At the potluck this past Sunday, I was finally asked the question I’ve long been waiting to be asked: “Do you read anyone other than N. T. Wright?” The answer is yes, I read a lot of other people. That answer naturally leads to another question: “Then why do you reference N. T. Wright so often in sermons?” It’s a great question. If you think you don’t like how often I reference N. T. Wright in sermons, please believe me when I tell you that I like it even less. The problem is he routinely provides insights into scripture and the Christian faith that I haven’t encountered anywhere else. Furthermore, quite often these insights provide a new way of looking at a scripture that solves a lot of exegetical problems while preserving the original gospel message.
Last Sunday’s sermon on Holy Communion was a good example. In, The Day the Revolution Began, Wright wrote:
“I have made the point elsewhere, but it bears repeating: when Jesus wanted to explain to his followers what his forthcoming death was all about, he did not give them a theory, a model, a metaphor, or any other such thing; he gave them a meal.” 
In hindsight, this is a blindingly obvious point, but it is one I had never heard before. I’ve read a lot of biblical commentaries on the last supper, I’ve read a great many books about Holy Communion, none of which have made this point. I wanted to share that insight with you, and so I was once again stuck referencing N. T. Wright. When several biblical scholars/theologians make the same point, I don’t feel the need to cite my sources , but when I’ve only found something in one author, I do. That’s the main reason I so often end up referencing Wright. Another reason is that because he’s Anglican we often share a set of core beliefs and a basic interpretive framework (John Wesley was an Anglican priest until the day he died). It also doesn’t help that Wright’s a prolific author—sometimes I feel that he can write faster than I can read and digest what he’s written.
 N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (New York: Harper Collins, 2018), Kindle Locations 2995-2996.
 In part because it’s often impractical if not impossible to track the point back to its original source.
Our colleague, Rev. David Livingston has written a great post about the difficulty of preaching right now. The key point: at present pastors have to be extremely careful in choosing their words because “Words that a distant two years ago would have been seen as docile now cause people to leave churches.” Even when we’re extremely careful, we’re not perfect. I would join with David in asking you to talk to us if you find something we said hurtful.
The whole post is worth a read: http://bit.ly/2OxOEod.
This week the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary include James 5:13-18. So far this week I’ve been struggling with the question of how to understand the inferred connection James makes between sin and sickness:
The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. — James 5:15-16a (NRSV)
I’ve long sided with other parts of the Bible (including the book of Job, some Psalms, and John 9:2-3) and rejected a simple cause and effect approach between sin and sickness, but I don’t feel that I can just brush this passage from James aside, so the struggle continues. Feel free to share your thoughts and your examples on the connection (or lack thereof) between sin and sickness with me via email, text, or conversation.
A tip of my hat to Malorie Unruh. Last Sunday, She sent Jenny and I a picture posted by a Facebook user named Makenzie Grace Tindall. It wasn’t big enough to use for a slide, but I recreated it in the slide below for my sermon tomorrow morning. I’ll be preaching on James 2:1-17.
This coming Sunday, I’m preaching on Ephesians 6:10-20 in which Paul writes:
Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. — Ephesians 6:11-12 (NRSV)
Here’s my question how do you, personally, take this passage? Do you take it literally, metaphorically, or a combination of both?
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This coming Sunday (April 29, 2018), I’ll be preaching on Acts 8:26-40 and talking about what an Ethiopian Eunuch can teach us about living as Christians in 2018—as it turns out quite a lot. Hope to see you there.
I’ll be preaching on 2 Kings 2:1-12 tomorrow. This is the passage with Elijah, Elisha, a whirlwind and the chariot and horses of fire. We will, of course, be singing the hymn Days of Elijah.
My sermon from this past Sunday (December 17, 2017) is below the fold. My text was Luke 1:26-38. The subject was the phrase spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “Do not be afraid.”
This coming Sunday, I’m preaching on Luke 1:26-38 with a focus on the words of “Do not be afraid,” spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel. I’m trying to put together an almost-exhaustive list of things we’re afraid of. You can help by dropping me a line at email@example.com. I’ll share the fears in the sermon, but keep the names of those they came from confidential.
This morning I (John) preached on Jeremiah 32:1-15. My sermon notes are pretty complete, so instead of making up a transcript, I’m just going to share the notes with you. Little things are missing, but everything essential is there.
Hopefully, I won’t come to regret sharing this, but I’m really looking forward to this Sunday’s sermon. I plan to preach on Jeremiah 32:1-15. I believe this is one of the greatest passages on divine and human faithfulness found in the Old Testament, but it takes a little unpacking before one can understand the full scope of what is going on.
My sermon from this past Sunday (October 29, 2017) is below the fold. My text was Matthew 14:22-33. This is an extremely rare instance where my sermon notes almost form a complete manuscript, so I’m simply sharing them.