Submit Your Own!
Free Sample for November 22, 2015
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 GoodPreacher.com this week.
Click here to see over 70 preaching resources for most Sundays for your sermon preparation at GoodPreacher.com.
Preaching John 18:33-37
In our lesson we listen in on a conversation in which Jesus speaks about truth. The question of truth is universally human. Yet, it is the Greek mind that the search for truth is the most conspicuous. It is the Greek world to which the Gospel of John is addressed. Jesus’ words in this text about truth are carefully preserved by the evangelist who seeks to show the answer of Christianity—the truth of Christianity—to the central inquiry of the Greek mind, the question of truth. That answer is also for us; for people today who ask the question of truth as passionately, and sometimes as desperately, as did the Greeks to whom the evangelist wrote.
The surprise of this text is that it records Jesus’ own denial; Jesus’ denial of sovereign territory, “My kingdom isn’t from here” (v.36). From inside the governor’s house, a center of power for a defined territory, Jesus disclaims royal territory. Certainly, Jesus’ denial is on the geographical level; his royal authority lies elsewhere, and it is this “elsewhere” that defeats Pilate. For Pilate—and for us—sovereignty implies a specific place, such as the British Empire which encompasses specific land throughout the world. Christ denies any claim to this kind of power or rule. This is incredible! Here is a man putting his credibility at risk by a denial of authority.
A sermon on this text might be titled, Christ’s Own Denial. Such a title may generate curiosity since many in the church are well familiar with the denial of Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest. What is often unrealized is that on the same night of Peter’s denial Jesus denies royalty within the categories traditionally understood by women and men. The sermon may explore Jesus’ deeper understanding of his royal authority and what that means for those who follow his rule.
I would begin the sermon with my own wrestling between Pilate’s grasp of power and authority and Jesus’ own claim to royal reign over a kingdom that “isn’t from here.” This “wrestling” of the difference is the heart and soul of this narrative. Is Pilate’s understanding of power—and, consequently our own—the ultimate authority? Or is Jesus? A careful eye will detect that John, the Evangelist, reverses the roles of these two men. Pilate is the one being judged, and Jesus is the judge. This encounter between Pilate and Jesus becomes an arm wrestling match between political power and spiritual power.
What would be helpful at this juncture in the development of the sermon would be to help the congregation to understand again that “political power” directs a people’s outward behavior by fear of unpleasant consequences while “spiritual power” changes a people from the inside, directing their behavior by desire for “something more.”
One Easter morning a couple spoke to me following the first service. They said they had lived “down the street” for years and had never worshipped with us before that morning. They continued by saying that though they had not worshipped before they were always grateful that the church was here. Politely and carefully, I asked, “Why?” “Why were they grateful that the church was here?” Their answer, “Each day it reminds us that there is something more.” They promised to return and then proceeded to walk down the street—presumably to their home.
Jesus’ vision for life—and the church—could not be stated more elegantly, “To be something more.” Jesus’ denial of royalty as traditionally understood is because he wants more for us; wants for us “something more” than forced compliance to the political systems of the day. Jesus declares that his authority comes from another place outside this world. His confrontation with our political systems, in the form of Pilate, however, suggest that his kingship not only challenges the political state, it judges and calls into question the ability of the state to provide the life God desires for us.
The Week reports that the future of Christianity in America “looks very bleak.”1 The number of Americans who self-identify as Christian has dropped nearly eight points, to about 70 percent while the number of citizens who claim no religious affiliation has hit an all-time high of 23 percent. One journalist suggest that the principal reason Americans are turning away in droves from the Christian faith is because the Christian right has tried to impose its harsh, Old Testament views on the entire country. Angry battles have been launched against women’s reproductive rights and gay marriage. Simply, Americans have little desire for this religious extremism. Few want to be affiliated with intolerance. Quite simply, the Christian right spoken of here seeks to exercise the political rule and authority of Pilate. Jesus challenges that rule today as he did before Pilate.
Jesus did not make the same impression upon everyone who heard him speak. Those who sought “more” heard in his preaching the refrain of forgiveness, love and acceptance. Others sought to impose by force and political might their own views of how life should be lived. People’s judgment of Jesus varied with their spiritual capacities. It would appear in the crucifixion of Jesus that Pilate won. But the resurrection remains only a few days away.
W. Douglas Hood, Jr.
1. The Week, May 29, 2015.
***Purchase recordings of 2014 Festival of Homiletics (and earlier years). PurchaseSee 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.”
Shannon Johnson Kershner
Woodhaven Presbyterian Church
"A treasure chest of scholarship and story that feeds both heart and head."
Susan R. Andrews