Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Epiphany 4 | Ordinary Time 4, Cycle B (2015)

Prophetic authority. As we observe that prophecy is related to Christ, this theme leads to a lot of attention to the astonishing, wonderful things he does in our lives (Justification by Grace and Sanctification).


Psalm 111
This is Hymn of Praise to Yahweh for his great deeds. The psalm is acrostic with every line beginning with a successive letter of the Hebraic alphabet. This poetic form suggests that it may have been written for instruction as well as for praise. The psalm begins with the word hallelujah [Praise the Lord] and an expression of thanks (v. 1). God is described as gracious [channun] (v. 4), as righteous [tsedaqah] (v. 3), and faithful to the covenant with Israel (vv. 7, 9; cf. 105:8-10). It is good to remind ourselves again that the concept of “righteousness” even in an Old Testament context is not to imply that the believer lives in faultless conformity to some moral norm. It has to do with living in right relationship with God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 370-371). Thus the term in this case could refer to a vision of a just society or merely to what happens to faithful people through God’s justifying grace. God’s great works are said to be studied only by those who delight in [chaphets, literally “desire”] them (v. 2). Reference is made to God giving his people the heritage of the nations (v. 6), presumably a reference to the land of Canaan that had been occupied by various nations. The psalm also refers to the redemption [pdeuth] of the people (v. 9), which could be understood as a prophecy about Christ’s work. Reference to wisdom [chokmah] being rooted in faith (fear of the Lord) (v. 10; Proverbs 1:7) sets the stage for the Wisdom Psalm that follows.

Application: The Psalm offers several distinct sermon directions. This can be an opportunity to praise God for his great works, which set us free, saves us (Justification by Grace), and brings about justice (Social Ethics). But more in line with the Theme of the Day, the closing references to redemption could be construed as prophecy that all these great works that are praised refer to the work of Christ.


Deuteronomy 18:15-20
This book is the product of writings that emerged during the sweeping religious reform under King Josiah in Judah in the late seventh century BC. This literary strand also influenced the histories of the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel as well as 1 and 2 Kings. The basic theme of this piece of literature is evidenced by the meaning of its title (“Second Law”). Portrayed in the form of Moses’ Farewell Address, it is the reaffirmation of the covenant between God and Israel. Having warned the people of Israel to reject all forms of pagan superstition (vv. 9-14), the promise is made that God will raise up another prophet after Moses. Yahweh claims that he will put his words in this prophet’s mouth (vv. 15-18). This was in response to the promise God had made in an appearance on Mount Horeb at the giving of the Ten Commandments (5:23-31). It is said that a prophet is needed to mediate the awesome God to the people, for he is like a fire [esh] that can devour. We are said to be accountable for not heeding a prophet’s words or for being a false prophet. Those prophets who speak without divine authorization or blaspheme commit a capital offense (vv. 19-20; cf. 13:1-5; Ezekiel 13).

Application: The text affords opportunity to clarify the nature of prophecy (a mediator between God and the people in proclaiming God’s word) as well as why the church needs it and to call us away from all forms of contemporary idolatry (Sin and Justification by Grace).


1 Corinthians 8:1-13
We have already noted that the epistle is one of Paul’s authentic letters written from Ephesus prior to his epistle to the Romans to a church he had established (Acts 18:1-11). He seeks to address the strained relations between him and the church. The letter aims to address doctrinal and ethical problems disturbing the Corinthian church (cf. Romans 14:1-4). In the lesson, Paul addresses the question of whether Christians may eat food consecrated to an idol. It was apparently common for Christians to hold banquets in pagan temples or to buy food sold in markets that had come from animals sacrificed in Roman temples. He urges that we deal with the question more with love than with knowledge [gnosis] which puffs up (vv. 1-2). Here and at other points in the letter, the apostle addresses the Corinthian belief that some of them possessed a special knowledge (much like Gnostics), not available to all believers (1:17ff). Paul begins by claiming that we are truly blessed when God knows us (v. 3). (Known by God in this sense refers to being chosen or called by him [cf. Romans 8:29-30].) The apostle extrapolates that eating such food is not problematic, because there are no other gods, just the one Father from/of whom all things exist and one Lord Jesus Christ through [dia] whom all exist. Other gods do not really exist (vv. 4-6). But since not all Christians have this knowledge, as some think food has been desecrated when consecrated to so-called idols (v. 7), Paul asserts that food is not a problem for our relationship with God (v. 8). He proceeds to urge that such liberty/authority [exousia] not be made a stumbling block for the weak [astheneo] (v. 9). Paul does not want believers without this knowledge to be tempted (vv. 10-11). If the weak fall because of the faithful’s actions, it is a sin against Christ (v. 12). Thus Paul urges that if food offends a brother, we should not eat it (v. 13).

Application: Sermons on this lesson should make clear that because we are known by God (elect — predestination and Justification by Grace), we may live prophetic and holy lifestyles (Sanctification) living in freedom and love for the weak.


Mark 1:21-28
We turn again this Sunday to a text in the first of the Synoptic Gospels to be written, a book that was quite likely the source of other gospels, perhaps based on oral traditions of the Passion narrative and accounts of Jesus’ sayings (the so-called Q-source). Probably written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, this anonymous work is traditionally ascribed to John Mark, perhaps referred to as an associate of Paul (Acts 12:12-25, 15:37; Colossians 4:10) or as Peter’s scribe (1 Peter 5:13). Some speculate that the original audience was the church in Rome (especially Gentiles), as it presumes readers unfamiliar with Jewish customs and Palestinian geography (see 7:2-4, 31), but it also could have been written for Palestinian Christians. This lesson is set in Capernaum, a significant town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee at the outset of Jesus’ ministry. He demonstrates his authority there through teaching and healing. Only in Luke (4:31-37) is there a parallel account, and it closely follows Mark’s version.

The lesson begins with Jesus teaching [didasko] in the synagogue of Capernaum. This reportedly astounds [ekplessomai] auditors, because he taught with such authority [exousia], not like one of the scribes [grammateus, professional interpreters of the law] (vv. 21-22). Astonishment in response to Jesus’ activity is a recurring theme in the gospel. Mark underlines this authority by attributing only “teaching” to Jesus, while John the Baptist and others around Jesus only “preached” [kerusso] (1:14; 3:14; 6:12). The astonishment of the crowd is a common response to Jesus (vv. 21, 27; 6:2; 7:37; 11:18). A man with an unclean spirit [pneuma akathartos] encounters Jesus (v. 23). He had been suffering from some form of illness, implying that illness is not God’s will. The man (and the demons in him) angrily calls out Jesus’ name. (In the ancient world to know another’s name was to have power over him.) He identifies him as “the holy one of God” [Hagios tou Theou ] (v. 24), an ancient title found only in the New Testament in John 6:69 as a messianic title. The point is that Jesus’ authority is even recognized by those outside faith (9:38; 15:12, 32, 39). Jesus rebukes the spirit possessing the man to leave him alone (v. 25). This is a typical formula for ancient exorcisms. The departing spirit leaves the man with a loud cry [krazo] (v. 26) indicating a real struggle between Jesus and the forces of evil. The crowd is astounded by this, noting the authority Jesus has as a teacher and his command of unclean spirits (v. 27). Jesus’ fame [akoe] began to spread (v.28).

Application: Jesus’ authority to overcome all the evils in life (Justification by Grace and Atonement) should be the focus of a sermon on this text.

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen