Category Archives: Sermon Notes

March 10th: “Worship as Freedom”

Israel marks its entrance into the Promised Land with worship. How has God freed us for work and worship?

This Week’s Passage:

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Joshua 5:9-12

C. Other texts for Year C on the 4th Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

9 — Disgrace of Egypt? Would this be related to fear that God had not heard their cries of slavery?

10 — Passover the first meal in a new land. Communion was the first meal on the moon.

11 — In freedom of a new land, responsible for finding their own food.

12 — In freedom of a new land, no longer needed the LORD to provide food.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Needs a to be introduced with a summary of Joshua chapters 1 – 4: Moses died. The LORD named Joshua to lead Israel. Joshua commanded the twelve tribes across the Jordan. They camped at Gilgal, set up memorial stones and were circumcised.
  • Followed by the siege of Jericho.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

Generally attributed to the Deuteronomist who favored Mosaic piety and Davidic succession.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Gilgal: Etymologically related to Hebrew verb /galal/: “to roll”

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Worship marked the shift from slavery to self-responsibility.
  • Music: “Live into Hope”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • While in slavery, the Egyptians provided their food and housing. While in the wilderness, the LORD provided with manna, quails, and water.
  • Once freed, Israel became responsible for their own sustenance.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Robert B. Coote (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Book of Joshua.” Abingdon, 1998.) considers 4:19 – 5:12 as one section: from Israel’s encampment at Gilgal, setting up the twelve stones, circumcision of the males borne during the exodus, and the first passover. He notes several important events occurring later at Gilgal. He reflects on comparing Israel’s cross at Gilgal with the American revolutionary and civil wars which liberated people from political and chattel slavery. He notes that poverty, economic slavery, is greater in the United States than in any other developed country.

Perry H. Biddle (Preaching the Lectionary. WJKP, 1991.) suggests connecting the importance of passover with the Lord’s supper.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

This event marked the end of Israel as a nomadic people to a landed people.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

How has God freed us for work and worship?

March 3rd, “Worship as Nourishment”

Does your spirit hunger and thirst? God’s market is open, even when your wallet stays closed.

This Week’s Passage: Isaiah 55:1-9

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for 3rd Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1-2 – – “Buy and eat.” Not free food, but free market.

3-5 – – God’s covenant attracts others.

6-9 – – Repentance defined

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The remaining section of the chapter compares the word of the LORD to rain that freely waters the earth before returning to heaven.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Repentance satisfies and God nourishes.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • God offers mercy freely, unlike the street vendor who expects compensation for his food purchased.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

W. Eugene March (“Seek the Lord,” The Presbyterian Outlook, p. 20, December 17th, 2001.) places this passage at the end of Second Isaiah, who wrote to exiles in Babylon about 539 BC. He notes the contrast between the vendor’s call –“Come, buy, eat!”– and God’s abundant and unlimited gracious care. He interprets verses 6-9 as boldly asserting God’s abundant pardon, “the door through which all may enter into the forgiving mercy of the Lord God.” He asks: “How does the good news about God’s capacity and willingness to pardon affect your outlook on life and your understanding of th message the church has to proclaim?”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

People cannot buy God’s pardon, it is abundantly available to all who would return to God’s ways.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Return to God with rejoicing!

February 24th: “It’s About God”

Acts of piety, especially forgiveness of sins, restore connections with God. Who we seek to impress, determines the value of what we do. Seek to impress God.

This Week’s Passage: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope:

C. Other texts for Year C for 2nd Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1-4 – Deeds done to impress people, do not impress God.

5-8 – Prayers with deep oratory quality do not connect with God.

9-10 – Know who you are talking with and seek God’s kingdom.

11-13 – “WE” petitions not “ME” petitions.

11 – – Minimal food needs for life.

12 – – Dialectical understanding of forgiveness: both present now in Jesus, and needed after the final judgment. Emphasizes the danger of presuming God’s grace.

13-15 – We want God to lead us from temptation and forgive us when we stray. Therefor we hope God will forget our mistakes and while remembering our weaknesses that led to those mistakes. We must do the same for our neighbors; releasing their mistakes and guarding their weaknesses.

16-18 – Since fasting yields heavenly rewards, we should dress like we are being honored.

19-21 – The mate to giving to impress God, is giving to put our hearts in the right place.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • 7-15 – The RCL omits the Lord’s prayer. Omitting shifts the focus towards the behavior of righteousness. But including the prayer shifts the focus towards being at prayer in all things. To paraphrase St Francis: Pray at all times, if necessary use words.
  • 19-21 – The RCL includes these verses making the focus of this paragraph on storing up treasures in heaven. When these verses are included with the next pericope, the focus becomes not storing up treasures on earth.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • 4 & 6 – Some minor variants (as reflected in the KJV) add “openly” to the end of each of these verses. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts (and most modern translations) do not have this word.
  • 13 – There are ten endings in various manuscripts for this verse. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts (and most translations) omit any doxology. N.B. Roman Catholics do not typically add a doxology when repeated in worship because it was missing from the Vulgate. Protestants typically add the doxology because the oldest Greek manuscripts available to the Reformers included the doxology.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

/anTrwpwn/ – NIV & RSV translate this and its cognates as “men”, but Greek has a separate word for males. Thus “people” would be a better translation.

/paraptwmata/ – trespasses. Perschbacher notes in the *New Analytical Greek Lexicon* that in other literature this word means to step falsely.

/upokritai/ – hypocrites. Boring notes this word was “a neutral term to the Greeks, literally meaning “stage actors.” Modern usage has loaded it with negative connotations.

/epiousios/ – daily, necessary, continual, for today, for tomorrow. This word appears only in this prayer, both in the NT and in other Greek literature. Boring reminds us that day laborers may have gone from one day to the next without knowing where there next day’s bread was coming from. Thus this prayer may have been a request to place concerns for tomorrows food into God’s care.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Two fold inclusio: giving and building treasures forms the outer pair, prayer and fasting the inner pair, with forgiving the central ideal.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Forgiveness is the greatest act of piety.
  • Emotional Center: Seek to impress God with piety.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring, (“The Gospel of Matthew”, NIB) notes the parallels between vv. 2-4, 5-6, and 16-18. He also notes the 3 units of the “inserted” prayer. He notes the references to the synagogue (2 & 5) should not be interpreted as indictments against Jews in general, because both of these practices would not be in keeping with norms of synagogue worship. But rather what is indited is the attitude with which a hypocrite comes to pray. [For example coming to church so that others can see you there.] The Lord’s Prayer has many similarities with other first century Jewish prayers, especially the Kaddish. He suggests that the original prayer was in Aramaic. He also suggest that the original prayer was addressed to /abba/, a familiar form of address rather than a formal address as with the modern English “Father.” He notes that the prayer like authentic worship is God centered, not human need centered.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Who we seek to impress, determines the value of what we do. Seek to impress God.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Acts of piety, especially forgiveness of sins, restore connections with God.

February 17th: “Worship as Giving Thanks”

How are we living now in a promised land, physically and eternally? And how do we give thanks?

This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for 1st Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 – – Considering both the promised land that we are in and the promised land that is yet to come and considering both the physical and the eternal places where we are and will be, how are we living now in the promised land, physically and eternally? What promised land, physical and eternal, lies be for us to possess and to settle in to?

2 – – All that we have to obtain food to put in our mouths comes from the land that God has given to us. Hence it is appropriate to dedicate a portion of what we produce for doing God’s work in the world.

3 – – Acknowledgment of fulfilling the commands to possess and settle in the land that God has given.

4 – – The priest has no lines except to accept the gift. Should the priest consider the honesty of the gift (as Peter considered and rebuked Ananias and Sapphira for their dishonest gifts) or is the priest to accept whatever gift is given?

5-9 – Statement of God’s actions in the past redeeming Israel from positions of inferiority.

10-11 – Our gifts celebrate all the bounty which God has given. They are not payments, like rent.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded with several unrelated household laws and a reminder of the harassment by the Amakelites, as if to say, those who do not keep these laws will be blotted out as the Amakelites were blotted out.
  • Followed with a ritual of tithing, prescribing how to give thanks, and a charge to observe these ordinances annually.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 specifies bringing offerings to the place the LORD will name.

This passage provides the ritual of offering and details the rationale for the offering of first-fruits.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Divinely instructed cultural code.

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • This makes a radical departure from sacrifices. Other gods demanded offerings as payment for protection or payment for gifts received. This is an act of thanksgiving.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • What “lands” have we escaped from?
  • How is our present circumstance a “promised land”?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Joseph Blenkinsopp (“Deuteronomy,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall, 1968.), citing von Rad, notes verses 5 – 9 may be the oldest Israelite “credo”.

Ronald E, Clements (“The Book of Deuteronomy,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1998.) notes this passage declares “the primary importance of the sanctuary with its controlling position in shaping the life of the community in all its aspects.” Citing Rost, Clements opposes von Rad, opining the included creed is of late and revisionist view of the meaning of worship. He reflects that the attention of this passage comes from its portrayal of God as one who acts in history. “Moreover, because these events are related directly to the situation of the worshiper, making reference to the land on which the crops were grown, a bridge is built between the past and the present and between God and human beings.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Worship is an act of thanksgiving for God acting in our past and in our present.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

God gives to each of us the whole of our lives and we should give thanks for that gift.

February 3rd: “Why Not Us?”

In a few sentences Jesus provokes the people from praising him to driving him away. What boundaries have we created to limit the application of God’s grace and thereby limited the action of God’s grace in our lives?

This Week’s Passage: Luke 4:21-30

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for Sunday February 3rd

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

21 – – Summary of Jesus’ comments on Isaiah about the year of the Lord’s favor.

22 – – Local boy becomes great preacher and town is inspired.

23 – – Why did the proverb apply? What did they expect Jesus to heal himself from?

– – – People always look for signs and miracles, as entertainment.

24 – – Consider difference between a prophet and a preacher.

25-27 – Why might outsiders be more receptive to a prophet than an insider? Conversely, what are the dangers of an insider speaking prophetically?

28-29 – Prophets are unwelcome.

30 – – But Jesus’ time had not yet come.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Second part of passage on Jesus preaching. Consider as one pericope?
  • Preceded and followed by Jesus going to other towns, where he preaches with authority and casts out demons.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Mark 6:1-6 – Very terse account. People question where he gained wisdom and power. Jesus amazed by people’s unbelief.

Matthew 13:54-58 – Very similar to Mark 6:1-6.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Prophet: mouthpiece for God, chosen by God, often proscriptive rather than predictive.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Jesus begins speaking graciously but shifted to speaking prophetically, telling his neighbors they were closed to the word of God, which riles them to violence.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

Jesus begins speaking graciously but shifted to speaking prophetically, telling his neighbors they were closed to the word of God, which riles them to violence.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
  • Emotional Center: The people go from speaking highly of Jesus to attempting to kill him.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • Would a more pastoral approach have turned their hearts?
    No. Some people will steadfastly refuse to receive Christ.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Pastors, Elders, and Deacons are set apart, ordained, by God through the voice of the people. None-the-less they are to discern the will of God rather than the will of the people. Unlike political leaders, they do not need to run for office, but must have the courage to do what is right, even at the risk of being run out of town.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

R. Alan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke.” Abingdon, 1995.) explains the proverb “Doctor, heal yourself,” as a reaction to the townspeople saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Thus they may have expected a great prophecy that would have healed them of their ignominy (e.g. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:46). Yet like the neighbors of Elijah or Elisha, they were unwilling to act with the faith of the woman at Sidon or Naaman. He reflects: “Those who would exclude others thereby exclude themselves. … Jesus could not do more for his hometown because they were not open to him. How much more might God be able to do with us if we were ready to transcend the boundaries of community and limits of love that we ourselves have erected?”

Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke. JKP, 1990.) interprets Jesus’ two proverbs as indicating the Nazarenes were resentful that Jesus had taken God’s favor to others beyond Nazareth, that included non-Jews.

Perry H. Biddle (Preaching the Lectionary: A workbook for year C. WJKP, 1991.) is reminded that Jesus was and was not Joseph’s son and thus interprets the proverbs cited by Jesus as his moment of differentiation and ceases to be merely “one of us.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus provokes those who might constrict his ministry.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

What boundaries have we created to limit the application of God’s grace and thereby limited the action of God’s grace in our lives?

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January 27th: “Serve the Good Wine”

Like the cup of communion, the wine is poured out without request from those who benefit and is poured out with extravagant abundance!

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: John 2:1-11

B. Other texts for Year for Sunday within

C. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 What “third day”?

3 How do we ask Jesus for things? Do we simply expect Jesus to fill our needs when notified?

4a What concern is the wine to Jesus? –> “Give us this day our daily bread …”

4b When are we commissioned to ministry? Installation? Ordination? Seminary/Sunday School? Baptism!

5 This is a statement of faith! That Jesus can solve our problems, and even when he has objected, will solve our problems.

6 Did John have a numerological meaning hidden in the six jars holding 2 to 3 measures? (Six being the incomplete number.) Or is this only to demonstrate that this was a large household and the vastness of Jesus’ grace poured out for us?

7 Are we the treasure, in stone jars, filled with water, awaiting transformation into superior wine?

8 What would the servants have been thinking when they took the water to the wine steward?

9 Imagine the reaction of the servants when the steward proclaimed what they to be only water as the best wine.

10a Heard Baptists excuse this wine as weaker, less intoxicating, than modern wine, but the guests would get drunk.

10b Consider wine as a metaphor for God’s mission to the people.

10c Keep the good wine until later?

11 Jesus first miracle is to make wine! We should celebrate his glory!

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • John delimits this story with “On the third day” and with “after this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.”

6. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

This is a unique passage.

Joel 3:18 In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Wadi Shittim.

H. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Water for purification rites? Nothing overt in Scripture.

Wine: Other than this passage, and a reference to this passage, John does not use this word.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • This is the last Gospel written. John seeks to affirm that the actions of Jesus are continued by the actions of the Holy Spirit ‘Paraclete’ as present among believers. John seeks to show the revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ from the beginning of his ministry. John has a different understanding of the second coming of Jesus Christ. He understands that God is with us now in the form of the Paraclete.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Jesus was a wedding guest. Is not concerned about the shortage of wine. But instructs servants to fill the jars with water. The miracle has to be deduced from Mary’s instructions and what we know of Jesus.

Jesus’ mother (unnamed in this passage) neither asks nor tells Jesus to provide more wine.

The servants are fully aware of what has happened, but only after the wine steward tastes the wine. Had they thought that Jesus was about to pull a fast one?

The wine steward affirms the completion of the miracle. And wrongly attributes the beneficence of good wine to the bridegroom.

The disciples are transformed through learning about this miracle.

The bridegroom is the beneficiary of the miracle, but is oblivious to it. Like people in a disaster benefiting from others.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

On the third day: If we presume that this is a sequence of days beginning with Jesus’ baptism (creation) then he recruits disciples on the second and third day, and this story comes on the third day after meeting Philip, or the sixth day after his baptism. The wedding then links to Genesis in the creation of humanity. The six jars of water may also link to the six days of creation.

Jesus is the only named character, keeping our focus on him.

Why six stone jars? Why two to three measures each? Stone jars would ensure ritual purity that an earthen jar would not, in the event of contamination with a dead unclean animal, including the washing of items so contaminated. The volume of wine produced connotes the superabundance of gifts available through Jesus.

Cana occurs later as a place where Jesus perceived the people demanded signs to believe in him.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: A sign that Jesus is more than a mere mortal.
  • Emotional Center: The surprise of the wine steward on drinking the good wine.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • What concern is the lack of wine to Jesus?
  • What does Jesus mean that his hour has not come? Has our hour come?
  • Does serving the good wine last parallel Jesus appearing after the prophets?

E. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • The sign swamps the details of the story.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Gail R. O’Day (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of John”) opines that these jars symbolize the new wine filling the old vessels of Jewish purification. She connects the abundance of good wine with Amos 9:13 & Joel 3:18 as a symbol of the joyous arrival of God’s new age.

Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John) notes ancient interpretations which link the mother of Jesus to Eve, with both sharing the title of Woman. He notes potential problems of upstaging the wedding with this miracle if everyone knew of the source of the wine, thus explaining Jesus’ silence regarding the transformation, and also the difficulty of keeping this secret in a small town (thus when Jesus returns the people want to see more miracles from him).

The NIV Life Application Bible opines that running out of wine at a wedding was more than a breach of hospitality. They suggest that Mary was not asking for a miracle, only that he find someway to solve the bridegroom’s social problem.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received, when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,” were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Since this is the last Gospel, written long after Paul’s letters, does this function as the institution of the Lord’s Supper? This cup is the new covenant, sealed in my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Like the cup of communion, the wine is poured out without request from those who benefit. And it is poured out with extravagant abundance!

January 20th: “God’s Mission Needs a Church”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Luke 4:14 – 21

C. Other texts for Year C for Sunday within January 21 – 27

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

14 This shows a passage of time between his baptism and this episode. How might we react to someone filled with the power of the Holy Spirit?

15 This episode is not his first teaching episode.

16 This would be a normal custom for a young male to read in the Temple.

17 Big Temple! Not every place would have more than the Torah.

18-19 Who picked this passage? Or more precisely, through whom did the Holy Spirit work to point to this passage?
The pericope invites analysis of this selection from Isaiah rather than the town’s reaction
to his subsequent rebuke. What is our purpose as related to God’s purpose and mission?

20 Imagine a child of the congregation returning home, having gained favorable notoriety.

21 A summary of his sermon.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This passage follows Jesus sojourn in the desert, while being tempted by the devil, following his baptism. Thus this is Jesus’ first interactions with people in his ministry.
  • The townspeople discredited Jesus then he denied authority to do works in Nazareth, resulting in the Nazarenes throwing him out.

F. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
  • Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6 – Place Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth later and omit an initial positive reception.

II. Literary Study.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: What is God’s mission today? How does our mission statement and implementation track with this passage from Isaiah?
  • Emotional Center:
  • Music: Hymnal #332 “Live Into Hope”

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke. JKP, 1990.) concludes that Luke placed this event out of historical order, “sacrificing chronology” to make a programmatic statement. He notes that Jesus’s first public word, after reading Scripture, is “today.” He opines that throughout Luke-Acts “ ‘today’ is never allowed to become ‘yesterday’ or slip again in to a vague ‘someday.’ ” He reflects that the church subsequently has continued to receive this word, much like the original hearers in Nazareth, with admiration, wonder, and doubt.

R. Alan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke.” Abingdon, 1995.) compared Luke’s rendering of what Jesus read with the Septuagint and found “to bind up the brokenhearted” omitted from Isaiah 61:1 and “to let the oppressed go free” added from Isaiah 58:6 with a change of tense to match the infinitives in the preceding verses. He also notes the continuation of the theme of good new for the poor from the Magnificat and in later teachings.

Rosalind Banbury (The Presbyterian Outlook, “Who is Jesus?” August 11, 2008, p. 18.) affirms the interpretation of “the year of the Lord’s favor” as referring to the Jubilee Year, the periodic return of property proscribed in Leviticus.

James H. Price (The Presbyterian Outlook, “Luke’s mission statement” July 25/Aug. 1, 2005, p. 17) cautions interpreters not to read this passage in light of Mark 6:2-3. In Luke’s version of Jesus’ preaching in his home town the people’s reactions can be classified as positive until he compares them to the people that Elijah and Elisha could not minister with. None-the-less, he concludes: “This passage is not about the Jewish rejection of Jesus, but about the peril of our missing ‘today’ the vision of God’s grace that surpasses the bounds of what we deem appropriate.”

Carol M. Bechtel (The Presbyterian Outlook, “When God Steps Off the Screen” December 1988, p. 41.) compares this passage to Woody Allen’s film The Purple Rose of Cairo, where a character in the film within the film steps off the screen to dialog with a woman in the audience. She asks: “How many times does Jesus step off the screen on a Sunday morning without our taking any notice?”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus shifts from merely being a spiritual leader to God incarnate and declares his mission statement.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Hearers are called to experience Jesus fulfilling this mission statement, not only for the people of Nazareth 2000 years ago, but especially for us today.

January 6th: “Shine for All to See”

The glory of the LORD amplifies our light, reconciling people to God’s future.

This Week’s Passage: Isaiah 60:1-6

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Epiphany, Year C

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

I do this early, before researching the passage influences my questions.

1 — In the context of John’s Gospel which identifies Christ as the light of the world, we see this passage as shining because Christ has come into the world. How did Israel interpret this light?

2 — What are darkness covers people today? Loss of hope. Future beyond the daily grind.

3 — Whose light do nations and kings come? Does this refer to the light of God? Or to God’s light shining among us and reflected by us?

4 — We might deny recognition by those around us, but if we pay attention, we will see that the world does appreciate the light of God shining from the Church and that people do come here for reconciliation.

5 — But they do not bring this to us, but to the light of God, shining in our midst. The Magi did not bring gifts to a baby, but to the promise that shone through the baby.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is the beginning of a long prophecy that continues and expands upon this theme.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

Often attributed to Third Isaiah, student(s) of the prophet who wrote to those who had returned to their now shattered homelands.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of gravity: The glory of the LORD amplifies the light of his people.
  • Emotional Center: Family will be restored as people seek this light.
  • Image: Lighted arrow guiding people to look and return.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • This is a picture of restoration and what might be.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Walter Bruggemann, “Off By Nine Miles” (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2103 ) “Matthew is not the first one to imagine three rich wise guys from the East coming to Jerusalem. His story line and plot come from Isaiah 60, a poem recited to Jews in Jerusalem about 580 B.C.E. These Jews had been in exile in Iraq for a couple of generations and had come back to the bombed-out city of Jerusalem. They were in despair. Who wants to live in a city where the towers are torn down and the economy has failed, and nobody knows what to do about it? … The poet anticipates that Jerusalem will become a beehive of productivity and prosperity, a new center of international trade.”

Bill Long, “Blinded by the … Darkness” (http://www.drbilllong.com/LectionaryIV/Is60.html) recounts how the darkness of current events (attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto) can blind us from the light. He concludes: “We always look at this passage as a promise of light and the glory of the things coming from light, but the only verb used in a future tense in the first 1 1/2 verses relates to darkness. The light has already come. Thus arise. But, darkness will come.”

John Shearman, Kir Shalom (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/c-epip-js.php) This passage from the unknown prophet of the Babylonian exile, styled as “the Second Isaiah,” is almost certainly the source for Matthew’s story of the visit of the Magi bearing gifts for Israel’s new born king. Many modern depictions of that event and the carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” also take their basic elements from this passage. As it stands, however, it presents a clear description of Yahweh’s activity within human history interpreted metaphorically as giving light where darkness has previously prevailed. This, of course, recalls the first act of creation in Genesis 1: the creation of light where there had been only chaos and darkness. It also reiterates the theme of the first poem in the collection of Second Isaiah (40:5): “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed..”
The phrase “the glory of the Lord” in vs.1 (Heb. *kabhodh*) appears extensively in Isaiah and elsewhere in the OT. It is a central word for divine self-revelation or epiphany. The Christian festival and the liturgical season of Epiphany have this fundamental meaning. It refers not only to the revelation of Christ to Gentiles, but the self-revelation of God in Christ to the whole world.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Restoration to prosperity from living under the light of the LORD.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Hope in the face of darkness.

December 23rd: “You Want Me to Do What!?”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the passage: Luke 1:26-56

Other texts for Year C, Advent 4

Micah 5:2-5

Hebrews 10:5-10

B. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

38 Mary submits to the Spirit.

39 Mary has just received the vision of the angel that she will bear Jesus. Since Elizabeth was old and barren, her pregnancy would be a certain sign verifying what was said to Mary.

41 Did the ancients perceive that infants held a special bond with God? This foreshadows John’s announcing the reign of Christ.

42 This seems atypical of Scripture, frequently the reader is told what the God tells the prophet, then the prophet tells others. Here the step of the Holy Spirit communicating to Elizabeth is completely ignored.

43 Why are we so favored that our predecessors have built this Church and preserved the stories? Why are we so favored that Christ became human? Why are we so favored that …?

44 Do we leap for joy when the news of Christ reaches our ears?

45 Mary was not required to believe.

E. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

This is uniquely Lukan material.

42 Is repeated by an unnamed woman in 11:27. But Jesus supercedes this blessing with a blessing of all who hear and obey the word of God.

This contrasts sharply with Job’s curse of his birth (Job 3:1ff).

G. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

46 Some ancient manuscripts credit Elizabeth with the Magnificat. This would be consistent with v. 41 that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary might not yet fully understand nor accept what has happened to her. But Elizabeth could fully understand from the parallel of her own pregnancy to the expectancy of the hope of the world.

If properly attributed to Mary, then the Magnificat is a testimony of her belief by the sign of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as to what will happen.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the context of the passage, and the book?

  • Preceded by the announcement to Mary in the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth. Elizabeth has been in seclusion much of this time out of embarrassment for becoming pregnant at such an old age. Mary quickly accedes to the angel’s request.
  • Followed by the Magnificat and the birth of John.
  • Annunciation to Mary and confirmation by Elizabeth functions in this chapter as an interlude in the birth narrative of John. Over the next two chapters the narratives of John and Jesus are tightly intertwined. The narratives start with John’s birth which parallels the births of the patriarchs. The narratival shift to Jesus is complete with the jailing of John and the Baptism of Jesus.

III. Question the text.

D. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

    • Emotional Center: Wonder/Amazement/Joy
    • Center of Gravity: Beatification of Mary
    • Music: Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

G. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

      • This scene happens in front of us, rather than involving us.
      • The hearer needs to be transformed to hear Mary’s greeting and leap for joy!

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Heidi Husted Armstrong (“Advent 2006: Revolution from the bottom up,” The Presbyterian Outlook, Dec. 4/11, 2006) notes the personal nature of the Magnificat. Mary uses the first person singular pronoun. She writes: “the gospel is bigger than personal salvation. And yet … it is certainly not less.” She also notes in vv 51 – 53 Luke’s use of the 3rd person singular to indicate divine action putting the Kingdom of God in the world.

Fred Craddock (Interpretation: Luke) concludes that Mary does not visit Elizabeth to confirm the angel’s prophecy, but is drawn to Elizabeth out of their common experience. He opines that Luke is alluding to the birth of Jacob and Esau, where they struggled in Rebekah’s womb and the younger (Mary) served the older (Elizabeth).

R. Alan Culpepper (“The Gospel of Luke,” The New Interpreter’s Bible)

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher),
What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received, when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,” were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

 

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

 

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

 

December 16th: Christmas Music Celebration

Chior robed in red
We’ll lift voices and hands to celebrate the coming of Christ.

Our choirs have been practicing for weeks to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world.

This special worship service interprets readings from Hebrews and Luke with performances by:

  • Our Adult Choir
  • Children from our Sunday School classes and Youth Group
  • The Joyful Ringers, our bell choir
  • A trio, a duet, and a solo.

A reception with punch will follow.

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