Tom Steagald's Preaching Journal
2010-11-22 by David Howell

Check out Tom Steagald's Preaching Journal!

Great material!

A Thanksgiving Sermon

Lots of information on the lessons for the First Sunday in Advent!

Click here.

From Tom's Thanksgiving Sermon:

If the downturn or recession or little Depression makes us fearful, makes us hoard, keeps us from sharing, then indeed it is an awful thing.

But if the recession exposes our material idolatry, teaches us to disregard our stuff, really reminds us that life is more than our things, then the recession might be a wonderful thing. If it teaches us how to share—you bring the hambone, I’ll bring an onion and some pepper, you bring some navy beans and together we will make a stew so that no one of us starves—that is a good thing. If the recession changes our prayers from “Thank you God, for what I have” into “Thank you, God, for who you are…and thank you, God, for faith and friends and the assurance that though heaven and earth and the Dow Jones pass away, your Word does not pass away…thank you for the promise that whether I have a lot or have nothing, I need not fear because you are near”—then that can be a good thing. We shall see.

And from his First Sunday in Advent preaching preparation:

Advent, as Lent, calls us to work against the calendar in favor of another kind of time. We put the brakes on the culture’s superficial rush to acquisition and largess; throw cold water in the face of our fevered consumptive frenzy; throw-down the culture’s  idolatries and high places, like Wal-Mart and Target; and combine tears of repentance with the heat of God’s Word, to release a “cloud of unknowing” into the presumptions of our preferences and expectations. Either that, or just go with the flow. 


Tom is the Pastor at Lafayette Street United Methodist Church in Shelby, NC, and adjunct professor at Hood Theological Seminary (AME, Zion) in Salisbury, NC. Tom has just published Shadows, Darkness and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus (Upper Room). Previous titles include Praying for Dear Life and Every Disciple's Journey, both from NavPress. He is a frequent contributor to Feasting on the Word, The Abingdon Preaching Annual, and other preaching resources. Tom's journal will detail each week's work to "discover" the sermon to be preached at Lafayette Street.

(I think we are in for a real treat!)

Welcome and thanks, Ro Ruffin
2010-11-20 by David Howell

Welcome and thanks to our guest blogger. Rev. Ro Turner Ruffin is an adjunct instructor for Mercer University. She is currently submitting her dissertation, in which she argues for death education in public high schools in the United States, to the University of South Africa. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

The start and the finish
2010-11-20 by Ro Ruffin

When all this started, I went through the scriptures.  Some I will mention in the sermon, but as twenty minutes is a very short time, from my point-of-view, some will have to be left out…but still they inform the results.  Some thoughts from scripture, all in paraphrase, and some in brackets [because they are wholly my thoughts].

Psalm 27: 1-3, evil cannot cause my heart to fear, because the Lord is “my light and my salvation.”  4-6, The Lord has granted that I may always remain in the Lord’s company.  7-10, I have sought you as you commanded, and you have found me.  All others may depart, but you ever remain…   11-14, Lies and violence nip at my heels as snarling dogs – I would succumb, but I trust you.  (Lament and apology)

Psalm 28: Prayer for aid and vindication

Psalm 29: Song of praise

Psalm 55: Song of lament, supplication, and betrayal, trust in God (23)

Psalm 56: Song of lament over evil man – trust in God and thanksgiving

[So far no promise of physical, or material help, but rather of soul salvation that seems to equal relationship (13)]

Psalm 57: trust that God will save and vindicate (3, saves with loving kindness and truth), sings praises

Micah 7:5  Front notes to the NAS indicates that prosperity comes to the few and they do not share with or help even their own.

So, in Ch. 7 the writer continues the theme of social injustice to say that our closest friends (5), even our families cannot be trusted.  Not one person in all the land is upright.  Vs. 7 and on – God is the only true one, the only one who may be trusted.  Watch!  Wait!  God alone is our salvation (9) our [my] sin has brought darkness, but God will bring light, and those who spurned and blamed God will be put to shame.  Evil will be cut down.  18b- God does not remain angry – God love is unchanging [not God is unchanging, but God’s love is unchanging, but that is for another sermon].  God will keep God’s promise.  [In this section “Micah” is looking backward, both to the promise, and in a sort of nostalgia – the good old days will return – of course, his memory of “the good ‘ol days” is faulty.]

Philippians [4:4]  Starting with first chapter of Philippians, 1:12-20, thankful in all circumstances and outcomes, because the KOG is moving forward.  1:21-26, for their sake, live, though to be with the Lord is preferable [sounds like a Bodhisattva].n  1:28-29, from God – granted to you to suffer for his sake.  2:12c, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Vs. 13, God works in us for God’s purposes, thru 18, [Paul is willing to suffer if people are saved, if the KOG is furthered (here and beyond)].  2:19-30, When Epaphroditus nearly dies of illness, Paul says God was merciful and let him live for all their sakes.  [Jews view life as good – a la Genesis and the God created and saw that it was good variety.  Too much in the way of dualism surviving in Christianity?]  3:7-11, Paul gives up his standing to attain life for self and others [resurrection from the dead (11) due to death in Jesus – relationship].  3:13, forgetting what lies behind – press on!  3:21, God has done it in Jesus Christ.  4:1 Therefore!  (4) Rejoice! 5b, the Lord is near. 6, so, be anxious for nothing, zip, nil, nein, zero, empty set!  Instead let your requests be to God in prayer, and receive peace (7), which will guard your sanity and your love for others.  8, think about “good” things and God will be with you [relationship]!  10-13, I can bear-up,  and even know peace in all material circumstances. [this does NOT say that in Jesus I can do anything at all!]   Could do more research, but time is short.

Ro Ruffin; Live Thanksgiving in Response to the King
2010-11-19 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to our guest blogger, who addresses theodicy and other important issues in his reflections on Thanksgiving. Stephen Schuette also provides us a worthwhile post. Scroll down to savor.

I have no clue what I'm preaching on this Sunday. Well, not NO clue. I will be uniting Christ the King and Thanksgiving. Christ is our king who endures suffering for his subjects so that we can live forever. In response, we live Thanksgiving. What does it mean to live Thanksgiving? I'll elaborate in the sermon.

Something along those lines.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

What are we really thankful for?
2010-11-17 by Ro Ruffin

In 2 Corinthians 1:1-13, we have Paul defending his apostolic status.  The greater part of his argument consists of the claim that in his suffering and affliction God not only spared, but consoled and comforted him.  He does not say God caused the affliction, but suggests that because of the comfort and salvation that followed the suffering, he is able to stand as an example and an encouragement to others who suffer.             

If we consider this in conjunction with Old Testament passages that say God causes destruction (prior to forgiveness and re-establishment) to those who are disobedient (see Micah, for one), even Israel, then a literal interpretation of God’s destruction of the sinner will easily lead to the simplistic conclusion that God causes evil occurrences in our world.About all this:  First, it is dangerous to take this position.  Such a viewpoint leads to comments such as “The Jews must be guilty of some evil, or the Nazi’s would not have murdered 6 million of them.”  Then there is the infamous way Jerry Falwell, speaking with Pat Robertson on the 700 Club, attacked pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, the ACLU, and anyone else he considered unworthy of God’s love, for the 9/11 attacks.  It may well be that the Persians were able to conquer God’s chosen and the other peoples in that area of the world because they had grown lax.  The leaders, according to Micah’s book, had become fat and happy, and very probably arrogant in the assumption that they were favored by God (sound familiar?).  Without vigilance in such a world, a downfall seems all but given.  Only the timing seems uncertain.  And someone like Micah, who is clearly awake and aware, and most probably a highly intuitive person, could read the signs.Scholars point to the several phases of the textual evolution of Micah (Mercer Commentary on the Bible, 1995) beginning with what they believe to be the legitimate section (Chapters 1-3), followed by additions made about one hundred years later during the reforms of King Josiah, and completed with additions made to account for the exilic and post-exilic period(s).  7:5 falls within the last permutation, and looks like a summary of the whole problem…the sin that brought about God’s punishment…the people were abusing their fellows so that God was forced to put an end to it all, and, finally chastised, the people repent, and wait on God…with perfect trust. The evolution of the book of Micah is important to this discussion in a “hindsight is 20/20” sort of way, because whether-or-not it does God justice, and whether-or-not people are really taking responsibility in this, is somewhat suspect.  But, you argue, they are saying their own sin caused the overthrow of their nation.  Sort of.  They are saying that God did it because of them.  So, not only are they so important that God can be pushed into becoming violent, but they are also saying that the violence that ensued was God’s, not humanity’s.  The question I have here is, how much theodicy discussion will I approach in order to suggest to the Christian that we are a generation that refuses to take responsibility for our own actions?  I also wonder how to deal with Paul’s unassailable notion that God is with us in all things, from joy to distress, affliction, and comfort.  The problem I see arising from this is that many have taken his words to mean that God does the afflicting so that good things will come out of it, rather than that bad things happen, yet God, working in and with humans, can bring about much good if we are willing and able to trust and to endure, and to work with God for God’s good purposes.  Absolute dependence on, that is, trust in God is our call. This is how Paul can speak of contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4).  What is more, Paul indicates in the same chapter, that we are to be united as one body in Christ, and that this unity is not removed from the nearness of God.  Thus he speaks of prayer and supplication in 4:6.  He follows up this idea with other practical things that must be done – meditation on goodness – and actions that are in keeping with God’s command to love (as were seen in Paul’s actions).  The promise then follows – God will be with us and give us peace.  It does not say that God will keep us from all affliction in this world.  That would be foolish and maybe even impossible.  The promise is that God will be our constant companion and our constant comforter, not our bodyguard.  It also does not say that God inflicts, though one may certainly see how people have come to interpret his words this way.  It is bad theology, and leads to a lot of talk that is hard to swallow, and that I believe even does much harm.  It eschews responsibility, and people do not grow up.

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