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).
As Lent is underway, many Christians throughout the world are participating in various spiritual disciplines. Some are fasting from a particular food, drink, or activity. Some are spending more time in prayer or the study of God’s Word.
These common Lenten disciplines draw on the many themes of Lent, encouraging us ever toward reliance on God rather than reliance on anything else. Another rhythm to Christian life that encourages such reliance and dependence is the Sabbath, the holy day of rest.
If you are a pastor, when was the last time you preached on one of the Psalms? If you are not a pastor, when was the last time you heard a sermon on one of the Psalms? Is it just me, or are the Psalms often overlooked and underused in preaching? I began to notice this several years ago and found I was not alone. Others had noticed a lack of Psalms sermons too.
The season of Epiphany is one that often gets overlooked in the Church Year calendar. We’re on board for Advent and Lent, with many congregations meeting midweek to mark these penitential seasons.
Much like the seasons of Christmas and Easter, the season of Epiphany is sparked by a specific feast day that colors the rest of the season. On the Feast of Epiphany (January 6), we observe the Magi visiting Jesus and bringing Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The hymnody of Advent is exceedingly rich. Among this richness is the classic “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” As you open your Lutheran Service Book to this hymn (357), you will also find the Great “O” Antiphons. These ancient prayers have long been used to count down the days until Christmas. As you can see, each begins by addressing the Lord with a different phrase: “O Wisdom,” “O Key of David,” “O Emmanuel,” and so on.
Originally written in Latin, the Great “O” Antiphons create a reverse acrostic with these names of God that begin each prayer. They spell out ero cras; that is, “Tomorrow I will be” (cras means “tomorrow,” while ero is a first-person singular future form of the verb “to be”) or perhaps, “I will be there tomorrow” or “I come tomorrow.”