Will Willimons Lectionary Sermon Resource, Year C Part 2

Will Willimons Lectionary Sermon Resource, Year C Part 2

by William H. Willimon

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Will Willimon is widely acclaimed as one of the top ten preachers in the world. For each Sunday of the Christian year, Will provides just what you need to begin the journey toward a sermon. This guide will stoke, fund, and fuel your imagination while leaving plenty of room to insert your own illustrations, make connections within your congregational context, and speak the Word in your distinctive voice. Guidance from Will Willimon is like sitting down with a trusted clergy friend and asking, “What will you preach next Sunday?”  Year C Part 2 is part of a six-volume set that includes years A, B, and C (2 volumes per year) in the Revised Common Lectionary.

Each week of sermon resources includes:

1. Readings 
2. Theme title
3. Introduction to the Readings
4. Encountering the Text
5. Proclaiming the Text
6. Relating the Text

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501847325
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 460 KB

About the Author

Will Willimon has long been a trusted colleague for working preachers. He is known for his encouragement of his fellow preachers to enjoy telling the truth of Jesus Christ. He is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University Divinity School, Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, and is a retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church. For 20 years as, as Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, Will became known as one of America’s most engaging preachers of the gospel.

Will Willimon has published many books, including his preaching subscription service on MinistryMatters.com, Pulpit Resource, and Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, both published by Abingdon Press.

Read an Excerpt


Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:121 John 14:8-17, (25-27)

What a Crowd!

Selected reading

Acts 2:1-21


It is of the nature of the Holy Spirit to gather a crowd, quite a multitude from every nation, race, and region of the earth. The Holy Spirit promotes unity, brings diverse people together. That Holy Spirit work, seen so vividly at Pentecost, is the origin and the sustenance of the church.

Introduction to the readings

Acts 2:1-21

It is the day of Pentecost. Jews from every nation on the face of the earth are gathered. Then, with a mighty wind, the Holy Spirit shakes the foundations where the followers of Jesus are gathered, descending upon them, empowering them to speak and to hear. And thus the church is born.

Romans 8:14-17

We do not pray by ourselves, says Paul. The Holy Spirit, the very power of God, empowers us to speak as beloved children of God.

John 14:8-17, (25-27)

"I am in the Father and the Father is in me," Jesus proclaims to his followers. Then Jesus promises the gift of the Spirit, the Comforter, so that God might be in you (v. 11).


Almighty and ever-loving God, we give you thanks, on this Day of Pentecost, that you did not leave us alone but came to us, in the power of your Holy Spirit, and breathed your life-giving power into every life gathered here this day. You found a way to get to each person here, even when we had no idea of how to get to you. Furthermore, you refused to let us be alone, all locked up in ourselves. You found a way to thrust us into the church, to drag us into the fellowship with a group of people whom we would probably never have joined if you had left us to our own devices. By your Spirit you put us into a new, diverse family that stretches from one end of the earth to the other.

In all this we give thanks that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you saved us from ourselves. Amen!

Encountering the text

All of our Pentecost texts explore facets of the multifaceted Holy Spirit. The Feast of Pentecost is mentioned a good deal in the Hebrew scripture. It is a harvest festival that became a time of covenant renewal. How fitting it is then that Pentecost as presented in Acts 2 is a great harvest of souls.

Acts begins with Jesus promising, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). That promise is soon fulfilled. But power to do and be what?

Unlike the transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13) where the deep mystery at the heart of God is shown only to a couple of disciples, Pentecost is a revelation to a whole multitude. No one is excluded from this Spirit glory. The tongues of fire rest upon "each" (Acts 2:3) of those present. Every single person hears the disciples speaking in his or her native tongue (2:6). Just about every corner of the Greco-Roman empire is listed in the roll call of place names (2:9). What happens at Pentecost gathers a crowd from all over the earth and touches every single one in the crowd.

The crowd in the street reacts to this multicultural outpouring of the Spirit with mocking derision (2:13). But Peter interprets the descent of the Holy Spirit as a sure sign that God is working God's promised signs and wonders in reconstituting and gathering Israel as a nation of prophets.

The divisions in humankind are being healed. A new family is being born, the lost are being found, and a great harvest is happening called the "church."

In the Sundays in our recent past we have noted how the Holy Spirit empowers us for discipleship, how it enables us to pray, and how it helps us in our weakness. Last Sunday we saw Christ promising to send his Spirit and praying for unity among his followers. This Sunday, Pentecost, we note the Holy Spirit's propensity to gather a crowd. And some crowd it gathers!

Proclaiming the text

How did we get here? Not how did we get here with all of our differing opinions, conflicting doctrines, and opposing ideas of how to truly be church. That's easy to explain. Human beings are diverse. Differences among people, even Christian people, particularly Christian people, are thoroughly understandable. The Bible is a complex, often conflicting, multi-vocal book. No wonder there are disagreements over biblical interpretation. Not, how did we get here, together, this morning? But, how did we all get here together at this common table? How did this motley crew, called "God's people," all get here today, here in this congregation, or for that matter, any other congregation of Christians?

I'll tell you a story:

We had all been scattered to the four winds. We began as one family, all descended from one common ancestor. But then we scattered. We took up different ways of talking and different ways of living. We were separated by race and tongue and culture.

Then, on Pentecost, we were all gathered in one place. Of course, we were not much more than a conglomeration of strangers. We couldn't understand one another. We had little in common with one another. We could hardly be called much more than a gathering of strangers.

Then, without warning, without being requested, the Holy Spirit descended. And what happened? People began to talk in our many different languages, and, wonder of wonders, people began to hear one another. We who were strangers were made into one family. It was the birthday of the church.

Now do you see how we got here? We are here, all together, not because we share the same opinions. Not because we are all of the same socioeconomic level or have the same backgrounds. We are here as a miraculous, unexpected work of God's Holy Spirit.

You're here gathered as you are. Our church is but one of the many miracles of the risen Christ.

Maybe there are things that I don't like about you, and as you have been listening to me in the last few minutes you are reminded that there are things that you don't like about me. But that is all quite beside the point. Jesus has called us to be his disciples; that is, Jesus has put us here in church, together.

Earlier Jesus told us a parable that portrayed the reign of God like a great banquet. At first, the "big" people are invited to the feast. But they find other things to do. And so, in desperation, the master of the banquet goes out and invites anybody and everybody — the maimed, the lame, the blind, the broken-hearted, the failures, the people who have not been invited to join the country club or even the men's garden club.

How do you like that reign of God?

Get it? That parable is being enacted right now in Acts 2 at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends and gathers a crowd, makes a family out of anybody and everybody — the church.

Earlier, Genesis says that the world began when the Spirit hovered over the dark, chaotic waters and brought forth creation. The Holy Spirit is generative, life-giving, and loves to make something out of nothing. So here at Pentecost, it's like creation all over again. God is gathering up all these different and diverse people and is making them into a new family, the church.

Here is one woman's story: we were all going around the room telling why we enjoyed being Methodists, why we dearly loved The United Methodist Church. Some liked the fellowship, others liked the friends, and some liked the music.

"Part of me hates The United Methodist Church," one young woman said. "Before I became a Methodist, my life was my life. I was fairly content with myself. Then the church took me to Haiti and made me stare at people who are dying because of their dire poverty yet who were also undeniably richer in faith than I would ever be. I could have had a fairly happy life without the church. Now, those strangers in Haiti have become my obsession. I'm thinking about them as if they were my family."

It seemed to me a wonderfully Pentecostal moment, evidence of the descent of the Holy Spirit. God's Holy Spirit continues to make something out of nothing, continues to make a family where there were once only strangers, and continues to empower ordinary people to preach like saints.

Pentecost continues, right here, right now. Amen.

Relating the text

The church once taught Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, "apart from the church there is no salvation" (the phrase is first used by Cyprian and later much modified by Augustine in his De Baptismo contra Donatistas, book 4, chapter 17, section 24). Before you dismiss this claim as the height of ecclesiastical arrogance — we're inside and you are out, sorry about you — note today's lesson from the Acts of the Apostles. Salvation in Jesus Christ is a group, a corporate, and a social affair. We come to church to "practice salvation," not only to get prepared now to live with a living, righteous, and loving God forever, but also to learn those practices that are commensurate with what we now know of salvation in Christ. The church is more than the means of salvation, the path toward salvation someday in eternity; it is salvation embodied, practiced, and enjoyed here, now. Showing open hospitality, confessing sin and receiving forgiveness, giving gifts to the poor, actively seeking those who don't yet know, and exploring ways to tell them the "good news" in such a way that they might hear and respond are among the practices necessitated by our soteriology.

The church is necessary for salvation. Church is more than the "ark" that rescues the righteous few, leaving the wicked rabble to perish in the flood. The church is Christ's self-appointed means of enabling his loving movement on the world for the purpose of communion, that place where God also propelled egoists like us toward the neighbor, where we are taught to name strangers as family. The church is saved for the world not out of it. The church is where the risen Christ graciously takes up room, locates, incarnates.

* * *

Last fall I spoke at a Presbyterian seminary. After I gave my lecture, a distinguished Presbyterian theologian gave an hour-long lecture on "Reformed doctrine." All those Presbyterian clergy were taking notes and listening intently. I couldn't make much of it out.

At the end of his lecture, I thought to myself, "Lord, thank you for Presbyterians and others within the Reformed Tradition. Thank you for enabling them to believe all of that stuff so we simple Methodists don't have to bother with it. Amen."

I preached at the National Cathedral last year. When they invited me, they told me that I would have about twenty minutes for my sermon. But the week before I preached, my host graciously called me and told me that maybe I would have fifteen minutes, but please take no more. They would have a full Eucharist and were recognizing a couple of committees for their work on the National Cathedral. That service lasted nearly two hours.

And yet, I marveled at the experience of worship. Since I had such a small part in a very full service, I could sit back and enjoy the service. The magnificent prayers, the full range of scripture, the music — it was wonderful. I've been the victim of a great many services that are said to be "contemporary worship" and I can tell you, I sat there just reveling in it all, muttering, "Lord, thank you for Anglicans. I am glad that they dress up in all of this stuff and do all of this, so we don't have to on Sundays, though maybe we ought to feel guilty for not doing it."

Perhaps the Holy Spirit means for all of us — Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Catholics, all of us — to believe and worship and serve together. Serving, worshipping, and believing with our various differences, in order to do justice to the fullness of God in Jesus Christ.

* * *

Being a disciple of Jesus is no easy matter. Jesus has promised us that he will be crucified, and if we follow him, there is a cross that fits our backs, too. Jesus has told us that if we become his disciples, we must relinquish many of the things that we hold on to and follow him down a narrow way that could lead to suffering and even great relinquishment.

But I am here this morning, in the light of this story about Pentecost, to tell you that one of the great challenges about following Jesus is being with other people who are following Jesus!

One of my jobs as a bishop is to be with clergy who decide to call it quits. Clergy who having once put their hands to the plow, look back, and walk away, find some easier way to make a living than being a preacher. I can tell you, in my three years as a bishop, we haven't lost any clergy who said, "I am quitting because I am just fed up with Jesus."

No, their major reason for leaving is the people of God, the church! "I think the world of Jesus, but I am fed up with the people whom Jesus has called to follow him!"

I ask you clergy: when you have had a family leave your church, drop out, or look elsewhere, have you ever had one say to you, "We are leaving this church because we have just had enough of Jesus. His way is too difficult! We are not up to it." No, what they more typically say is, "We love Jesus and all that, but this group of people here at St. John's on the expressway is a pain in the neck. They're back-biting. There are arguments at board meetings and squabbles over the budget. They fought over the color of carpet in the parlor! We're leaving for a place where people are more spiritual!"

Well, today's lesson from Acts suggests that one of the most "spiritual" conglomerations imagined is the church!

* * *

I saw the expansive Acts 2 reach of God in the great mosaic apse at the church in Monreale, Sicily, a wonder of the medieval world. There, presiding over a dazzling array of jewel-like depictions of the story of our salvation is Christ Pantocrator, Christ creator of all. Having seen photographs of that apse, I expected to be bedazzled by the Byzantine otherness of Christ, Christ the judge of humanity. And yet the Christ I saw was Christ of the wide embrace, hands outstretched, reaching out from his majesty as if to encircle the whole church, the whole creation, in his reach. All the stories of scripture — told with such vitality and wonder in the mosaics of Monreale — are vignettes of this grand vision of a God who is stubbornly determined to have all of humanity.

When I was leaving the church at Monreale, a street vendor held up a trinket with Christ's picture stamped upon it. "Don't you want to take a little Jesus with you, mister?" he asked. No, we don't take Christ with us; he takes us places.

God's intended oneness, because of our sin, ended in a crucifixion, yet even in the crucifixion, God is not thwarted. God creatively weaves such tragedy into God's purposes, thereby remaking our sin into God's great triumph. "If we are disloyal, he stays faithful because he can't be anything else than what he is," says 2 Timothy (2:13). The best modifier of this God is love.

God returns to us in the resurrection of Jesus, and now in Acts 2 at Pentecost, God again returns to us in the person of the Holy Spirit. This God is determined to embrace all of us.


Trinity Sunday First Sunday after Pentecost

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15

Continuing Education

Selected reading

John 16:12-15


In Jesus Christ we have seen the fullness of God but not all at once. Jesus says that he will give us the "Spirit of truth" who will continue to reveal the significance of Jesus for us. The Holy Spirit reveals the Son, who is the revelation of the Father. This educating, revealing, self-disclosing work of the Holy Spirit is an appropriate theme for Trinity Sunday.

Introduction to the readings

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Proverbs praises the great glory of the wisdom of God.

Romans 5:1-5

Paul speaks of Christ as the manner in which God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

John 16:12-15

The Spirit is that force that unfolds for us "all truth," says Jesus in his farewell address to his disciples (v. 13).


Lord Jesus, do not leave us without revealing your full will to us. Keep speaking to us, keep showing us your glory, keep changing us for the better. Keep telling us the truth, even when it may hurt us to hear it. Keep believing in us so that we might believe in ourselves. Keep calling us so that we might come forth and be the faithful, lively, courageous followers that you deserve. Do not leave us. Amen.

Encountering the text

During his extended farewell discourse, Jesus speaks of the "Spirit of Truth," this Paraclete, who "will proclaim to you what is to come" (16:13). Among the many possible meanings of this verb anangellein are "declare," "preach," "proclaim," and "announce." Today we are dealing with the homiletical, hortatory work of the Paraclete in John.

Jesus says that there are things about him that the disciples cannot bear that will be declared to them by the "Spirit of Truth." Are there special, secret things that Jesus is keeping from his disciples, things that must be revealed later? Does the revelation of God in Jesus Christ continue, even after his earthly ministry, even after the canon of the New Testament is closed?


Excerpted from "Will Willimon's Lectionary Sermon Resource, Year C Part 2"
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Table of Contents

Pentecost and the Season After Pentecost,
Day of Pentecost — What a Crowd!,
Trinity Sunday — Continuing Education,
May 29 to June 4 — Miraculous Gospel,
June 5 to June 11 — The Disruptor,
June 12 to June 18 — Jesus: Eating and Drinking with Sinners!,
June 19 to June 25 — Jesus out on the Fringe,
June 26 to July 2 — We Will Follow You, But ...,
July 3 to July 9 — Making a Mark on the World,
July 10 to July 16 — Church under God's Judgment,
July 17 to July 23 — All in All,
July 24 to July 30 — A Sermon Too Short,
July 31 to August 6 — Abundance,
August 7 to August 13 — When God Refuses to Listen,
August 14 to August 20 — Signs of the Times,
August 21 to August 27 — God Calling,
August 28 to September 3 — What Would Jesus Do?,
September 4 to September 10 — Does God Have a Plan for Your Life?,
September 11 to September 17 — Jesus Came for Sinners, Only Sinners,
September 18 to September 24 — Rotten Dirty Scoundrels,
September 25 to October 1 — A Great Distance between Us,
October 2 to October 8 — The Suffering Club,
October 9 to October 15 — Salvation: Gift and Assignment,
October 16 to October 22 — In Praise of Persistence,
October 23 to October 29 — Christian Pride,
October 30 to November 5 — How Tall Was Jesus?,
All Saints Day — Saints, All of You,
November 6 to November 12 — A New World,
November 13 to November 19 — Almighty God,
November 20 to November 26 — Fight the Powers,
Preaching Workshops,
The Art of Preaching,
The Authority of the Word,
Clarity in Preaching,
Delivery: How to Say What You Say,
Serious Thoughts on Humor in Sermons,
Preaching the Parables,
The Particularity of Preaching,
Anti-Jewish Preaching,
Trusting the Bible a Little More and Ourselves a Little Less,
Scripture Index,

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