Who’s talking about this week’s readings from Scripture?

Lectionary ReflectionsAre you looking for interpretations or alternative views on this week’s lectionary texts? Are you doing research on a text coming up in the future?

I explained in my last post how a lectionary guides worship planning in many Christian congregations and how I have been collecting links to various commentary on these passages. I hope this article will help you better access and utilize the Lectionary Reflections I have collected for your benefit and the benefit of your congregation or other group.

The most recent articles I’ve found are shown at the top of the page. Typically these will be articles for the upcoming Sunday or other nearby weeks or Holy Days.

However, you may also want to look for some relevant material that was posted much earlier, whether because it was posted for a previous year or you are looking for commentary on a week that is in a different part of the current year.

LectionaryScoopTagsI have tagged each article with the assigned Sunday or holiday as well as the book and type of reading it covers. This means you can search for specific references.

To begin a search, click on the funnel icon in the upper right-hand corner of the website. It will pull up a long list of tags as well as a box for you to type a keyword.

Let’s say you want to read commentary for Transfiguration Sunday. You will notice when you scroll down the list of tags that there is a tag for Transfiguration A and Transfiguration C. This is because the lectionary is a three-year cycle. Right now we are in year A of the cycle. Select Transfiguration A, and you will see all the posts related to that Sunday.

Perhaps you are not following the lectionary, but are doing research on the book of Hosea. Select that tag and find all the posts related to that book. You may also use the keyword box when searching for items not in the tags.

I hope you find this tool useful whether you use it for personal reflection or for sermon preparation. Feel free to share the useful posts you find or click the Follow button in the upper left in order to stay informed about new posts.

Let me know what you think. I would be happy to make this site more useful for you.

Reading the Bible from a common lectionary

Lectionary TwitterEach week many preachers from many Christian denominations discuss the same passages from Scripture. This happens because they all follow a lectionary, a set schedule of readings for each Sunday or holiday in the Christian year.

Most who follow a pattern of readings use the Revised Common Lectionary. It is a three-year cycle that begins with Advent and typically includes four readings for each Sunday.

There is usually a reading from the Book of Psalms, another Old Testament reading, a reading from one of the four Gospels, and another New Testament reading. Preachers and worship leaders following the lectionary may choose one or more of these passages to preach on and/or have read during the service.

I have been tweeting excerpts from each lectionary passage for about five years. For the past couple years, I have also been collecting links to commentary and other web posts related to the upcoming week’s readings.

You can view these links at my Lectionary Reflections page. Typically you will find the most recent postings and commentary on the upcoming week at the top of the page. I will explain a little more about how to use this site in my next post.

Embodying God’s love one small step at a time

It is often said that God is love and to know God is to embody love. However, sometimes we get all caught up in the grandiosity of that love and the challenge of being like Christ.

high jumpMartin Luther, John Wesley and so many other religious figures throughout history have beaten themselves up over their inability to live up to the high ideals they believed God wanted out of them. They had tried and tried to live according to their understanding of Christ’s teachings and discovered their own inability to maintain course and receive a sense of affirmation from God that they were holy.

Sometimes we want to focus on the great things we want to accomplish for God or the great sign we expect to receive from God and we miss out on the many small steps and signs from God that could be reached each day.

I struggled during my seminary internship. I wanted to do great things. When I didn’t, I felt depressed. My supervisor pointed out that I was too focused on that record-setting high bar. I was staring up at it so much that I didn’t see that I had already jumped over a bar higher than anything else I had jumped over.

I can do so much for God, but I risk quitting if I don’t celebrate the achievements I make along the way. So much has happened in my ministry that I rejoice in all the ways I’ve made a difference. I want to encourage you to be out there, embodying God’s love as well.

Keep on taking steps. Keep on making jumps. We all need practice to move onto perfection.

Review: 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life

52 Little Lessons from It's a Wonderful LifeSometimes when life doesn’t go the way we want it to, we may feel like George Bailey of It’s a Wonderful Life. There is much we can learn from George and his compatriots in the fictional Bedford Falls.

Bob Welch has compiled some of what he’s gleaned from the Frank Capra’s movie starring James Stewart and Donna Reed into a book 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life (Thomas Nelson). The easy to read chapters present the challenges of life from a variety of characters including the miser Mr. Potter to the angel Clarence.

Welch gives us insights into how George maintains his passion while also offering suggestions on what this may mean for our own lives.

Some of the chapters may seem repetitive as Welch looks at the same scenes from different angles. Nevertheless, one doesn’t need to read the book all at once. It’s short chapters are ideal for quick devotionals or occasional reading.

The book does occasionally use scripture to highlight how these lessons are grounded in the Christian faith, but this book does not heavily push religion. God is watching over George Bailey, and Welch reminds us that God watches over us all.

If you love Capra’s movie and like reflective or devotional books, this may be something for you. It is not an academic or theological exploration of themes. Welch writes about the “little lessons.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sharing the Good News in 5-7 Minutes

Toastmasters InternationalI’ve been wondering for quite awhile what’s the best way to share my faith and other issues related to the church that I serve. I don’t want to turn people off, but I have a message to share. I have Good News.

I’m not a preacher in the typical sense. I don’t get into the pulpit every week to give some sort of homily to an entire congregation. Rather, I find myself working with small groups of church leaders and students of the faith. I want to share with them the joy and passion I have for this Word that comes from God.

I’m also a Toastmaster, so that means I like giving speeches in 5-7 minute time slots. OK, so that’s an over-simplification, but the time block is a good length for getting across a point without overwhelming your audience.

What if I were to present a series of short talks about different books or themes in the Bible? What if I had prepared brief presentations on leading a Sunday school class or how our faith connects with the world around us? Yes, these are items that I’ve been wanting to share, but they have been stuck in my head. These are thoughts that need to be organized, researched and practiced so that the delivery engages the audience.

I am looking forward to practicing these type of talks. I look forward to the day when I could confidently give three such speeches in a row with barely a use of any notes. This is one reason why I am forming a church-sponsored Toastmasters club, not to exclude persons who are not a part of the church, but to provide persons of faith a much more comfortable place to speak of the Good News and its impact on their lives.

Check us out if you are in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. We are planning an initial demonstration meeting tomorrow, August 26, at Hillcrest United Methodist Church, just off of Nolensville Pike and Tusculum Road. The meeting will be following the 10:15 a.m. worship service. Feel free to come on by at 11:30 a.m. if you worship elsewhere. There will be cookies and coffee provided to tied you offer for an hour.

I worry about my son

I worry about my son, should he ever go to Florida or any place where someone may misunderstand what he is doing and kill him. I worry about my son, to even bring him into this world where we are still so torn up about subjects of race and personal appearance.

I worry about my son, who may yet not be able to act in the same way as his friends and neighbors without putting his own life at greater risk. I worry about my son, for in my hope to bring about a family that crosses racial divides he may not yet find his way to adulthood and to the fulfillment of his dreams.

Let me tell you this, I do not currently have a son or any child. However, it has been my hope to be a father and to share with that child the same love I have found from my God, my family and my community.

Nevertheless, when children are followed and killed for looking suspicious I worry about how suspicious my child may look when he walks down the street at night. I worry about my own inability to explain to him what it means to be a man with dark skin since my own skin is so light.

No one, no child nor adult, should have to act differently because of the color of his or her skin. No one should have someone with a gun following him or her down the street after stopping by the store for a snack.

I have been so pleased, for the most part, of how society has accepted my marriage to a bi-racial woman. I had been thinking that the U.S. society has come so far in countering racism.

Unfortunately, it only takes one incident to remind us that there is much further to go before we will truly know that “there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free” (Galatians 3:28).

I want my child to live. I want him to enjoy life. And, I want him to feel free to walk home alone from the store so that he, too, may grow up one day to experience the hope and joy of fatherhood.

 

MLK's dream may take awhile.

Can we fulfill the mission by giving up the organization?

Resurrection Downtown

A historic church in downtown Kansas City, Mo., turned over its building to the thriving United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. (UMNS photo by Fred Koenig)

I am a part of multiple membership organizations. Each strives to strengthen its members and each relies on those members to continue the organization.

Sometimes, though, we must give up the organization in order to maintain the mission of building up the membership.

This can be seen in a variety of service and learning clubs, churches and even sub-groups within churches. When the membership no longer has the energy to maintain the organizational structure, it is better to give up the structure than to force the members to expend so much energy that they end up burning out and giving up on the mission completely.

Organizations should not expect a small number of people to do all the work of organizational maintenance, particularly when the mission of the organization is to support those same people who it is expecting to do all of the work. An organization cannot support a person, when that person basically IS the organization.

How, then, will the people find support without the organization?

Most of the organizations I am referring to have multiple branches. When one branch folds, another takes on its work.

Let those who need a break from being a leader join with another group that already has leadership. In this way the mission continues.

Of course, sometimes the next nearest organization with the same mission is far away. In these situations there may need to be more of an effort to maintain the organization.

Such an organization may be able to obtain some assistance from outside of their area, but it may also need to take a break and then re-organize at a later date.

I am in love with non-profit organizations, and I want to see them succeed in fulfilling their missions. However, any organization will fail if it keeps pushing its leaders until those leaders want nothing more to do with the organization.

How are you rotating leadership in your organization so that no one burns out? When have you made the decision to fold your group into another in order to continue the mission and support your members?