Category: workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector should make religious people wary of our tendency to misunderstand and to limit the mercy of God. The parable lets us listen in on two different prayers. We may be quick to dismiss the Pharisee’s prayer, just like the Pharisee is quick to dismiss the tax collector. It’s a good thing we are not responsible for assessing the prayers of others. That’s God’s work. Our work is to tell others that God is merciful and that no one stands outside of the reach of that divine mercy.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 18:9-14. It was originally a guest contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus begins his Sermon on the Plain by declaring some people to be “blessed” and speaking “woe” to others. He declares that he will bring satisfaction to those who are poor, hungry, grieving, and suffering ostracism. On the other side, he warns those who are wealthy, well fed, joyful, and respected by their communities that something is wrong. Their perceived advantages and security are illusory, because he is at work elsewhere. Jesus then goes on to urge people to practice love and nonretaliation. On the whole, he is speaking about a new society or a new state of affairs that his ministry inaugurates. He promises to create a new community that operates with a different set of values. In this community, Jesus lifts up those who suffer deprivation and calls others to practice solidarity with them.

I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage, particularly to celebrate All Saints Day. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus tells a parable about two men who go to the temple to pray: a Pharisee and a tax collector. They pray two very different prayers, and the parable concludes with Jesus declaring that the tax collector, who assumes a posture of contrition and prays a simple prayer asking for mercy, leaves the temple justified, or restored to a right relationship with God. The Pharisee, in his prayer, betrays his contempt for the tax collector. Because Luke’s Gospel treats Pharisees and tax collectors nearly as caricatures, interpreters often get sidetracked in efforts to determine what Jesus is up to in this parable. The parable’s main emphasis, however, falls on the depths of God’s mercy, which results in “justification” even for a tax collector, someone who betrays his own people for personal gain and to support the Roman occupiers. The parable warns that our contempt for others whom we may see as villains does not square with the extravagant grace that God pours out on all who ask for mercy.

I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The Parable of the Dishonest Manager is notoriously difficult to interpret. But before we rush into the task of figuring out why Jesus praises a thief, we should remember that his parables frequently shake up our assumptions about right and wrong, and about rational and irrational behaviors. The dishonest manager deserves preachers’ attention for many reasons. One of these is the urgency that motivates him and causes him to set all other concerns aside. Preaching has a similar urgency that demands preachers act in ways that can appear subversive. The gospel we preach likewise can look irresponsible, dangerous, and contrary to our culture’s standards of respectability.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 16:1-13. It was originally a guest contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus speaks of his commission to bring fire to the earth and division to human society. He criticizes his listeners for failing to be able to discern the true character of the present age. His words are sharp, his imagery frightening. At the heart of the passage, however, is Jesus’ expression of his own ardent desire to see justice flourish in the world. The time is now to commit oneself to that, for this season of repentance means that Jesus is urgently calling his hearers to align themselves with God’s priorities. Here, at the thresholds of our own looming mortality and the promised arrival of God’s kingdom in all its fullness, we have an opportunity to share in God’s commitment to remake the whole landscape of human well-being.

I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus promises “the kingdom” to his followers. He urges them to sell possessions and give to those who need money. He tells a parable about slaves waiting diligently for their master to return and then being surprised to have their master serve them dinner when at last he arrives. Finally he likens the return of the Son of Man to the experience of having a thief break into one’s house. A variety of themes work their way through this passage. It has the capacity to reassure Jesus’ followers of their security while also making them wonder about that security. The passage is especially helpful for getting a sense of how wealth and generosity—very prominent themes in the Gospel of Luke—figure in securing “treasure in heaven.” Jesus expects his disciples to do more than give money away; he calls them to enter into solidarity with those who lack resources.

I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: In the Parable of the Rich Fool, in which a wealthy man responds to his bumper crop by enriching himself and neglecting to help anyone else, Jesus reiterates the power of wealth to corrupt our religious and moral values. This parable is one of several passages in the Gospel according to Luke in which greed and wealth lead people into idolatry. By devoting themselves to accumulation, comfort, and their own security, greedy people end up isolated from others and from the places in which God is active among the poor and needy. Their worlds grow small. Preachers who will put this challenging parable before congregations need to prepare themselves accordingly by applying courage, nuance, and forethought to their sermon preparations. Opportunities to identify rampant idolatry in our culture are too important to be taken lightly.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 12:13-21. It was originally a guest contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: When Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, he does much more than describe they way we should pray or the things for which we should pray. He reveals his theology by describing a God who hears, provides, forgives, and protects. His prayer offers an invitation to experience intimacy with God. There is no special experience required to commune with God. The door is always open.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 11:1-13. It was originally a guest contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The Gospel according to Luke presents preachers with challenges. While some passages announce earth-shattering change and societal upheaval taking place through the coming of Jesus Christ, the narrative’s rhetoric calls believers to participate in transformation that comes slowly, one relationship at time. Preaching this Gospel faithfully, especially in our era of anxiety, frustration, and polarization, requires us to pay attention to how salvation emerges over the course of Jesus’ ministry.

Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary:Jesus calms a raging storm while he and his disciples are trying to cross the Sea of Galilee. The event offers a stunning display of his power, yet it also exposes the faithlessness of his followers. It is a prime example of the Gospel of Mark’s tendency to depict Jesus as one who creates new, life-giving possibilities in the midst of circumstances that are full of danger or at the far edges of what might be considered predictable or secure locations.

I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary