This text is used as the Lectionary Text for Year A on August 27, 2017.
The subject of the sovereignty of God can be a touchy one within the church. It raises seemingly limitless questions, with seemingly limitless answers depending on one’s subscription to any number of theologies. The nature and scope of God’s sovereignty are often disagreed upon—even to the point of contention—among Christian denominations. But the fact that God is sovereign, whatever that might look like, is a critical tenet for all who profess, “Jesus is Lord.”
The passage begins by highlighting humanity’s ephemeral nature. Not even a great man like Joseph, who had risen to a place of prominence in Egypt, can be remembered forever. What has withstood the test of time, however, are the people through whom God’s covenant with Abraham would be fulfilled. The Israelites have honored God’s creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), and their growing number was a sign of God’s presence and blessing. The size of the Israelite population has snuck up on Pharaoh, and he decides to put an end to their growth—he attempts, in effect, to put an end to God’s presence and blessing among God’s people. Pharaoh does not deport the Israelites from his land; he recognizes that they have value to him, and he attempts to exploit it by ruthlessly imposing slave labor upon them. God’s sovereignty shines through, however, as the Israelites respond to Pharaoh’s oppression by further increasing in number. The Egyptians began to loathe the Israelites—after all, as the plagues in Exodus 8 would reveal, Egyptians hate swarms.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 4th, 2016.
A familiar passage for both preacher and congregant. The temptation is to preach what the average worship attendee has heard in familiar hymns, “You are the potter/I am the clay.” Remember this word from the Lord is not an individualized message rather it is a warning to the entire community. This passage is often used as a private prayer of devotion to God, but the initial word from Jeremiah was to the whole of Israel. Moving the congregant from privatizing the passage engages the congregation to partner together as a community of discernment in challenging seasons. A popular contemporary practice focuses worship on the relationship between the individual Christian and God. However, this passage along with worship on Sunday mornings are communal offerings of praise and petitions to God as a whole body of faith.
The metaphor of clay is not limited to one person or even one nation. The clay is an artistic allegory for God’s will and purpose in the world. The image of a potter and his clay reveals a hidden truth like an abstract piece of art. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that helps us see the truth.” The Potter and his malleable clay are a cause for theological pause. The preacher must be willing to wrestle with the difficulties of this passage, asking hard the questions. Does God change God’s mind? Does God cause evil in the world? These are hard questions for the congregation to wrestle with as well.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 1, 2016.
The Lectionary continues to push us in the light of Easter, to see the world imaginatively, which is not an easy thing for many in our congregations. We have such confined assumptions and this is true for folks across the theological spectrum, for both the biblical literalist and the biblical cynic. They are children of the same limiting formation.
In chapter 16, we are reminded that the missionary movement is not being shaped primarily by a strategic plan. It’s much more organic where (v.6) the Spirit keeps them from preaching in certain places. We do not get an explanation as to what that (being constrained by the Spirit) is like, and sermons acknowledging this could be helpful for both of followers mentioned above.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 3, 2016.
Acts 5:27-32 is part of a larger story that unfolds in Acts 5:12-42. The narrative summarizes the apostles’ work in Jerusalem which leads to their arrest. During the night, an angel of the Lord releases the apostles, sending them back to the temple to continue proclaiming the gospel message. Ever faithful, they return at daybreak, jump right back into preaching, and are arrested once again. This time the apostles are brought before the high priest and Sanhedrin. Today’s passage comprises the accusations of the high priest against them and the apostles’ bold response to the charges. The context alone sets up a possible focus for preaching. The apostles preach the gospel, encounter imprisonment, are miraculously released, and immediately get back to preaching the gospel – in the exact same place their message seemed to fail the first time!
How often are we eager to shake the dust off our feet when opposition to our faithfulness arises? There is a time for counting our losses and moving on, but the preacher might want to consider encouraging the call to return to hard places, to keep at the work of faithfulness, and to proclaim the good news again regardless of the results we see. Twice the apostles preached in the temple. Twice they were arrested. Once they were flogged. And yet, Acts 5 concludes with the apostles rejoicing in their sufferings and preaching in the temple every single day. Too often, discouragement and indifference creep in, and we cease to proclaim the gospel. There is a great witness that comes from those who keep at it. This may be a week of picking up the apostles’ torch and keeping at it!