This Sunday’s lectionary texts are particularly awful. I’m like the boy who cried wolf with bad lectionary selections, but hear me out on this one. At my church, we are using track two, the thematic track, of the RCL. Here are the lessons for Sunday.
A curious thing is happening this Sunday in churches across America.
For some, this curious thing is Pulpit Freedom Sunday. The day, promoted by the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom for the fourth year, urges pastors to speak out in favor of candidates they support, defying IRS restrictions that forbid such political speech in religious nonprofits.
It has become an exercise in free speech and a challenge to the federal government. "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," the birth child of the group Alliance Defending Freedom, is designed to challenge the 50-year-old Johnson Amendment (501 c 3), which prohibits tax-exempt charities from publicly endorsing or opposing a candidate for office or working on their behalf. On Sunday, October 7, pastors who choose to participate will stand in the pulpit and endorse and/or oppose candidates for office—and no doubt focus on the presidential candidates themselves.
Associate pastors, youth ministers, and other staff ministers often do the unglamorous jobs of ministry without much recognition. Associates have a calling and a title, but they often do not preach, must attend church meetings, and juggle several responsibilities which may be unrelated to their job description. It can be a thankless job.
Sometimes preaching in a lectionary church is like being Philip in Acts 8—the Spirit plucks us up and drops us where ever she darn well pleases. It is necessarily this way, certainly. Between the thematic requirements of the seasons of the church year and the sheer length of the four Gospels spread out over 156 Sundays, there is no way we can read all four in their entirety in three years. So, we skip stuff. Especially in Year B, as we try to mash the shortest Gospel, Mark, together with the other Gospel, John, together in some supposedly coherent way.
The New York Times, the Harvard Gazette, The Huffington Post and other media outlets are breaking the news that Karen King, a scholar well known for her work on the phenomenon usually referred to as “Gnosticism,” has come into possession of and has been studying a Coptic papyrus fragment which is likely to be authentic, dates from around the 4th century, and has Jesus mention his wife.
Many of the recent discussions about “free speech” in connection with the internet video about Islam called “Innocense of Muslims,” the violent reactions to it, and the apologies for it, seem to me to miss the point.