Year B: March 8, 2015
First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
Press Here by Herve Tullet
(Written for ages 2 and up)
Comment: While the Ten Commandments are rules for life, they are not rules with explicit consequences, although we so often portray them as such in this passage. The commandments are best understood in the context of a covenantal relationship between God and people, based around the promise that God made to Moses earlier in Exodus also on Mt. Sinai. The commandments are structured so that they serve to shape the identity and character of the people so that they closely resemble the character and identity of God. The purpose of the commandments is they help God’s chosen people recognize that their respect of civil law is directly linked to their respect of religious law and their relationship with God. In Press Here, Herve Tullet brings about an adventure created simply by following the instructions of the narrator and interacting with the book. As readers follow the instructions, the book, the dots of the story, come to life. This book is an example of how following instructions can be life giving, rather than depressing. Tullet’s book is interactive and sure to please a crowd during a children’s message/sermon in worship, or used in entirety as an example during a sermon, and it will delight a classroom setting as well. This is certainly a book that would be easy enough for parents to pick up and use regularly with their children, reminding them of the guidelines for life that God gave to us in the Ten Commandments as they play along with the story of the dots. Using a fun, enjoyable book to illustrate the fun and joy in life when one follows instructions to illustrate the Ten Commandments can help bring to life the idea of living into the joy and pleasure of God when we follow the instructions God gives.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: This portion of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth informs the church that the outsider will see life with Christ as folly; that it does not make sense. Paul speaks of how belief in the cross is a stumbling block to those who demand more than mere faith, and he names specifically the Jews and Greeks. Similarly to those Paul named, our logic often gets in the way of our ability to believe that God would do what God has done; offer salvation to those who believe by means of God’s own weakness which is actually the most pure form of wisdom. We are called to live into the curiosity of this wisdom that is perplexing to so many and causes believers and unbelievers alike to stumble and struggle with the very nature of faith. In The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, Libby is a little girl who is learning about truth and lies and makes a pact to only tell the truth after she’s caught in a lie and punished accordingly. She decides that she’s going to live into her truth telling because of a promise she’s made and she’s going to do it no matter the cost. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t realize that telling the truth can often seem rude or ugly when it’s delivered in the wrong context, manner or time, no matter the intentions. Libby learns this the hard way and doesn’t realize the pain she’s caused until it’s delivered to her in a hurtful way. When she begins to apologize, she is forgiven and even learns from one person that, “The truth is often hard to chew. But if it’s sweetened with love, then it’s a little easier to swallow.” Paul tells the Corinthians in verse 18, “the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The cross is God’s wisdom, the power of God given in love, which is a beautiful truth rather than a stumbling block.
Gospel Reading: John 2:13-22
Enemies of Slavery by David A. Adler
(Written for ages 8 and up)
Comment: “’In the name of God who has made us of one blood,’ William Lloyd Garrison said in an 1842 Independence Day speech in Boston, ‘I demand the immediate emancipation of those who are pining in slavery on American soil.’” This collection of 14 biographies is the story of men and women who opposed slavery for various reasons and worked to end it. The short biographies included are: John Brown, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Elijah Lovejoy, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Sumner, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, David Walker and Theodore Dwight Weld. Each biography contains a picture, several quotes from the subject, and a story of how the individual lived his or her life in opposition to slavery in America. While this particular scripture is not directly about slavery, it is a scripture about social change and the demands that Christ himself and his life had on society to change. This story is present in all four gospels and directly points to Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ walks into the temple and overturns the status quo, directly challenging the Roman government. The story reminds us that while Rome sought to destroy Jesus, his crucifixion was not enough to destroy God and the temple of God endured. John’s passage demands that we look at civil life and religious life carefully, and deem when God/religious life are calling us to challenge the institutions of authority. Sometimes what it means to follow Jesus is that we must stand up for that which the Gospel tells us that God detests. The biographies in Adler’s book are non-fiction examples of persons who realized the need to challenge authority, often because they knew that God detested the behavior of the oppressors. “’I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery and by the blessing of God I will never turn back.’ from Lovejoy’s speech to the mob in Alton, Illinois, November 3, 1837.”
The Lectionary Links this week are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Katie Barrett Todd of Lincoln, Nebraska.