This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 20th, 2016.
The final few chapters of Luke’s Gospel places an emphasis on reversing the expectations of the hearers. The Gospel reading from last week promised God’s nearness in our troubles, that even when we can’t escape our sufferings, God endures along with us. One of the details we tend to remember of the crucifixion story is when Jesus felt abandoned by God. However, Luke’s narrative excludes that moment, choosing instead to elaborate on the notion of God’s nearness in the midst of suffering. It’s certainly not what one would expect.
Recalling last week’s Gospel reading (Luke 21), Jesus describes the course of events to unfold for his followers. We come to discover in brutally, eerie fashion, that Jesus ends up experiencing much of what he predicted they would experience in the years to come; persecution, trials, and imprisonment. Just as the temple will be torn down, so this week we see the guards tearing down Jesus, garments and all. Not what one would expect of God’s Messiah.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 13th, 2016.
Not unlike the prophets before him, Jesus sees a problem with the status quo. Two chapters earlier he spoke of the demise of the temple as he drove out merchants who’d set up shop in God’s house. In the first four verses of this chapter, the inequity of the status quo is again on display. A poor widow offers her gifts from the depths of her money purse, while the rich toss in the spare change from their own.
The walls of the building were beautifully decorated—tall steeple, fancy chandeliers, an inviting fellowship hall. Yet as is so often the case, humans have a tendency to revere their accomplishments, be it buildings or reputations. The attention to detail as it pertained to the building while neglecting and exploiting the impoverished, signaled a dramatic disconnect from God’s design.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 22, 2013.
Sometime the greatest challenge for the preacher is not the mysterious text, but the familiar one. We confidently approach familiar texts presuming to know what they say, and we find it difficult to really listen to them. We present them to congregations who yawn when they see the text printed in the order of worship because they, too, assume that they know these passages. Matthew 1:18-25 is such a text for preaching.
The initial challenge of this text is to allow it to stand on its own. We easily conflate the story of Joseph’s encounter with the angelic messenger and Luke’s account of Gabriel’s visit to Mary (Luke 1:26-38). However, allowing Matthew’s account to stand on its own first would be a valuable discipline. Matthew does not have a footnote that says “for more information, see Luke 1:26-38. He says, “The birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way . . .” (Matthew 1:19, NRSV). He simply states as a fact that Mary was “found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” He does not explain how she knew that.