A sermon for Year 2, Week 21 of the Narrative Lectionary.
The first time I ever preached a sermon was at the church I grew up in. It was hard. I had just figured out that God was calling me to ministry, but I wasn’t ready to take it totally public yet – I still needed to work at my job for a few more months. Plus, my mom was there. It was hard.
It’s not the same as with other things that people do. If you are a musician, chances are your parents and friends heard you practicing when you were little. If you are an athlete, they saw you playing around in your yard. But preaching is totally different. It is something dangerously public that comes out of something intensely private. Parents, and others who have known you growing up, are inclined to be embarrassed both at the idea of something so deeply personal coming from this little kid who used to run around coffee hour spilling juice on the floor – and at the fact that it is being waved around in public.
Add to that that they still see you as that little kid, so no matter how old you are, how much school you have had, they aren’t ready to hear the message you are preaching. That being said – I totally understand what Jesus is going through in our reading this morning. He’s come home and started to preach in the synagogue. And it doesn’t go well. People start grumbling and whispering to each other, asking, “who does this kid think he is?” At least they don’t try to throw him off a cliff like they do in Luke’s version of the story.
Jesus has left the lakeside and the context of Mark’s gospel has shifted to his hometown and the surrounding villages. There is another shift happening too – one that seems to mirror the church of today. Jesus went from attracting large crowds wherever he was to having to send out people to spread his message. Let’s hear again what happens after Jesus is rejected in his hometown. Read more…
A sermon for year 2, week 19 of the Narrative Lectionary.
As we are making our way through Mark’s Gospel, this week we arrive at the first of Jesus’ parables. Truth is, parables are tricky things. Jesus uses them as teaching stories that take examples from everyday life that contain a twist that turns these illustrations upside down, causing the listener to really have to think about them. People who hear these parables, both then and now, probably begin the story by nodding along in agreement – but by the end are left wondering what is really going on.
Add to this that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is telling parables that are confusing on purpose. Jesus himself tells his followers that they are the only ones he would give the secrets of the parables to – those who just came to hear him would be left wondering.
Last spring when we studied this passage in bible study, our class had a great discussion about why Jesus was keeping his identity secret from the general public. One of the reasons we talked about was the idea that many scholars have that Jesus’ ministry was so explosively revolutionary that if the truth came out too soon; Jesus would be stopped too soon. And when you think about it, this makes sense. Jesus was declaring a new kingdom, one that was completely subversive to the current way of life. Jesus was directly challenging those in power. Read more…
“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.””
Fear Not. That’s what the angels always say. Fear Not. Or in words we would use – Don’t be afraid. Whenever the angels visit, this is how they open.
From Zechariah, to Mary, to the shepherds who quake at the sight, God’s messenger – the angel of the Lord, before announcing glad tidings of great joy, tells them to not be afraid.
Of course they are afraid.
They live in a world where fear dominated. Fear ruled the world. Fear was used to keep people in line.
They lived in a Roman occupied territory.
Everyone was being forced to travel to their hometowns to be counted.
King Herod, the puppet ruler put in place by the Roman Emperor, ruled with an iron fist.
Of course they are afraid – fear ruled the world.
Who knows what fear Mary and Joseph carried with them to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem? His family had arranged a marriage for him to a nice girl from a good family, but before they married she turns up pregnant. What was the family was saying behind their backs? They didn’t know the details, but they knew something wasn’t right, so when Joseph comes to Bethlehem, the town of his ancestors, so it’s full of his cousins, they say there’s no room for them.
The shepherds, too, had every reason to be afraid, no matter what the angel told them. They lived in those hills, they slept under the stars, they knew the night sky, and something was different.
Of course they were afraid. Fear ruled their world. That is, of course, until the angel spoke. Read more…
A sermon for Year 2 Week 13 of the Narrative Lectionary
It has been about a hundred years since Josiah discovered the scroll hidden in the temple. And it is about five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Things are in disarray to say the least. It’s a State of Emergency. The ancient people of God have been yanked out of their homes in Jerusalem and shipped off to Babylon. Iraq. For a long time. Exiled. Banishment.
Can we even imagine? The ancient people of God are slammed with a new culture, new influences, new trends, and the worship of Marduk. Marduk: one of the preeminent gods – a false god revered in Babylon.
In the Ancient World just about every nation and culture had their own deity, or their own particular take on a widely known god. That deity was usually connected to the land in which you lived: blessing and protecting it. If two nations went head-to-head in a war, it was as if the two nation’s deities were also at war to see who was the most powerful. We see this earlier in Israel’s history when David went toe-to-toe with Goliath: the Philistine giant “cursed David by his gods” while David answered with, “You are coming against me with sword, spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of heavenly forces, the God of Israel’s army who you’ve insulted…” Read more…
A sermon for Year 2, Week 12 of the Narrative Lectionary.
My housekeeping skills and desires tend to vary between wanting everything perfect, clean, and in its place and just being comfortable with the chaos and messiness. And when you have two young kids, you need to be comfortable with a little mess. My office is the same way. Depending on my mood or even my schedule recently, you may find my office a jumble of books, papers, and miscellaneous stuff or you may find everything in its place. Many times in my office, I will let things get almost out of control before I look around, usually after trying unsuccessfully to find something, and realize that something needs to change. And then I go on a cleaning spree and return everything to its place.
Our reading today has many similarities to my housekeeping skills. King Josiah ruled the southern kingdom of Judah from approximately 640-609 BCE. The northern kingdom had been conquered and destroyed about 75 years prior by the Assyrian Empire. Judah had barely survived, and in the aftermath had received many refugees from Israel. Almost all of Judah’s kings received failing grades according to the Bible during this time – they oppressed the people, and led them away from worshipping God. But the bible gives Josiah high praise.
Josiah had decided to refurbish the temple in Jerusalem, and in doing so makes a shocking discovery – an scroll containing the words of Deuteronomy.
King Josiah decided to refurbish the temple in Jerusalem, and found out that more than just the temple needed to be renovated. Josiah realized for the first time that his people had been doing it all wrong. They had not been living under God’s laws. They had been worshipping idols and been unfaithful to God in large part because of the actions of the generations that came before them. Read more…
A sermon for Year 2, Week 11 of the Narrative Lectionary.
After a few weeks reading about the prophets to the Northern Kingdom, we switch locations this week to the Southern Kingdom, the kingdom of Judah. This week we are examining the words of one of Hosea’s contemporaries – Isaiah.
The book of Isaiah is one of the largest and most influential books in the bible. The prophecy found in Isaiah spans hundreds of years. Naturally, Isaiah wasn’t the work of one person over those hundreds of years. Isaiah is a compilation of prophecies from three time periods put together to form one body of work. First Isaiah, contained in the first 39 chapters, is attributed to Isaiah of Jerusalem, and is set in the time leading up to the exile. Second Isaiah spans chapters 40-55 and takes place during the Babylonian Exile. And Third Isaiah, composed of chapters 56-66, is set after the return from exile.
Our text today comes from First Isaiah, a Royal prophet in Judah. Isaiah was a prophet in the King’s court around 730 BCE. He focused on both the politics of the kingdom as well as the unfaithfulness of the people.
A lot was happening in Israel and Judah during the time of Isaiah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been destroyed by Assyria, and now the Assyrians were putting the pressure on Judah. I imagine it was a pretty anxious time for God’s people.
To get us ready to hear today’s reading, I’d like us to listen to a song. This song was written by a band called The Civil Wars and is called “Same Old, Same Old.” Pay particular attention to the words you will hear and see on the screen.
What we just heard is a love song, and a painfully honest love song at that. It speaks the hard truth about real love. As I say in many wedding homilies, real love is hard, complicated, messy, and wonderful, and sometimes full of contradictions. Read more…
A sermon for Year 2, Week 10 of the Narrative Lectionary.
This week we continue our time with the Northern Kingdom. We are about a hundred years after the events of last week’s reading and the ministry of Elijah. The prophet Hosea continues to encourage people to return to faithful worship and loyalty to God.
As I have mentioned before, prophets in the Old Testament did much more than predict the future. Prophets were spokesmen for God, concerned with the moral and ethical standards of the people. They often felt that empty rituals and religious “lip service” were not compatible with Godly living. Prophets interpreted current events in theological terms, helping the people see how their actions or inactions towards God affected their current situations.
Hosea is about the relationship between God and Israel and how that relationship has gone sour because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The prophets often had unique ways to get their message across – Isaiah walked around naked for three years to show the potential humiliation Judah could face if they went to war, Jeremiah wore dirty underwear to demonstrate how God had lost pride in God’s people, and Hosea had his own way of getting his message to the people. Read more…