This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 2, 2017.
Romans chapter 8 is the highpoint section in Paul’s most remarkable letter. Romans 8:6-11, along with the previous five verses (8:1-5) and subsequent six verses (8:12-17), conveys a series of dichotomies: flesh vs. the Spirit; death vs. life; the law of the Spirit of life vs. the law of sin and of death; death and resurrection; Spirit of God and children of God; spirit of slavery vs. Spirit of adoption. Verses 6-11 form a small part of a broader exposition Paul provides the contrast between flesh and Spirit. It is crucial for the preacher to understand Paul’s perception concerning these two forces and to avoid misrepresenting the metaphorical concepts he uses to convey his message.
Do we understand what Paul means by “flesh”? How should preachers interpret Paul today, particularly, in a world where we idolize attractive celebrities, vigorous athletes, carnal desires, while we are embarrassed by grotesqueness, physical atrophy, and the ailments of senility?
Is the Apostle’s understanding of “flesh” as trivial as that diffused by today’s secularized culture? Is Paul simply offering us the pitfalls of network television? Is he describing practical Christianity with the unreserved dismissal of the luxuries of a consumer-driven society? Perhaps this is what countless of faithful believers assume.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 23rd, 2016.
This sermon series began three weeks ago in Lamentations 1:1-6 and ends this week in Joel 2:23-32. This series allows the pastor to trace the arc of redemption as told through Israel’s story with God. This is the foundation of Christ’s coming, through which this story finds its fruition and fulfillment. Such a series permits a congregation to re-engage the movement of their own life with God through this story, starting in Lamentations with disorientation over their sin and its consequences. This confrontation with sin is necessary if a church is to engage in the faithful application of hope toward Joel’s vision of life and land indwelled with the presence of the Spirit.
Last week, in Jeremiah 31, the text focused on the promise of renewed relationship and renewed covenant. Such a promise is hope on the move, God approaching people to establish relational wholeness, expressed in human relationships and covenant life with God. Today’s passage provides the people of God with a vivid image of the reality of that day. Such a day combines the fruition of created existence with the life-quickening reality of the Spirit of God. The prophet Joel thus communicates an earthly spirituality, one that joins heaven and earth. To illustrate this reality, today’s passage shows that the fear of agricultural loss gives way to abundance. Joel expertly ties such abundance to life in the Spirit, poured out on all people. Joel is written to the nation of Judah, likely after the fall of the northern kingdom. The prophet centers his message around common themes, such as “repentance, guilt, and punishment”. However, the prophet makes sure to balance a word of warning with the promise of God’s rescue and restoration.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 16th, 2016.
This sermon series began two weeks ago in Lamentations 1:1-6 and ends next week in Joel 2:23-32. This series allows the pastor to trace the arc of redemption as told through Israel’s story with God. This is the foundation of Christ’s coming, through which this story finds its fruition and fulfillment. Such a series permits a congregation to re-engage the movement of their own life with God through this story, starting in Lamentations with disorientation over their own sin and its consequences. This confrontation with sin is necessary if a church is to engage in the faithful application of hope toward Joel’s vision of life and land indwelled with the presence of the Spirit.
Last week in Jeremiah 29, the text focused on living in the tension of brokenness and hope. Today’s passage moves from the midst of this tension into the promise that is to come. Here the prophet promises renewed relationship and renewed covenant. This is hope on the move; hope that propels a people into the practice of a future freedom right now in the present. This hope is on the move because God brings renewal. This God-moving renewal establishes relational wholeness. This relational wholeness is expressed in human life together and covenant life with God.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 25th, 2016.
At first glance, this scene in Jeremiah seems ridiculous. Jeremiah is buying plots in his hometown of Anathoth in the middle of a Babylonian siege that will ultimately lead to the exile of King Zedekiah and the Israelite people. Remember, Jeremiah is in prison and has been labeled a traitor to his people because he told everyone to lay down arms and surrender in the middle of the siege. According to the law of the land, traitorous behavior like this warrants a prison cell.
Looking deeper into the story, this ridiculous moment unfolds a larger vision for God’s people. Yes, they will be conquered and exiled, driven away from their geographical identity as the Israelite nation. The old covenant will no longer exist. However, Jeremiah is proclaiming a new covenant to come, a time when the Israelite nation will become stronger in their faith and identity as God’s people. They will soon worship God outside of their institutional walls for the temple will be destroyed, but they will learn to worship their God no matter where they are living. The reshaping of identity is beginning in the fiery blaze of the conquering Babylonian army. The end of one nation is leading to a new beginning of a new nation that will emerge from the fire.