Sermon Building for June 19th, Part 1

So if you’re interested, I’m going to share my process for building my sermon for this Sunday. I’ll post my thoughts and process on here. I’m hardly the most skilled person I know at this process of exegeting and then writing a sermon. I do however, have the advantage of still being a student. You won’t get the impressive but difficult to follow short cuts. I will share links (where available) to my resources, they will be in bold italics. I will also try to lay out how the various moving parts of this come together. This will be, to the best I can manage, the wholes process.

I’ve known I was preaching on June 19th for over a month now. However, with the end of a semester at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, and some extensive travel for work, I’m only just now really getting started. So let’s start with pericope (text) options. I’ve only briefly read these before now.

First Baptist Church of Berkeley generally follows the lectionary. The lectionary is a three year cycle of readings, which every Sunday yields several options of texts. So what does the lectionary offer for this Sunday? Follow this link to Vanderbilt’s Lectionary site: June 19th, Lectionary Texts

**May the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O God, my rock and my true hope.**

Before I even consider the texts, just like in true meditation, I try to bring forward all the thoughts that I’m having – many about what is going on in my life and in the world. If I don’t acknowledge them, they may seriously skew what I’m reading in the texts, and not to the good. They may also guide my readings, if I bring them to conscious thought. Besides – supposedly Karl Barth said that one should preach “with the Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other.”

The massacre at the Pulse nightclub weighs heavy on my soul. The rhetoric of the Presidential election, and the people subscribing to one candidate or another, I cannot keep out of my thoughts. The fact that this is my last Sunday as Seminarian-in-Residence at First Baptist Berkeley, I am keenly aware of. My upcoming move to Washington is very much in my mind. There are places of the world still locked in violent conflict – Syria, and other parts of the Middle East (middle compared to what?), the struggle between the cartels and the government in Mexico, the all but forgotten annexation of parts of Ukraine. Breathe in – breathe out.

I also need to take into account who I am. I am middle class, aged 18-35, white, male, straight, cis-gendered Christian. I have the privilege to ignore almost all of the things above. I need to remember that I read from this place of privilege. If I begin to think this is the only way I can read this, I can easily marginalize the people who don’t look, sound, or think like me. I’ll never totally negate the bias I have, but by being aware of it, I can reduce the effect of my bias.

I’m not going to preach on all the texts. It is important that my sermon be more focused than that. I should think carefully about what the texts are, which ones I want to touch on, which should be in the service. At first, the Elijah story drew my attention (1 Kings 9:1-15a). There is something of the lament, of asking God why and of suffering in it. As I look at the other readings, I see the Gospel reading (Luke 8:26-39). You should know, I’m a sucker for the Gospel of Luke. The Jesus in this Gospel is one who speaks to me – a teacher, a healer, a compassionate and passionate and very human person. Here is a text that speaks about an outsider, someone pushed to the fringe of his culture, rejected for being who he is. And Jesus response is amazing – not banishment, but hospitality, not fear, but empathy, not control, but freedom. And the response of the people to the miracle of a man who had lost himself restored to them – fear. The newspaper is screaming at me – I think I found my pericope (text to preach from).

Someday I’ll preach from a Hebrew Scripture, but this Sunday, it will be the Gospel.

Looking at the Epistle (letter) reading (Galatians 3:23-29), I see that it too speaks to hospitality and inclusion. Looking at the Psalm options in the Lectionary for the week, Psalm 42 and 43 speaks to my own heaviness of heart, but also my hope in God’s healing and love. So I will use these readings.

My next step is to read these texts again, and again, and again. Especially the Gospel, as that will form the core of my sermon. The first reading is just to read them. I use the New Revised Standard Version for this. I will read them a second time, looking at alternate readings. A site like Bible Gateway lets me look at one version (NRSV Luke 8:26-39) or even compare them Side By Side. I choose the NRSV because I like it. I choose the New King James Version for the poetry of it all. I choose the Message Bible because of the more colloquial slant of the language. The third time I read it, I’ll take into account the stories which come before this one (Jesus True Family, Jesus Calms a Storm), and also what comes next (Jesus raises Jairus’ Daughter and Heals the Woman with the Hemmorhage, Jesus sends out the 12, Feeding the Five Thousand). In this context – I’m now seeing this as part of Jesus defining the Heavenly Realm, its new order, and how we are freed to do our part in it.

Need to get some rest, but I will continue this tomorrow…

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