Pentecost 2 A: Telling the Truth, Twice!

Matthew 9:35-10:8 Dear Partner in Preaching, Because of the way the readings for the Pentecost season are determined by the date on which Easter falls, we haven’t had a chance to hear this passage in Sunday worship for nearly a decade. It’s a great bridge from the Easter season that concludes just before Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sundays to the season of Pentecost proper. That bridge is immensely helpful for those who are trying to follow the narrative of Matthew, as after the Lenten focus on the journey to the cross and the Easter focus on the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection (both of which draw heavily from John’s...

Trinity Sunday A: The Great Promise

Matthew 28:16-20 Dear Partner in Preaching, Ever notice that the close of Matthew’s Gospel, a passage we usually refer to as “the Great Commission,” ends with a promise? I think I sometimes get so caught up in the grandeur and import of the Great Commission that I overlook what I now think of as “the Great Promise” – “And I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I suspect this isn’t an accident. That is, I suspect that our only hope of fulfilling the great commission – sharing the good news of God’s grace in Christ with the world through word and deed and welcoming all into fellowship through Baptism – is by...

Pentecost A: With, not From

  John 20:19-23, Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13 Dear Partner in Preaching, Have you ever noticed that the arrival of the Holy Spirit doesn’t remove the disciples from challenges and hardships, but rather equips them to persevere, even flourish, amid them? And that this seems to be the unified witness across the New Testament about the Spirit’s work? In John, for instance, the disciples are hiding in the upper room out of fear that those who crucified Jesus may come after them. And what does Jesus do as he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them? He doesn’t take them away from Jerusalem or fortify the room in which they’re...

Easter 7 A – Important Interludes

John 17:1-11 Acts 1:6-14 Dear Partner in Preaching, I don’t often try to preach on more than one passage at a time. I like diving a little deeper into a single story and worry about forcing associations between texts. But from time to time, the passages or context entice me to pull together themes from a couple of the readings, and this is one of those weeks. This time, it’s both the passages (John 17 and Acts 1) and the context (Memorial Day weekend). Here’s what I’ve been thinking: Both passages describe an interlude – a period of waiting and transition. In John, it’s the waiting between all Jesus has done up to now (across...

Easter 6 A: You have an Advocate!

John 14:15-21 Dear Partner in Preaching, You have an advocate! Someone who is looking out for you. Someone who is on your side. Someone who encourages you and supports you. Someone who speaks up for you and is willing to hang in there with you through thick and thin. So, before going forward, take a moment and think about what it feels like to hear that – that someone has your back, that someone is invested in your future, that someone will not give up on you…no matter what. It feels good. More than that, it feels like a relief, especially when you feel like your back is up against the wall. Even more than that, it feels empowering, like...

Easter 5 A: Jesus’ Real Presence

John 14:1-14 Dear Partner in Preaching, The first line of this familiar passage is so out of kilter with the rest of the passage that it’s almost comical. But if so, it is a poignant, ironic, almost sorrowful humor. Jesus, after all, is preparing his disciples, his friends, for his departure. He knows this will be incredibly challenging for them and so begins with words intended to bring comfort – “do not let your hearts be troubled” – but that seem to fall short of the mark. The disciples’ hearts are troubled, very troubled. And so they ask questions. Have you ever noticed that? That when we are struggling to make sense of...