In yesterday’s post, I wrote on the difficult lesson from Matthew’s Gospel, suggesting that it was a rough way to land in Ordinary Time. Today, I’ve got a little bit more time and so now having read through all the lessons, both Track 1 and Track 2 (more on that in another post), I’ve decided that the landing might have been so rough as to knock out the breaks as well.
In Genesis, we are welcomed into the semi-continuous reading with the story of a jealous Sarah convincing Abraham to cast off Isaac and Hagar into the wilderness. It is prime example of God’s steadfastness, as he stays with and protects the boy in the wilderness, but I’m pretty sure that fact will get lost in the minds of most hearers as they ponder this odd “beginning” to the story of Israel’s founding family.
Meanwhile, the Romans lesson is, well, a typical lesson from Romans: dense theologically and deeply rooted in the controversies of its time. Since many congregations probably saw a pretty baby in a flowing white gown get sprinkled with water on Pentecost a few weeks ago, the Romans lesson offers us a chance to reflect theologically on the role of baptism in the life of faith. It is helpful that the baby baptism is somewhat removed from the theology since no one likes to think about that adorable baptism as a death to the life of sin. This is another lesson that requires a good bit of back story.
Track 2 preachers, which is where Saint Paul’s in Foley falls this year, are invited into the theme of the day with a lesson from Jeremiah. While it, like the Genesis lesson, gets off a rough start, there is at least no casting off of innocent children. Instead, it is yet another reminder of why nobody wants the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy. Being the mouthpiece of God when God’s people are disobedient is not a pleasant experience, and Jeremiah cries out for help from the Lord. As the passage ends, the prophet has found the solace his is looking for and cries out to God in songs of praise. At least one of the lessons has a nod to the Collect’s theme of God’s lovingkindness.
What I have spent the last two days being snarky about, however, can be a real opportunity for the preacher. The Bible is full of hard to hear passages, and historically, the Lectionary has worked hard to skip past them. The problem, of course, is that when our people do read the Bible, they will see these things: stories of concubines, slavery, murder, and poor life choices; and be totally unprepared for how to handle them. It would behoove the preacher to land in the minefield of Proper 7A and honestly talk about how difficult Scripture can be. Afterall, if we want to create biblically literate congregations, then we have to invite them into the fullness of the story of God’s steadfast lovingkindness to often despicable people.