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THQ has entered a state of suspended (as in no new posts) animation (as in what been archived is still quite lively!)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

 

Incarnation, Schmincarnation

What are we putting on, exactly?

by Danielle Shroyer

Epistle Reading: Romans 13:11-14

For Sunday, December 1, 2013:  Year A—Advent 1

Oh, the use of the word “flesh” in the New Testament letters: is there anything more thrilling to debate? Well get ready, because it’s Romans, and that means there are flesh words flying all over the place. Of course, they aren’t really flying. They are being fleshy and solid (and presumably bad, right?). [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.

 

Let’s All Get Left Behind

Where do you think you’re going?

by Danielle Shroyer

Gospel Reading: Matthew 24:36-44

For Sunday, December 1, 2013:  Year A—Advent 1 

When I was a teenager, I saw this video from the 1970’s that depicted the “rapture.” It had all of these nice looking people being neighborly and mowing their lawns and cooking in their kitchens until POOF!—all of a sudden, in a flash (and with terrible film editing) one of them was gone. The camera cut to an oven still on, untended, and then to a lawn mower lurching eerily down the lawn without anyone to steer it. This week’s lectionary text is the Scripture passage the video tossed up on the screen at the end, like a literal slam dunk for their point.  [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.

 

The sky is falling! Everything is fine!

This is resolve, Jesus-style.

by Danielle Shroyer

Gospel Reading: Luke 21:5-19

For Sunday, Novemeber 17, 2013:  Year C—Lectionary 33

Who doesn’t love to preach on these doomsday apocalyptic texts?! In addition to being used only in positive and well-meaning ways (certainly never overblown or taken out of context) they also serve to remind us of another simple lesson Jesus wants to teach us: stay calm, even when the sky is falling. [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.

 

This is Not About Welfare

As far as I know there aren’t any communities struggling with idleness.

by Danielle Shroyer

Epistle Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

For Sunday, Novemeber 17, 2013:  Year C—Lectionary 33

There was a time when one could read this passage and not think immediately about the polarizing political conversation over welfare, unemployment and living wages. Alas, this is not such a time.

So let’s just get the first thing out of the way, then: This is not a text about the morality of hard labor, a rejection of the idea of welfare, or an admonition toward some Puritanical work ethic. [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.

 

Let the Cat Fight Begin

One of the Bible’s Most Divisive Stories for Women.

by Danielle Shroyer

Gospel Reading:  Luke 10:38-42

For Sunday, July 21, 2013:  Year C—Lectionary 16

Hey kids! It’s that time in the lectionary when we throw the practical women under the bus and shame them!

Most of us are overly familiar with this story. Jesus comes to Mary and Martha’s house, and Martha is “distracted,” likely due to the fact that she’s been hospitality-bombed by a good chunk of people, including VIP Jesus, and she’s trying to get a decent meal on the table.

It reminds me of stories my mother told about growing up as a first generation immigrant family. If any Lebanese person rang the doorbell, you invited them in and fed them and let them stay as many nights as they needed. Mind you, there were plenty of times when this family had no relationship with my mom’s family at all, which is awkward. But that’s what good Middle Eastern hospitality does.

Despite the lack of notice, Martha welcomes them into her home. Thank God she knew them already. [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.

 

Hasty Abraham

This Hospitality Business is Hard Work.

by Danielle Shroyer

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 18:1-10a

For Sunday, July 21, 2013:  Year C—Lectionary 16

I’m not sure why this story of Abraham being visited by three men (who, we are told, are the presence of God) is told on the same Sunday as the Mary and Martha fight. But one thing seems clear: this hospitality business is hard work.

Hospitality Bombed

Abraham is resting under the oak trees when these three men appear out of nowhere. As was customary, Abraham goes out of his way to welcome them. He ran toward them, bowed down, and offered them water for their feet, food and drink for their stomachs, and rest in the shade. And, since they agree to stay, Abraham rushes to tell Sarah to whip up some cakes, and then he runs to the field, chooses a calf, and gives it to his servant to prepare. [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.

 

Less Than Satisfactory

If you want a description of the Trinity, this is as good as it gets.

by Danielle Shroyer

Gospel Reading:  John 14:8-17, 25-27

For Sunday, May 19, 2013: Year C—Pentecost

Have you got questions about the Trinity? You’re not alone. The disciples are right there with you.

If you’ve spent any time at all in a religion class discussing the Trinity, you already know the scriptural verses to “back it up” so to speak are few and far between. It’s a mystery, and mysteries aren’t spelled out in chapter and verse. But if you’re looking, this is one of the better examples of a relational Trinity you’ll find. That doesn’t mean it’s not confusing… [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.

 

You Don’t Take Pentecost Seriously

No, really. You don’t. But you should.

by Danielle Shroyer

New Testament Reading: Acts 2:1-21

For Sunday, May 19, 2013: Year C—Pentecost

I’ll be straight with you: Pentecost is my favorite Christian day. So please excuse me while I hop up on my Pentecost soapbox for a moment.

[Clearing throat with gravitas.]

Pentecost is a radically important day. It’s the rightful conclusion to the story of resurrection. The dismantling that begins in Holy Week isn’t completed until Pentecost. Yes, we are all rightfully dazzled by the surprising turn of events at Easter. But then Jesus leaves on Ascension, and the Spirit comes at Pentecost. Then and only then is the work of Holy Week finished. So unless you want to have a really slim view of salvation (and really, who wants to skimp out on something as important as salvation?), you’ve got to hold all of these mysteries together to get the fullest picture of this new creation. Otherwise, you are going to MISS OUT. [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.

 

The Real Palm Sunday

If you’re going to wave palm branches, this is a much better day.

by Danielle Shroyer

New Testament Reading:  Revelation 7:9-17

For Sunday, April 21, 2013: Year C—Easter 4

I know it’s a long-standing Christian tradition to bring out palm branches for Palm Sunday, but honestly, this scene from Revelation is much closer to the victorious celebration we envision than the one that happened on the streets of Jerusalem in the gospels.

What are you waving for?

For starters, the crowd that is gathered in John’s vision is a crowd with clear motives. They are not there for some sort of popularity parade. They’re not gearing up for an uprising. They’re not counting the days until their enemies get their just deserts. They are not hanging their hopes on the Lamb of God being the next political ruler. They know exactly who they are worshipping. They know what happened after the parade (Calvary), and then what happened after that (Easter). They are worshipping the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God. [Read more...]