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Year A, Ordinary 30, 2017 – Regime Change

October 25, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Greetings!! Almost a year ago, the United States elected a new president, and so far, nothing has blown up. We are still hopeful that won’t happen. New leadership is often a challenging time for everyone. In the three passages for this Sunday, we see a literal leadership change as (spoiler alert!) Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy after leading the people to the boundary between the wilderness and the land promised to their ancestors. In Thessalonians, Paul is taking great care to persuade the believers that his style of leadership can be trusted. He isn’t coming to them simply to flatter them and get a place to stay for a while. In Matthew, Jesus has been showing the authorities that their leadership style is lacking in compassion, justice, and understanding, but all they see is an opponent who has ridiculously good answers to any question they ask. 


This week’s texts are:

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 [01:58]

This passage is the end for Moses and the Pentateuch. According to an article at Reformed Judaism, this section is read at the end of the liturgical year. God allows Moses the opportunity to actually see the land he had been moving towards since the beginning of Exodus before his end comes. We have some links to paintings and photos so we can “see” this scene in EYE smart. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, and we are told his strength was not diminished. In BODY smart, we have a link to some people who lived that long and to an article that speaks to Moses’ breath being taken by God and then given to Adam as the liturgical calendar begins again in Genesis. In NATURE smart, the land Moses is shown is quite varied geographically and geologically. We have some links to help talk about that. And in PEOPLE smart, we have some eulogies for famous people. You might want to think about beginning your sermon as a eulogy for Moses. For MUSIC smart, think about the soundtrack that would be playing for this scene; would it be mournful or would it swell as Moses sees the land?  


1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 [11:14]

In this passage, Paul is attempting to allay the suspicion that he is not anything other than a traveling sophist. Commentary suggests that communities often had people appear who claimed a special knowledge and would let you in on it – for a price. Paul reminds the believers in Thessalonica that he is not peddling that type of information or anything else. He and his companions truly care for them. He writes the phrase “as you know” often, so in WORD smart, we chase down its contemporary uses. In PEOPLE smart, we follow the suggestion of Jeffrey Weima that there are three familial images Paul uses in this passage in order to persuade the Thessalonians as to his sincerity. Break into groups and discuss them. Paul’s concern in these verses is to contrast his motives for coming into the community with the motives of those who come with flattering words, so in SELF smart, we have some questions to clarify our motives for preaching. 

  • Smarts – Word [12:38], People [16:31], Self [19:04]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2 worksheet
  • Links in 1 Thessalonians
    • WORD smart – 
    • PEOPLE smart –
      • “Infants, Nursing Mother, and Father: Paul’s Portrayal of a Pastor” by Jeffrey A. D. Weima in the Calvin Theological Journal, 2002


Matthew 22:34-46 [21:29]

We are at the end of Jesus’ conflicts with the authorities in Matthew’s Gospel. He has been evading verbal traps, setting off his own theological explosions, and essentially running circles around them. One has to acknowledge their persistence because they give it one last shot in this passage. Which is the greatest commandment – out of 613? It seems like they are panicking a bit, doesn’t it? Jesus gives two answers, and in EYE smart, we suggest making a mobile out of them and hang it in your worship space. Since they have been attempting to trick him with difficult questions, Jesus gives them a riddle, and in MATH smart, we think using some riddles would appeal to the logic smart people in your congregation. In BODY smart, we suggest a TED Radio Hour episode about play and offer some articles about where the soul might be found in our brains. If you have a need to break your congregation into three groups, which you will if you use our suggestion for PEOPLE smart in Thessalonians, make some paper cutouts of hearts, minds, and souls, and use them as a way to group your people. And for SELF smart we have a special effect that demonstrates how loving God and neighbor can expand the ego. 


Image Credit: Copyright: olivier26 / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


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