The Season after Pentecost (Ordinary Time) is a long season that takes the Church all the way to Advent. The high holy days of the season show up in November, with All Saints (Nov. 1) and Christ the King (last Sunday before Advent). So the preacher has almost 6 months to fill with proclamation that is not tied to feast days and special days. over the years I have done a bunch of different things, but I have found the lectionary to be a great guide to reading large swaths of scripture and preaching on series of stories from the Old and New Testament. There is regularly in the Hebrew scriptures a series of stories from the patriarchs that link well to the Psalms. There is often a series of stories from the Gospels that link well to the Epistle. Use the lectionary to point you to the larger narrative of God’s salvation history.
- The reading from 1 Samuel is my favorite for the day…Israel wants a King and they come to Samuel to help make it happen. Samuel warns them of what might happen (you will get taxed, your sons will be sent to war, your daughters will be conscripted to serve, you will have your riches taken away, and become slaves yourself) and warns them that when you complain to God about the King you chose, God will not listen. But the people get what they ask for (“Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.”) and then you can tell the rest of the story. There is plenty to unpack in telling this story–what was the system before the monarchy? what was the result of the monarchy? did Samuel’s warnings come true? what does it mean to have human rulers? what does it mean to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom while residing in a human kingdom?
- The Psalm is an excellent compliment to the first reading. It holds in tension what a good king does who is in touch with where his power comes and the Kingship of the Almighty. It can be read with the knowledge that there are plenty of instances where the Psalms remember the king who is irresponsible and not in touch with the Almighty.
- The Epistle Lesson is a grand look at death and resurrection from Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth. It is the Christian doctrine that often gets confused by church folks who essentially believe in immortality of the soul. Paul holds high the Hebrew view of the connected body and soul while also dealing with the fact that there is more to this life than just the physical–and though the physical body may be destroyed, God has built a spiritual body that endures. A Christian just doesn’t pass from one state to the other, but there is death, and there is God’s raising us from death. Just like Jesus who was alive, died, was buried, and then arose. This passage gives the preacher an opportunity to speak of what we really believe about death (see the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds)
- The Gospel Lesson steps back in Mark to some stories that were not covered earlier in the year when we started reading from this Gospel. This is an interesting text that includes Jesus’ relationship to his family, and his relationship to the scribes. His family is concerned about Jesus, with all of these folks flocking to him, his folks thought he must be out of his mind. The scribes had another way of describing it–he must have a demon. Jesus speaks first to the scribes and teaches them that their logic is out of whack and not in touch with Kingdom things. Then he speaks to his family, in an off-hand sort of way. He basically says that their priorities are out of whack, and not in touch with Kingdom things. From this story, Jesus call us to get in touch with Kingdom things, and learn what the family of God is all about. Beware, it might seem out of whack to us.