This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 12th, 2017.
Can a word be preached from the book of Deuteronomy? Would it not be easier to preach from the gospel text this week or even Paul’s epistle? What does a speech of Moses for the Hebrew people before they enter the Promised Land have to say to us today? These might be tempting questions to ask yourself before you pass over this passage from Deuteronomy and continue that series on Matthew’s Gospel or Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. However, Matthew’s gospel text from last week’s lection reminded us that Jesus did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17). I know when I was a kid if I saw in the church bulletin that Deuteronomy was the sermon passage I could take the next hour off and wait until the next week. I just knew it would be a boring sermon. With age, though, I have come to appreciate the fact that Deuteronomy is central to understanding the Old Testament and Israel’s relationship with God. More than this, though, Jesus references Deuteronomy more than any Old Testament book save the Psalms. With this in mind, that it is neglected and rarely used in sermons is a shame.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 5th, 2017.
How many of us would love to have a congregation that God described as a people who “seek me and delight to know my ways…they delight to draw near to God.” (Isaiah 58:2)? This congregation would certainly fill the pews and sing, joyously, week in and week out. They would be attentive listeners to our sermons, and they would pray diligently during the times of communal prayer. It would be easy to show up every week with a fresh word to tell these people because they would surely deposit praise upon praise on us following each service. Isaiah’s congregation has returned from exile and resides once again in Jerusalem – this is a people happy to worship. However, even the best of churches have those people who continually wonder why they’re doing all of this wonderful worship and yet God is not heaping praise and reward on them. This is not to say that these churches are selfish and self-righteous, but rather that we have been formed into people who expect our great efforts to be rewarded in ways congruent with our own expectations. If I put in a hard day’s work, I would expect a payment equal to that work. Worship, though, is not about us. At least it is not about performing in order that I may receive some due payment from God. This is what God speaks to the people in Jerusalem through the mouth of Isaiah. This is what God is speaking to us today.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 29th, 2017.
One oft-repeated benefit of the lectionary is that it forces passages on us that we would not ordinarily preach. However, one fallback to this format is that it can often give passages that end up being proof-texts or at the very least commonly repeated texts abstracted from their larger context and place within the Biblical narrative. Micah 6 is one such text. More specifically, though, it is Micah 6:8 that receives the spotlight – it is well rehearsed in many a Bible drill class. That being said, the text continues to speak a particular truth that is made more evident within its wider context and within the whole of Scripture.
The difficulty with this text, though, is to not allow our own vision of justice, loving-kindness, and humility override what Micah is describing. What one commentator describes as the “Golden Text” of the Old Testament begins, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good…” (Micah 6:8a). That Micah presumes the people know what is good because God has (presumably) told them indicates that it is not just any account of justice, loving-kindness, and humility that matters. One easy way to ground this and root it in the tangible, visceral world in which we live is to look at the Gospel text for this week, Matthew 5:1-12. The beginning of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is yet another familiar text but seen through the lens of Micah’s call to remember what God has told them reveals that this command is not only for Micah’s audience but for us as well.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 22nd, 2017.
A quick glance at this passage might not inspire one to preach from it. The more complete form includes the entire poem through verse 7, but here we only get part of that message of hope. Plus, the entire poem was part of the lectionary reading for Christmas Eve, so if you happened to preach that night, you had a passage from the prophets that was primed and ready to be used as a referent to Jesus. So it makes sense to skip over this one and jump to the Matthew or 1 Corinthians text. However, turning this stone once more might reveal more than we expected.
The Christian calendar tells us we are in the season of Epiphany – the third Sunday after Epiphany, to be exact. Technically, though, Epiphany is a displaced part of Ordinary Time. We are not in the process of preparing for or celebrating the birth, death, or resurrection of Jesus. We are simply figuring out what it means to live in the world that has seen a great light. The difficulty with this, though, is that for many of us and for those in our congregations that great light is often hard to see, hard to hear, and even harder to understand. This passage sparks dissonance in the lives of many people as we struggle through the every day. As preachers, though, we are called to speak a word from The Word. We are to point towards what we see and hear in God’s Word as it comes to us. Speaking truth is becoming a lost art, but we are not simply encouraged to do so, we are commanded to (Matthew 28:20).