The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Seas between us Broad have Roared

A farewell to trusty friends.

THQ has entered a state of suspended (as in no new posts) animation (as in what been archived is still quite lively!)

I must admit, perched on the cusp of a new year as I am in this moment, that my personality is not well suited for nostalgia, Auld Lang Syne notwithstanding.

Maybe it’s because my memory is so pathetic. That’s something I would attribute to too much Testor™ model glue and paint—as I was an avid kit builder growing up—were it not for my dear mother’s propensity to be thinking about so much stuff all the time that some things just get pushed aside. Kind of like that monkeys jumping on the bed nursery rhyme. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Justice? Vengeance?

What is Truth?

By Nanette Sawyer

Epistle Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

For Sunday, Nov 10, 2013:  Year C—Lectionary 32

One of the reasons a text like this one is so off-putting is because of how truth has been defined by certain Christians who claim total self-righteousness for themselves. If some are perishing because of the wicked deception of Satan and because they refuse to love truth (2:9-10)…then what is truth?

What if truth is not a list of propositions about the nature of Jesus, but truth is something Jesus taught us, something like generosity and justice? What if the truth is what we are called to live? What if we could live lives that were true to Jesus and what he taught? [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Snarky Talk about Resurrection

Who needs marriage?

By Nanette Sawyer

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:27-38

For Sunday, November 10, 2013:  Year C—Lectionary 32

Recently coming off of All Saints Day, I’ve been thinking about how all the people I love will someday die. It could be sooner or later, but it will happen. It’s sobering and painful (as well as an honor) to sit with others who have lost or are losing their loved ones already.

I’ve been taught that talking about death is morbid. I think our culture teaches this. We’re supposed to be the happy, clappy culture that functions like bouncy, bouncy Tigger and never like the old classic Winnie the Pooh who was quiet and contemplative (albeit a bit fluff-brained). But death is a reality we all face. And they faced it in Jesus’s day too. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Elijah, Murderer

Where is God in this?

By Nanette Sawyer

Old Testament Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

For Sunday, June 23, 2013:  Year C—Ordinary 12

When we get right down to it, Elijah is a murderer, and we need to think long and hard about this fact.  What are the implications of this element of Elijah’s life? How might this story guide us in our own lives as Christians?

I would much rather focus my reflection on the “still small voice” in this story, because my romanticization of it is so comforting. As a contemplative soul, I love the idea that we can encounter God in “sheer silence” as the NRSV translates this phrase. The “still small voice” is the King James translation.

I have many times referenced this phrase when inviting people to look for God in quiet reflection. But this story is so much more complicated than a tale of meditation. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Begging Jesus

Anything But the Abyss!

By Nanette Sawyer

Gospel Reading: Luke 8:26-39

For Sunday, June 23, 2013:  Year C—Ordinary 12

Even more than Twitter, Jesus changes everything. He upsets the socio-economic situation, brings outsiders to the inside of communities, and gets himself run out of town doing it. I think about how women who were effective healers during times of witch craze were often targeted. After all, if someone can heal, maybe they can also make people sick.

What are the townspeople in this story afraid of more: Jesus taking away their livelihoods, changing the social economic situation by (killing) allowing the pigs to die, or, his apparent capacity to control demons?  If a person can cast out demons, maybe they can send demons into you, too. Was this what the townspeople feared when Jesus sent demons into pigs?  As for the demons themselves—oddly it’s their fears that take centerstage. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Grumbling About Love

Jesus is so irritating, the way he loves people.

By Nanette Sawyer

Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

For Sunday, March 10, 2013:  Year C—Lent 4

Our reactions to the characters in the parables can tell us a lot about ourselves. Maybe that’s part of the point. Jesus, (and Luke), teach us about ourselves. Chapter 15 begins with the Pharisees and the scribes grumbling because Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. That sounds good if we think we’re the sinners that Jesus loves, but what if we think we’re the righteous that Jesus overlooks? [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Boasting in the Heart

Does God see Jesus when God sees you?

By Nanette Sawyer

Epistle Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

For Sunday, March 10, 2013:  Year C—Lent 4

When I began writing my book about hospitality, I really struggled over which chapter should come first: Hospitality to God, or Hospitality to Self. My idea was (and is) that God and True Self meet at the core of our existence. When we are being deeply and spiritually hospitable, the True Self is open to and shaped by God’s love and acceptance. This leads to an expanding hospitality that reverberates through all other relationships. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Hot, Hot, Hot

The Refiner’s Fire

by Nanette Sawyer

Old Testament Reading: Malachi 3:1-4

For Sunday, December 2, 2012:  Year C—Advent 2

Untangling punishment from purification is a difficult task and an urgent one for the contemporary preacher. When I read or hear of God in the same breath as “fire,” or “burning like an oven,” I think of condemnatory preachers identifying the wicked people who need to be punished (and it’s never the preacher’s own self.)

Refining Refinement

Our text in chapter 3 talks about refining like gold the descendants of Levi “until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.” This reminds me of being told as a child that I was “going to go to church” until I “learned to love” my sisters. It wasn’t actually effective as a technique to generate love. Threat as a strategy has only ever generated fear and resentment in me. Not love. And not “righteousness.” [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Zack’s Boy

Preparing the Way

by Nanette Sawyer

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6

For Sunday, December 2, 2012:  Year C—Advent 2

Recently we celebrated Christ the King Sunday, or The Reign of Christ, and I got into asking questions about what kind of power God has. Barbara Lundblad shared a wonderful story from Delores Williams about the Black church of her childhood singing that Christ was both King of kings and poor little Mary’s boy.

This got me thinking about how God works on a grand and majestic scale sometimes (the majesty of the Creation, the uncountable stars and grains of sand…) and sometimes works on a more intimate level, coming near to us, whispering to our hearts with love and compassion. [Read more...]

The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

Fleshy Life

Imbibing the embodied Christ

by Nanette Sawyer

Gospel Reading:  John 6:56-69

For Sunday, August 26, 2012: Year B—Ordinary 21

It bothers me that this pericope begins with Jesus talking about people eating his flesh and drinking his blood. I’ve been so trained to hear biblical verses in a literal way that I cringe at the gruesome nature of these words.

The Obstacle of Literalism

This should be a clue that we are not meant to hear these words in literal ways. But it’s challenging to get past this obstacle of literalism and into the broad open fields of rich symbolic teaching that Jesus does. [Read more...]