Submit Your Own!
Free Sample for December 15, 2013
By David Howell
***Purchase recordings of 2013 Festival of Homiletics (and earlier years). Purchase
The free sample below is just one of many resources enjoyed by subscribers to GoodPreacher.com this week.
Click here to see over 70 preaching resources for most Sundays for your sermon preparation at GoodPreacher.com.
Preaching Matthew 11:2-11
The Gospel lesson for the previous Sunday was about the preaching of John the Baptist. He foretold the coming of the Messiah and proclaimed, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (3:2). Through the present-perfect tense, "has come," in John’s message, Matthew intends to announce that the in-breaking of God’s reign has already begun with the birth of Jesus and witnesses in his entire Gospel that John’s prophecy about the Messiah has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Seven chapters later, in today’s Gospel lesson, Matthew brings John the Baptist back to the scene to have him confirm the fulfillment of his prophecy about the Messiah.
The passage includes Jesus’ two speeches in association with John the Baptist. One is given to his disciples. Concerning John’s question about the Messiah, Jesus responds to them that the Messianic era has already been begun by his ministry (v. 5). In the other speech given to the crowd, Jesus praises John as the greatest prophet in history and then states that "the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John" (v. 11). These two speeches are closely related to the theological theme of Advent. The season has two theological dimensions: First, it looks forward to the eschaton, the Second Coming of Christ. Christians who have faith in the risen Christ anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promise in him with hope. The second dimension of Advent is looking backward at Israel’s expectation of a Messiah. So, the Gospel lessons of Advent include the prophetic voice of John the Baptist to be reinterpreted for our present context.
In Matthew, the metaphorical term, the kingdom of heaven, connotes neither the world after death, nor a state of psychological or intellectual enlightenment of an individual, nor the historical past that was fulfilled once upon a time with the ministry of Jesus in history. Instead, Matthew understands the kingdom of heaven proleptically. More precisely, the Messiah has "already" come, and John’s prophecy about the Messiah has already been fulfilled in Jesus because some people "hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them" (11:4-5). The kingdom of heaven is, however, "not yet" fully present on earth, since not all the people in the world witness such transformation. This theological concept of the kingdom of heaven is the lens through which we can interpret the text for the season of Advent, the time between the "already" and the "not yet."
By having Jesus say that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John who prophesized about the Messiah (v. 11), Matthew encourages members of his church to actively participate in the kingdom of heaven by bearing "good fruit" (3:10). For him, those who were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, as well as with the water by confessing their sins (3:11-12), are already living in the kingdom of heaven; yet they are still anticipating its fullness on earth. Even if they are the least in the kingdom of heaven, they are greater than Prophet John, for their "fruit worthy of repentance" (3:8) will contribute to the consummation of God’s promise for the world.
Jesus’ two speeches on John are, on the one hand, good news for our churches, as well as for Matthew’s community of faith. Matthew convinces us that we are already living in the kingdom of heaven, the time and place to which we are invited to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. By continuing Jesus’ ministry of healing the disabled, curing the sick, raising the dead, and proclaiming the good news to the poor, our churches are supposed to witness the beginning of the Messianic era.
On the other hand, Jesus’ speeches challenge us to think about the realities of our churches. Like John, do we still wonder whether his prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ? If we have not heard and seen the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in our community of faith, it is hard for us to believe in the fulfillment of the prophecy. In other words, if our churches have not yet produced good fruit of the Holy Spirit as the community of the followers of Christ, John’s prophecy about the Messiah is still waiting for its fulfillment. However, if people "hear and see" the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in Christian churches, they would not doubt that the kingdom of heaven has come near in Christ Jesus.
It is time for our churches to ask a question: "Are we living out the kingdom of heaven, even though we are not the greatest but the least there?" This question may help preachers to reflect on their congregations and critically analyze their situations. A sermon coming from honest repentance articulated with pastoral sensibility will contribute to transform a congregation into a community of the Messianic era.
Eunjoo Mary Kim
***Purchase recordings of 2012 Festival of Homiletics (and earlier years). Purchase
See Tom Steagald's Preaching Journal! 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.
Subscribers have access to approximately 60 articles on the texts each week. These articles are not just exegetical articles but essays (and sermons) on the texts from theological, pastoral, arts, and homiletical perpectives. All for $19.99!
See Homiletical Hot Tub on Homepage for more discussion on texts. Go to Homepage and then to Share It! and see Stories, Movie Reviews, etc. At Share It! you may also submit stories, book reviews, etc. And even submit a sermon for feedback at the Sermon Feedback Cafe. Click on Submit Your Own!
"I am not really a lectionary preacher most of the time, but I have found the archives at GoodPreacher.com helpful over and over again as a resource for exegesis, interpretation, and just the pleasure and inspiration of reading good sermons on a text I am studying. It is a rich community to share in."
Dean J. Snyder, Senior Minister
Foundry United Methodist Church
"GoodPreacher.com is like having coffee with some of the most gifted
preachers in America today. You come away with a caffeine buzz and a dozen good ideas for Sunday's sermon." --Jim Somerville, First Baptist Church, Richmond, VA
"As the solo pastor in a very busy rural congregation, this resource provides the mind stretching theological insights that are immensely helpful as I struggle weekly with how to share the message of God’s all encompassing love. The ability to move back and forth between the print version and Good Preacher.com enables me to save time as what I need is simply a click away." Jackie Ahern, ELCA pastor
"With all the lectionary resources on the market today I did a great deal of shopping and testing before I settled on www.GoodPreacher.com . The quality of the resource is excellent, drawing on some wonderful minds. But even more than that is the variety. One week I am inspired by the artistic approach and another week it might be the biblical background and the next week the pastoral perspective. Thought provoking, inspiring, creative and helpful, what more could a preacher need?"
Northminster Presbyterian Church
"The best lectionary preaching resource."
Zan Holmes, UMC pastor and former homiletics professor
"...an ideal place to begin the process and adventure of sermon writing, as it provides clever insights and a window into the lectionary text. When you cannot get started it is a jump start into Sunday!"
Fr. Bob Trache
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
"...the best because it offers so many different ways to enter the text, more than any other available, and the material is always current and relevant..."
Fred Darbonne, Disciples of Christ pastor
"As a subscriber for more than ten years what I appreciate most is the variety that's built into the format - many voices contributing from a variety of perspectives on exegesis, relationship with he arts, pastoral perspectives, sample sermons, etc. I've never been isappointed. There's always something that sparks an idea or inspires."
Rev. Steve Schuette
Bethel UCC, Elmhurst, IL
“I am a lectionary preacher but I have difficulty scheduling a regular time to meet with a lectionary study group. This reality is why GoodPreacher is so important to me. I am immediately placed into a conversation with preachers both past and present. GoodPreacher is helping to form an interpretive community for all of us who are out in the ministry trenches. This interpretive community helps us stay fresh and alive in our personal faith and in our communal preaching.”
"A treasure chest of scholarship and story that feeds both heart and head."
Susan R. Andrews