Year A: February 9, 2014
First Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a
The Boy Who Cried Wolf by B.G. Hennessy
(Written for ages 3-8)
Comment: The people ask God: “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” The reason for God’s lack of interest is that God knows their motives. God answers them: “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day…Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.” “Their ritual fasting is hypocritical and self-serving”, W. Sibley Towner writes (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 317). There is no true penitence or piety in their worship—“they fast so that God will see them” (Andrew Fosters Connor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 318). In B.G. Hennessy’s updated version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, we also see someone whose behavior is designed just to get attention. The boy is bored guarding his sheep and so cries “Wolf!” and summons all the townspeople. However, after a few times, the townspeople ignore him. When a real wolf appears, no one listens to the boy’s cries of “Wolf!”, because previously the boy only called out to get attention, and not because of anything real. Similarly, God knows that the people’s fasting and worship are only about getting attention for themselves, and through Isaiah, God implores them to change their behavior to reflect real worship and penitence. (Commenter’s note: In B.G. Hennessy’s version, neither the sheep nor the boy is eaten by the wolf.)
Second Reading: I Corinthians 2:1-12(13-16)
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: “Those who are spiritual discern all things…we have the mind of Christ”, Paul writes to the Corinthians. His teaching and preaching, and consequently their faith in those things, may seem like foolishness to the wisdom of the world, but Paul speaks “of God’s wisdom”, and that is what the Corinthians faith rests upon—a wisdom that is beyond the world’s ways. In Black Dog, the youngest member of the Hope family, Small Hope, shows her family a new kind of wisdom. When the family awakens one morning, there is an enormous black dog outside their house, growing by the minute. Each of them panics, until Small Hope bravely sets out to face the dog, and by playing with him, he begins to shrink until he is just the right size for their family. As they welcome him inside, Small Hope’s family members remark on how smart Small Hope was, and how she knew what to do when they didn’t. Small Hope discerns that there is another way than fear and panic, and exhibits a higher wisdom. Paul exhorts the Corinthians in the same way—that though the wisdom they possess may seem like foolishness, it is really a wiser and higher kind—it is the wisdom of Christ.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:13-20
Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Following the description of blessings for his followers, Jesus launches into a description of “who his followers are and what they do for and in the world” (Marcia Y. Riggs, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 332). It is not enough merely to live under God’s blessings: Jesus’ followers need to carry those blessings out into the world, seasoning and illuminating God’s creation. In Chicken Sunday, the characters do just that. Eula Mae, grandmother to Stewart and Winston, is a devout and church-going woman, and each Sunday she invites her grandsons and their neighbor Patricia to church, and then fixes them a chicken dinner after services. In return, the children want to buy Eula Mae a wonderful hat, sold by Mr. Kodinsky. Mr. Kodinsky at first refuses to sell it to them, believing they are responsible for vandalizing his store. To win his trust, the children show him a traditional egg dye-ing technique which reminds him of his native land, and he sees that they are not to blame after all. He allows them to sell the eggs in his shop, which enables them to buy the beautiful hat for Eula Mae. Eula Mae lives out Jesus’ call, by caring and welcoming the children, and they continue it out into the world, as well. In the same way, as Jesus’ followers, we are not called merely to be blessed, but to be blessings of light and salt, for the world.
Links for these passages in 2011 can be found here.
This week’s Lectionary Links are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Sara Anne Berger, pastor of the Whitmire Presbyterian Church, Whitmire, SC.