Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Category: Lectionary Readings (page 1 of 2)

Summer Sundays

IMG_3278I’m sitting outside on my deck as I write this, listening to a noisy cardinal, and the squeals of delight from children in a neighbour’s pool.  I’m also reading into the lectionary texts for these Summer Sundays, and I find myself almost (but not quite) wishing I could preach them all – but I’m thankful for a few weeks’ respite from the pulpit, and chance to simply enjoy reading the texts for their own sake.

If you want to try doing the same, while you’re away on vacation, sitting on your own decks, or by a lake, or on a beach, here’s a link to a lectionary website where you can follow the sequence of texts for the July weeks we are in Sabbath mode.

Some of my own musings on some of the texts are below.  Add your own questions and comments at the bottom of the page!

July 14 – Luke 10:25-37.  The Good Samaritan.

Cedar Parkers will know we snuck this reading in early, on June 16, as the text for our celebration of the KidZone year. The children and some of their teachers did a wonderful dramatic presentation of the story – with Sami McLaren as the “Samaritan Woman(!), and Will Smith as a convincing ‘lawyer’ outsmarted by Jesus.   The “aha!” from the dramatic presentation of this text for me was about how we get to love God and neighbour with our whole heart, mind, soul, strength;  it looks like a stranger stopping to help out another stranger.  Haven’t we seen that in spades in the last week or so, in places like High River, Calgary, Canmore, and closer to home, in Lac Mégantic?  How might you be using your heart, mind, soul, strength to love neighbour (and stranger), during these summer weeks?  I am certain you are!


July 21 -Luke 10:38-42  (Martha and Mary) and Genesis 18:1-12  (Entertaining Strangers at Mamre)

– News Flash!  I am preaching at St John’s for this Sunday.

I am so glad I get to preach this week, because the Genesis reading is one of my favourites (I know, they’re all my favourites!).  First, Luke.  Very often we use the names of these two women who hosted Jesus at their home, as models for Christian women.  Are you a Martha? (Practical, hospitable, doing the dishes while everyone else natters into the night?)  Are you a Mary? (Serenely sitting at the feet of Christ, contemplating the mysteries of faith?) Does Martha get a bum rap in this story?  Can we allow ourselves to be not a little ticked at Jesus for apparent ingratitude towards the apron clad Martha?  All great questions.  Here’s a few more….. Is this only a win-lose story, or are there other legitimate interpretations? Is this a story about focus or distraction? (Even the best Marthas, who begin so well  by busily serving Jesus, can get worried, flustered and overwhelmed when the busyness takes over and causes us/them to lose sight of the reason why we’re busy serving Christ in the world in the first place.  Isn’t that the story of the churches, in every age?!!  What do you think?

As for the Genesis reading – Sarah laughed!! So would I if I were to overhear the strangers speaking to her husband while eating at her table.  Her laughter is poignant, sad, perhaps embittered laughter at the incredible, outlandish, ridiculously stupid (to her) promises these strangers are making.   Hers is the cynical laughter of one who cannot see a way forward against impossible odds, directed at those who can, and directed at God.   Where do we see ourselves in this story?  What impossible promises of God do we laugh at? Can we imagine God’s fidelity in the face of the real crises of our life? How might this story help us to rekindle faith. (Clue: read  Genesis 21 and see what happens to Sarah’s laughter!).

Let me know what your questions are about this text, and they will help me prepare for my sermon for July 21.


Enjoy your Summer Sundays!


Healing from the Heart of God

Some are certain that tomorrow is a festival of all things green and Irish. That may be so, but tomorrow at Cedar Park we will be holding a Healing Service to mark our fifth Sunday in Lent.  After a month of this “awkward season” it’s a perfect moment to delve into this aspect of our Christian faith, which to many is as awkward as they come!

Healing was such a central aspect of Jesus’ ministry, and yet, since at least the time of the 18th century Enlightenment, scientific approaches to health and illness have detoured the healing arts from the realm of spirituality and religion, so much so that we 21st century folk are schooled now to trust only ‘medical professionals’ with our health, and to distrust deeply the ‘faith healer’ phenomenon.  My own reading of Scripture tells me that God is, at heart, a healer.  Scripture, and our own experience tell us that brokenness, chaos, death, sickness are woven into the fabric of creation, and that God persistently and repeatedly responds with the desire and power to heal, to restore, to rescue, to recreate beauty, wholeness and meaning. Look at the ministry of Jesus through these lenses and you’ll see, in myriad ways, Jesus making manifest in action this heart-felt desire of God to mend broken spirits, hearts, bodies, and minds,  relationships, and even creation itself.

In recent decades, the Christian church has begun to reconnect in real ways with this central ministry of Jesus, as we’ve begun to question the narrow focus of scientific medicine one ‘cure’ of physical or mental ailment, and have sought ways to reconnect people with God’s vision of healing  as restoring a healing, holy balance of body, mind, heart and spirit.  Parish nurses, pastoral care teams, and now, healing ministry teams are appearing as ministries within faith communities. “Healing Pathway” ministry has emerged in the United Church of Canada since the mid-90s as an ethically grounded, Christ-centred, modality of healing ministry which connects people to God’s heart-felt desire for their healing wholeness.

On March 17th we will read a passage of Scripture from the exilic portion of the prophet Isaiah,  (Is 43:16-21) in which God promises the people currently in exile that God will make a pathway through the desert to bring them home to the place where their lives will be whole again.  “If you think that’s impossible,” God says, “remember when I made a pathway appear in the sea to free Israel from Egypt.” By retelling the ancient story to a new generation, God’s heart is revealed; the desire to do whatever it takes – build highways in the desert, pathways through the sea, thaw the ice that locks the frozen river,  or unblocks every conceivable barrier to God’s healing, homecoming mercy.

I hope you can join us for this healing journey!



Epiphany – How Revealing!

It’s squished in, between the High Holies of Christmas, and the Long Laments of Lent.  Most of us barely notice it, don’t know it has a name, or what it’s for…. it’s the Season of Epiphany.  If we know the name “Epiphany” at all, we associate it with that Star in the East, followed by camel-riding Magi to a stable in Bethlehem.  Isn’t “Epiphany” just the last hurrah of Christmas, signal to take down the dried up Christmas tree, and box the baubles til next December? Who knew it was more than a day? Or that it’s actually a season – anywhere from 5 to 9 weeks long?

So what now then? Do we really have to get excited and “into” yet another Christian Season during these dark dreary days of January and February?  Well, perhaps you, good reader, don’t have to if you don’t want, but I do!!  And I dare to say, I think it’s worth the effort.

Epiphany – a Greek word meaning “manifestation” or “revelation”-  is a season designed to help us get used to God showing up in the world.  It does take some getting used to, despite the 200o years of heralding the mind-blowing nativity of “God-with-us”!  This startling claim  of Christmas –  that God’s love for creation is so involved, so ‘entwined’ with creation, that God chooses to take on the same blood, flesh, sweat, tears, pain, joy, ecstasy, agony of human existence – is not so easy to grasp, when you stop and think about it. So it’s no wonder that the Christian church decided to take a few weeks each year to really get used to the idea that God is not just  “in his heaven”, but is here with us on earth.  This squished in season of “Epiphany” is a gift of time to notice God’s “extraordinary” presence, gifts, signs, and promises, nestled in with us in the “ordinariness” of our creaturely lives.

That’s the thematic approach I shall be taking to the Season of Epiphany this year:  Noticing God’s “extraordinary” in the midst of our “ordinary” –   God’s healing, loving, challenging, presence and promise peeking through in ordinary things like water, words, human bodies, a walk in the mountains, a song, an ancient poem, a net of fish…. If we start to notice God in these ordinary things that the lectionary scriptures talk about, then the question is begging to be asked…… is God inmyordinary life, too, spangling it with potential and promise, change and newness like stars in a winter sky?   Omigosh! That’s epiphanic!


Join us during the weeks of Epiphany, see if you see what I see: God’s extraordinary, in the midst of our ordinary! See you Sunday!



O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, Emmanuel. 
I hope this is a word-less prayer for you, as it has been for me. (From the Piano Guys, thanks to David for sharing).

Advent 3: John the Baptist

His name is John.
A tough life he’s led,
        partly by choice,
        to be sure.
His daily companions, honey bees,
and a rude belching camel,
who, when she finally breathed her foul-mouthed last,
gave up her pelt to cover his back
through the icy chill of  desert nights.
        Oh yes, the desert freezes.
The sun beats down, baking to a crisp all day,
chapping lips and drying tears, and salting cheeks
so that the night frost can then bite to the marrow,
and chill the soul to a new awareness of mortality.
John is his name,
wildman his calling.
It’s no wonder,
      given his birth to a silenced priest and a wise crone
      both convinced by an angel that he was
formed awefully,  fearfully in his mother’s womb
expressly to overthrow
the comfortable numbness of quietism,
to uproot hypocrisy with scorching speech as searing as the desert sun
and to foretell divine judgment with the icy candour of a desert moon.
John is his name
“Repent!” is his logo.
Prophet is his uniform:
mat-haired, stick-ribbed John.
Baptizer is his trade.
Waist deep in the rocky Jordan,
thrusting  heads under brackish water,
clutching slick, newborn hands
grasping for air,  for life,
all the while scanning the
desert sands for that narrowest of highways
upon which the sandalled feet of God’s Anointed
would trample
all injustice in his Advent.
                                                                 ©Elisabeth  R. Jones, 2008, 2012

It’s almost over!

We have two weeks left in the year! (The lectionary year, that is). Next week “Reign of Christ” marks the end of the lectionary journey which began late last November with the season of Advent, the time of anticipation of the birth of the Christ child. After a short season of “AHA!” (Epiphany) and celebration of God’s coming here in flesh and bone, we moved quickly through Lent to the death of this man Jesus, to be surprised again on Easter Sunday with the news that death was not the final act, but the beginning of a world-changing faith.  Pentecost filled us with the light and firey inspiration of the Spirit of God,  and launched us into the looooong season after Pentecost, where we explored Mark’s Gospel account of a Jesus on the move, in a burning rush to proclaim the Dream of God, and now, all of a sudden, it’s almost over!

Mark’s Gospel has been a rough and tumble read, Mark’s Jesus is not a patient or gentle soul, but a passionate one, on fire with conviction that God’s Dream – of  human communities mirroring God’s compassion, jGod’s ustice, God’s gift of equity based on common humanity, rather than humanly constructed inequity based on greed –  was the only way to live in a world of empires, selfishness and fear.  We might hope for a simple summary from Mark, a moment of quiet teaching and encouragement from Jesus, but not. What we get is “a little apocalypse”.  (Mark 13:1-8) Rumours of wars, end-time signs, a real sense of ‘imminent danger’ a code-orange type text deliberately designed to unsettle… Thanks at lot, Jesus, via Mark!  I hope you can join us on Sunday to see what we do with this apocalypse; if you can’t you will find the sermon posted on our church website by mid week.

Meanwhile, perhaps you’ll find encouragement from the second reading for this Sunday – Hannah’s Song. It’s in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, and you can click the link here.  If you hear echoes of Mary’s Magnificat in this song, you’d be right.  I like to imagine that Hannah’s song was passed down from mother to daughter for generations, a precious pearl in the spirituality of women, shaping a womanly awe at the God-given miracle of every human birth.  For those of you who are mothers, or the husbands or sons of mothers, imagine the miracle of your own birthings, and see if you don’t find yourself written and sung into the verses of this song.  What verses might you add from your own experience??


Jesus the Pastor

This coming Sunday (Sept 30) the Middle Zone kids will be exploring the Gospel of Mark 9:37-50.  You can read it here:

There are two scenes in this episode in the life and times of Jesus the Preacher of the Dream of God (Mark 1: )we see Jesus the pastor and then preacher in action. (I’m not going to talk about Jesus the preacher in this post, I’ll save that for later!)

The first scene, where Jesus is pastor, is comical really, in the way that great comedy points through humour to a deep truth.  He’s making headway teaching the disciples about this upside down dream of God where the last are celebrated, and the little people are treated like kings, he’s teaching them that the sick and old and young are not to be cast aside – as happens in a kingdom where the human is valued only for her or his capacity to produce or work.   He’s sent them off to ‘live the dream’ – to heal the sick, to welcome the outcast, and he’s probably sighing contentedly, only to have that interrupted by John, who comes rushing up to him in a tizzy.

“Hey, Jesus, there’s this man who’s doing kingdom work, only he isn’t wearing your logo! You’ve got to tell him to stop!!”  Jesus’ answer is what we’d expect: ” Why would you stop someone doing good in the world, just because they are not ‘one of us’?”   We get the wisdom, we get the consistency of message…. but do we really?   It got me thinking about how  I have tended to criticize certain global outreach organizations because they don’t share my theology…..and of the tendency to assume that the Seminary I was teaching at was the only one that could do the job right…… and of the possibility that we might think that the Gospel is really only happening where ‘we’ are, and not where ‘those others’ are.

You see where this is taking me?  It’s all too easy to want to see our way astheway.    But when we do,  what do we lose?  We lose a sense of the expansiveness of this dream of God, we lose a sense of the possibilities of it actually making a difference if we share the dream with people who dream it slightly differently.   We lose a sense of being part of a much larger movement for healing wholeness than can possibly be contained in our tiny corner of the world.  We lose the ground for hope.

Why did I say Jesus was “pastor” in this incident? Because his response to John was truthful and challenging, but the way he offered truth and challenge was also empowering and encouraging. Jesus opened up for John a broader, more hopeful disposition to the world, and that, at heart, is the ‘role’ of the pastor.  To point to the dream of God and invite others  to become part of it in ways that enrich their own lives, as well as the life of the world.

Thank you Jesus, for reminding me.


Identity matters (Pentecost 16 Sept 16)

The Gospel for this coming Sunday is Mark 8:27-38. You can read it at this link:

There is so much going on in this text it’s hard to know where to begin, or stop! I’ve said before Mark is not a waster of words, so every one in this passage is like an iceberg, deep and holding a LOT of water! What follows is a ‘stream of consciousness’, snippets of thoughts that may provoke your own.

Jesus is on the road -again! this time in the Roman ‘model city’ of Caesarea Philippi. Built over an older town, this piece of Herodian hubris was built to impress the locals with his Romanized power, and to try to impress the Romans with his emulation of their style.  Jesus’ question “Who do (those) people say I am?”  is worth asking in that context;  who do the Romanizers think Jesus is? People looking for hand-me-down power from Rome are not likely to think too highly of this preacher, healer, teacher of the very Hebrew God. All his talk of a kingdom of God is as oppositional as the current round of sovereinty talk in Quebec.  Fans and haters. Few on the fence.

And what’s with that condemnation of Peter for getting it right, for once??  8 chapters and finally someone gets it – Jesus is the Christ – God’s anointed one!  Jesus should be ecstatic, not ‘stern’, and certainly not vitriolic!   Something’s going on here, and this is likely where my sermon will take us on Sunday, so do come and see where this question leads us.

Another question that puzzles me is the connection between that initial question about Jesus’ identity, and his sermon in the second half of the passage about ‘denying self’ and ‘losing life’.  Often the two parts are divorced from one another, and I’m not at all sure that they should be.   I’m less convinced that this is about ‘sacrificial Christianity’ than about choices we make about our identity.  Are we going to be defined by “people”  or by “culture”,  constrained by the values of whatever society we live in,  or is the question of identity a call to look deep within, to that place where we know ourselves to be a unique, beloved child of our Creator?  What happens when society’s definition of us is not consistent with this essential core?  (You’re ‘old’ , when you don’t feel old, for example).

Yet again this Gospel digs really deep, while at the same time remaining firmly grounded in a real, flesh and bones world of choices and consequences.

Thanks for reading!




Back to Mark with a vengeance!

September is almost upon us, with another season of Lectionary musings in preparation for Sunday’s worship and sermon at Cedar Park.

This week, after a summer long lectionary diversion into the Gospel of John, and a Cedar Park month long diversion into a sermon series on Psalms,  we are back to the Gospel of Mark.  And boy, are we back!!  The text for this Sunday is a dream come true for preachers who will want to tell their congregation how ‘evil’ they all are.  I’m not one of those preachers, and you’re not those ‘evil’ people.  So we have quite the challenge on our hands to find “Good News” in this text that shows Jesus stiff-lipped and unfiltered in an argument with the Pharisees.

If you want to read the text, click this link:

If you got lost in those purity laws, couldn’t find the ‘parable’ or were disgusted by the catalogue of heart-hidden evils,  I don’t blame you.  My working title for this week’s sermon is “Dirty hands and a dish of red herrings”  – the text is full of them.   It’s also filled with typical Markan bluntness and exaggeration, a prime example being “for Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat without ritual washing of hands.”  Not all first century Jews engaged in such rigorous ritual practices, nor is it even a Biblical injunction for ordinary people (there is a stipulation  in Exodus 30 that temple priests wash before touching food offered in sacrifice).  Another ‘exagerration’ occurs in the NRSV translation: ‘unclean’ and ‘defile’ are strong, suggestive words, and perhaps misleading, because the words they translate are “koinos”  and its related verb, which means “to make ordinary” or “common.”   In other words, this isn’t a lesson in hygeine, but a fogged -up window into a religious culture far removed from our own, in which people wanted to come close to God’s house in a state of preparedness to meet the holy. But all this is a ‘red herring’  or a Markan ploy to set up such a strong contrast to the teaching Jesus is about to offer.

Trouble is, with the cultural and religious distance of 2000 years, we spend so much time trying to understand the distractions, we can easily miss the point.  Which I hope to uncover on Sunday in worship!  See you there? Or read the sermon on the Church website next week!.

Spirit Flame

Pentecost. Not a word you’ll find in the secular vocabulary in the same way that “Christmas” and “Easter” are found, complete with all their cultural adhesions.  You can’t buy “spirit flames” at the Dollar Store – thank goodness!

Fifty days have passed by since Easter; fifty days of ‘getting used to’ resurrection. Now we have to brace ourselves for another intrusion, this time of the Spirit of God.  Pentecost is a ‘lively’ feast to say the least.  The Spirit of God “hovered” over primordial chaos, God’s creation agent.  Spirit’s presence was felt, usually powerfully, by prophets like Ezekiel. Spirit was seen again when Jesus began his ministry, a hovering messenger of the delight of God for this child of humanity doing God’s work.

The feast we celebrate this Sunday speaks of this lively Wind-Fire Spirit invading the world with word, with power, with wind, noise and flame.  The four walls of that upper room the first Pentecost could not contain her; and, please God,  our four walls at Cedar Park  will not contain nor constrain this Spirit of Life either.  Holy Spirit is not to be caged; breath, wind and fire are notorious for ignoring human boundaries. Since that first day when language barriers were broken so that the Dream of God could be proclaimed and heard, Spirit has been knocking down barriers all over the place.

It’s not surprising then that “Church” with a capital “C” is a little nervous when Spirit blows, or flares or flames within its walls. What will Spirit do? What system will be challenged, what barrier will be broken, what  dead tradition will be blown away, or revived with new life?  What comfortable barrier will she blow down in order to let God’s freedom in?

God’s Spirit, hovering from creation’s first breath, unleashed in the life, death and rising of Jesus the Christ, is a creative, inclusive, challenging, cleansing, invigorating presence.  Her presence is seen in those who feel her flame and are energized to join in barrier-breaking in the name of God’s Kingdom/Dream.

When we pray, this coming Sunday “Come, O Holy Spirit”, we’ll be inviting all that creative liveliness into the heart of our lives together. Expect it to be a wild ride!

If you’re planning to come to worship this Sunday, wear “Spirit colours” – flame red, orange, yellow, gold!

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