Dear Centenary Family,
Those of you who worship with us know that we follow the lectionary in the planning of worship and preaching. For those who may not be familiar, the lectionary is a three-year cycle of readings based on the Christian year. When I was in seminary, I had teachers and role models in ministry who were strong advocates of following the lectionary. There are other valid methods for planning worship and preaching. Some preachers preach through books of the Bible or develop sermon series based on current topics of interest. I've tried some of those approaches at different times. But I always come back to studying the lectionary.
For one thing, the lectionary binds us to Christians of other denominations who follow those assigned readings. There's something powerful about knowing we're worshiping in concert with other Christians in places far from us. But the other thing I've come to value is that the lectionary takes us to and through the Scriptures in ways we might otherwise neglect. I don't mean to sound critical of other methods, but when the preacher selects the subject and goes in search of a text, it's easy to avoid texts and topics that might make us uncomfortable. Or maybe I lack creativity. I agree with the Lutheran preacher, Nadia Bolz-Weber, who quipped about this subject something like, "How am I qualified to decide what my people need to hear?"
So, this summer I'm working through Luke, the assigned Gospel for Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary. I am always amazed how the lectionary speaks to questions brought to us in our life together as a congregation or events happening in our city or the world. Of course, I'll admit those questions are on my mind and heart as I study texts for preaching each week. The Bible may contain an old, old story we all love to hear and tell, but it never ceases to speak to us right where we are. That's because Jesus, the living word, the word made flesh, speaks to us through the written words of Scripture.
This week's gospel reading is so familiar it is almost cliché. It's Luke 10:25-37, Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. You learned it in Sunday School. You've tried to embody the ideal of caring for people in their time of need. That's what this text is about, right? In part, it is what this story is about. But what I have been thinking about a lot is that the hero of the story is someone despised by Jews - a Samaritan. So, maybe one thing this story is about is not just the challenge we face in caring for others in need. What if we're the one beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of the road? The question this parable raises is, "Who is the Samaritan for you and me? Is there anyone who might come to offer us aid and we'd be tempted to say, 'No, thanks, I'd rather die than to be helped by someone like you...'"
Let's wrestle with that this Sunday. On the other side of that struggle within ourselves is an encounter with one who shows kindness and mercy to all.
P.S. I'll be out of town July 11-17. Rev. Cheryl Owen-Watson will be preaching at both services on July 17.