Category: <span>Bible commentary: preachers & teachers</span>

Summary: The Bible contains numerous passages in which God’s spokespeople indict audiences for their sinfulness. These passages are often misunderstood and commonly used in ways that are either abusive or self-serving. Preachers do well to keep their attention on the specific details of the historical and literary contexts of these passages. In addition, it is important to remember that these passages are meant to prompt confession–that is, truth-telling. Finally, these passages continue to hold out hope that God’s grace can and will prevail. 

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Isaiah 5:1-7 and/or Matthew 21:33-46. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: In Matthew’s Gospel, as soon as Peter correctly identifies Jesus as “the Christ,” Jesus offers an enigmatic saying: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” It’s noteworthy that the conversation about who Jesus truly is leads directly to a discussion about freedom. That reminds us who preach that our primary task is liberation — not inspiration, not instruction, but deliverance. If you’re going to preach “Jesus is the Christ,” then the purpose of your preaching has to be to set people free. Of course, people are bound by many things in these awful days. The locks that hold the chains tight are not always easy to locate, but fortunately preachers have a key that fits.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 16:13-20. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The Parable of the Sower (or Parable of the Soils) is simple enough, as a story about planting, growth, and yield goes. But the way the Gospels present it to us quickly reveals itself to be disturbing. Those who interpret the parable without consulting Matthew 13:10-17, the verses in which Jesus implies that his parables keep the truth hidden from many, miss the point. This is a parable that underscores the difficulty of the good news taking root in the world. It is a parable that asks us to consider the rest of the Gospel story if we are going to be able to consider difficult and unnerving questions about the goodness of God and the problem of resistant hearts. Fortunately, most preachers are well equipped and situated to venture into difficult places.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: When Jesus, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, assures his followers that he will be with them always, he does not promise that he will be always offering them comfort or always present “for” them or endorsing their agendas. We might read it, instead, as another of his statements about his solidarity with people, especially the oppressed and ignored. Trinitarian theology stems from a related conviction: in various ways, God shows up and becomes manifest in our experiences and our encounters with others. We encounter the Trinitarian God not through transcendental escapism but in, among, and always for the sake of human bodies. That is a vital truth for churches that need to remember and then repent of their role in overt and covert systemic racism. Together we can discover Jesus dwelling among our neighbors and affirming life–their lives.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 28:16-20 for Trinity Sunday. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The story that Luke tells about the risen Christ becoming known to Cleopas and his partner at a dinner table in Emmaus makes a statement about the power of community and shared spaces. That statement is painful to hear, however, during an Easter when the Covid-19 pandemic has taken so much community and interpersonal interaction away from us. But Easter does not mean that we cannot lament the things we have lost and the things for which we long. The good news in this story isn’t simply that Jesus becomes recognized when he shares hospitality with friends; it’s also residing in the fact that he journeys alongside them, without being recognized, while they pour out their disappointment.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 24:13-35. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: When people ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” his answer rejects the premises of the question. He would rather talk about what it means to see “the works of God” become manifest among us. Jesus’ move in John 9 provides an insight for preachers who are facing enormous challenges as they figure out how to do ministry in the midst of a pandemic and all the public-health controls that have been put into place: focus less on the “why?” and “how?” questions and instead think creatively about how to point people toward the works of God in our midst. Christian faith refuses to be bound by prevailing assumptions about how things “must” be done but instead sees signs of God’s presence and transformations in seemingly desolate conditions. Christian faith knows how to find creative ways to love and serve others in the midst of adversity. Indeed, Christian faith came into being in precisely that kind of a context.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on John 9:1-41. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus’ declarations to the ragtag collection of people who gather for the Sermon on the Mount are direct and simple: “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” Salt and light always make their presence known. They always have effects. This is reassuring news to preachers who are regularly told that they are doing everything wrong or failing to tickle the ears of a public that craves simplicity, security, and entertainment. Salt preserves and flavors. Light makes things visible and warm. That always happens.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 5:13-20. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The story Matthew tells about Herod the Great, the king who slaughters children in an attempt to rid the world of the newborn Messiah, offers preachers a valuable opportunity to explore evil. The arrival of Jesus Christ should lead us to more than joy and adoration; it should also make us reflect on the ways in which we resist God’s presence and intentions. Like Herod, we are often more comfortable with the way things are. The arrival of Jesus is inconvenient. It will throw things into disarray. We may be asked to surrender our illusions of security and privilege. The values that Herod instills in us are the opposite of the values that we discover in the reign of God.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 2:13-23. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: For those who preach, the ministry of John the Baptist, which the Gospels describe so minimally, raises important questions. Was John a lone voice, or did he have others he trusted who could help him work through his own issues and questions? How did John’s journey on the road of repentance figure in the sermons he preached? Preachers understand that preaching is never a one-way enterprise, from a confident speaker to a needy audience. We are often the audiences of our own sermons, and sometimes our best preaching is the preaching that we ourselves need to hear. Don’t view John as a totally self-assured individual; perhaps he was as vulnerable as we are. Repentance, after all, is not about feeling sorry or resolving to do better. It is a lifelong experience of trying to view the world and God’s place in it through from a different perspective. No one can do that entirely alone.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 3:1-12. It was originally a 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