Text: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
“As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
Ezekiel describes a tension between the gathered and scattered sheep. Consider the gathered and scattered. We talk of someone being “scatter-brained.” What are some other ways we experience ourselves as scattered – separate, divorced, strewn, broken apart and diffuse? How do you experience this in a relationship, community, job as well as within yourself? Why do you suppose Ezekiel speaks of the scattering “on a day of clouds and thick darkness”?
What is the cost or danger of being scattered? What might be the advantage and promise? What can happen when you are “scattered” that might never happen when you are gathered and together? Is it only scattered or only together? How do you know and profit from this tension daily?
– Bill Dols
Who are the shepherds in your world?
Text: Revelation 7:9-17
Take a good look around and within. What in your body, psyche, and soul—your whole life—and in the world around you brings tears to your eyes?
Literally, what would it be like for you if someone or something were to wipe all your tears from your eyes?
Is this a good thing to have happen?
– Caren Goldman
The Arrival of the Mystical Lamb by Jan van Eyck
What strikes you in this painting? Why might the painter have chosen this story for an altarpiece? What feeling might the artist be trying to express?
How would you draw (tell/mime/sculpt) today’s story?
Text: Matthew 22:34-46
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
It seems to me that within the span of just a few lines, the discussion between the Pharisees and Jesus goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the first exchange, all the law and the prophets hang on two key commandments. In the second, Jesus seems to be tricking the Pharisees in a debate over interpretations. He scores a point, perhaps, but doesn’t seem to make much of one. When was the last time that you worried about whether the Messiah was David’s son? Besides, isn’t Jesus called both “Messiah” and “Son of David”? I learned in math class that if x=y and x=z, then y=z.
Consider your own debates with others and within. How often do you focus on things that are central and how often on things which are trivial? On what do all the law and the prophets hang in your own decisions? In your use of time? In how you devote your talents and energies?
– Andy Kille
In case you ever wondered if the people at the New Yorker magazine follow the lectionary, they were off by just a day! The First Reading for Sunday, October 9th was from the story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32: 1-14.
On Monday, the cover of the New Yorker magazine dated October 10th carried an image of an industrial landscape with smoking stacks and, towering above it all, a temple surmounted by a bull (whose horns are also smokestacks). What was that question- where do you see this story in the world around you?
The New Yorker is hugely protective of its images, and so I can’t link to one that does it justice, but you can see the image here, in a zoomable format. Or, just look for a copy of the magazine.
Text: Matthew 22: 15-22
“…Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s…”
Jesus assumes in this parable that the symbols and images we put on our money have significance; money itself is a symbolic currency, representing what we value.
Take a dollar bill out of your pocket or your purse. Look at it carefully for clues – what do you see? What might it mean for you? Look at the Great Seal, with its four-sided pyramid, topped by the “eye of God.” Thirteen ranges in the pyramid/ 1776 at the bottom of it in Roman numerals/ “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (A New Order of the World)/ “Annuit Coeptis” (She/He/It has smiled on our activities).
One the other side of the bill is the Bald Eagle, the bird of Zeus, American style, holding in his talons both war and peace, thirteen arrows in the one hand, a laurel branch with thirteen leaves in the other. Which way is he looking? Over the eagle’s head are thirteen stars arranged in a Star of David. Keep looking.
What do these images and symbols tell us about the emperor? What things that are the emperor’s do we give?
– Beth Harrison
A statue of a bull on Wall Street. Photo courtesy of Herval.
Text: Exodus 32: 1-14
So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
I am Jewish and as a child, the boy next door was Catholic. I always felt he got the better deal because he had – in Jesus – an “image” of God that he could talk and pray to. We both said the same bedtime prayers – except I envied the fact that he knew who was “listening.” He had a statue of Jesus in his bedroom and there were pictures of Jesus hanging on walls throughout his house. All I had were figments of my imagination (who sometimes looked like Jesus) – especially since I was not allowed to mention the “J” word in my house.
If you are a Christian, imagine what it would be like to be raised or dealing daily with a “faceless” God. What changes? What doesn’t? What do you feel? What do you long for most in your relationship to this Divine presence in your life? Would you be content to live your questions and affirm your faith without a tangible image to talk to, pray to, believe in and relate to in other ways?
– Caren Goldman
Text: Philippians 2:1-13
Many scholars suggest that much of the text is a hymn, sung perhaps antiphonally. It was music, both familiar and moving to those who would hear it. I wonder about the role of music in the working out of your spiritual life, how it might enable or reassure or help move you out of your selfish ambition or into a fuller accord. What kind of music cuts through to some deeper place in you? What music “does it” for you?
I grew up in a tradition that had a “hymn sing” every Sunday night. The theology in some of those hymns made me uncomfortable even then, when I thought about it, but the sense of community it evoked could move me past theology or thought to something else. Many years later, those hymns still make me weep.
Remember the songs, the music that moves you to that place past thinking and doing. Sing the songs, when no one can hear but you. Or put on that CD that occasionally blindsides you and takes you out of your small self into that larger one. Listen… to it, to yourself.
– Beth Harrison