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Lectionary Living

A New Reality: Greed or Plenty?

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43 • Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23 and Psalm 49:1-12 • Colossians 3:1-11 • Luke 12:13-21



This week's scriptures seem to be directed to the affluent. In a world filled with need, how much is enough? Is it true that the more mindful one is of one's responsibility for self, the more clear one gets about one's responsibility to others?


The story about a rich man building another barn to store his wealth is a response to someone asking Jesus to settle a squabble between him and his brother over an inheritance. Jesus quickly recognizes the underlying theme: greed. Greed begins early in life. We excuse it in children; unfortunately, as adults, we often continue to act like children.


How often is a squabble over an inheritance simply a continuation of sibling rivalry? Which child is favored, who deserves what, etc. etc.  etc. These patterns can continue to haunt a person into adulthood. The alternative – to govern oneself more thoughtfully – takes time and effort. Freedom has a price.


Getting free of greed was the subject of a recent article by Arthur Brooks, who begins with a story about the Rolling Stones line, I can't get no satisfaction. Brooks talks about the cognitive challenge of the brain's dopamine response. We feel good when we acquire more, but it's temporary, leading us again to want more. This can be more stuff, more success, more blog posts, more anything: Vanity, as the Ecclesiastes reading sums it up, is a striving after wind (1:14).


Brooks' solutions are interesting and I recommend them. Here,  though, I'll focus on the solution Jesus provides: reality. It's a heavy dose – the man in the story dies that night – reminding us to stay grounded in the truth, which will set us more free than any amount of wealth.   


Psalm 107 provides a vision of a new reality. In it, a struggling group are greeted in an "inhabited town" where they are delivered from their distress. How does a community become such a place? Could it be that the much-maligned District of Columbia might be operating as one right now, as it responds to the challenges faced by immigrants?


Some options to support the D.C. efforts can be found at donations You may know of other needs in your community. So many chances to leave greed behind and live into a new reality!


Thanks readers! My earlier lectionary blogs, including my 2019 blog on these same readings, continue to be available. 


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A few years ago, I wrote about the Prodigal Son - the blog is available in the archives for March 2019 or just click here https://go.authorsguild.org/sbx/sites/barbaralaymo/blog/archives/2019-03 Looking back, I was focused at the time on the two brothers, and the over-and-under functioning reciprocity between the two of them. What I failed to observe was the father, who seems to me to be a pretty ordinary parent - focusing on one child, expecting the other to understand.

Most of us have seen these patterns somewhere in our lives. What was Jesus trying to tell us? Perhaps that we would do well to step back and observe these processes, without judging each other. That all of us are playing a part, siblings and parents, and doing the best we can. That each of us would do well to look to himself or herself, rather than so much attention on the others. To this point, see more from Jenny Brown at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK5mHJmuXBE&list=PL3KVSk8FQniz-tFltosWYrFCVligVQLZH



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February update

Winter R&R

Reading: This winter, I've read and re-read Salk's and Salk's (2018)  A New Reality  

I'm savoring – a page or two a day – Scott Cairn's (2020) Love's Immensity.

I've enjoyed the Netflix show Shtisel. It covers many of the challenges of defining oneself in one's family.


Research:  I've been working on survey research on living systems constructs in congregations. If you are an ordained or lay leader in your congregation, you can contribute to the research by taking the survey here.  Some background: To test whether concepts rooted in a family systems-based assessment accurately map to congregational life, Jake Morrill, MDiv, faculty at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, along with Joseph Stewart-Sicking, faculty at Loyola University, MD, and I have developed a questionnaire approved for research purposes. Results will be used to explore a framework for congregational functioning, useful for leaders facing the challenging years ahead. To assure the anonymity of respondents and congregations, no identifying information will be collected in the survey process. If you're interested in learning more about the research findings, please email smcasurvey@gmail.com to be added to the invitation list for a presentation in late March.


Reflection: from Cairn (p. 16), in a line about apprehending scripture, what is required is an honest life, a limpid soul, and... Just a note that I had to look up limpid. Which in itself gave me a lot to think about! 

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Hitting the mute button

Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4  •  Luke 1:68-79  •  Philippians 1:3-11  •  Luke 3:1-6


This week's Luke readings offer a sublime pairing for the second Sunday in Advent. The Luke 1 reading contain the words of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Recall that Zechariah was rendered speechless for disbelieving the angel who had come to announce the birth of John. His wife, in stark contrast, was the heroine of the story, noticing her baby move within her when Mary (pregnant with Jesus) comes to visit. However, the forced silence apparently did Zechariah a world of good, for when he opened his mouth to speak, he offered a song of praise still chanted weekly around the world (Canticle 16, Book of Common Prayer).


The Luke 3 reading is a different sort. Luke seems to be having a little fun here. He begins the chapter in a very serious voice, as though writing a formal legal description of the places and names of the powers that be. But by verse 3, he's doing the opposite, talking about this guy John, who was without any formal authority, going around the wilderness announcing a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, of all things!


Both John and his dad, Zechariah, from the priestly tribe, were part of a long tradition of devoting their energy to their faith. Although approaching their vocation in very different ways, both worked hard to be true to themselves and their callings. Many families pass down processes – sometimes unnamed in the next generations – who nevertheless act according to a family mandate of some kind.


As I became interested in family systems theory, I worried that it might be inconsistent with my faith. For three years – beginning with the third Sunday of Advent 2018 – I began a practice of looking for family systems ideas in the Sunday readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. Scripture did not disappoint. Each week, family systems processes were right there within the texts, hidden in plain sight. Each week I've understood more: about family systems theory, the Bible, my family, and myself.


Now it's time for me to join Zechariah. I will try to press the mute button, quieting myself and assimilating my thoughts for a while. Thank you for reading my work here. I am forever grateful.



Morning: How can I be true to myself today?

Evening: What processes has my family passed down the generations?


Luke 1: 78-79 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.         

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