Year C, Lent 4, 2019 – The Heart of the Matter
Greetings! Welcome back for previous listeners and welcome here for first time folks! We are more than halfway through Lent – and I’m still wearing a parka. Just sayin’. Last week’s passages centered around repentance and this week’s center around forgiveness. Forgiveness makes me think of the Don Henley song “The Heart of the Matter“ with this lyric in the chorus:
I’ve been tryin’ to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore
The song is reflective and wistful, and there is a hope that the singer and the beloved can maybe one day get to a better place after some forgiveness is granted and received. The Gospel lesson is all about forgiveness and new chances, while Paul tells the Corinthians that anyone in Christ is a transformed person. Joshua tells the people that God has rolled away their disgrace, and the Psalmist sings of being given new life – almost literally – after receiving God’s graceful pardon. I think Don was right; forgiveness really IS the heart of it all. But where his song and Scripture differ is that God still loves us and always will. Let’s go see how we can illustrate that!
Smarts of the Week [01:58]
This week, we are concentrating on EYE smart and NATURE smart. We have some suggestions for using them in a general way in worship, and of course, some specific ideas below! Plus, you can click this link to see what we did three years ago with almost all eight intelligences (sorry, MATH)! Download the worksheets for this week below.
This Week’s Texts:
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 [06:49]
Sometimes we need to push beyond the surface reading of the passage to find glimmers of a particular intelligence. As David read this story once again, he was struck by a similarity between the younger son and a virus. While we may not think of the microscopic universe for NATURE smart, viruses are part of the natural world. *cough* The way the younger brother destroys his inheritance is like the way a virus kills the host cells in which it has incubated. Looking at the story through the eyes of the older brother, we might see the younger brother as a parasite, feeding off a host. Speaking of feeding, we also have a link to dietary habits of Rome which may have been where the younger brother went.
EYE smart is the intelligence when you have a chance to present or project artwork on your walls! I have links to a few masters’ works below and a Google search will bear much fruit for this story. Depending on your sensibilities, you may find artwork that inspires or disturbs. If you want to put some dramatic effort into this story, try using tableau vivant. When we use this with children, we call it “playing statues” or “freeze frame.” It’s a fun way to involve a lot of people in worship and can be very moving.
- EYE smart – [11:06]
- A la Scott Hoezee at Center for Excellence in Preaching and Stephen Colbert’s old “Dead to Me” routine
- Grumbling Pharisees (which would be a great name for a grunge or bluegrass band)
- More grumbling Pharisees
- Guercino “Return of the Prodigal”
- Rembrandt “Return of the Prodigal Son” (The reference to Henri Nouwen’s 1992 book is worth the click.)
- James Tissot “The Prodigal Son in Modern Life: The Return” (1882)
- Sochi Watanabe “The Prodigal Son Returns”
- arrange scenes from the passage in tableau vivant
- NATURE smart – [07:15]
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 [16:03]
Paul tells the Corinthians that the ministry of reconciliation they have inherited from Jesus makes them ambassadors – so make your congregation ambassadors for an EYE smart special effect! If you have name tags, add a symbol or the word “Ambassador” to them. Don’t say anything until you get to the sermon as to why their name tags look different! If you do not have name tags, make some for this service and then keep them around for future use.
Paul also tells the Corinthians that they have undergone a metamorphosis when they became a new creating in Jesus. For a NATURE smart illustration, talk about the metamorphosis for butterflies or cicadas. We have a link to a video by David Attenborough about the life cycle of the cicada or if you do not want to see super close up shots of insects, we also have a link to an article.
- EYE smart – [17:47]
- NATURE smart – [21:03]
Psalm 32 [25:14]
Current world events serve as an excellent NATURE smart illustration about safe places mentioned in the psalm. Severe flooding in Mozambique and Nebraska have raised the question about just where these safe spaces are found when your world is being washed away by floods. The psalmist also mentions the difference between human and animal nature and encourages those hearing the psalm to use the “higher understanding” of human capacity to learn from God. But horses and mules have their own intelligence. We have some articles below about this.
The psalmist uses vivid language about sinfulness and vulnerability which led me to think about blankets, coats, or bandages covering naked or wounded flesh. Bring in some of these items and talk about how they are used to protect and warm bodies. This borrows a lot from BODY smart, but since you would be bringing them visually before the congregation, this is an EYE smart illustration and special effect.
- EYE smart – [31:30]
- NATURE smart – [26:42]
Joshua 5:9-12 [33:53]
When the people of Israel ate the food from crops they had planted in the land, the manna that has sustained them in the wilderness stopped coming. The people were now able to fend for themselves so for an EYE smart illustration, invited people to imagine other situations where people grow into maturity. Also, God tells Joshua that the shame of Egypt has been rolled away so for a special effect, roll a large tire down the aisle and talk about how God removes the past and leads into the future.
In NATURE smart, use images of storm clouds rolling away to illustrate God’s grace removing the darkness of shame. We have links to some video showing this. Also, talk about what kind of food the land produced! We have a link below that might lead you to some interesting recipes!
- EYE smart – [34:55]
- NATURE smart – [37:08]