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This lectionary covers the next thirty days. For full lists, see the seasons and years below.
Sunday, May 29, 2022
Seventh Sunday of Easter—Easter, Year C
The preacher has two options on the Sunday after the Ascension. The annual reading of John 17 is the conclusion of the high priestly prayer (see commentary in Year B). Electing instead to return to the regularly scheduled Gospel of Year C gives the opportunity to bring before the congregation an important theme in Luke’s gospel: That the Holy Spirit establishes the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.
In an age marked by a method of biblical criticism which regards as “historically responsible” bracketing out the possibility of spiritual readings of the Old Testament, it is important to hear how Jesus refers to the entire Old Testament as writings about him (v. 44) and that understanding them in this way is the illumination of God himself (v. 45). For the church, cataloguing the diversity of sources and drawing attention to the joints and seams whereby they were assembled is not an exercise that reveals the true meaning of the scriptures. The key to receiving God’s word in the Old Testament is to understand it in the light of Jesus’ Resurrection, recognizing the Holy Spirit speaking through it.
Detailing the church’s history of interpretation of the Old Testament is probably better left for a special series of teachings (e.g. 1 Peter 3, 1 Corinthians 10, among others). Sufficient for the day will be to emphasize another way that Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension leaves us better off, even than those who walked with Jesus in his earthly life: with the key to unlock all of the riches of Holy Scripture to edify and aid us as we follow Christ to the Father.
Next week, will observe when this same Spirit that spoke of Christ through the Law and the Prophets will descend on his church in power.
Sunday, June 5, 2022
On the Day of Pentecost, attention naturally turns to the event of Pentecost recounted in Acts, but John is the reliable interpreter of the meaning of that event, so the latter should be used to illuminate the former.
The Spirit’s rushing upon the Apostles is not so much a discrete event as a manifestation of a reality already present. This reality which the Spirit effects is the unity between Son and Father, and us and the Son, and therefore us and the Father. Phillip’s request at the table shows that he does not yet understand this unity. Here, Jesus’ syllogism of unity between people and God comes full circle: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (14:10) and “abide in me and I in you” (15:4). The miracle of Pentecost is the Holy Spirit effecting this unity of love, and from this union, the unity of all people is realized—even across culture and language barriers—and miracles flow.
How does the preacher exhort the congregation to enter into this mystery of unity? First, it should not be missed that the John passage comes from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, emphasizing how the Eucharist is one of the means by which we today continue to participate in that unity. Secondly, the preacher may point out how the Spirit is no less present today as then, and that whether in dramatic or ordinary ways, the goal is unity with Jesus who shows us the Father. Neither a one-time event in the past or a far-off goal in the future, abiding with Christ by the Spirit is a present reality that the Christian is always caught up in and enjoined to participate in. Pentecost is now.
Sunday, June 12, 2022
As always, Trinity Sunday should not be a dry recitation of the technical language of the Creeds. The preacher must bring out how the three Persons relate to us in their operation in order to make the doctrine vital to the congregation’s life and worship.
In Year C, the Holy Spirit takes center stage in John 16. The Spirit, often supposed in certain traditions to be the “wild child” of the Trinity, subverting church order in favor of new and strange revelations. John’s gospel tells us the opposite. The Spirit does not speak of his own accord, but reveals to the saints “all the truth” about Christ. The Father gives all to the Son, the Son gives all to the church and the Spirit illuminates the church so they can understand what is given. The Spirit glorifies the Son, only delivering and clarifying what Christ revealed in his life, death, and resurrection. So, the Trinity is not a far-off mystery but a present reality, God’s own self embracing his created people.
Sunday, June 19, 2022
This Sunday represents a crossroads for the preacher. For the rest of this year, the Gospel lectionary returns to the Gospel of Luke but the attendant Old Testament and Psalm are split between two different tracks.
Option I walks through a mostly chronological series of Old Testament texts which are not thematically linked to the Gospel passage in any way.
Option II (which is sometimes listed as Option III) is the more traditional set of Old Testament (and some Apocryphal texts) which do thematically link up with the Gospel for the day.
A third option is to follow the Epistle readings, which also run along their own track, disconnected thematically from both sets of Old Testament readings and the Gospel.
The preacher should be prepared to commit to one of these options exclusively for the rest of the Christian year, since each is designed with its own arc in mind. This guide will follow the more venerable Option II, as the theological and typological connections therein will introduce the congregation to the Christological principle of the scriptures, which will aid in their Old Testament study going forward.
The story of the demoniac liberated from the “legion” of demons is a story of Jesus’ power to defeat the darkest evils and restore those very far from God to adopted sonship. As in the other Synoptics, many of the story’s details hold up the demoniac as the prime example of the oppression of the spiritual powers of the world. The story has a Gentile context, far from the sanctity of the Jewish people. He has no clothes—a frequent biblical symbol of enslavement—and no house, no possibility of living in sanity among people; the demons often drove him out into the wilderness. Moreover, he is among the tombs, and therefore ritually unclean. The portrait is almost inhuman. After Jesus is done with him though, he is clothed and in his right mind.
The point of documenting the deliverance is straightforwardly to show Jesus’ power over evil and his ability to restore anyone in creation. The significance of the pigs could be either their ritual uncleanness—sending unclean spirits into unclean animals was appropriate—or that they were a symbol of Roman military power (the region the story takes place in happens to be nearby where a Roman legion was stationed). It is likely that the story works on both levels, showing the reader how Jesus has power over all temporal powers that oppress: spiritual, political, and otherwise. The point is that Jesus has the power to deliver all humankind from the powers that oppress them, and that no case is so far gone as to be beyond his ability to restore.