Tag: preaching

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: The book of Acts can prompt us to ask what makes for authentic Christian witness, rooted in the discoveries and amazement of Easter. Acts describes Jesus’ followers as his “witnesses” (Acts 1:8), and their words and activities help us reflect on the various ways in which we enact or speak testimony about the new realities God has declared. Preachers who work with Acts during Easter might look at the lectionary’s assigned texts as examples of how believers can understand who they are and what they do.

Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers

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

Some of the Gospel according to Luke’s most prominent passages describe salvation in terms of utterly transformed sociopolitical values and realities. The energy expressed in those texts’ grand and far-reaching assertions can be difficult to see in the rest of Luke unless interpreters pay attention to the ways Jesus dismantles the tools and ethos of dominance in the more intimate settings of his public ministry. For preachers and teachers who lead others through Luke one passage at a time, interpreting the whole Gospel narrative with those big promises in view is essential.

Read the full article, which was published in the October 2018 issue of the online journal Currents in Theology and Mission.

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