One of the key stops on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 3:23. Stop me if you’ve heard it from an evangelical friend of yours—“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Or, perhaps you haven’t walked that path before; maybe you’ve spent your whole life in mainline Protestantism. If that’s the case, then you are likely familiar with the idea of corporate confession.
There are very few idiomatic tropes that carry meaning across generations, let alone thousands of years. Mental Floss generates thousands of clicks by giving readers insights into how words and phrases have changed over the years. There are, however, a few images that carry weight over centuries, one of which we hear from the lips of Legion in the Gospel lesson for Sunday. Keenly aware of the power of Jesus, the demons “begged him not to order them to go back to the abyss,” Luke tells us. While this fear is from the demons in this story, there seems to be something universal about their fear.
John’s Gospel message can be summed up in several different ways. For many, the heart of the Johannine message is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that any who believe in him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s a good one, and so is the very next one, “God did not send his son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” There are also the seven “I am” statements in which Jesus not-so-subtly declares himself by the unspeakable name of God.
One of the clichés I found myself saying more than once during our children’s sermon program this Easter is that Jesus being resurrected from the dead changed everything. As I said it, I imagined a child asking me a classic children question, “How did Jesus coming back to life change things?” How, indeed.
As my children get older, the time we spend listening to CDs of children’s music grows shorter and shorter. I can’t say I’m that sad to see this particular era of their lives go away: listening to “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” on repeat can get a little monotonous; but still, like every phase in their young lives, there is some wistfulness for the way things were. There is still one CD that gets lots of airtime in Mommy’s Car, the surprising combination of Fisher Price’s Little People and Sunday School Classics. Featured on this album are such classics as “Arky, Arky,” “Father Abraham,” and “Give me Oil in my Lamp (Sing Hosanna),” which our music minister, JKT, has declared “a perfect Palm Sunday song.”
There is a running joke among preachers that if the lessons seem too tough to tackle, you can always “preach the collect” or, in the absolute worst case scenario, “preach the Lord’s Prayer.” I’ve preached the collect a time or two, but never have I been so bold as to preach the Lord’s Prayer.
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On August 1, 2009, The Mobile Press-Register published an article written by Greg Garrison of the Religion News Service entitled, “Heaven? Sure. Hell? Not so much.” Shortly thereafter, a parishioner of ours brought in a copy for me and wondered aloud, “Why don’t we talk about hell any more?” It just so happened that the answer to his question appeared in the teaser quote right at the top of the article.
Sometimes preaching in a lectionary church is like being Philip in Acts 8—the Spirit plucks us up and drops us where ever she darn well pleases. It is necessarily this way, certainly. Between the thematic requirements of the seasons of the church year and the sheer length of the four Gospels spread out over 156 Sundays, there is no way we can read all four in their entirety in three years. So, we skip stuff. Especially in Year B, as we try to mash the shortest Gospel, Mark, together with the other Gospel, John, together in some supposedly coherent way.