Sermon Notes for September 25, 2011

Scriptures for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A, Proper 21)

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32


  • These lessons make for good choices for the preacher.  I am not sure at first glance that I would link them all in a sermon, but I could see focusing on either of the four for the day.  This may be a great day to preach the Psalm:  I will open my mouth in a parable; I will declare the mysteries of ancient times. The Psalm is also an excellent compliment to the passage from Exodus.
  • The Exodus passage is made for storytelling.  The children of Israel at Rephidim without water.  The people complain and quarrel.  That staff that has led Moses and the people becomes the divining rod.  And, like a good Hebrew story, they have to change the name of the place.  “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (I think so Moses.)
  • The Kenosis Hymn (Philippians 2) is a powerful lection.  It is poetry and deep theology in one–Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…
    The same mind of Jesus is hard to come by…here is how Paul outlines it-humility to God, obedient even unto death, sacrificial–all of this to say that God exalted Jesus  for that kind of mind (and body).  It is this broken and poured out Christ that all the world will come to confess.    It is this broken and poured out Christ that we are to imitate. But imitation is not enough according to this sermon…Imitation is not enough.
  • The Gospel is another powerful story that is full of questions.  Questions from the chief priests and elders to Jesus.  Questions of Jesus to the temple leadership…
    • By what authority are you preaching?
    • Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?
    • What do you think?
    • Which of the two did the will of his father?
  • The Gospel has two parts, the authority issue, and Jesus’ story.  They are related, and they can stand alone.  Jesus averts the authority question in essence by giving the leaders a question they can’t answer.  Why should Jesus explain his authority to a bunch of temple leaders who are not willing to exert their own authority?
  • As for part 2, I preached this passage years ago, and concluded that doing the will of God is not just right thinking, but right living.  The brother who changed his mind was the hero of the story.  He went and worked in the vineyard, even though he initially said that he wouldn’t.  The other brother said that he would  work in the vineyard, and then did not. Jesus is the master of changing minds and hearts and bringing right action.
  • A good link for today’s lessons- Working  I think the author deals with the issue of authority very well in the Gospel.
  • Susan Pendleton Jones was a classmate of mine at Duke.  The beginning story in this sermon nugget describes a scene at Lake Junaluska, just a few miles from my home.  It is a good jumping off point for the preacher of the Epistle…The Obedient Son




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