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Christ as our Shepherd King

Preaching
Lectionary Preaching Workbook
Series V, Cycle B
Theme For The Day: Christ as our Shepherd King. Isaiah 40 has the Lord coming to save and comfort his dispossessed people. He comes as a mighty king who will rule his people in justice. At the same time, he is a loving shepherd, caring for his wounded sheep. The Old Testament held up the ideal of the king of Israel as a shepherd. In so doing the emphasis shifts from the desires of the king to the needs of the people. The Gospel Lesson from Mark 1 has John the Baptist pointing to this ruler who was mightier than himself.


BRIEF COMMENTARY ON THE LESSONS

Lesson 1: Isaiah 40:1--11 (C, E); Isaiah 40:1--5, 9--11 (RC)
This passage commences the second major division of the book of Isaiah, addressed to the exiles in Babylon. They are words of comfort and hope. The time of punishment has past; now the Lord will prepare a level path for the captives to return to Jerusalem. Through his acts of liberation the Lord's glory will be revealed, which is contrasted with the temporal state of humankind (vv. 6--9). The inhabitants of Jerusalem are to herald to the surrounding region the salvation of the Lord, who comes in kingly might, yet gently cares for his own like a shepherd.

Lesson 2: 2 Peter 3:8--15a (C); 2 Peter 3:8--14 (RC); 2 Peter 3:8--15a, 18 (E)


The epistle of 2 Peter was penned at a later time from that of 1 Peter. Some scholars believe that it was authored by someone other than Peter. The author addresses a concern that took a number of years to develop, namely, the parousia. They are reminded that God counts time differently than humans. His delay reflects his earnest desire that all people repent and come to the knowledge of the truth. God will destroy the earth and the heavens with fervent heat and create a new heaven and earth. Believers are to prepare for this new state of being by living lives of holiness.

Gospel: Mark 1:1--8 (C, RC, E)

Mark starts his gospel with a simple but bold statement of the underlying premise of his book: Jesus, the Christ, is the Son of God. He opens with the prophecy of the messenger (John the Baptist) who was to prepare the way for the Christ, as he quotes from Malichi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. Mark notes that great throngs of people went out to John in the wilderness to be baptized as a sign of repentance. Through moral and spiritual cleansing, the prophet sets out to make Israel ready for the "Anointed One," who was greater than the forerunner because he would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Psalm Of The Day

Psalm 85:1--2, 8--13 (C); Psalm 85 (E) - "Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps."

Psalm 84:9--14 (RC)
Prayer Of The Day

Lord Christ, through repentance and faith make us truly a people prepared for the advent of your kingdom, when you fully establish your mighty yet gentle rule eternally. In Jesus' name. Amen.

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION ON THE LESSONS

Lesson 1: Isaiah 40:1--11

Comfort the afflicted. The true role of the prophet remains to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The latter task had been accomplished; the Israelites had paid double for their sin (v. 2). Now God was going to provide comfort for his hurting children. The Gospel of John picks up on the comforting theme with the idea of the Holy Spirit as Paraclete. The Greek word means both to be called to one's side and to speak words of comfort and encouragement. God comforts us through his presence and through his word, which he speaks through his people. The one who comforts, in God's name, provides not only sympathy but strength.

The desert experience. "In the desert prepare the way of the Lord" (v. 3). Why in the desert? The desert was the haunt of demons, the locale of aridity, sin and alienation. Our journey back to the Lord begins in the desert, when we confront our demons in Christ's name. When we realize our captivity and cry out to God, the Lord levels the path for us to march back into his gracious presence.

Where have all the flowers gone? "Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing? Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?" hauntingly sing Peter, Paul and Mary in a song popularized in the '60s. While this song protests the futility of war, it also reminds us of our human mortality. This is the same thought lifted up by Isaiah in verses 6--8. Like flowers and grass we fade and die. Even so, the Creator raises the flowers and the grass to newness of life. Will he not do the same for all who turn to him in hope?

The Shepherd King. Disney tells the story of the Lion King and the Bible proclaims the truth of the Shepherd King (vv. 10--11). He is the Sovereign Lord who comes in demonstration of power (v. 10). Yet this mighty king is also the gentle and compassionate Shepherd who lovingly gathers his sheep in his arms (v. 11).

Lesson 2: 2 Peter 3:8--15a


Slaves of time (vv. 8--9). The believers whom Peter addresses were concerned that the Lord was not returning as quickly as they had imagined. Peter counsels that God is not subject to time, that with God 1000 years is like one day to us. We Westerners are slaves of time, shackled to the clock. Even our appointment with the Eternal God at worship does not escape the constraints of time. Church members are geared to 60 minute services and God forbid that the sermon go more than 15 minutes. One of the greatest benefits of heaven will be a total release from our slavery to time.

God is long--spirited. The epistle puts a positive construction on Christ's tarrying. It has to do with his character. God is patient and merciful, not wanting any to perish but that all might come to the knowledge of the truth. The word interpreted as "patient" or "long--suffering" (makrothumeo) means literally "long--spirited." God is long on the spirit of patience, compassion and mercy. How long--spirited are we?

The day of the Lord will come. Peter assures that, though he delay, the day of the Lord will indeed come and at an unexpected moment. The thief in the night imagery means to convey the suddenness and surprise of this event (v. 10).

Holocaust (v. 10). Peter envisions the entire earth consumed in a holocaust. The earth itself is temporal and passing. It will be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness dwells. Like space travelers who travel to an entirely new solar system, God will transport us into a universe (heaven) permeated with righteousness.

Therefore. This passage contains two conditional clauses. In verse 11, Peter asks the rhetorical question: Since the world was going thus to melt away, what kind of lives should the believer live? In verse 14 he adds that since we wait for a new heaven and earth, we should strive to live pure and holy lives and be ready for the advent of Christ. Knowing the end of existence as we now experience it should motivate us to live faithful lives.

Gospel: Mark 1:1--8
The beginning of the gospel. Mark begins the gospel of Jesus Christ with the ministry of John the Baptist. John preached repentance and that didn't seem like good news. Actually repentance was just the needed condition in order to receive the good news. The gospel was of the coming Messiah. Thus the Baptist's preaching was the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet gospel and grace existed even before the advent of Jesus, the Christ. The Old Testament and the New Testament are shot through with the good news of grace and forgiveness. The ministry of John heralds the beginning of a watershed new beginning of the grace of God in Jesus.

A voice crying in the wilderness (v. 3). John was literally a voice crying in the wilderness. He had forsaken the holy city and the temple, probably because of their corruption. He was probably influenced by the Essenes, whose desert commune was an attempt to flee the contaminating effects of society. Yet prophets of every era have been those crying out in the wilderness. They have been shoved to the periphery of existence, mocked, ignored and feared. Many Christians feel that way at the present time, as news media and government officials sometimes ridicule our values. Some of those in the so--called religious right endeavor to seize power as an avenue of publicly proclaiming the values they hold dear. Yet such power can make those who claim it callous to the needs of those who differ from them and imperious to the Spirit of God. Then God will send other prophets who will make their haunting cry echo from the wilderness.

We wish to see Jesus. Some Greeks came to Philip and said: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21). One pastor has this phrase printed on a card and affixed inside his pulpit. This reminds him that his role is not to magnify himself but the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist did an exemplary job of maintaining a low profile so that people might see Jesus. He proclaimed: "After me will come one more powerful than I..." (v. 7).

SERMON APPROACHES WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

Lesson 1: Isaiah 40:1--11

Sermon Title: The Shepherd King

Sermon Angle:
Many kings have boasted of their might and power, which they have attempted to illustrate through acts of war or by making grand monuments to their own glory. To maintain authority a ruler has to demonstrate strength and determination. However, few kings have prided themselves on their mercy and compassion. The Old Testament writers held out for the kings of Israel the ideals of strength and mercy, when they envisioned them as shepherds of the people. Few of the kings realized that ideal. Isaiah envisions the Lord as a shepherd king. He is coming to rule in might (v. 10). Yet he employs that strength to comfort, protect and guide (v. 11). Our King exercises his power not for his own enjoyment but for the benefit of the sheep.
Outline:
1. The Israelites experienced the powerlessness and humiliation of defeat and captivity.
2. God responded to their plight with the promise of being their shepherd king.

- As king, he had power (v. 10).

- As shepherd, he had compassion and tenderness (v. 11).

3. As our Shepherd King, the Lord mixes power with compassion.


Sermon Title: Shout It Out!

Sermon Angle:
Isaiah envisions a herald crying (shouting) out the good news of national salvation. The first shout of the messenger was to prepare the way for the Lord God, to make his paths straight (v. 3). God was coming to save his people. A second cry: "All flesh is grass..." (v. 6). To see God, we must confess our dependence on his power. The third cry or shout: "Here is your God!" (v. 9). In Christ, God has come close to his human children. These three shouts can be used as a basis for the sermon.

Lesson 2: 2 Peter 3:8--15a

Sermon Title: Moving Beyond Time

Sermon Angle: Peter addresses the concern about the tardiness of the Lord's return. He consoles that "with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day" (v. 8). He is attempting to express the truth that God lives beyond time; he is not governed by the earthly dictates of times and seasons. We are such slaves of time; we live by the clock! Eternal life, which for believers begins in this life, moves us into an existence beyond time and space. Yet we continue to be enslaved to time and agendas. This clouds our vision of the timeless, the eternal. In this world we cannot escape the clutches of time and space, but we can at least be cognizant of the eternal and attempt to experience it through contemplation, worship and prayer.
Outline:
1. The church which Peter addressed was governed by time (vv. 8--9).

- They thought God should operate within their time frame.

2. Our society is even more engrossed in time concerns. (Give examples.)

3. God, who entered into time in Jesus, remains outside time and space.

4. We live in time, yet must also begin to dwell in the realm of the eternal. (Give examples.)
__________


We need constant reminders that the eternal God stands outside the realm of time and that if we are to approach him, we must enter that realm of the eternal. Unfortunately, our preoccupation with chronological time fuels our impatience and causes us to miss God's in--breaking into our lives.

The church which Peter addresses had become impatient waiting for Christ to return in kingdom power. Like them, we may have grown tired of waiting. What a delight it is when that which we have earnestly hoped for really happens! I know all about waiting, hoping and praying for the kingdom to come. You see, I live in Nebraska. I, like almost everybody in the state, am an avid Nebraska Cornhusker football fan. Every year we are one of the top--rated and most successful teams. Yet the gold crown of number oneness had eluded us for 22 years and we had lost the last seven bowl games. Tom Osborne remains the most winning coach in college football but had not been able to lay his hand on the vaunted trophy. But on New Year's Day, 1995, the miracle happened! We overcame the Miami Hurricanes in the last quarter to lay claim to the grand prize. What we hoped for really happened!

Rabbi Mendel Katzman, a member of the ultra--orthodox Lubavitcher Jewish sect, experienced something of an epiphany after the victory. This group passionately looks for the Messiah. Their leader, whom many of the sect thought might be the Messiah, died toward the end of 1994. Katzman explained in the Omaha World Herald that it is difficult to maintain hope in the face of centuries of disappointments. Nebraska football fans' unwavering faith in their team was an inspiration, he reported. Their faith was finally rewarded, which renewed his hope that his faith in the coming of the Messiah would also be rewarded. It would be all the more sweet for having had to wait so long.
___________


Sermon Title: The Late Great Planet Earth

Sermon Angle:
I do not identify with the apocalyptic prognosticating of the like of Hal Lindsay. Nevertheless, the end of the world and the birth of a new cosmos is not only biblical but seems perfectly logical. If God's judgment doesn't put an end to earthly existence, entropy will certainly overcome us. The intimations of mortality, which grow in intensity as the years pile on, make us aware of the fleeting nature of all creation. Peter reveals that the end of existence ought to inform our present manner of living (vv. 11--14). Holy and godly lives, not despair, should be the result. God has something wonderfully new in store!
Outline:
1. Earthly existence will melt away when the Lord returns (v. 10).

2. Knowledge of the end prompts us to holy and purposeful lives (v. 11).

3. Those who live godly lives will see a new heaven and earth (v. 13).

Gospel: Mark 1:1--8

Sermon Title: The Beginning Of The Gospel
Sermon Angle: Mark begins his gospel recounting the ministry of John the Baptist. John's message was one of preparing the way of the Lord through repentance. Repentance is the beginning of the gospel. The good news of John has it that we can change and become new creatures. Repentance remains the necessary first step for entering into the gospel and the kingdom of God in Christ.
Outline:

1. We prepare for Christ's advent through repentance.

2. Repentance is the beginning of the Gospel.

- The Good News is that God can change us.

3. The Good News is fulfilled in the One to whom John pointed (v. 7).
__________


The message that John preached didn't seem like very good news. John was telling the people that they had to change; that's what repentance is, radical change. The good news of Jesus is that we can change through the power of the gospel; we can start all over again.

A gifted homiletics professor told of his first day in algebra class. It was his second year of the subject, but he just couldn't seem to get it. He was paralyzed with fear and his stomach seemed as if it were bouncing up and down on a trampoline. A new teacher walked in. She looked a lot like the old teacher. She was holding a book that looked a lot like last year's book. Before the class began, he thought he'd go up to the teacher and explain to her what a dunce he was with algebra. So he confessed his troubles, but she wasn't interested. "Oh yes, that may be true but that was before you had me as your teacher. You are going to find that I do things differently. I don't like to get students who have done well in algebra before they have me. Too many prejudices. I prefer getting people who don't know a lot about algebra so I can teach them from scratch." The student went back to his seat and breathed a sigh of relief. It was a new beginning and he could change with the help of his teacher.

That, my friends, is the good news of Jesus Christ. We can change; we can become new, loving, hopeful, joyful human beings, through the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
__________


Sermon Title: Back To The Basics

Sermon Angle:
In the last several years a movement has gotten underway to simplify our Christmas celebrations and get back to the basic meaning of Christmas. We have obscured the reason for the season with a plethora of shopping and partying that leaves us exhausted. John the Baptist was a back--to--basics individual. Simple apparel (camel's skin clothing). Simple diet (locusts and wild honey). Down--to--earth housing (the wilderness). John's was a simple message: repent! Get right with God! Live new lives! In our day of wrapping religion in the latest psychological or entertainment fad, isn't it about time we got back to basics?
Outline:
Introduction: Do you feel that life has become too complicated? Do you look back longingly to a simpler era? Are you preparing more for Christmas and enjoying it less? Then get back to the ABC's of Christmas.

1. John lived a very fundamental lifestyle.

2. John proclaimed a very simple message:

(a) repent

(b) follow Jesus

(c) receive the Holy Spirit.

3. Let's get back to the basics of Christianity and Christmas.



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