Submit Your Own!

Free Sample for December 14, 2014
By David Howell

***Purchase recordings of 2014 Festival of Homiletics (and earlier years). Purchase 


The free sample below is just one of many resources enjoyed by subscribers to this week.

 Click here to see over 70 preaching resources for most Sundays for your sermon preparation at
If you like what you see, click here to subscribe for $19.99! All for less than $1.00 per week!Plus receive four free months when other pastors subscribe using your unique Referral Code! 



 Preaching Luke 1:46b-55

It’s bedtime for the nine-year-old boy and, after his prayers, he has one last question for the day, “Dad, what is praise?”

Surprised by the question, but undaunted, the father responds, “If you go to a standard dictionary you get things like, praise is the ‘act of expressing warm approval or admiration of something or someone.’” The look on his face says that this response doesn’t sound right.

“I’m guessing that you’re asking about the word at church.” Yes. “Warm approval and admiration won’t really do, will it, when we’re praising God.” No.

Praise is bigger than that. It is a theme that pervades the whole of Scripture. It is a word that some nine-year-olds need. Sometimes things happen, and we simply need to let the praise out. It’s not always a welcome-thing that has happened, but it’s clearly a God-thing and praise is that which wells up within us.

Words that help point to the meaning of praise, are “to bless, “ “to exalt, “ “to glorify,” “to magnify, “ “to thank, “and to “confess.” To praise God is to call attention to God’s glory, from a place deep in one’s soul and spirit. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

I used to work with a friend in a congregational ministry, and we developed some standard ways of expressing our surprise and joy when one of those beautiful moments in ministry would unfold before our eyes. We’d say, “Isn’t that just like Jesus!,” or “Look at the Gospel happening there!” It was shared recognition of God’s goodness in action and often it would sneak up and surprise us. Often it messed with people’s plans and usually some form of reconciliation and justice-making would result. Praise God.

Perhaps on the Third Sunday of Advent the preacher can bend the arc of the sermon towards praise. In order to do this, something beyond everyday language is needed; poetry, metaphor, symbol, and song. Charles Bartow has rightly said of the worshipping church that, “We sing even because we truly know more than we can say,” and of preachers, “we cannot measure up to the task of putting it all in straightforward prose.”1 Preaching can lead us to the things that are beyond saying, beyond thinking, beyond value, to the liminal points where we can see and experience the very things that are “beyond.”

Mary has been visited by the present but hidden God, and it is revealed that this God has done something in her lifeliterally within herand as this news sinks in, she breaks into a song of praise. Sometimes only song will do.

Mary had something happen. Mary had been visited by the angel Gabriel. She has heard the proclamation, she has received the promise, she has moved forward trusting this promise, and she has gone to tell someone, in this case, her cousin Elizabeth. Out comes this song of praise, the Magnificat. Mary’s hymn of response to what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do. So she sings, and this Song of Mary becomes liturgical prayer and praise, one of the most-used part of Scripture in the centuries of Christian worship.

Why? What is going on in Mary’s Song? Why is it, and should it be, our song too?

First, because what God has done for Mary, God has done for us too. Preachers can glean from exegetical, theological, and pastoral reflections plenty of great material for preaching this lesson. Yet, the preacher has the opportunity to break away from everyday cognitive language into modes of speech that have the capacity to evoke a real sense that God is speaking in the present.

This is to move away from the crucial but insufficient language of declaration, announcement, information, explanation and saying-something-about-a topic, and into the language of reception, communion, narrative, symbol, and finally, saying-something-directly-to-someone. More, and strangely, the sounds and images of the sermon can resonate in such a way that they are taken up by God for Christ’s own speech. The hidden but present God addresses the people. It is possible, not guaranteed, that the word spoken in the sermon can be recognized and received as the Word of God, Christ himself, speaking into the ears and lives of the listeners using the preacher’s sounds as the medium.

What are the things in life that bring about the deep desire to call attention to God’s glory? Let those words and images resonate in sermon preparation. It will be worth the time spent dreaming up a list of responses to that question. As I listen to the sermon on Advent 3, I would like the preacher to help us to see how God does for us what God did for Mary. What are the many ways God has done great things for me? Being a middle-aged man, it is not likely to be the birth of a child (even though nothing will be impossible with God!), but what does it look like when people like me, and people unlike me, are led to sing their own Magnificat because of what God has done? What does it sound like when we sing it together?

This is important to hear because the message of this “word” turns things completely upside down, and if you’re not at the bottom of things (as Mary was), it will take some time and some faith to see this action of God as a praise-worthy development. Mary’s Song sticks in the throat of anyone on or near a throneeven a throne of our own making. Listen to what God has done. What is your song? Mary’s Song shapes our understanding of God’s action; she leads us to praise. The preacher has the opportunity to do the same.

Todd Townshend

1.  Charles Bartow, God’s Human Speech: a Practical Theology of Proclamation, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1997), 24.


***Purchase recordings of 2014 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. Follow FestHomiletics on Twitter 

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 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
Washington DC

" 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 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 . 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?"

Teri Thomas
Northminster Presbyterian Church
Indianapolis, IN

"The best lectionary preaching resource."
Zan Holmes
, UMC pastor and former homiletics professor

" 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.”
Shannon Johnson Kershner
Woodhaven Presbyterian Church
Irving, Texas

"A treasure chest of scholarship and story that feeds both heart and head."
Susan R. Andrews