Sermon Resources for Lent and Holy Week 2018

Year B Texts from the Revised Common Lectionary

Note: In addition to the resources below, please check our homepage for weekly sermon starter articles on Year B Gospel, Epistle, Old Testament and Psalms texts for the whole of Lent through Easter.

Year B Text and the Dates of Lent 2018

First Sunday in Lent: February 18, 2018

Text: Mark 1:9-15

— Mark begins Jesus’ public ministry with a bang.  Jesus appears from out of nowhere, is baptized, is tempted in the desert, and then begins preaching—and all of this takes place in the span of only about 6 or 7 verses!  For Lent, this passage seems to be a good reminder that Jesus came not only to announce the good news that the kingdom was near but also to do battle with the forces of chaos that have been seeking to unravel God’s cosmos ever since sin came onto the scene.  Between verses 11 and 12 there is a kind of holy inevitability to Jesus’ being violently impelled into the wilderness.  Yes, Jesus is God’s beloved Son (verse 11) but precisely BECAUSE this was so, he had to go into the place of death and face Satan, the wild animals, and everything else about this world that makes it a fallen place.  Indeed, Jesus’ ability to say “The kingdom of God is near” seems premised on his engagement with the chaos of the wilderness.  This is a good Lenten reminder that in imitation of our Lord, we also should feel the Spirit leading us into places of great brokenness, chaos, and hurt.  Where else is Jesus’ healing touch needed more?

Sample Sermons:

“God on the Loose” by Shannon J. Kershner, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL.  http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2015/020815.html

“An Amazing Promise”: by Jack Roeda, Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, MI:

https://www.churchoftheservantcrc.org/sermons/an-amazing-promise/

“Where the Spirit Leads” by Scott Hoezee

Link: http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2005/mark1.html

Second Sunday in Lent: February 25, 2018

Text: Mark 8:31-38

— Jesus is the Christ, as Peter rightly had just confessed him to be at the centerpoint of Mark’s gospel in chapter 8:29.  Jesus has been keeping that identity a secret right from the very start of his ministry when in Capernaum (Mark 1) he prevented the demons from identifying him lest people too quickly seized on Jesus but with mistaken conceptions as to who the Messiah is.  The truth is that being the Messiah means suffering and death and sacrifice, which is why to Jesus’ mind this was the logical thing to start talking about immediately following Peter’s confession.   The disciples, however, didn’t see the connection.  Do we?  The disciples resisted the connection?  Do we?

Sample Sermon:

“The Lenten Fork”: Scott Hoezee: Mark 8:31-38

Link: http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2003/mark8.html

Third Sunday in Lent: March 4, 2018

Text: John 2:13-22

— John famously places Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple at the start of his ministry rather than after the Triumphal Entry where the Synoptic gospels locate it.  In John’s case this becomes an early occasion in his gospel to make the connection between the physical Temple and the “Temple” of Jesus’ body.  In this passage we also get the marvelous play on words after the religious leaders demand a miraculous sign by which to prove Jesus’ authority.  But what they take to be a “miracle” of an instantaneous rebuilding of a grand physical structure is really the grand miracle of Jesus’ sacrifice.  They want a sign of power.  Jesus will finally give a sign of weakness through which the grandest power in the universe will be unleashed.  The paradox of the Lenten Season is on great display in this passage.

Sample Sermons:

“Life in the Covenant”: by Jack Roeda, Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, MI: https://www.churchoftheservantcrc.org/sermons/life-in-the-covenant/

“The Power of Weakness”: John 2:13-22: John Buchanan

http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2003/032303.html

“House Zeal”: Scott Hoezee: John 2:12-25

http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2003/john2.html

Fourth Sunday in Lent: March 11, 2018

Text: John 3:14-21

— Scholars debate whether this lection—including the famous John 3:16 passage, therefore—is part of the Nicodemus story or a separate section shorn away from the specifics of that narrative.  Whether or not this was intended by John himself to be part of the Nicodemus encounter, in practice people have indeed isolated and rarified these verses to the point that they stand alone without any context whatsoever.  But we do well to connect them to the larger narrative of John 3.  If we do so in the Lenten Season, we may see these lyric words in a new light—indeed, the light that shines in the very darkness under whose cover Nicodemus came to Jesus and under which too many of us still live as well.

Sample Sermons:

“Lifted Up”: by Jack Roeda, Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, MI: https://www.churchoftheservantcrc.org/sermons/lifted-up/

“Out of the Night”: Scott Hoezee: John 3:1-21

http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2002/john3.html

Fifth Sunday in Lent: March 18, 2018

Text: John 12:20-33

— This lection may end a little too early.  We need verse 36 to help unify the passage.  We begin, after all, with some Greeks saying they want to SEE Jesus and we end with Jesus HIDING himself.  In between we get the famous image of a seed falling into the earth, which is yet another form of “hiding” (literally of going underground!) through which the paradox of the gospel comes through once again.  In verse 32 Jesus says he will be lifted up and will draw all people to himself but in reality the manner in which he will be lifted up will be so hideous—such a counter-intuitive action—that people will not feel drawn to Jesus.  The seed will be in the process of diving under the soil to die.  Jesus will not, on the cross, appear to be going anywhere worth following.  Blessed are those who follow anyway.  The result is eternal life.

Sample Sermons:

“I Will Draw All People to Myself”: by Jack Roeda, Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, MI: https://www.churchoftheservantcrc.org/sermons/i-will-draw-all-people-to-myself/

“Why Did Jesus Die”: John Buchanan    John 12:20-33

http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2003/040603.html

Sixth Sunday in Lent / Palm Sunday: March 25, 2018

Text: Mark 11:1-11

— We make a big deal out of Palm/Passion Sunday and Jesus’ allegedly “triumphal” entry into the city.  What we sometimes miss is that in Mark’s telling of the story, Jesus didn’t stay in the city for long.  According to verse 11, he rather quickly exited the same city he had just entered.  He would return the next day but a quick look at Mark 11:12ff tells us that when he comes back the next day, things are different!   The misunderstandings behind Jesus’ first entry becomes plain when we take a look at what happened the next day.

Sample Sermons:

“We Were There: The Crowd”: Shannon J. Kershner, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL: http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2015/032915.html

“No Day Like This One”: Rev. John Buchanan: Mark 11:1-11

http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2003/041303.html

“The Indignant Re-Entry”: Scott Hoezee: Mark 11:1-11

http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2000/mark11PalmSun.html

“The Arrival of the Revolutionary”: Craig Barnes : John 12:12-19

http://www.nationalpres.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/2000.04.16.Barnes.pdf

(Note: This sermon is not on the Mark 11 Lectionary text but is a fine Palm Sunday sermon worthy of reading!)

Good Friday: March 30, 2018

Text: John 18 and 19

— John’s telling of the larger crucifixion story is filled with drama and a wealth of details on which to preach.  One fruitful theme is the overarching sense of completion and fulfillment.  John doesn’t allow us to see these as some unhappy series of unfortunate events (a la Lemony Snicket!).  From the very beginning of John’s gospel we have been given the portrait of a very deliberate Savior who steadfastly was heading toward death.   John also peppers his account with Old Testament passages, promises, and prophecies, imbuing his entire story with a sense of holy joy despite the gloomy circumstances—something long awaited and anticipated and planned is coming to fulfillment.  Good Friday is not a time to cash out the sorrow and the suffering of it all but it is a time to see that none of this was pointless or gratuitous.  We are marching inexorably toward something grand.

Sample Sermon:

“Explaining (without Explaining Away)”: Scott Hoezee

http://yardley.cs.calvin.edu/hoezee/2002/goodFriday02.html

Easter Sunday: April 1, 2018

Text: Mark 16:1-8

— Who can resist Mark’s deliciously weird ending!?  The gospel that began with a bang when Jesus appeared out of the middle of nowhere in Mark 1 ends with a strange and fear-fueled silence.  Both the beginning and end of Mark are equally abrupt.  But there are tantalizing details to mine here for a solid Easter sermon.  Questions linger.  Can the gospel end in a silence?  Of course not!   But does it sometimes stay silent on also our fearful, trembling lips even yet today?  And note also Tom Long’s good insight on the angel’s words about going to Galilee to see Jesus.  After all, in Mark’s gospel, where is Galilee?  Is it not in Mark 1:14 where it all began?  Perhaps Mark is subtly telling us that, after reading an entire gospel where the identity of Jesus was kept hush-hush, we are now ready to go back to the beginning and—in the light of what we discovered at the cross—we are now ready to read the whole thing again but this time, THIS TIME, we will understand it anew.  We go back to Galilee, but with renewed eyes.

Sample Sermons:

“Now What?”: Shannon J. Kershner, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL: http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2015/040515.html

“Happily Ever After?”: Craig Barnes

http://www.natpresch.org/sites/default/files/sermon_bulletins/2000.04.23.Barnes.pdf

“Good News Indeed”: Joanna Adams: Mark 16:1-8

http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2003/042003.html

“Alleluia!  Jesus Is Risen” An Easter Sermon by Timothy Brown:

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/december-2003/alleluia-jesus-risen-sermon-timothy-brown

FURTHER RESOURCES

From the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship:

A wealth of service planning and liturgical resources are available at our ministry partner, The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.  Link to this page to see their resources:

http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/lent-resource-guide

Resources from Reformed Worship Magazine

 To see all of the back issues of Reformed Worship (organized by liturgical season), visit this web page: http://www.reformedworship.org/theme/lenteaster.

On that page from RW magazine you will find many years’ worth of articles, liturgical resources, sermon ideas, and more all tying in with the Season of Lent and Holy Week through Easter.

Other Scripture Ideas for Lent/Holy Week/Easter:

Scriptures and Statements of Faith Applying to the Theme of Ash Wednesday

The following texts are particularly appropriate for sermons or for supplemental liturgical use.

Psalm 51 (and other penitential psalms: 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, 143)

Psalm 90

Psalm 103

Psalm 139:23-24

Joel 2:12-17

Matthew 5:6

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 11:28-29

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

1 Peter 1-2:3

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&As 3-11, 88-89

Scriptures and Statements of Faith Applying to the Theme of Lent

The following texts, which focus on three main dimensions of Lenten spirituality, are especially appropriate for supplemental liturgical use.

Penitential psalms:

Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

The importance of heartfelt repentance:

Psalm 50

Isaiah 1

Joel 2:12-17

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Baptismal spirituality and unity with Christ:

Romans 6:1-14; 8:12-17

2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 4:1-16; 5:20-6:2

Galatians 2:19-21; 3:27-29

Ephesians 2:4-20; 4:1-6

Colossians 2:9-3:7

Titus 3:4-8

Belgic Confession, Art. 21

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&As 37-39

Canons of Dort, Pt. II, Art. 2-5, 8

Westminster Confession, Chap. VIII, Sec. 4; Chap. XV, Sec. 1-6

Our World Belongs to God, st. 25-28

Scriptures Applying to the Theme of Passion/Palm Sunday

The following texts are especially appropriate for supplemental liturgical use.

On Christ’s procession into Jerusalem:

Psalm 118:19-29

Zechariah 9:9-12

Matthew 21:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Luke 19:28-40

John 12:12-19

On Holy Week and Christ’s passion:

Psalm 31:9-18

Isaiah 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12

Matthew 21-27

Mark 11-15

Luke 19-23

John 12-19

Philippians 2:5-11

Scriptures Applying to the Theme of Maundy Thursday

The following texts are particularly appropriate for sermons or for supplemental liturgical use.

Exodus 12:1-14

Psalm 23

Psalm 34

Psalm 103

Psalm 116

Isaiah 25

Isaiah 53

Matthew 26:17-46

Mark 14:12-72

Luke 22:1-46

John 6

John 13-17

1 Corinthians 10:1-22

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Colossians 3:12-17

Hebrews 9

1 John 4:7-21

Scriptures and Statements of Faith Applying to the Theme of Good Friday

The following texts are particularly appropriate for sermons or for supplemental liturgical use.

Genesis 3:14-19

Genesis 22:1-14

Numbers 21:4-9

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

Psalm 22:1-18

Psalm 43

Psalm 49

Psalm 51

Psalm 105

Psalm 130

Psalm 143

Isaiah 50:4-9

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33

Zechariah 12:10-13:9

Matthew 26:47-27:66

Luke 22:39-23:56

John 3:13-21

John 10:14-18

John 18-19

Acts 13:16-41

Romans 3:21-26

Romans 8:1-17

1 Corinthians 1:17-21

Galatians 3:1-14

Ephesians 2:13-22

Philippians 2:5-11

Colossians 1:19-23

Colossians 2:13-15

Hebrews 2:5-9

Hebrews 4:14-5:10

Hebrews 10:1-25

Hebrews 12:1-3

1 Peter 1:10-20

1 Peter 2:19-25

1 Peter 3:13-22

1 John 3:16

1 John 4:7-21

Revelation 5:6-14

Belgic Confession, Articles. 20-21

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&As 37-44

Canons of Dort, Pt. II, Art. 3-4, 8; Rej. 2, 7

Our Song of Hope, st. 4

Our World Belongs to God, st. 27