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THQ has entered a state of suspended (as in no new posts) animation (as in what been archived is still quite lively!)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

 

On Satan and Magic

Satan: New and Improved

by Mark Stenberg

Gospel Reading: Luke 10:1-20

For Sunday, July 7, 2013: Year C—Ordinary 14

Pretend you know nothing about Satan. Cleanse your palette of the Milton, the Dante, the spiritual warfare types who count the number of demons who live in the Minot, North Dakota sewer system. And just look at what the gospels actually say about Satan.

Far from being magical or fantastic, the gospels use pretty simple language. Satan is called “the tempter,” “the accuser,” the “prince of this world,” “the prince of darkness,” “the murderer from the beginning.” A functional reading of Satan in Luke makes it clear that Satan is the one hiding in the background, delighting in the violence of the Roman Empire and orchestrating the death of Jesus. Sounds like a Satan you can really sink your teeth into, 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.

 

Political Paul and the Foreskin Follies

It's the New Golden Age of Preaching

by Mark Stenberg

Epistle  Reading: Galatians 6.1-18

For Sunday, July 7, 2013: Year C—Ordinary 14

Hey. I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but it is a great time to be alive. Especially if you are a preacher, teacher, theologian or exegete of the Bible.

There has been a strange and wonderful confluence of events that has led us to the brink of a new paradigm. With all due respect to Phyllis Tickle, this new movement is not the Emergent Church (whatever that is). It is much bigger than that. It is a political Jesus and a political Paul. Jesus and Paul set against the Roman Empire. [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 Faith

What would it mean to confess a Thomasian Creed?

by Mark Stenberg

Gospel Reading: John 20:19–31

For Sunday, April 7, 2013: Year C—Easter 2

Imagine, with me, that particular moment. What was happening during that moment in human history when Thomas confessed his un-faith: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe?”

Was he in danger? Was his faith revoked, nullified? Was he abandoned by God? Was his name stricken from the Book of Life?

Thomas the Scapegoat

“Doubting Thomas.”  His name lives in infamy, the subject of scorn and shame. [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.

 

Our Brother Gamaliel

The Backstory: Another Narrow Escape

by Mark Stenberg

New Testament Reading: Acts 5: 27-32

For Sunday, April 7, 2013: Year C—Easter 2

In this week’s episode of the Revised Common Lectionary, Peter and the increasingly emboldened disciples are dragged before the Temple council and threatened with death.

Yet they get off with a flogging and a stern warning to shut the heck up about this Jesus business.

Hurts Go Good

The trained THQ eye might be drawn toward the last line of this text, in which the disciples rejoice that they are going to be flogged. Yes. That’s what it says. “They rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” [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.

 

THQ’n the Season

How do you prepare for something you could never conceive of?

by Russell Rathbun

Epistle Reading: Romans 10:8b-13

For Sunday, February 17, 2013—Lent 1

The position of the Gospel and the Epistle posts are intentionally flipped this week in that this post serves as both an introduction and a challenge.

We are moving into the season of contemplation and self-examination, if not the season of preparation for baptism as it was in the early church. Still it remains a season for renewal of our baptismal vows, in principal, and for forming deeper commitments, relationships, and understandings.

It’s a season for drawing “nearer my God to Thee.” [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.

 

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Another Revised Common Lectionary Hackjob

by Mark Stenberg

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:15-22

For Sunday, January 13, 2013: Year C—Baptism of our Lord

Ripping the Revised Common Lectionary folk has become pretty standard fare. Excuse me for piling on, but this week’s gospel text is the RCL at its absolute worst.

The wags over at textweek will tell ya that this is one hack job on the part of the lectionary, shredding a single, carefully told story (Luke 3:1-22) into three bits that simply fail to tell the tale of John the Baptist handing things off to Jesus. [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 Jerusalem Holy Spirit Police

Mainline Self-Destruction?

by Mark Stenberg

New Testament Reading:  Acts 8:4-17

For Sunday, January 13, 2013: Year C—Baptism of our Lord

What were the good folks on the Revised Common Lectionary committee thinking? What a bizarre little text to match with the Baptism of our Lord Sunday!

For those of us in mainline Christendom this is a text that outright defies our most central notions of Word and Sacrament, especially when it comes to our understanding of baptism. [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 an Answer

This is a strong man showing off for the children.

by Mark Stenberg

Old Testament Reading: Job 38:1-7

For Sunday, October 21, 2012: Year B—Ordinary 29

If you consider Job a formal theodicy that gives definitive, systematic answers about evil, Satan, suffering, and ethics you are barking up the wrong lotus tree. Job has more soul than that.

Job is funny, engaging, primitive, and playful—a tall tale told around the campfire—that provokes some serious critique about what we tell each other when things go wrong. Good luck constructing a theodicy out of that. [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 Curse of the Really Great Text

So much good stuff, so little time!

by Mark Stenberg

Gospel Reading: Mark 10:35-45

For Sunday, October 21, 2012: Year B—Ordinary 29

So very often the hard questions come easy. But this text has so much beauty and  subversive grace, so much mind-bending theology of the cross about it all. So much to sit back and receive. And so little to question.

  • James and John so painfully missing the point about everything Jesus has ever said to them.
  • the magical thinking of the buffoonish brothers “promise you’ll do whatever we ask, before we ask it.”
  • the ominous foreshadowing about the violent end that many of the disciples will meet. [Read more...]