One concern I hear a lot of pastors and other church workers talk about is a lack of biblical literacy or biblical fluency in their congregations. People do not seem to be as familiar with the Bible as we might hope.
Toward the end of December, there are several feast days that tend to get overlooked as we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Let’s take a few minutes to draw our attention to these commemorations of the faithful.
Advent is upon us! It is a time of waiting, a time of hope, a time of preparation, a time of prayer. The prayer of the Church throughout each and every Advent season is this: “Come, Lord Jesus.”
October is Church Worker Appreciation month. I know many congregations throughout the world have been showing their pastors, deaconesses, DCEs, musicians, and other church workers much appreciation this month through gifts, prayers, encouraging words, and much more. As this month comes to a close, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at a few examples in the Scriptures where God’s prophets and apostles, and Jesus Himself, receive appreciation or a lack of appreciation. Perhaps as we follow them in service to God and neighbor, we can learn something from these examples.
One painful experience that is repeated throughout the Scriptures is infertility. It’s surprising how many biblical stories involve infertility. Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 11-21), Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25), Rachel (Genesis 29-30), Samson’s parents (Judges 13), Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2), Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1) all experience the pain of infertility. Each deals with this difficulty for years. In many of the cases above, God speaks a word directly to those who are experiencing infertility and promises the birth of a child. Some do not have to wait long for the promise to be fulfilled (Samson’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth). Some have to wait much longer (Abraham and Sarah).
One of the challenges that pastors face as they prepare sermons is what to do with texts that are heavy on Law and light on Gospel. As I look at the four assigned lectionary texts for each preaching occasion, I am often drawn toward preaching texts where the Gospel predominates quite clearly in the text. Perhaps other pastors can relate. If the text has overt, obvious Gospel, it becomes much easier to move from the Gospel in the text to the Gospel for the congregation. But how do we handle texts that are light on Gospel? Texts that do not blatantly point us to the Good News of Jesus? Below are two ideas.
One of the most overlooked books in the Bible is that of the prophet Haggai. Still, this brief book holds a relatable experience to our current context this summer in the United States—a return from exile.
From Ascension to Trinity Sunday, the three-year lectionary treats us to four straight readings from the first two chapters of Acts. Before Jesus ascends into the heavens, He directs His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they “are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49b). As they are waiting, in Acts 1:14, Luke notes that the gathering of people in the upper room (about 120 people including the Apostles, Jesus’ family, and the women who followed Jesus from Galilee) “were devoting themselves to prayer.”
The Epistle readings through much of the Easter season in the Three-Year Lectionary for Year B are from 1 John, a timeless letter of great encouragement for God’s children to love each other. Although 2 John and 3 John are not used by the Three-Year Lectionary, I find myself resonating with these brief letters at the moment.
Psalm 22 has one of the most memorable opening lines, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” These words are instilled into our memories as the words Jesus spoke from the cross. Psalm 22 is appropriately one of the two psalms appointed for Good Friday in both the three-year and one-year lectionaries (along with Psalm 31).