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 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).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 23, 2014.
Rules. We are surrounded by rules. There are rules for how to behave and rules for how to drive; rules for how to use technology and rules for how to act around the neighborhood pool. If you have children or have ever worked with children, you know the importance of setting clear expectations (rules) and making sure they are followed. Rules are good, helping us to function in an orderly way. Most rules, though, represent the bare minimum of what is necessary. If we merely follow the rules, we are limiting ourselves to a lifestyle of compliance to low standards. In the Sermon on the Mount, of which Matthew 5:38–48 is a part, Jesus liberates his followers to live life to the fullest, a life oriented toward grace rather than rules. Continue reading
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 16, 2014.
Jesus had a high regard for Hebrew Scripture. In fact he proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of it and proceeded to authoritatively commented on it. Jesus dealt with the law like a craftsman. He worked as a carpenter, tasked to restore a fine old piece of furniture. He worked through layers of abuse and misuse to bring out the original form – the heart of the piece. He allowed the original intent to emerge. In Matthew 5:21-37 Jesus gets to the heart of the matter concerning anger, adultery, divorce and integrity. The reader can easily become frustrated in this section because of his or her unfamiliarity with rabbinic tools like hyperbole. This should not keep the bible reader from lingering in these passages. A key is to look for the big themes in the midst of the details. Continue reading