This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on November 12, 2017.
Two particular preaching opportunities jump out of this text that are foundational to who we are as Christians. Both are absolutely necessary for the health of the church and cannot be overlooked. First, Paul gives clear indication of the primacy of witness. Second, there is an opportunity here to better understand the church’s responsibility to disciple. Both sermon directions are weighty and need the attention of the church.
One sermon trajectory could trace the work of the Gospel as the instigator of witness in this passage. Beginning at the end of the selected text, verse 13 notes two things about the Gospel. One the Gospel is of God, not of men. We proclaim that we have the wisdom of God on our side. You will not find God’s eternal truths on Facebook or the self-help section of the bookstore. All those kinds of enticing short-term solutions fall wildly short of the hope of the Gospel. Every magazine you see with 6 easy steps to a better you, will have 6 different steps to a better you next month, it is all for profit and spectacle. The self-help publishing industry could care less about the individual, but the Gospel is full of authentic wisdom for living in our broken world. The Gospel is the only thing that can help our neighbors, yet we find ourselves chasing after the words and approval of men.
Continuing in verse 13, the Gospel is at work today. It is alive and active performing a work in those that hear the message. This work must be unpacked in the sermon as it is critical to fulfilling the promise of the message. The Gospel works in our hearts to pull us toward God by ripping the sin out of our lives and leading us to repentance. We have not found the real self-help we need until this cleansing work of the Gospel is begun in us.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on October 29, 2017.
The lectionary seemingly assigns us two moments in Matthew this week. In the first, Pharisees test Jesus’ legal knowledge, prompting him to offer his infamous articulation of the greatest commandment. In the second, Jesus turns the tables, quizzing his inquisitors about the Messiah, ultimately leaving them speechless. The temptation here is to pick a passage like we pick our news outlets, zeroing in on one (likely the first) to the complete exclusion of the other. However, we’d do well to receive the assignment as given and wrestle with why the lectionary lists these moments as the biblical author does, as one.
The second half of this passage gives weight to the first in a few notable ways. First, Jesus comes closer to revealing his identity here than in any of the previous chapters in Matthew. Son of David was a common messianic reference, and if you turn back a page, you’ll see this is the title the crowds he encountered on the way into Jerusalem and the children in the temple courts have already given him. In this light, the question itself implies his Messianic identity. Secondly, the fact that Jesus answers their question impressively and they are dumbstruck by his speaks both to Jesus’ credibility and authority as a teacher. Soon these elders and teachers of the law will have him arrested and put him on trial. Matthew wants us to witness this before we get to that. The higher credibility and authority of Jesus in comparison to other teachers of the law is established here. Finally, the establishment of Jesus as the teacher of highest authority combined with the implication of his messiahship calls the reader back to his response regarding the greatest commandment, because it provides us with an important interpretive resource for life, scripture and the messiahship of Jesus.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 4th, 2016.
If you decide to preach on Luke 14:25-33, expect several moments during the week when you wonder if you should have picked another text. What if there is a visitor looking for a church home? What if someone comes to worship who needs a word of comfort? What will this passage say to the members of your congregation who are praying that God will make their hard lives easier?
For The Year of Living Biblically, A. J. Jacobs decided to live by every rule in the Bible. He tried to follow the Ten Commandments. He refrained from gossiping, lying, and coveting. He estimates that he cut down on his coveting by 40 percent.
Jacobs did not enjoy tithing, but he did it. He stopped shaving and wearing clothes made of mixed fibers. He attached tassels to his clothing, tried his hand at a ten-string harp, and ate crickets, but no pork or shrimp. Continue reading →
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on June 26, 2016.
This text comes up in the lectionary during summertime, when we might wish for lighter fare to serve to visitors and vacationers. The preacher who is looking to preach a word of encouragement, comfort, or inclusion will have to look elsewhere. This is a hard text, with a harsh tone. Jesus is not very nice.
Luke tells us that Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), thus opening the long section of his Gospel that focuses on Jesus’ journey. From this point all the way to his arrival in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28), Jesus will be “on the way” (Luke 9:52); the lengthy journey motif sets Luke apart from the other Gospels. For the lectionary preacher, this means that from now until October, all of the Gospel readings will come from Jesus’ journey. Luke locates some of the best-loved stories of Jesus in the journey narrative, and at certain points will remind the reader that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem. We see the actions of Jesus and the many sayings of Jesus in the larger context of his journey towards the cross.