do otherwise. The hopes, expectations, grumbling, and redemption that show up, mostly bouncing between Zacchaeus and the crowd here really just call out one’s interpersonal awareness. There are many other elements from the other intelligences, ’tis true, but I think the People connections are the strongest.

  • Smarts – Eye [22:35], Math [23:56], Body [26:40], Nature [28:43], People [30:02], Self [30:35]
  • Luke 19 worksheet   

 

Links 

… in Habakkuk   

  • Help! – the Beatles

… in 2 Thessalonians 

… in Luke (Heading 3)

 

Image credit: © Copyright Peter Bond and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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