I had not been using the lectionary much at all this year, excepting personal prayer. Lostine is in the practice of doing book studies instead, taking a few weeks or months to work through one book of the Bible bit by bit.
But we're using it for Advent, so I'd better get ready...
what a horrible set of verses I have to preach on.
And I call them horrible because the first thing that comes to mind is "but that isn't true!"
Jeremiah 33:14-16 is all well and good, but I can't keep from going on, to 33:17-18, namely, the promise that David will have an everlasting dynasty sitting on the throne, and that the temple will have an everlasting succession of priests making perpetual sacrifices forever and ever amen. And, um, that didn't happen.
The same problem again in Luke 21:32 ..."Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place." But a generation DID pass away, and new things are STILL taking place. Hello? an interesting promise, clearly unfulfilled. Are you scandalized by this??? I'm scandalized!!!
Now I probably will do a bunch more research -- this sermon is more than a week away, of course -- and in my sermon will narrate the struggles I tracked, through context and the history of interpretation, to arrive at a nice conclusion about how these verses are not only true (in their own way) but helpful. Fight with the context, resolve the issue, then tell the story... that's how I preach. This is easier when we are in book studies or theme units, because you tell the same story about historical context every week, and by the time you get to the middle of the minor prophets, everyone knows what the theme of "exile" means to the Hebrew children -- so you can abbreviate. When you get four unrelated texts, as in the lectionary, that's a lot of context to fill in just one sermon.
But I wonder whether the "people in the pews" -- not just in Lostine but in any future parishes too - want to wrestle with these enormous Biblical scandals with me. Whether week after week of "can you believe the Bible says this???" is a healthy diet, or whether I should mix in some blander fare such as the emotional take: "well how would you feel if Jesus told you the Kingdom was near," and the poetic take, "have you ever seen a fig tree sprout beautiful little green leaves..." and of course the old preachers' standby, the Dictionary Sermon: "as we all know, a branch is a piece of a tree. But you don't know what I know which is that in Hebrew, "branch" actually also means _____ (insert preferred theological concept here)..."
But I really can't find it in me to abuse our Holy Word like that.
And this is why I imagine I may end up in the lecture hall rather than in the pulpit all the time. I'm not promising, just guessing where this line of reasoning may take me...