"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlights and New Wilderness Questions
2009-02-27 by David von Schlichten


Craig Wansink notes that Jesus' baptism/wilderness narrative in Mark echoes the story of the Israelites' exodus into the wilderness and then arrival to the Promised Land.

Theological Themes:

Paul H. Jones quotes N.T. Wright as saying, "You are never far from the wilderness when you're in the Promised Land." Jones goes on to suggest that, when we are in the wilderness, instead of asking "Why me?" or "When will this end?" we would do better to ask, "Who am I in the wilderness and what am I to do here?" More important, Jones continues, we are also to ask, "Who is God in the wilderness, and what is God to do with me?" (p.40)

I'm going to build my sermon from these last thoughts. I will invite people to ask new questions when they are in the wilderness.

Be sure to scroll down to read contributions from this week's guest blogger Dee Dee Haines. Also, don't forget to vote for the best sermons. See below for details.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Pastors! Your Help Is Needed!
2009-02-25 by David Howell

Go to Share It! and then to GoodPreacher Seminarian Sermons

Read the sermons and then go to last page of the sermons to vote. The voting is from March 1 until March 8.

The top three sermon writers will then be asked to prepare a YouTube version of a sermon to be available for viewing by April 1. A voting system will be in place on GoodPreacher.com from April 1 until April 8 for the three YouTube sermons.

The seminarian receiving the most votes for the YouTube sermon will receive a complimentary registration to the Festival of Homiletics in Atlanta, May 18-22, 2009, a dorm room at Emory University, and $200.00 in expense money for the Festival! And be introduced on Monday evening at the Fox Theatre during the Festival of Homiletics!

If you are a subscriber click here for the code to vote. If you are not a subscriber, email us at office@goodpreacher.com and we will send you the code.


Lenten Discipline: More Time in the Tub
2009-02-25 by David von Schlichten

It is fun to read guest blogger Dee Dee Haines' entries, as well as to hear from Steve Schuette again this week. Both provide helpful challenges about preaching apocalyptically and repentance. We preachers do indeed tend to dilute the messages of Scripture. Thank you to Dee Dee and Steve for exhorting and encouraging us toward a more proleptic and piercing proclamation.

For those of us preaching today, Ash Wednesday: How will our Ash Wednesday sermon be different from our sermon for this Sunday? 

I have become a bit lax in my posting here at the tub, so one of my Lenten disciplines is to post at least twice a week. Throughout the forty days, then, I will be doing a Wednesday posting and a Friday posting at the minimum.

I look forward to soaking in the tub with you all, now and at the eschaton

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

2009-02-24 by Stephen Schuette

Somewhere from the past I remember those NT courses emphasizing that early Christianity and especially the Gospel of Mark were forged in the caldron of apocalyptic faith.  If so our usual, sanitized Sunday renderings of the narratives are challenged.  At any rate these opening verses seem to propel us into something beyond the usual.  The heavens are torn open as Jesus himself submits to the baptism of John.  Jesus is “swept” or more literally “thrown out” into the wilderness.  There are powers and forces at work.  And in the wilderness Jesus is provided for by other powers, inexplicable to our usual experience…dependent yet sustained.  While old powers seek to hold on (John is arrested and in prison) the proclamation of a new order arrives.  Old worlds are fading away as a new world is being born, even as Jesus’ coming up, out of the water is contemporaneous with the Spirit descending.  (Is this actually, in a way, Mark’s birth narrative?)  All the verbs in this passage are full of energy.

The word “proclaiming” in vs. 14 has to do with an authorized announcement proclaimed by a herald.  It comes by high authority – higher than the authority that is seeking to contain John’s movement.  This is almost Palm Sunday (a bracket for the Lenten journey?) where even if the crowd were asked to be silent the stones themselves would take up the proclamation.  There’s something moving that can’t be stopped, something unfolding, something pressing forward.  So our repentance is aligning ourselves either with powers that are failing and doomed or with this power that opens, makes new, and reorders our lives.

Is such apocalyptic talk fearful?  You betcha…just as trust is fearful…especially for those of us who try to hedge our bets, seek security, resist letting go of what we think is safer, more prudent.  As for me and my house, well, we can serve the Lord every second Sunday from 9 to 11 a.m….  But in the end our resistance is futile.  God is going to claim us, one way or another.  We don’t make this new movement happen, nor can we stop it.  We can merely foolishly try to resist or give our consent and allow it to fully take hold of us.

Affirmation and Repentance
2009-02-24 by Dee Dee Haines

Standing on the windy corner in front of one of the most popular shops in Strand Street, Douglas, the Isle of Man, a young man is making use of a voice projector to get his message across:  “Repent!  Repent and listen to what God is saying!”  Those passing by are moving to the other side of the street.  Perhaps they are uncomfortable, hearing the message as judgment.  They only came to pick up a few grocery items, their expectation did not include this encounter.


Repentance is one of those hard words to preach.  Many of us will try to find a less startling synonym so that we don’t have to watch people shrink into their seats when we use the word again and again.  Some of us will explain that repentance suggests changed behaviour or a turning from the ways of the world to the ways of a loving God.


Is it possible that we have, as John O’Donohue suggests, fallen out of belonging?  And if we have, can we speak to our congregations about how the action of repentance can renew our sense of belonging?  Not only our belonging to God and community, but belonging to ourselves?


Many of us will make use of narrative as an important part of our understanding of practical theological methodology.  If we use story as a fundamental element in our shared life together, at some point, we will stop and ask ourselves, “When does a story become our own?” It is a point for preachers to consider.  How do we facilitate the opportunity for the biblical story to be owned by ourselves, and those with whom we partner in ministry?  When do we begin to understand the stories of our neighbours as our stories as well? 


I’m guessing that many of us will focus on repentance.  Heaven knows, we need to.  But a focus on repentance that does not first focus on the affirmation, declaration and blessing of the voice from heaven will struggle to be transformative.  Without that transformation, opening the door to belief in the good news may struggle to become “our story” as well.


What is God doing in the story when the naming and claiming of Jesus as God’s own takes place?  Even though Mark doesn’t mention the temptations of Jesus, many will assimilate the synoptic details into this story as a matter of habit.  To embrace today’s story in a way that communicates the humanness of Jesus and his ability to endure the wilderness experience is an opportunity to examine our own similar wilderness journeys, or those of our brothers and sisters.  How are we making those stories our own?


We often call our congregations to remember their baptismal vows.  I suspect we aren’t as diligent in remembering to make familiar the baptism declaration and affirmation:  “God claims us and cleanses us, rescues us from sin, and raises us to new life.”  (Methodist Worship Book, England:  Methodist Publishing House, 1999, p.63).  In all of my worship books from differing traditions, the promises come after the mighty and transformative declaration.  For some, that affirmation will not be what they are expecting from the sermon.  But it can be a blessed encounter, just the same.  And the call to repentance may be heard with changed ears.

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