The Annual is lectionary-based and follows the calendar year (January - December).
Each week’s entry includes:
1. Primary Theme
Fleshed out with brief, pithy nuggets of thought, idea jump-starters, or questions
2. Secondary Themes
2 or 3 themes or streams of thought that are related to but separate from the primary theme. These might arise from different parts of the lectionary text. This may also include questions, or alternative ways of thinking about the primary theme.
3. Worship Helps
Liturgical elements for the beginning, middle, and end of the worship service. A variety of elements each week, encouraging participation and engagement for the worshipper. All elements relate to the primary and/or secondary themes, to help preachers and worship planners achieve a cohesive thematic flow in worship.
Homiletical Topic Essays (3)
These 700-word essays cover a variety of current and critical topics for the preacher. Each essay focuses on one particular topic. Topics could include the practice of preaching, sermon writing, current issues for the preacher, emerging trends in preaching, and emerging ideas or cultural trends that are important for the church and preacher. Essays are contributed by leading homileticians.
Full Sermons (6 - 12)
The full text from six - twelve sermons will be included in the print and e-book.
The full sermons are included as a source of inspiration and edification for pastors, who so rarely are on the receiving end of preaching. These sermons will highlight best practices, unique approaches, and fresh voices.
Sermon Series Ideas
This section will briefly outline and describe ideas for unique sermon series based on lectionary readings. Most if not all of these will come from non-NT texts, helping preachers to include a wider range of scripture in their preaching. (Many pastors preach primarily from NT passages almost exclusively.)
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January 6, 2019 — Epiphany
Passages: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
One of the powerful shaping aspects of the lectionary is that it brings us back to pivotal stories year after year. For instance, the Epiphany texts are always the same, leading us to the magi searching for the newborn king. There is much in their encounter with Jesus that is worth remembering regularly: the fact that their search symbolizes all of our searches for God; that their worshipping presence proves God's grand salvific scope is for all people and not just the Jews; that Herod's response is controlled by fear, like so much of our world; and that the magi's response to a living encounter with the one true God is to worship!
But perhaps the most overlooked truth we encounter in the magi's seeking and finding is how nonchalant and seemingly normal the work of God is in this story. It begins, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem ..." Epiphany is the time to celebrate and recognize that our God "manifests" or "appears" on earth: God is revealed and God's purposes for the world are made known. The magi only have something to seek because Jesus is born God incarnate. The magi only have something to seek because God places in the heavens something to celebrate and reveal Jesus's birthplace. The magi only have something to seek because they are curious to know what is behind the revelation of the star that they understand in part, but not in whole. All of this happens simply because "Jesus was born in Bethlehem." It's as though we are to get the message that God's manifesting is as normal and down-to-earth, as regular and essential to life, as the birth of a baby. By encountering this story over and over, we are invited to find today what the magi found then. God's manifestations may no longer be in the form of a star to mark Jesus's birthplace, but the Holy Spirit continues to reveal God's purposes in the world for those curious enough to investigate the everyday manifestations of God's presence on earth.
Secondary Preaching Themes
Kingship weaves its way throughout the texts for Epiphany. The magi refer to Jesus as the "newborn king." Psalm 72 is a prayer of blessing upon a good king — one who rules with God's judgment and righteousness and whose actions bring peace and justice. This king is a deliverer of the needy, is compassionate on the weak, and redeems the oppressed. Sound familiar? It is essentially the "secret plan" of God made known in Christ Jesus that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3:1-12. Though Paul does not describe Jesus as king, he does draw the church into the work of "manifesting" the wisdom of Christ the king: "God's purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church." In other words, as part of the narrative shaped by the lectionary, Psalm 72 becomes a prayer for the church to live out the rule of Christ for all the world to see. Isaiah 60's command to "Arise! Shine!" becomes a call to action in the character of the King of kings. In this way, we become the ordinary appearances of the living God, piquing curiosity of people of every nation, perhaps leading them to an encounter with the living God.
Call to Confession (Based on Ephesians 3:1-12)
The Apostle Paul reminds us that, "In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him." Even while confessing our sins, we can be confident that it is the forgiving God who listens as we pray. We come with boldness, seeking to be transformed by our repentance. God's purpose throughout all time has been to bring us together with himself; therefore we take the time now to confess what continues to separate us.
Bidding Prayer (Based on Isaiah 60:1-6)
Light of the world, we trust you to make yourself known.
The magi brought gifts along with their worship. The psalmist declares that kings will bow down and present gifts to God's good king. We continue this same practice by presenting our monetary gifts to God's kingdom use along with our worship and acts of service.
Sending (Based on Isaiah 60:1-6)
Arise! Shine! Go into the world with confidence that
January 13, 2019
Passages: Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 2122
Call to Worship (Based on Psalm 29)
You, divine beings! Give to the Lord —
Transition to be used multiple times (based on Psalm 29:9)
Isaiah 43 captures the vocation of our trinitarian God. God the Father is our creator, he formed us and called us by name; Yahweh sees us as precious, he loves us. God the Son redeems us and is the holy one of Israel, our Savior; he is the ransom that has been paid, the one who has taken our place when we were in need of rescuing. We are called by the name of our Savior, Christ, when we are called Christian. God the Holy Spirit is God with us, whose word and breath blows to the corners of the earth, carrying the good news to the far reaches of the earth in order to gather up all of God's sons and daughters. The Holy Spirit is the God who is with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the fire. The Father preserves us through the Spirit's presence in the direst of circumstances.
That such a God would honor us, love us, sacrifice for us, and know us by name! This is the God who fights for what belongs to him. He is present and invested in his handiwork. This is the most intense loving relationship we can imagine. It is one we do not deserve; and yet, this is who our good God has revealed himself to be in word and deed.
Considering that Isaiah 43 was written in the context of exile, what power does such a description of God provide? Though God had not yet revealed himself as triune, God did mean to instill hope in his people, deeply rooted in his character and activity. The people brought their exile upon themselves, but God does not abandon what he has made (or even step away from it as the clock-maker God of deism is depicted). Though their sinfulness and habitual ignoring of the presence of God led them to the troubled waters of exile, God's statements of presence undergird them with the hope that they are not a lost cause, no matter the circumstances. Finally, it firmly reminds God's people that our worth has nothing to do with what we do or do not do, but comes solely from the worth given to us by God because we are God's beloved, created, formed, and made for his glory.
Secondary Preaching Themes
In two of our passages God speaks; in a third, his voice is described in great detail. God's voice is depicted as extremely powerful — enough to shake apart and lay the forest bare. It thunders and unleashes fiery flames, causing the wilderness to shudder at its sound. God's voice is majestic and strong: there is no earthly thing that can withstand its might. Yet, it is with that voice that God speaks blessing and pleasure upon God's beloved. What a comfort to think that the same voice that said to Jesus, "You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness" is the same voice that says to us, "Don't fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. ... Because you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you." The power of God's voice assures us of the strength of the promises said in tenderness. It is through these words that God continues to show up to guide and shape what (and who) he has made.
Taken together, our passages sing of the covenant relationship between God and God's people: there's something for everyone to do. God promises protection and provision in Isaiah 43; God's people worship the Lord who gives them strength in Psalm 29. In Luke 3, Jesus joins humanity in being baptized by John the Baptist, even though he had no need for repentance; for his part, John points beyond himself to Jesus by giving to the Lord the glory due him — just as the psalmist encourages. Finally, in some mysterious way, it takes the laying on of hands and the prayers of Peter and John to call down the Holy Spirit in Samaria. God is so invested in his creation that he engages creatures in the continuation and spread of his glory.
Prayer for Illumination
As we hear your word, may we hear your strong and majestic voice. May we trust your words of promise and presence. Amen.
Benediction (Based on Isaiah 43:1-7)
God preserve you through the rising waters and fires of life.
January 20, 2019
Passages: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
Call to Worship (Based on Psalm 36:5-10)
We come to the house of the Lord to drink from the spring of life. Let us see in his light today.
Imagine reaching the places depicted by Psalm 36. What does it take to get to the skies or to reach the clouds? Flight for humans only comes in a few forms, and there are more of us who have never felt the air on our skins at 12,500 feet above ground level (the standard altitude for skydiving) than those who have. Similarly, very few of us have scaled up the sides of the sturdiest rock formations and mountains in the world. To reach the top of the strongest mountains takes elite training and resources and a whole lot of time. And like the skies above, but even more extreme, no one can place their feet on the deepest depths of the ocean and live to tell the tale. James Cameron has been there in a submarine, and his words for describing how it felt: desolation and isolation.
To get to all of these places, human beings have to work really hard, spend a lot of time and resources to do it, and even then, we fail to get the full experience they have to offer because our bodies simply cannot handle them. Yet, God's loyal love has no problem extending to the skies. Yahweh's faithfulness draws our eyes up past the clouds looking for its end. God's righteousness, the measure of holiness, cannot be scaled by our own strength, and we will give up on trying to do it because there will be obstacles that are impassable to us. The justice of our God runs so deep that no human could survive being there! Our presence in each of these places is always mediated in some way — equipment, vessels, training programs meant to protect and prepare us. What an apt reminder of the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf, our true mediator to the work of God.
Secondary Preaching Themes
Jesus's first miracle in the Gospel of John takes place at a wedding feast as he supplies the wine for the celebration when the groom's runs out. This matrimonial backdrop pairs well with both Isaiah 62 and Psalm 36, where love and marriage come into even sharper focus. Jesus supplies wine for guests at a wedding, but in all actuality, he is the spring of life, and we drink from his river of joy — these will never be under threat of running out like the party wine. Psalm 36 describes God as having loyal love, a faithful love that is priceless. These are the things we hope for at weddings, but cannot guarantee. And in both the "marriages" of Isaiah 62 and John 2, someone else shines because of what God does. Jesus doesn't take the credit for the wine, but allows the headwaiter to praise the groom; in Isaiah, God promises to make his bride, Jerusalem, shine out like a light.
One easily gets the sense from these texts that our God is a generous God. Yahweh saves people and animals; he calls us by new names and reverses not only our personal fortunes, but the land's as well. God's love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice are so large that the earth cannot contain them. Jesus provides the libations at a party! And the Holy Spirit gives its many gifts to each of us in different ways, which, when woven together, blesses the world. From the spiritual to the physical, God is generous with his love, his power, and even himself.
Prayer (Based on 1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
We thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving and demonstrating yourself through us. We thank and praise you for your activity today. Manifest your presence among us and encourage us to share for the good of the church.
For the gifts of wisdom and words of knowledge to direct us in hard times,
Prayer for Illumination (Based on Psalm 36:5-10)
Hearing your word in community, we find ourselves feasting on the bounty of your house, drinking from your river of pure joy. For you, God, are the spring of our lives. In the reading of scripture, may we see your light. May you make our hearts right by your transforming power. Amen.
Benediction (Based on Isaiah 62:1-5)
May the God who delights in you make you shine with the holiness of Christ. May God rejoice because of you and call you by his new name for you, beloved.
"On Being Jesus's Mother"
Karoline M. Lewis
We know her as Mary. But Jesus's mother in the Gospel of John is not the Mary we thought we knew. She's never called Mary, only the mother of Jesus. And of course in John, there's no traditional birth narrative — no stable and shepherds and angels. No harrowing birth story of having a baby in a most unexpected place. No visitors to the hospital from the east. No gifts of congratulations.
Just a cosmic birth story with the Word becoming flesh — and in that version of Jesus's birth, no mention of Jesus's mother, at all.
She appears only twice in John's story — at the wedding at Cana and at the foot of the cross. She's there for Jesus's first sign and then hears him let out his last breath. At the beginning of his ministry and at its end. She brackets the incarnation, if you will. And she is the first one in the Gospel of John to show us what discipleship looks like.
I think a lot of times we make discipleship rather complicated. Or get all caught up in rules we should be following when we don't really do a good job of that anyway. The mother of Jesus teaches us that sometimes all God needs us to do is to be. To be present. To abide.
It's her abiding, her presence, that gets Jesus's ministry going.
Have you ever noticed that in the Gospel of John?
She's the one who pushes Jesus out the door.
She's the one who says, "Come on, you can do this, I know who you are. I've seen what you can do." After all, there's thirty years of mothering behind what happens at that wedding at Cana.
In John, there's no voice from the heavens saying to Jesus, or anyone else for that matter, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
In John, there's no temptation in the wilderness for Jesus then to say, "Okay, if I can make it through that, I can make it through anything. I guess I am really God's Son! Let's get this started!"
In John, there's no transfiguration to confirm the claims from heaven stated at Jesus's baptism.
There's just Jesus's mother. She's the initiator, the impetus, the instigator who gets things going. Because sometimes the only thing you need is your mom.
You remember how the story goes. The wedding celebration being attended by Jesus and his mother and the disciples has run out of wine. Not a good thing at a wedding, back then, and now.
But the mother of Jesus knows what needs to be done and what her son can do. "They've run out of wine, Jesus." And Jesus's answer? A paraphrase might be, "Yeah, well, so what, Mom? They should have hired a better wedding planner."
Have you ever wondered what took place between verses 4 and 5? I imagine the conversation going something like this: "Don't give me that, Jesus. It's time, all right. No more renting a room from me and your dad. No more living in the basement. No more excuses or emptying out my refrigerator every time you have friends over. No more endless supply of pizza and pop. No more messing around with this Messiah complex. Oh no, Jesus. Now is the time. You maybe don't see it, but I do. I know who you are."
Excerpted from "The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2019"
Copyright © 2018 Abingdon Press.
Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
LECTIONARY SERMON AND WORSHIP HELPS,
January 6 — Epiphany,
March 3 — Transfiguration Sunday,
March 10 — First Sunday,
March 17 — Second Sunday,
March 24 — Third Sunday,
March 31 — Fourth Sunday,
April 7 — Fifth Sunday,
April 14 — Palm and Passion Sunday,
April 18 — Maundy Thursday,
April 19 — Good Friday,
April 21 — Easter Sunday,
June 2 — Ascension Day,
June 9 — Pentecost Sunday,
June 16 — Trinity Sunday,
November 24 — Christ the King Sunday,
December 1 — First Sunday,
December 8 — Second Sunday,
December 15 — Third Sunday,
December 22 — Fourth Sunday,
December 25 — Nativity of the Lord/Christmas Day,
ESSAYS FOR SKILL-BUILDING,
Excerpt from How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon by Frank Thomas,
Excerpt from Exodus Preaching: Crafting Sermons about Justice and Hope by Kenyatta Gilbert,
Excerpt from The End of Preaching by Tom Troeger,
FULL SERMON TEXTS,
"On Being Jesus's Mother" by Karoline M. Lewis,
"Christ the Hen" by Scott Hoezee,
"After Ascension, Church" by Ted A. Smith,
"Crazy Love: The Search for Unquenchable" by Lia McIntosh,
"Praying In-Between" by O. Wesley Allen Jr.,
Contributors: Lectionary Sermon and Worship Helps,
Contributors: Full Sermon Texts,