Tag Archives: grace

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Exodus 4:19-31 and Mark 15:16-32

Exodus 4:19-31
Mark 15:16-32
“A Bridegroom of Blood”, The passover lamb, our trouble with grace
O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken – Lutheran Service Book 439

Wells, Brides and Bridegrooms


Text: John 4:4-26
Full Sermon Draft

Of the images or metaphors of what Jesus has done for us I think husband or marriage is one the most different and compelling. And while it hovers over the entire biblical story, there just aren’t that many text that are most directly seen as a proclamation of the Bride and Bridegroom. In my reading this text is a biblical Romantic Comedy, and as such it is about the Bride and Bridegroom.

The structure used is something I’ve been playing around with occasionally, a limited use of the church father’s 4 level allegory. In my playing with this outline what I’ve found is that the literal level allows you establish the text and any connections to the modern day. In this case the text follows all of the Romantic Comedy beats. Knowing that it is such a genre, opens the door to the Typological level. Jesus is not just anyone but the bridegroom and the Samaritan woman is not just any woman but the type of the bride, the church. Following from the fourth beat of the Rom-Com script we find out what the protagonist (Jesus) wants to accomplish. In this case for the bride to know the gift of God and to know who offers it. That is the basis of the moral level, coming to know the Spirit and Word and Sacrament as the gifts of God or the living water, and knowing Jesus who offers them. The last level is the eschatological. In this case the end-times image is of the wedding feast of the bride and the lamb brought to its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem. At that time we won’t be arguing about the where’s and why’s of worship, because there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, because the bride and the bridegroom are together.

John has typically defeated me as a preacher. He’s too thick or maybe I should say not linear. This outline has helped me present texts from John. The other thing I’d add is that while allegory has a bad name because of some of the extreme uses of it, I don’t think it is wholly deserved. Most preacher’s outlines are just a collapsing of the four levels to usually two. Text-Application, often call puritan plain style or even just Wesley’s outline, is literal and moral levels typically. Hence it can often come across as all law or Jesus as our great example that we should follow. Law-Gospel usually ends up being literal and typological. You always get Christ, but also the problem with much of Lutheran preaching never actually having a moral point. True pentecostal preaching is usually literal and eschatological which gives it that on fire or otherworldly nature. If you respect the limits that you can’t say anything in the three upper levels not clearly established in the literal then I’ve found it to be a robust outline.

I’d invite you to take a look and give me any comments.

Uncontrollable Grace Leads to the Cross


Biblical Text: John 3:1-17
Full Sermon Draft

Preaching on John 3:16 tends to fall into two categories: 1) insipid, usually because it has a definition of love completely contrary to the passage or 2) counter-productive because it proclaims what is cheap grace. It proclaim the truth of Christ without asking that we receive him and live by the Spirit.

We have no problem with Jesus, so long as we have control over him. The problem with that is that the Father has chosen Jesus. Verse 17, we are saved through him. And in the context of Nicodemus’ midnight visit Jesus has chosen to act in a specific way – by water, Spirit and cross. Believing in Jesus is not just a simple matter of intellectual assent. Believing in Jesus is in part an admission that we are not “in control”. The Spirit which dwells within us from our Baptism is our guide. And that Spirit leads in the path of the cross following Jesus. Grace is a gift, we can only receive it or turn it down. We can accept Jesus, or stumble around in the dark with Nicodemus.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Genesis 11:27-12:20 and Mark 4:21-41

Genesis 11:27-12:20
Mark 4:21-41
Typology, The Scandal of Particularity, Working grace silently

What Temptation Tells Us About the Good Life


Biblical Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Full Draft of Sermon

We had a technical mishap, so I’ll re-record the sermon probably tomorrow.

Sermon Uploaded, although no hymn or biblical text preceding, so you might want to read the biblical text on the temptation of Christ.

I’m not sure there is a bigger divide between the orthodox faith and modernity than on the direction of the good life. Modernity in its many forms points you inward to finding your best and authentic self. In this sermon I pick on Maslow’s hierarchy and the idea of self-actualization, but there are other theories that say similar things. The faith has always said roughly three things: 1) your natural self is deceived or blind and couldn’t know what the good life is, 2) the good life revealed in Jesus is directed not toward self-actualization but toward God and neighbor, and 3) we are given eyes to see through the work of Jesus and the Spirit primarily through the revelation of the Word. The temptation of Jesus, as this sermon will proclaim, is part of the defeat of the devil for us, and a revelation of the road we also must face and walk.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Zechariah 4:1-5:11 and Romans 15:14-33

Zechariah 4:1-5:11
Romans 15:14-33
Tough Passages, Reading the Bible with Christ at the center

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Zechariah 1:1-21 and Romans 14:1-23

Zechariah 1:1-21
Romans 14:1-23
Radical Grace, Love directed outward

Epiphany Homily


Biblical Text: Matt: 2:1-12
Trouble in the World
Where we end up so often is just a function of where we start. Being born in the United States, at least materially, has long been winning the lottery of starting positions. Today, being born with two parents in an intact marriage is the best predictor, without a second factor even in the running, for success (defined materially) in life. The same thing happens intellectually. If you tell me a couple of your pre-suppositions, I can probably guess what you position would be on the scare-quote “issues”. In my experience the answer to the question: Is man fundamentally good or fundamentally flawed establishes the rest. And I’d like to say that that question does not have to be religious. Immanuel Kant would talk of the crooked timber of humanity and his contemporary enlightenment deists who helped found this country built in all kinds of checks and balances against our human foibles.

So what we end up with typically is an arms race to teach the again scare quotes “correct” starting point. Proverbs isn’t wrong, “train someone in the way, and they won’t depart from it”.

The problem with all the various cultural militias is that the entire process of teaching and formation begins with our reason and senses, and it is our work through and through.

Gospel in the World

The good news is that God doesn’t start with our work or our reason. God reveals himself. God makes himself known where we are at.

Where were the magi? Probably in Persia studying star charts and making astrological predictions for the court wealthy. Why did they head off? Probably because they saw the chance to get in on the ground floor of a great king. There stars told them to go. Not the most promising starting point.

And the first place they go is to Jerusalem. The most likely place for the new king is the home of the old king. But they probably realized that this was going sideways when Herod didn’t bring out his heir. Herod calls out everybody who should know – not by an astrological sign, but the Jewish starting point of the law – and send them on their way to find “the new king”.

And here is the Epiphany. They’ve been sent to Bethlehem, but Jesus is probably back in Nazareth. A place where nobody would look for “the King of the Jews”.

But Matthew tells us to look, “behold”…something important follows…”behold, the star went before them until it came to rest over the place the child was…when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy…”
This is not an ordinary star. And you’ve heard all the naturalistic explanations. But this isn’t something natural, this is revelation. This is God coming down and revealing himself. We can’t find our way to God, but God reveals himself…God comes to where we are. Even if that is stuck between astrological star charts and a murderous king. Peter describes Jesus as the bright morning star. He talks of the “morning star rising in your hearts.” And that morning star confirming the prophetic word which is a lamp shining in a dark place.
The magi, completely without the Word, were given a star, an angel to guide them to the child. We, as Peter says, have the prophetic Word. We have the morning star rising in our hearts. We have Christ come to abide with us.
And when guided by the morning star – the revelation of Jesus Christ – all the natural certainties go out the window. Because God delights in making a new thing and sending us back to our own countries to be lights in the midst of the nations. Amen.

This Child For You – Christmas Eve


Full Sermon Draft

This was the message from our Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols. The sermon references many of the key lines from the lessons and how the carols reflect the teaching. I think it stands on its own, but you don’t get the candles and Silent Night.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or is he?

P&F santaMolly Hemingway (and several others) on the horror of not having Santa growing up. I’m with Ms. Hemingway, Santa was always such a minor trifle I can’t stir up the emotional energy to care. If my child asks, I answer “what do you think?” Ethan (4) just says of course. Anna (10) doesn’t want Santa believer Ellen’s presents to stop. And then I typically ask something like “what is the main purpose of Santa?” Which as the older they get the more it becomes about the naughty and nice list. I have to confess using on David the Santa Scanner, an iPod app that determines which list you are on (controlled nicely by where you press the button and how clean the room is). But my goal is then to ask, “is that what you hear in Sunday School about Christmas?” And the answer is no. I don’t necessarily want to teach them morality although the 10 commandment are a good start. What I want to teach them is God’s grace. We make up things like Santa, but they are only non-toxic when handled with grace. When I give the Santa Scanner to David to scan me and it puts Daddy on the naughty list.