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.
Proverbs 31 used to be a standard at funerals. That was before we realized that womanly virtue meant more than giving a husband bragging rites in the city gates. I use to think it my pastoral duty to root out both masculine and feminine stereotypes in liturgy, hymnody and scripture. Now I’m not so sure.
Those of us who follow the lectionary have encountered the industrious woman of Proverbs 31 many times. Every three years she appears with her wool and flax, her distaff and spindle, her keen eye for both fashion and a good deal, her open hand to the poor, and her penchant for providing her husband bragging rights at the city gates. But we haven’t always welcomed her.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. —Psalm 1, verse 3
A visual response to the words of the first Psalm, Charles Dupree's Blue Tree flourishes in its watery environment. Its deep roots and fine branches inspire confidence that the tree will have strength and flexibility sufficient to withstand storms. Dupree works in the medium of encaustic—a specially formulated wax mixed with pigment that creates unique textural effects. As is so often true of modern and postmodern works, the medium is much of the message. The artist says, "As priest and artist, I love the mysterious effects of wax. Wax is to the canvas what incense is to the worship space. Light, smoke and the wonder of God inform all of my work."