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Year A, Ordinary 32, 2017 – People, Get Ready!

November 9, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Greetings!! Our son works in a big box retail store and is bracing himself for the onrush of the holidays. One of his colleagues just broke her hand, and he is expecting to be gone much more often than usual. I was encouraging him to think about the larger paycheck he would be getting for putting in more hours, but in the back of my mind I was also thinking, OH NO! We’re getting into That Time of the Year! (cue dramatic chord) I’m not one to get way out ahead in planning for the holidays, so I usually end up rushing to get last minute stuff together and then feeling guilty that I didn’t do more and resentful that it was expected of me in the first place. Holly Jolly, to you, too. So the texts for this Sunday have a word for me in them; how ready are you for what really matters? In Joshua, the people are pressed three times to make a declaration of devotion to the LORD before finally going into the land God has promised them. In Thessalonians, Paul comforts believers who are grieving the loss of loved ones before the Parousia. In Matthew, Jesus tells a story about being ready for the big event, in this case the arrival of a bridegroom. The holidays come every year but some things only happen once in a lifetime; and how we prepare for those things will affect every part of how we live now. Let’s leave the tinsel and garlands on the shelf for a while longer and explore how using Multiple Intelligence Theory can enrich this week’s worship preparation.


This week’s texts are:

Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25 [01:58]

We’ve taken another HUGE leap in the story of the Hebrew people. A couple weeks ago, we jumped from Sinai in Exodus to Moses’ death at the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we’re jumping from Joshua taking over the lead from Moses to Joshua’s own farewell. I hope no one has pulled a muscle! This editorial long jump keeps us at a good bird’s eye view of the story, but we lose some interpretive details by staying at this altitude. It’s up to individual preachers as to how many landmarks you wish to include to make sense of the context of this passage. We do a bit of that in EYE smart with some references to Shechem and its historical importance. In WORD smart, the back and forth exchange between Joshua and the people can be read responsively as a declaration of faith or you could use one of the two baptismal covenant reaffirmations linked below. Joshua pushes the people to declare themselves three times, which we investigate in MATH smart. Bob Dylan shows up in MUSIC smart, and we go back to TV Tropes in PEOPLE smart. 

  • Smarts – Word [03:31], Eye [05:01], Math [07:43], Music [09:00], People [09:10]
  • Joshua 24 worksheet
  • Links in Joshua


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 [11:18]

When working from this letter, we need to keep in mind that Paul only had a short time to instruct the Thessalonian believers about Jesus before being chased out of town. His teaching had a lasting impact and when he hears that the community is grieving the loss of some members, he includes specific encouragement that he probably did not address while with them. Namely, what happens to those who die before Jesus returns in glory? Where are they now? Using images from the era, he sees Jesus returning with fanfare similar to an imperial agent entering a city (see the link in WORD smart below). The picture Paul paints is captivating, so we suggest using a captivating art form in EYE smart to demonstrate it – a pop-up book! Commentary by Jane Patterson (link below) led to some interesting illustrations in BODY smart about embodying deep trust in Jesus. MUSIC smart includes three hymns using Paul’s imagery and the longing for someone in another realm (see SELF smart links) reminded us of one movie’s plot device in PEOPLE smart. 


Matthew 25:1-13 [20:22]

Sometimes, I wish Jesus had left commentary for his parables. He did interpret a couple at the request of his disciples, which is helpful to us, but there is no record of anyone asking him to unpack this one. Is this allegory or metaphor? Aren’t we supposed to give freely of what we have, and if so, what does the oil represent, since five of the maidens refuse to share? What were the wedding customs of the day, and who sells oil at midnight? We can spiral down into a morass of questions about this text, so illuminating the intelligences helps give us some less slippery footing. In EYE smart, we have a link to a blog post at Art and Faith Matters that discusses some sculpture in France that I thought was really interesting. The special effect demonstration addresses the issue of why five maidens did not share their oil. Some people are very good about making checklists and keeping to them – and knowing where they put them – and we have some illustrations about how we prepare for different events in BODY smart. Since this parable has so much going on in it, we have a variety of offerings in MUSIC smart. If we want to step back and catch our breath a bit, we can follow the link in NATURE smart and make an oil lamp. We have commentary in PEOPLE and SELF smart that lead to some questions about our own spiritual fuel and a suggestion about sharing the vessel for oil. 



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


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