Sermon Notes for October 30, 2011

20th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A)

Joshua 3:7-17
Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12


  • The OT lesson should be read with the lenses of the children being led out of Egypt into the wilderness.  Notice how the water is parted much like the crossing of the Red Sea.  This time it is the Jordan River.  Make note that the Jordan River is significant to Jesus and the Gospels. This time they are not being chased by Pharoah’s army, but they are going purposefully into the Promised Land and all of their enemies are to be driven out by God who goes before them.
  • This is a good time to discuss the ark of the covenant since it figures prominently.  Most of our people learned more about the ark from Harrison Ford and his series of movies than they ever did from church.  Maybe  this is a time to dispel some myths.
  • The Psalm is linked well to the first lesson.  It gives the community a word that a major transition is taking place.  No longer are the children wandering in the wilderness–they are headed to the Promised Land.  Life is going to be different.  How are we going to live in the Promised Land?
  • The Epistle and Gospel are linked today as well.  Servanthood is the theme.  Paul and his cohorts worked night and day among the Thessalonians, and they are witnesses to their conduct.  It was a family affair, not an institution.  (Isn’t this what the church is supposed to be?)  I especially like the last words of the pericope: We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.  We may be humans, but the Gospel is not a human word, it’s God’s, and it is at work.
  • Practice what you preach.  Walk your talk.  If the Gospel is going to be authentic, it must be lived as well as spoken.  Jesus has some harsh words for the Pharisees. This may be a good time to give a good overview of 1st century Judaism and how there were extremists among those in power that stand out in contrast to Jesus’ practice of the Law.  Explaining phylacteries goes a long way among 21st century folks who have rarely had any contact with Orthodox Jews.
  • Jesus gives us a model that slaps most of us modern preachers in the face.  After all, most of us have titles–like “Father,” “Pastor,” and “Reverend.”  If we are honest with ourselves, we like those titles, and have benefited from the use of them.  Jesus reminds us that there is one Teacher, the Anointed One.  Those who are carrying their weight in the Kingdom know that they can only point to the Teacher, and they are servants of that Teacher.  The Great Reversal is in order among those who proclaim Jesus’ kingdom–those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  The greatest among us are the servants.
  • When I think of servant ministry, I think of Jesus’ last night when he girds his waist with a towel and washes the disciples feet. Maundy Thursday is a model for us year-round. It is a model for leadership in the Church.  It is a model for the Church as it serves in the world.
  • Here are some good notes from Sermons That Work from 2008.
  • It is interesting that these were the texts for November 2, 2008–also could be All Saints Sunday.  You will be preaching on the Eve of the Eve of All Saints.  You might want to consider working with that theme–Who are the saints? The servants among us. Read: Mother Teresa, great saint or great fraud?

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