Login / Signup

Free Access

SUBSCRIBE OR RENEW NOW!
1 Yr.– $79.95 OR $9.95 per month

Renew or Signup Now!

Not a subscriber?
Get a FREE 30-Day Subscription
(No credit card necessary)
Get Full Access Now!

Sermon Illustrations for Proper 21 | Ordinary Time 26 (2018)

Illustration
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
The 14th Day of Adar, the feast of Purim, commemorates a time when the Jewish people were saved during the Persian Empire. Tribal genocide was proposed by Haman; his desire was to annihilate the whole nation of Israel. Esther, you will remember, was encouraged by Mordecai to stand up for her people with the king of Persia. Risking her life, Esther goes before the king and advocates for justice.

We, too, live in “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), a time when we must stand and proclaim justice. I listened to a sermon recently that spoke of standing for the gospel. In the interpretation which I heard, we were to stand for the gospel in its most limiting and literal interpretation -- it was about standing against, rather than standing for. Esther stands for her people, against annihilation, against hate. So what are we standing for and against? Are we standing for exclusion and separation, or are we standing for inclusion and seeking justice for all those among us? It’s a choice Esther had to make. It’s a choice we are called to make as well.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Esther 7:1-6,9-10; 9:20-22
This portion of the story of Esther illustrates how God makes use of political maneuvering to accomplishing his will. He baptizes the world’s wisdom. Americans seem to need that with the midterm elections in view. In a Pew poll in late 2017 only 18% of Americans say they trust the government. Nearly half of Democrats are angry at the federal government.

A number of prominent Christian theologians have held such views about the need for common sense in government. Martin Luther advised that wise rulers (and so today the wise citizen) must be wise in the ways of politics, but realize that these worldly means can still serve God’s will (Luther’s Works, Vol.45, pp.119ff.). Luther also said that reason, not distinct Christian teachings, must be pursued in discerning government policies:

To be sure, God made the secular government subordinate and subject to reason... For this reason nothing is taught in the Gospel about how it is to be maintained and regulated except that the Gospel bids people honor it and not oppose it. (Luther’s Works, Vol.13, p.198)

Famed modern social ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr said something very similar: “If we contemplate the conflict between religious and political morality it may be well to recall that the religious ideal in its purest form has nothing to do with the problem of social justice.” (Reinhold Niebuhr: Theologian of Public Life, p.72)              

It seems that the American church might have more impact, these great theologians suggest, if we did less pontificating about values and encouraged our members to use their minds and moral instincts in voting. We want to take heed from the African-American community on this matter, that we not become men [and women] who are “so holy that we are of no earthly use.” We don’t want to become so preoccupied with our own salvation and morality that we forget to vote or seek policies that will not work and/or only help ourselves or others like us.
Mark E.

* * *

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 and Psalm 124
Esther was led by the Lord to save herself and her people. God uses people for his purposes. It took courage on her part because the king was in charge and because of the power of the king’s man Haman, who had great influence on him. Evidently his queen had greater influence. It made the king wake up and find out what kind of a man Haman was. So he got what was coming to him.

Will the North Koreans find out what kind of a man Kim Un is? Who has the power and influence of an Esther on God’s side over there?

Part of Kim’s trouble is that he does not know the true King. The one who created him, the one who loves peace. Kim may want peace, but he wants it in his way, on his terms.

Do we listen to God in our life or to friends with different ideas?

Do we listen to God or to our government leaders about our problem on the boarder where children are separated from their family?
Bob O.

* * *

Psalm 124
In the early 1990s Angela Bofill had a hit song titled “I’m On Your Side.” This psalm is not an oldie like hers; it is still a hit. For it sings about how the Lord is on our side more effectively, more loyally, than any human lover can. John Calvin understands this psalm as pertaining to all Christians, as a reminder that “the Church cannot continue safe except insofar as she is protected by the hand of God.” (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol.VI/2, p.88) Knowing that you have someone on your side helps with the loneliness and the fear that comes along with hard times.

Jonathan Edwards beautifully describes in one of his sermons the peace we feel knowing that our Lord delivers us:

In such a state as this, you will have a foundation of peace and rest through all changes and in times of the greatest uproar and outward calamity... Those things that are now most terrible to you, viz. death, judgment, and eternity, will then be most comfortable, the most sweet and pleasant objects of your contemplation, at least there will be reason that they should be so. (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol.2, p.93)

Like the psalm itself implies, to be delivered by Christ is like how being in water is no longer so scary for the young child when he/she has her head above the water (vv.4-5). And so our help truly is in the name of the Lord (v.8)!
Mark E.

* * *

James 5:13-20
The James (really Jacob) who is assumed to be the author of this letter is the younger brother of Jesus. In this closing section of this letter he illustrates his central idea here about the power of prayer with an example from the Hebrew scriptures -- the story of Elijah shutting up the heavens through prayer so it did not rain and reopening it three and a half years later.

One assumes he would have heard this scripture story read aloud in the synagogue, but let’s remember one instance in particular. The Gospel of Luke records the time his older brother Jesus, in response to the disbelief of the home town folks in Nazareth, stated that a prophet is without honor in his own country. Jesus then brought up the story of Elijah and the drought, and added that “… yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon (Luke 4:26)” That went over like lead balloons.

I’m guessing that Jacob would have been there and seen the power of that story, and the reminder that it was a foreigner, the widow, who received blessings when God’s people were responding with disbelief.
Frank R.

* * *

James 5:13-20
Journalist Larry King once described three farmers who gathered daily in a field during a horrible drought. The men got down on their knees, looked upward, and prayed fervently that the skies would open, and they’d get a much-needed rain. Unfortunately, the heavens remained silent, and the petitioners became discouraged. They continued to meet, however, every day for prayer. One morning a stranger came up to them and asked them what they are doing. They responded, “We’re praying for rain.” The newcomer looked at each of them and shook his head, “No, I don’t think so.” The first farmer answered, “Of course we’re praying. We are down on our knees pleading for rain. Look around, see the drought. We haven’t had rain in more than a year!” The visitor, after glancing at all three once more, replied, “No. If you were really praying for rain, one of you would have brought an umbrella.”

The prayer of faith matters. James writes about it in the passage for today. What is that “prayer of faith?” There are a lot of in-depth answers to that question, but I think a simple way to explain it is what the story highlights. If you are praying for rain, you bring an umbrella.
Bill T.

* * *

James 5:13-20
Johannes Brahms, in 1833, was a German composer and pianist. His reputation and status as a composer is such that he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the “Three Bs” of music. In his old age Brahms told his friends that he was going to retire from composing music and enjoy the time left to him. But, soon after that announcement a Brahms composition made its debut. When he was asked why he wrote a composition after saying he wasn’t going to write anymore music Brahms replied, “I wasn’t, but after a few days away from it, I was so happy at the thought of no more writing that the music came to me without effort.”

Application: We are instructed by James that we are not to wander from the truth. Part of that truth is knowing what we have been called to do in service to the Lord.
Ron L.

* * *

Mark 9:38-50
The disciples are confused. People are healing and doing acts of justice in Jesus’ name, but they are not the twelve. Is this okay? Is Jesus alright with that? Apparently Jesus is happy that others are doing acts on behalf of Jesus and in the name of Jesus. It is the acts themselves, done in God’s name, that are important. It is not which group of disciples is following Jesus’ instructions to act on behalf of the least among us. We are called to support, rather than to be stumbling blocks. These stumbling blocks to impede the work of disciples are not good things, not acceptable.

Recently I was in Berlin, Germany, and encountered another form of stumbling block. These stumbling blocks were imbedded into the street, the sidewalks. They are engraved with the names of the Jewish families who were torn from their homes and sent to the concentration camps, mostly for annihilation, during the regime of Hitler. These stumbling blocks are reminders of a time when people did not stand up for justice, for the protection of God’s people. You won’t stumble over them as they are level with the sidewalk but you will notice them and stop, because they are bright brass blocks engraved with names, dates and locations. These memorials are reminders of the need for us to stand with the least, the lost, those with the most need, and to do this on behalf of God, and for us Christians, through our following of Jesus.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Mark 9:38-50
Jesus wants us to maintain our saltiness. Salt is not just a preservative in ancient cultures. It is essential to life and good health. Body cells need it to live and work. Salt combats chronic fatigue. Lack of salt can lead to cancer or compromise the cardiac system. In this context the comments of a Bishop of the early Church Methodius make sense. He claimed that the salt to which Jesus referred is a spiritual disinfectant for the soul (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.6, p.311). Jesus wants our spiritual life to be healthy. And he will do what it takes, even through tests and suffering in everyday life, to prod us to keep our saltiness. If we don’t stay salted, like most food, we and the Gospel we embody will not be as tasty to those whom we meet and might try to bring to Jesus.

The lesson also refers to Jesus’ awareness that those who are not against him and his disciples are for them (v.40). The Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church articulated the concept of “anonymous Christians” which may capture the intention of Jesus’ comments:

Those who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace try to do his Will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience -- those too may achieve salvation... Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel. (Documents of Vatican II, pp.367-368)

The salt in us Christians may be present in some who do not yet know Jesus.
Mark E.

* * *

Mark 9:38-50
In Nepal there were many Christians serving our Lord who were not in any denomination. They were still doing the will of Jesus. As long as they did it in Jesus’ name, we accepted them.

When Nepalis saw an American like me on the street they assumed he was Christian and greeted him “Jaimasi,” which means “Jesus is Lord.” So they were our brothers or sisters in Christ. We loved each other.

I taught in a Presbyterian seminary there and the other professors were Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodist and two Roman Catholic priests.

We were teaching the Bible and not denominationalism. I taught Jesus parables from the Gospels. What I taught is what I learned in a Lutheran seminary, but when the other pastors saw it, they said it was Christian for them. When I saw their material, it looked kosher to me also. We were all fellow Christians.

When I was sending much needed support to Nepal I had people in my churches here ask me, “Is it really Lutheran?” I felt good over there because I felt that we were all Christians if Jesus was our Lord.

Yes, you can find differences in denominations, but you can even find differences among Lutherans. Even I change my mind now and then! But the important thing is: Is our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ?
Bob O.
UPCOMING WEEKS
In addition to the lectionary resources there are thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Signup for FREE!
(No credit card needed.)
MAUNDY THURSDAY
13 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
15 – Children's Sermons / Resources
12 – Worship Resources
17 – Commentary / Exegesis
and more...
GOOD FRIDAY
19 – Sermons
120+ – Illustrations / Stories
18 – Children's Sermons / Resources
12 – Worship Resources
18 – Commentary / Exegesis
and more...
EASTER!
27 – Sermons
200+ – Illustrations / Stories
33 – Children's Sermons / Resources
20 – Worship Resources
28 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
EASTER 2
28 – Sermons
150+ – Illustrations / Stories
31 – Children's Sermons / Resources
17 – Worship Resources
29 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
EASTER 3
26 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
30 – Children's Sermons / Resources
18 – Worship Resources
32 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
EASTER 4
27 – Sermons
160+ – Illustrations / Stories
32 – Children's Sermons / Resources
17 – Worship Resources
27 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Plus thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Signup for FREE!
(No credit card needed.)

New & Featured This Week

Emphasis Preaching Journal

Mark Ellingsen
Ron Love
Bonnie Bates
Bill Thomas
Frank Ramirez
Bob Ove
Acts 10:34-43, John 20:1-18
In many European countries, early on Easter Monday, the girls come out of their homes wearing traditional red, black and white folkloric dress. The young men walk down the streets, also in traditional dress of high black boots, black hats, white shirts and cream-colored trousers. The men follow the girls playing instruments and the older women of the village have prepared a cornucopia of food.
Bonnie Bates
Bob Ove
Frank Ramirez
Mark Ellingsen
Ron Love
Bill Thomas
Isaiah 52:13--53:12
Ron Love
Bonnie Bates
Bill Thomas
Bob Ove
Frank Ramirez
Mark Ellingsen
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
The Pittsburgh Pirates had their last great baseball season in 1979. The Pirates had 98 wins and 64 losses that year and captured the National League East Division title by two games over the Montreal Expos. The Pirates then beat the Cincinnati Reds to win their ninth National League title, and they defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win their fifth World Series title.
David Kalas
From time to time, I’ll hear someone ask a speculative question that begins, “If a space alien showed up on earth, what would he think about...” The idea is to try to imagine what an outsider sees. If we could find someone without any familiarity or preconceived notions, what would he or she see and think.
Wayne Brouwer
In the blackness, in the bleakness, we need to sense God’s presence. We need to know that God is there, even if, like Job, we do not understand what is happening around us and inside of us. “The restless millions wait for the Light,” says George Bernanos, “Whose dawning maketh all things new.”

This is the dilemma of Israel in Egypt. This is the struggle of life in Corinth. This is the washing of waves surrounding Jesus and his disciples “on the night in which he was betrayed.”
Frank Ramirez
It can not only be hard, but in some cases not possible to say much at all on Easter morning, what with Easter Breakfast, perhaps a cantata, a children’s choir, and an Easter egg hunt swallowing up any space you might have for preaching. But this is the central message of our faith. Jesus is Risen. This changes everything.

Now do not despair. You can preach Easter every Sunday. For the earliest Christians every Sunday was Easter! Even so, if you’re feeling squeezed you can still take one of these passages and make an important point.

The Immediate Word

Dean Feldmeyer
Mary Austin
Christopher Keating
Ron Love
Thomas Willadsen
George Reed
Bethany Peerbolte
For April 21, 2019:
  • Why Are You Weeping? by Dean Feldmeyer — One of the reasons it’s so hard to visualize a risen Christ is that we’ve hidden him behind a mountain of hollow, milk chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chickens.

StoryShare

Keith Hewitt
David O. Bales
Contents
"Reflections of Grief" by Keith Hewitt
"Bearing Our Infirmities" by David O. Bales
"Abandoned?" by David O. Bales


Reflections of Grief
by Keith Hewitt
John 18:1--19:42
Keith Wagner
Contents
"Love Conquers All" by Keith Wagner
"Being together gives us Hope" by Keith Wagner



Love Conquers All
by Keith Wagner
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

For me, the heart of the psalmist’s message is his willingness to be a faithful servant, making commitments to God through sacrifice and love. It takes courage to live sacrificially, none the less our faith is strengthened and we become closer to God with our dedication and loyalty.
C. David Mckirachan
Frank Ramirez

This Doesn’t Make Sense

by C. David McKirachan
Acts 10:34-43

CSSPlus

Arley K. Fadness
“I have seen the Lord.” (v. 18)

Happy Easter morning boys and girls,

Today I have the best news ever to share with you. Are you ready to hear it? (children respond) First, notice I have a container (box or can) with a lid on it. Inside we will find ____________.  (for example: oreo cookies, legos etc.)

So let's see what is inside. (open lid) What do we see? Nothing. What? Aren't there supposed to be ___________ inside?? (children respond)
Arley K. Fadness
“When Jesus had received the wine, he said,'it is finished,' then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.'”

Good Friday morning (evening) children,

Today I am feeling very quiet. You know why? It is a holy day, a somber day.

How are you feeling? (children respond) We call it Good Friday. That's a strange name for a sad day isn't it? Perhaps today, the day we remember our Lord Jesus died, we might call Bad Friday or Dark Friday or Sad Friday. But no, it's Good Friday.
Arley K. Fadness
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.” (v. 14)

Good morning beautiful children,

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
We Christians are often reckoned to be a sad bunch, at least in the opinion of non-Christian western society. And sometimes, I think they're right. We must seem a bit pathetic to normal red-blooded human beings as we go to church each Sunday, singing hymns and indulging in all kinds of odd rituals, when we could be cleaning the car or shopping or playing sport or otherwise enjoying ourselves.

SermonStudio

Carlos Wilton
Theme For The Day
Our culture still "seeks the living among the dead" as it pursues security, comfort, and pleasure.

First Lesson
Acts 10:34-43
Peter's Easter Testimony
Donald Charles Lacy
So much happening in so little time! We are left gasping for breath. We stagger under the weight of the mighty arm of historical occurrence. You and I praise God because we know the rest of the story. Those present did not know how things would turn out. They must have been like awestruck children nearing exasperation.

David Kalas
We have a table before us. It is a familiar table; we have gathered around it together countless times before. It features the cherished elements of bread and wine; and taken together, those elements on this table form a sacrament.

Across the many traditions within the Christian church, we call this sacrament by different names. The Roman Catholics refer to the Mass, while the Eastern Orthodox church uses the Divine Liturgy. A number of Protestant denominations call it the Eucharist, others holy communion, and still others the Lord's Supper.

Special Occasion