This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 9, 2017.
How do we hear from God? I grew up hearing people say that God spoke to them or God showed them what to do. This is often one of the ways Christians make others feel inferior. We talk in lofty terms when we speak of the divine guidance from God. Does he speak audibly? How does he reveal his will in your life? Our text for today is a beautiful picture of a servant looking for God’s hand and his guidance.
This story is about obedience, faith, prayer, God’s activity and work, and a response of worship. Abraham and Sarah had lived long faithful lives. They both received a promise from God and new names to remind them of that promise. They were given a son in their old age, a son for whom they had longed for many years. The covenant God made with Abraham promised (Genesis 15:14-21) that he would give him a son through his own body. God promised he would make his offspring as numerous as the stars. He made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:14-16) that his descendants would live as strangers in this country and they would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. God promised he would punish the nation that oppressed them. God promised Abraham that he would be buried at a good old age. Finally, he promised that in the fourth generation his descendants would come back to this land.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most familiar and discussed texts of Scripture. These seven verses entertain theological issues such as the hypostatic union of Jesus, the kenotic formula, and the ontological and functional realities of the Trinity. Though these issues have their place, these are not really the matters Paul is addressing. The milieu of this passage is one of believers learning to live their life as a community. It is a text ethical in nature in which Paul stimulates the practice of humility and unity among the believers exhibiting Jesus as the supreme example. The preacher needs to be careful not to get entangled in doctrinal issues that could detract from the greater message.
Following his greeting to the community of Philippi (1:1–2), Paul prays for them to reach unity (1:3–11). Next, he presents his own life as an example (1:12–26; 4:9) and exhorts the church to live lives of humility and unity without (1:27–30) and within the congregation (2:1–4). To illustrate, Paul draws from what is most likely an early Christian hymn-poem that praises Christ’s story of incarnation, crucifixion, and exaltation (2:5–11), and urges the Philippians to pattern Christ’s life story to address their particular situation (2:12-18).
Paul exhorts them to have “the mind of Christ” (2:5). In their mutual relations, they should adopt the same attitude of love and humility that marked the Lord (2:5). But, isn’t it true that one thing is to be called to have “the mind of Christ,” and another to nurture such habit of mind individually and collectively? So, how can the Philippians be a people characterized by unity and humility? Paul intimates that the first step is to know well Christ’s story. This is the Gospel story of Christ leaving the glories of his preexistent, eternal state to undertake humanity through cross death.
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 C on June 5, 2016.
There is an interesting phenomenon that runs consistently throughout the events of human history. When an individual takes a bold stand for what is good and right in the face of a culture filled with what is bad and wrong, all those who had chosen not to take a stand label that individual a hero. Whether it is St. Catherine of Siena in 14th Century Italy nursing those whom others were afraid to touch or Martin Luther in 16th Century Germany calling for integrity and truth in the Church or Rosa Parks in 20th Century America sitting still and exposing injustice, heroes live among us. Even those without courage recognize it when they see it and honor those who use it. Like a diamond against black velvet, the contrast is simply too glaring to deny. That was precisely the scene that had been set when the Prophet Elijah burst suddenly onto the stage of Israel’s tumultuous history.
For 42 years King Asa reigned in the southern kingdom of Judah in a manner that delighted the heart of God. During those same 42 years the northern kingdom of Israel went through six kings with reigns that lasted anywhere from seven days to twenty-two years…with all six reigns characterized by evil, blasphemy, and degradation. When Elijah appeared in 1 Kings 17, Israel was ruled by King Ahab who “did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him” (16:30) and who ultimately married a heathen named Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon—King Ethbaal (“with Baal”). Ahab joined his new bride in her idolatrous worship of Baal.