Summary: When Jesus calls his first followers, he makes a declaration to them and to everyone around him that it’s time for something new. Something, perhaps the arrest of John or the urging of the Holy Spirit, prompts Jesus to launch a public ministry to make the reign of God known. Preachers have a responsibility to make similar declarations, knowing when the time is right to take a stand or to direct a congregation into a new season of service and advocacy. That kind of discernment is difficult for any preacher, but we should be encouraged by knowing that many are longing for a time of liberation and that we do this work as followers of a Jesus who leads the way in announcing that the time of fulfillment has arrived.
Category: <span>Bible commentary: preachers & teachers</span>
Summary: “The preaching of the word of God is the word of God.” If that old confession is correct, then Incarnation isn’t merely a past event or lifetime that we commemorate when Christmas rolls around. Incarnation continues to happen when preachers make Jesus Christ and the good news about him known. The Christmas story is a story of love, familiarity, companionship, and solidarity. It is a story that comes to us and that we experience through our humanity. In that way, Christmas and the mystery of Incarnation put the work of preaching into perspective, reminding us how important it is, whether in word or deed.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Titus 2:11-14 and/or Luke 2:1-20 on Christmas Eve. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: The story Jesus tells about a person who entrusts “talents” (huge sums of money) to others often makes preachers and congregations uncomfortable. That’s precisely the point. The parable uses hyperbole to make two points: (1) to describe the incredible influence that Jesus’ followers possess as they live out their charge to continue the work that Jesus began; and (2) to name how critical the work of the good news is during a time when people suffer from oppression and lazy, self-congratulatory religion. In the wake of a divisive and angry election season and during a season when churches and their people are sacrificing their credibility, this parable reminds readers that the blessings Jesus intends to offer the world must not be hidden away.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 25:14-30. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.