Category: <span>workingpreacher.org commentary</span>

Summary: The story of Philip’s encounter with an unnamed court official, an Ethiopian Eunuch, raises numerous questions about ancient culture, Greco-Roman attitudes toward people from far away, sex and gender, and the differences in people’s social locations. It’s important that preachers and other interpreters tend to those questions, so they can both appreciate and be critical of the ways in which the book of Acts imagines the consequences that the good news has for all people. This story and the ambiguity surrounding the characterization of the court official can serve as a reminder of the ways that Christian communities struggle to identify and include people who are strangers or “outsiders.” It’s notable to remember, then, that at the close of the story the Ethiopian is not merely a convert, he is also a theologian who demonstrates his understanding that the good news is for him, as he is.

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

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: When Acts describes the arrest of Peter and John, under the authority of the Sadducean Jerusalem aristocracy, it’s important for interpreters to be clear about who the opponents are. It’s also important for preachers to be aware of how Acts has fueled anti-Jewish attitudes and theologies over the centuries. The passage itself is mainly concerned with elevating the name of Jesus, which refers to the power of Jesus. That power was on display in the previous chapter, when Peter called on the name of Jesus to bring about a miraculous healing. Peter again directs attention to that power when he addresses the authorities, implicitly criticizing them for being poor leaders who rejected Jesus, the manifestation of God’s salvation. This is one of many episodes in Acts that celebrates the ways that God minimizes and embarrasses those who purport to hold sway over human societies.

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 describes himself as the good shepherd, not because he is kind or gentle, but because he is powerful, vigilant, and self-giving. That comforting metaphor works because Jesus has ascended or, as John’s Gospel puts it, he has returned to the loving and intimate communion he shares with the God he calls his Father. His watchful care is a feature of his power. The care he provides does not mean we are kept safe from all harm in this dangerous world. Rather, it means that we can be confident that he holds our identity, our connection to him, and our participation in Divine love securely. The watchfulness and concern he provides comes as a sharp contrast to the ways our leaders, structures, and societies frequently let us down and treat people as expendable.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on John 10:11-18. 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 public speeches that we read about in the early chapters of Acts insist that salvation has arrived and it has ben accomplished through Jesus Christ. Jesus, then, is the centerpiece of these sermons about God’s faithfulness. In Acts 3, Peter preaches to a crowd in Jerusalem, accentuating themes of forgiveness, refreshment from God, and Jesus’ eventual return to bring things to completion. The sermon urges its hearers toward repentance, a new understanding of what is happening. Peter encourages the audience to discover the power of Jesus at work in his and John’s ministry. Although crucified, resurrected, and ascended into the heavens, Jesus continues to be the source of God’s salvation. It’s a fitting beginning to Acts, showing us what it looks like–at least at this point in the story–when the Christ-followers bear witness to Jesus in action and speech.

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: This passage consists of the second of two extraordinary descriptions in Acts of the mutual care and concern among the earliest community of believers. It is significant that churches today read this passage near the beginning of the Easter season, for the description of that ancient community reminds us that the vitality of the church is not about daring, bold, and prominent public preachers but about the creation of an alternate society that embodies Jesus’ own commitment to justice and compassion. There is no church without a deep, life-preserving commitment among people to the well-being of others. Everybody belongs. It’s one of the amazing things that happens as a consequence of the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, according to Acts.

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: Believing in God’s love is much easier than trusting in it. Trust implies action and a willingness to open ourselves up. It has become increasingly difficult to trust in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and God’s love appears not to have motivated the most of our wider society to imitate it. To embrace a passage like the one in which Jesus insists that he has come because “God so loved the world,” we need to do more than just convince ourselves and our neighbors about God’s love and its benefits. We need to open ourselves up to the magnetic power of that love, something we experience less through intellect and more through desire.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on John 3:14-21. 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 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.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 1:14-20. 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 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.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

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.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

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