Friday, 25 January 2013

Only a boy

Only a Boy. Readings for February 3, 2012.
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Ps 71:1-6, 1 Cor. 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30
Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

"Then I said, Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." Jer. 1:6

Only a boy. That's Jeremiah's excuse. Jeremiah feels he is too inexperienced to be a prophet. He doesn't trust himself to try, and gives the impression he is a failure before he starts. He is afraid.

Self-doubt is familiar emotional territory, a place many of us regularly travel. More often than I like to admit, I worry if I am an adequate wife, parent, or friend. When I think about the role of pastor, I wonder how I can possibly do it. I have doubts, I get frustrated, I'm not aware of everything I think I should be, I make mistakes and can't measure up to the myriad expectations. I know I'm not alone in experiencing thoughts like these, thoughts that cripple our spirits and prevent us from listening for, and acting on, God's call.

The funny thing is that this is all so much navel-gazing. The point isn't whether or not we have faith in our own qualifications or abilities. What about faith in God? That's the issue. God tells Jeremiah, "do not say I am only a boy, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you..." God gives Jeremiah what he needs to do the job. It's telling, too, that God doesn't require success. The requirement is simply obedience. Jeremiah's job is to trust God and try. That's all. If God thinks you are up to the task, shouldn't that vote of confidence be all that is needed?

The Luke passage is another example of "only a boy". Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth where the people remember him as a kid. At first they love his success, but that quickly turns to resentment when he doesn't meet their expectations. It would have been easiest to stay there, basking in admiration, running around doing what the people wanted. But Jesus' trust is in God, not the demands of others, so he goes out to minister to others, even in Capernum where there are many non-Jews.

Friday, 18 January 2013

A Little Synagogue in Nazareth
Lectionary readings for January 27, 2013. Psalm 19, Nehemiah 8: 1-10, 1 Cor. 12:12-31, Luke 4: 14-21.
Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

The story in Luke 4 takes me back to "Nazareth Village" about 5 years ago. Our learning tour group  was visiting the village, constructed to resemble Jesus' time, and we were sitting in a small synagogue. It was a simple rectangular building, about the size of our living room, with half a dozen stone columns holding up a thatched roof. Large stone blocks lined the outer walls, making cool (if hard) benches where we gratefully escaped the outside heat. A palestinian man, about 30 years old, stood up and recited these words. It was easy to imagine him as Jesus and the words he spoke made our hearts race. "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." When he finished, he asked us to imagine that we were the people of Jesus' town. We had seen him grow up, we had seen him play and scuffle with our own children, some of us were even his uncles and aunts. Being so close to him, how would we hear his words? Embarassingly, we could understand how his own people's initial pride could transform into a rage willing to run him out of town and even off a cliff.

It's sometimes harder to be close to change than to be the one changing things. It's very difficult for us to allow those close to us take on roles and importance that challenge us to change too. We don't give up our jealousies and defensiveness without a fight.

1 Cor. 12: 12-31 is all about needing all parts of the body to form a whole, but ultimately it is a passage about caring for each other. A good message to read following Luke 4.

In Nehemiah, the words of God spoken to the people are said to "revive the soul", "make wise the simple", "rejoice the heart", and "enlighten the eyes." A message that helps to form the kind of willingness to learn and to let God lead the way through change and new beginnings. (Tim mentioned that he thinks this scripture is a wonderful text as we celebrate the Nuer church first worship service on January 27. Having hopeful scripture proclaimed in public like Ezra did, to a people rebuilding after exile, is a powerful thing.)

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Lectionary Readings for January 20, 2013
Isaiah 62:1-5, Ps. 36:5-10, 1 Cor. 12:1-11, John 2:1-11
Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

The Corinthians passage is very familiar in most Mennonite churches, especially starting at verse 4. This is the "varieties of gifts but the same spirit" piece. The passage beautifully points out how in a community we all have different abilities that work together to create a whole greater than any one of us.

I like to try to read between the lines. Why did Paul write this way? Was he responding to jealousies among church people? Were some people unhappy with their gifts (or unaware of them) and longing after what others had? Or were some people "self-agrandizing", and using their gifts more for their own gain than for the good of others and the church community? Verse 7 has a key point. "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." An excellent reminder of how each of us should consider and employ our particular gifts!

Another interesting thing is that this passage specifically refers to spiritual gifts. It names the utterance of wisdom and knowledge, faith, healing, miracle-working, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. We often think of gifts that maybe don't have the "spiritual" tag, such as creativity, music, leadership...What might our spiritual gifts be? How do we help each other recognize, encourage, and use these?

I'd like to make one mention of the John passage where Jesus turns water into wine. I am interested by the portrayal of Jesus' mother. This isn't the quiet "pondering in her heart" Mary we heard about in the Christmas story. Here she is a pushy instigator. Jesus rebukes her, but still does what she suggests. The servants listen to her too. (Why did the servants listen?)  We do not know how much Mary understood about what kind of Messiah Jesus would become, but she sure has faith in his abilities here! 

Friday, 11 January 2013

January 11, 2013

Welcome to the FMC lectionary reading blog! The purpose of our blogspot is to encourage Bible reading and preparation for worship each Sunday.

Each week one or more of FMC's pastors will post something about the readings and you are welcome to add your comments.

For January 13, 2013.
Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

The words from Isaiah 43:1 ..."you are mine" jumped off the page at me and all week I've been thinking about the meaning and importance of identity. That's where I'll focus my sermon ideas. The passage tells us who God is and who God's people are. It assures us God will be with those people through the difficulties of life and that eventually they will all be gathered together. But who are God's people really? This passage is troubling if it is interpreted as putting one nation/race above others. Reading this today we often think of Israel as a country. But when this was written, Israel was a person and a people, not a place. The Acts passage shows the gospel as spreading to the non-Jewish world and many different people as being counted among God's people. I have to do some research into this.

The "you are mine" statement is about us being claimed by God. That's interesting, usually we think of ourselves as claiming or not claiming God.

Sometimes the lectionary passages all work together, sometimes they do not. The Luke 3 passage, about John's imprisonment and Jesus' baptism don't seem to fit with the rest this time.


2013 Lectionary Reading Challenge

Every week a First Mennonite Church pastor will be posting on the Lectionary passages inviting you to add your comments.