Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why I Love These Passages

Our passages for this week are threefold--Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4-14, and John 12:1-8, which I strongly encourage you to take time to read here.  If you'd like to hear them in an additional translation, you can read them in Eugene Peterson's modern paraphrase The Message here--it might help you hear them anew, which really is the whole point of these readings this week!

So, a quick lectionary lesson:  each week, four readings are suggested for use in worship:  an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, an Epistle New Testament reading, and a Gospel New Testament reading.  Typically at Broadneck we only really look at two of these each week (that is, we only read two of them aloud in worship); sometimes a third will be used in the Call to Worship, but that's usually it.  This week, however, we are going to read three of them, because I could not leave any of the three out (and actually the Psalm is amazing, too--though we won't read it on Sunday, check it out!).  I love all three of these readings, and here's a little taste why:

The Isaiah passage has been one of my most beloved for a long time.  I wish I could remember the first time I read it--I feel like it was at some really vital pivot point in my life, when I needed a word of hope, and there God's beautiful promise and question was: "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs up, do you not perceive it?"  Though I've never preached on this text before, I feel like I preach on it often, that's how core it has become to my theology:  that God is still working, creating, moving, transforming, if we can open up our eyes to perceive it and find courage to participate in newness we don't always readily recognize or welcome.  It's just beautiful stuff here at the end of what is, overall I think, one of the most beautiful Old Testament chapters.

The Philippians passage is Paul at his best--you all know my love-hate relationship with Paul, but Philippians is a place where I really resonate with Paul.  Here we have Paul being both bold and humble, claiming his faith with passion but yet acknowledging how much he still doesn't know, how much he got wrong, how far he still has to go.  I relate to this Paul--faith is a journey on which I have learned so much, yet--as my campus minister wisely told me as a prepared to go to seminary--"the more you learn, the less you'll realize you know."  So true.

The John passage takes us to one of the most beautiful scenes of love poured out--though, this week, I came to appreciate this story in a new way. When I read that great line about the whole house being filled with the fragrance of the perfume, I always imagined it being like a superpowered fantastic scented candle permeating the air. But one my clergy friends purchased some nard essential oils this week to use with her congregation in worship on Sunday, and she posted this on her Facebook page: "Holy cow this stuff smells bad- like cigars mixed with dirt, moldy fireplace and socks with a touch of lavender for fun. Making me consider the story of John 12 in a whole new way." Another colleague had a similar reaction when the nard she ordered arrived: "Three comments," she wrote: "#1, not my favorite scent by a long shot. #2, no wonder it was used for burial. #3, I'm not surprised Mary smelled up the room with it when she anointed Jesus' feet." Huh. What if Mary's act filled the house with a gross smell rather than a lovely one? How does this change how we view what she did? Something new to consider and learn here as well!

Spend some time with these texts before Sunday--you won't be sorry. Where do they challenge you? Where do you love them? Where do you find yourself making connections between them, and to your own life?

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