I begin sermon preparation by reading through the texts and writing a 200-word summary of the themes I observe in that initial reading. I include this summary in an online publication for the congregation I serve. It's called "Sunday is Coming," a title with an edge for the preacher.
When I do this reading I I look for trouble—for the obvious, palpable problems in the text.
I find more than a dozen military references in the Pauline corpus. In Philemon, Paul includes in his greetings “Archippus our fellow soldier.” In this week's second reading, Paul advises his readers to stand firm and strive side by side. The former Roman soldiers living in Philippi would have heard a reference to a Roman military formation.
My roommate in seminary was and still is a vegetarian. I grew up eating, and still occasionally enjoy, Spam. Our understanding of food could not have been any more different, and those first few months of negotiating our shared kitchen posed some challenges.
The household I grew up in did not have a lot of rules. My parents were first-generation immigrants who worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. So even if we'd had a lot of rules, they would not have been home to enforce most of them.