Year C: April 7, 2019
First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21
We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
(Written for ages 3-7)
Comment: “Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. It is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles – daily, throughout the year, and across the seasons.” Thus begins this beautiful book full of stunning artwork that compliments a telling of the Cherokee Nation’s belief in gratitude. In her notes author Sorell shares, “Cherokee culture places a strong emphasis on expressing gratitude to unelanvhi (oo-NEH-la-nuh-hee), literally ‘the one who provides all,’ or God.” The book walks us through a plethora of seasons of gratitude – as they patiently sew moccasins and coil clay, as men cuddle babies, as elders share stories, while collecting honeysuckle, and while gathering to remember a passed relative. Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of times when former things should be remembered for positive reasons, but also for the times when God is preparing to do new things. Former things represent testimony to both the past and the future of God’s provisions. Isaiah says that as God is about to do a new thing – to continue a new creation and make a new pathway in the wilderness – Israel may rely upon the things of old only as long as it points their perceptions toward the newness God will create. Isaiah speaks to the new relationship God has with Israel, encouraging the people to focus upon the radical newness of what God is about to do while resting assured because God has proven faithfulness in the former things, too. As the Cherokee offer otsaliheliga to unelanvhi in every season, remembering the past seasons and looking forward to the new ones to come, so shall the Israelites, per Isaiah’s prophecies.
*Additional Book Note: Each page of the book introduces the reader to a Cherokee word includes an English spelling, a phonetic spelling, and a Cherokee spelling of the word along with a definition.
Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera
(Written for ages 5-9)
Comment: Imagine is a beautifully illustrated biographical poem by a United States Poet Laureate that encourages readers to think about what life might be like as we grow up. The poem walks us through much of what the author did throughout his life while asking us to imagine what we could do with our lives, alleging that the possibilities are endless. The poignant poem speaks to chasing tadpoles, moving away from family, learning a new language, writing, singing, and more. Herrera invites us to recognize different activities as formative to the what-ifs and what-can-bes in our own stories. Similarly, in verses eight and nine Paul says “…in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” when speaking of his newness as a disciple of Christ. Paul’s rhetoric of change speaks to the changes he’s encountered because of his decision to follow Christ. He acknowledges that his life has changed, that he’s “lost” and “gained,” that he has a hope of resurrection because he knows that Christ was resurrected, and he has a goal of heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ. Paul both warns of loss and prepares us for gains that will come from life as a Christian, but dreams aloud of the hopes and what-can-bes of a full life (and resurrection) in Christ’s discipleship.
Gospel Reading: John 12:1-8
Koala Challah by Laura Gehl
(Written for ages 2-7)
Comment: In her commentary on this passage, Professor Karoline Lewis likens this text to smell, “the smell of the perfume, costing almost a year’s wages, permeating every nook and cranny of that room. That smell in contrast to the smell of death…on Jesus. The smell of love in the face of certain betrayal.” Lewis reminds us that smell is both pleasurable and repulsive, two responses to Jesus that we encounter in Mary and Judas. Mary recognizes the importance of having Christ in her presence for as long as he still lives (this text does take place very near to Christ’s death), while Judas is concerned about the works of faith – sell your goods and care for the poor. Mary desires to be in the presence of God but Judas desires to show God just how much he’s learned from being in God’s presence. (Or how much he’s not learned, as the case may be.) The story of Lila and her family’s preparations for weekly Shabbat is a cute story about contributions and recognizing that which is meaningful. Lila, the youngest koala sister, desperately wants to contribute to her family’s weekly Sabbath celebration, but keeps making a mess. Finally, Lila convinces her mom to let her bake the challah. She spends the entire week leading up to Shabbat perfecting her challah. She makes a fine bread, but continues to work to make a more-than-fine loaf for the celebration. Lila succeeds through utilizing her family’s favorite ingredient. I imagine a little girl filling her house with a powerful scent in order to enhance the celebration of a very holy time, precisely as Mary has chosen.
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Katie Barrett Todd for writing the Revised Common Lectionary Links this week.