“For you, Narrative Lectionary Preacher”: Sunday October 4th

The text is really long this week.  I mean really long.  It’s hard to know where to go, what to include, or maybe just do the whole thing and see where it gets ya!  (Will they fall asleep?!)  What’s a preacher to do?

I’m thinking of a different approach this week.  The Exodus story is one that many in the pews, even the least biblically familiar, will know.  They’ve seen the 10 Commandments, Prince of Egypt, or the horrible Exodus:Gods and Kings movie with Christian Bale (Apparently Moses talks like Batman?!.  But do they know the Exodus story – the forgotten one?

There’s something interesting happening in this first chapter of Exodus.  It’s a forgotten story, or perhaps one that’s not told frequently.  What does it mean to have no memory of “better times?”  This goes beyond wishful, nostalgic thinking, but rather is a reach into a history where a life of freedom, mutuality, and respect was present – true community.

But now has come the time where in Egypt there is no memory; “a king arose in Egypt who did not know Joseph.”  The result: people are in slavery, in bondage.  They longed for better times.

However, there are signs of blessing.  “The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied.”  And that brings us to this little known story about two Hebrew midwives, whose seemingly small (and pretty clever and bold) action becomes the catalyst for a greater story: the Exodus story of liberation we have all come to know and to love.

Where I am going with this?  How are things with your people, your congregation this week?  Does it feel like there’s no memory of a “better time?”  Are they held captive in the present by struggle? Conflict? Loss? Wishful thinking?  I wonder if these things and many more cloud us from seeing the blessings of God at work in our lives and communities of faith.

Now, how we recover that memory of a better time is a mystery to me.  I’m not even sure in my own context, much less feeling confident to suggest anything for yours.  That is your task, preacher, and I know you will preach it well.

But Shiphrah and Puah’s story asks an important question: “Who are the catalysts in God’s kingdom, doing God’s work in seemingly small ways that serve as the start of something greater?”  Do people see themselves as catalysts, God working through their small actions?  What might that look or feel like?

I wonder if this little known story, brought back into our memory, helps us recover a sense of our own memory of those “better times” when we could say with certainty and joy “Thanks be to God!”  I wonder if these little known midwives, might help us imagine ourselves as catalysts in these times where we’re held captive by our memory loss.  As the familiar campfire song goes, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…..”

Blessings to you as you preach the old, old story….remembering God’s promises and re-membering people into a sense of belonging and mission as God’s chosen, the Body of Christ.

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2 Comments

Filed under Sermons & Preaching

2 responses to ““For you, Narrative Lectionary Preacher”: Sunday October 4th

  1. Well, I think in a lot of our churches the problem is pretty much the opposite of having “no memory of better times.” Rather, we have *too much* memory of better times, so much, in fact, that we are oftentimes totally blind to how God is working among us today, because it doesn’t look like the way God apparently worked in the “Good Old Days.” I think we’re a lot more like the Israelites after they left the oasis of Elim and began to remember the fleshpots of Egypt. Can we put ourselves in the place of someone who has no such memory, and think about how God might speak to such a person or people–and then what God might be calling us to do for the sake of someone who has no better times to remember?

    • I like your take on this! For me, I’ve nuanced a bit more: to remember the time of Joseph isn’t about recalling a time of prosperity & “good times” gone past, but to recall the God who remembers, hears the cries of those who suffer, and delivers. Does recovery of that move us to act like Shiphrah & Puah?

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