Struggling Through the Lectionary

Posted: January 15, 2008 in church
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

lectionary-ses.jpgEver have one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” kind of moments?  That’s what I’m rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’ my way through right now.  Before I explain my canundrum though let’s step into the wayback machine and travel about 6 months into the past.  The year is 2007.  The Boston Red Sox are preparing for the playoffs as the Evil Empire attempts to make a feeble final month rally to win the A.L. East, the Chicago Bears are naively talking about building on their solid 2006 season, and Rhianna’s “Umbrella” covers the airwaves as tearful drops of frustration soak the faces of real music fans everywhere.  Meanwhile, I’m at a staff meeting where we decide that it would be a really cool idea to try to follow the traditional church calendar for the next year and preach through the lectionary as we follow it.  It would be so great to not have to “hum and haw” over what to preach about next and just follow what the church has traditionally studied throughout it’s history.  It would give us ties to our roots, give our church a greater appreciation for the rich history our faith has, ensure we touch on all the main topics in the bible over the course of the year, and selfishly allow us to be somewhat subversive by Mennonite standards as we preach through the liturgical lectionary in a non-liturgical faith tradition.  Oh, what rebels we would be!

Well, it’s current day again now – January 2008 – and the thrills of rebellion have dimmed a bit as the realities of preaching through the lectionary have set in.  It hasn’t been all bad by any means, the last couple passages I got handed I actually worked with reasonably well, but this time is a desperate struggle.  I realize that I haven’t personally given birth to a child yet, but I think this process has been similarly painful as I attempt to give birth to this message that right now feels like a pair of 16lb. breach twins – duty and necessity – being delivered “naturally”.

I’m preaching on Sunday and the process of preparing for it has been extremely trying.  I’m supposed to be preaching from John 1:29-42.  You know the passage where John declares Jesus to be the “Lamb of God” after he hears the voice of God and sees the dove rest upon Jesus.  He then goes on to declare Jesus as the “Lamb of God” to Andrew and Peter and they decide to follow Jesus as their Messiah.  It’s not that this story isn’t important, but I’m just not so sure what I’m supposed to do to “preach” it other than just read it as it is.  Unfortunately just reading it as it is only takes about 1-2 minutes and that would leave our service ending far too early, and some may suspect that I’m just wrapping things up early so I can watch the NFL playoffs pregame show.  I could go into some deep study about the historical and theological signifigance of the name “Lamb of God”, but really, that’s not likely to change anyone’s life or even interest many of them.  I couldn’t even blame them for being bored and sleepy if I were to break out a message like that.  The angle I’m running with right now is the “where/how do we find God”.  John struggled with recognizing Jesus as God until it was supernaturally revealed to him, and it took John pointing Jesus out to Andrew and Peter before they caught on.  Similarly, different people “find God” in a lot of different and weird ways and we need to be open to accepting and experiencing them ourselves; looking for God in unusual places.  I’m not totally appauled with this angle on the passage, but I certainly don’t feel good or excited about it either.  It feels kind of contrived.

The real shame in all of this is that preaching – studying and figuring out how to effectively share what I learned with others – which used to be one of my greatest loves has now become a somewhat odious task.  I’m not passionate about preaching this passage.  It doesn’t really touch anything in me.  I feel somewhat disingenuous standing up and preaching this message with conviction when I don’t really have a whole lot of conviction about it myself.  If being a preacher were just a job and you just had to be a convincing public speaker to do it, I think I could do this passage some justice.  After a hundred plus sermons under my belt I know how to deliver a message, but to me preaching is about baring something of myself and sharing it with others.  I’m not so sure I’m at that point with this sermon.  It just doesn’t resonate.  It just isn’t sitting right.

So, I guess the lesson to be learned is the old proverb “the grass is always greener on the other side”.  Preaching the lectionary sounds great for the reasons I listed before, but it can be real handcuff too when the passages you’re “tied to” don’t really seem to have much to them.  Which, when I think about it, is a real shame because God’s word through the Bible has such a great story to tell.

Well, I guess I better get some sleep so I can finish off that sermon tomorrow.  If only I could really hop in that wayback machine so I could make a cake with the key to these homiletical handcuffs in it and send it care of “me”.  That way I could spend this time bemoaning the fact that I’m not sure what to preach instead of I’m not sure how to preach it.

  1. bradmoffatt says:

    I think you should dress up like a sheep and give a first person monologue on what it means to be the Lamb of God. Make sure you throw in a little “BAHHH” d humour along the way!

    Have fun. It’s in the struggle where we come up with the best stuff !


  2. benyamen says:

    Thanks for that Brad, I’ll file it. Or I could just put a sheep up on the platform and then do a monologue from behind the screen from the point of view of a sheep talking about the lamb of God and pretend like the sheep is delivering the message. 😉


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