December 14, 2020
The Advent 4B Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Luke 1:26-38 from the Lectionary Gospel; 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-28 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Romans 16:25-27 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Related Reformed confession: Old Testament Lectionary: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 35 (Lord’s Day 14)
Author: Scott Hoezee
Biblical scholars call passages like Luke 1 “type scenes.” A modern kind of “type scene” might be something like this: one evening while channel-surfing, you run across a movie already in progress. It’s obviously a Western with two cowboys standing about thirty yards apart in the middle of a dusty street. Each man is glaring at the other, one hand slightly raised and angled toward his hip.
Now, even if you have no idea what movie this is—and even if it’s a film you’ve never before seen—just seeing that set-up immediately tells you that what is about to happen is an Old West-style shootout. You don’t need to know what the movie’s larger plot has been about: the boilerplate set-up of the scene conveys what you need to know–you even have a strong idea of what’s next.
There are a number of similar type scenes in the Bible. For instance, if you run across a scene where a man meets a woman at a well, it probably means they will soon be getting engaged and then married. If you encounter a story in which someone is driven into the wilderness or up onto a mountaintop, you can assume that some new revelation from God will happen there. And if an angel appears to a woman (especially a woman who has never before been a mother), what often comes next is the promise of a child.
Yet Luke 1 is different from other such stories in interesting, and also instructive, ways. Unlike all of the other women in the Bible for whom the announcement of a child is such incredible news, Mary has not been pining away for years to have a baby. She’s not even ready to have a baby yet! She’s still very young, having gained the physical ability to become pregnant in probably just the last year or so. Further, she’s not married yet–like most girls of that era, her marriage had been pre-arranged by her parents long ago, so there was no question that she would be wed one day. But it hadn’t happened yet.
So Gabriel’s announcement of an impending pregnancy was not the answer to Mary’s prayers. This not Hannah or Sarah or Rachel who have long lived with the bitter disappointment of infertility. Far from it! In fact, Gabriel’s words do not so much solve a problem for Mary as they create a problem. This simply was not the time for Mary to have a baby.
But that is at least partly the point of this story: it’s not about Mary’s time or plans but is simply and solely about God’s timing, God’s plans, and God’s work. God is intervening in this world, upsetting schedules and re-aligning lives because that’s what it takes to get God’s premiere work of redemption accomplished.
But in the wider biblical context, the things that make this scene different from the many other, similar scenes ought to give us pause. After all, go back to the analogy about the shoot-out: suppose you did run across a scene like that while zipping through your channels one evening. But then suppose that, just before you were going to click the remote for the next channel, you noticed that one of the two cowboys was dressed in pink and was reaching for not a gun but a daisy that he had tucked into his belt. My guess is that this would be enough to make you stop your channel-surfing long enough to see what in the world was going on here! There had to be a reason behind this change in an otherwise predictable set of cinematic circumstances.
Similarly in Luke 1: an angel visits someone to talk about having a baby. We’ve seen this before. But wait: she’s a virgin. Of course she hasn’t had a child yet, but accomplishing that hardly requires a miracle. Further, she’s not like Sarah who was in her 80s or even cousin Elizabeth who also appears to have been close to retirement age: Mary’s just entered puberty. Clearly, these changes in a traditional type scene signal that something quite new is taking place in Luke 1. Mary quite logically asks Gabriel, “How will this be since I am still a virgin?” But an equally good question to ask is, “Why will this be?” since Mary does not seem like a logical candidate for divine intervention on the fertility front (nor does she seem a likely candidate to be a big player in the drama of cosmic redemption).
In other words, savvy biblical readers will come to this part of Luke 1 and say, “Hmmm, this is a scene I’ve seen before, this is a story I’ve heard before.” But then the text tilts, the familiar gives way to the unfamiliar, and the reader gets the sense that something very new, very striking, and quite possibly very wonderful is about to happen.
And it is!
Be sure to check out our 2020 Year B Advent/Christmas resource page for more sermon and worship ideas and links to many sample sermons as well. Visit us all through Advent!
There is a curious clustering of grace-related words here. Gabriel’s initial word to Mary is chaire, which was a standard way to say “Hail” or “Hello” back then but is a direct cognate of charis, the New Testament word for “grace.” What’s more, this same word could also mean “Rejoice!” So it’s an open question whether the angel was merely saying, “Hello” or telling Mary she should rejoice. (Or could it somehow be both?)
Then, the word for “highly favored” is likewise a cognate on this stem. Charitoo means to endow with favor or, as could perhaps be better said, to grace, to have grace/favor bestowed upon one. Being the target of grace is always a cause to rejoice. And indeed, in verse 30, the direct New Testament word for grace (charis) is used when Gabriel tells Mary she has “found favor/grace” with God. Perhaps there is not much to all of this and yet in a sense it is instructive to see all of this talk about grace and favor clustering around the Lord’s call of Mary. After all, it will be Mary’s son who will bring “grace and truth” to the entire world, opening up a gracious way of salvation through his own sacrificial death.
The late night host Jimmy Kimmel had actress Emma Watson on his show some time back and during the interview played an audition tape from the first Harry Potter movie in which Watson plays the whip-smart Hermione Granger. In real life Emma Watson is plenty smart too and so knew not only her lines but the lines of her co-stars. In the scene you can see here, Watson inadvertently mouths the lines of the actors playing Ron and Harry while they speak their lines. It is quite funny! Watson admitted this remained a problem and they had to do quite a few re-takes because she kept doing this when others were speaking!
Pastors have seen this before whenever young children participate in a church service or Christmas program. When a son or daughter is up front speaking various lines, it’s not uncommon to be able to look out into the congregation only to see the tyke’s mom or dad on the edge of a pew, mouthing the words right along with the child! As a parent, you can’t help it!
I suspect that seen the right way, something similar happens in Luke 1. The whole cosmos, all the hosts of heaven from the archangel Gabriel on down, are holding their collective breath and sitting on the edges of their seats. All eyes and ears are trained on one little girl, perhaps no more than twelve or thirteen years of age. She’s about to get the shock of a lifetime, but what will she say in response? What will her answer be? Will she get it right? As Frederick Buechner once put it, Mary was probably too dazzled to notice, but maybe just beneath his wings and bright garments even Gabriel was trembling a little in nervous anticipation at how this encounter was going to go.
In the end, as we all know, it went just fine, and the hosts of heaven must surely have heaved a collective sigh of relief! The long-awaited plan of salvaging this fallen creation was now really moving forward! After ages of waiting, a mother had been chosen to become the bearer of the very Son of God himself. Within a year that little baby would be born in Bethlehem, and the salvation of the galaxies would be off and running (or at least off and crawling initially!).
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Author: Stan Mast
It would be very difficult to pick a more fitting text for this last Sunday of Advent. After focusing with ever growing intensity on the coming of God’s salvation, we are just 5 days away from our celebration of the birth of the long-promised Messiah. This text is “the mother of all Messianic prophecies,” “the fountainhead of all messianic hopes,” the lynchpin text for the rest of the Old Testament and for Advent. It is the hope of all exilic and post exilic Israel, and it is the promise at the heart of Gabriel’s Advent message to the Virgin Mary.
This promise was given in the best of times when it didn’t seem necessary, and it was fulfilled in the worst of times when it didn’t seem possible. And it all centers around the idea of “house.”
The text opens with David safely and successfully ensconced in his own house, his palace of cedar. After battling enemies for years, both internal and external, David is at peace, because “the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him.” As subsequent chapters will show, that rest would not last. But for now, at least, David is settled in his house, feet up on a footstool with a good cigar in one hand and a cold drink in the other. Aaahhh!
But David is not a lazy man, or an ungrateful one. He knows that his success comes from the Lord and he intends to express his gratitude, if not pay back his faithful heavenly King. It only seemed right. “Here I am living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the Lord (recently returned from Philistine country) remains in a tent.” God has done so much for me. Now I’m going to do something for God.
The prophet Nathan (who appears here for the first time) intuits what David is contemplating. Wanting to please the king and assuming that the king’s plans will succeed (because “the Lord is with you”), Nathan gives blanket approval to “whatever David has in mind.” “Go ahead and do it.” I mean, how can building a house for God be a bad idea?! Who could oppose that?
Well, God could! Verses 5-7 reveal God’s “no” to David’s plan. Some take these words as God’s complete disapproval of a temple. I’m not like those pagan gods around you, who simply hole up in a temple to be served food and drink day and night with elaborate festivals. That’s not what I’m about. I want to be with my people wherever they go. So, don’t ever build me a temple.
That’s not what God says. He says, “Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?” You? That’s not the mission I have given you. Your work is to conquer and settle the land. In verse 13, God says, I will give your son the task of building “a house for my name….” That can be done later. It’s not my priority now. Indeed, have I ever asked for a house until now. No, I’ve been content with my tent (the Tabernacle). Once you are completely settled in the land, your son can build me a house. Indeed, I will give him strict instruction for its construction and its operation.
But God isn’t content to stop the building project; he must also stop the would-be builder. After years of depending completely on God, David has gotten a big head, imagining that for a moment it will be a good idea to do a little role reversal. He will now take care of God. And God isn’t having it. In verses 8-10a, God reminds David that God is the King-maker and David is merely his servant.
God conveys this with the frequent repetition of “I.” “I took you from the pasture… to be ruler. I have been with you… I have cut off all your enemies… I will make your name great… I will provide a place for my people… and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own…I will give you rest from all your enemies….” Never forget, David and Israel and Christians, that I am your Savior and Lord. Never think or speak or act as though you can reverse reality and take care of me.
In verses 10b-16 God completes the reversal when he promises David that he (God) will build David a house. “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you….” This will not be a physical house like David wanted to build for God. It will be a familial house, a dynasty, a guaranteed succession of Davidic kings.
At first it sounds like God is promising one “offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body…, a son who will build a house for my Name….” But then God extends that house down through the ages. “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
This is an unconditional promise, as indicated by the intervening verses (14-15). Yes, I will severely discipline any son of yours who does wrong. And God did that, especially with the Exile. “But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul.”
The problem for the Jews and for us as preachers is that the Davidic line of kings did, indeed, die out with the Exile. For 400 years there was no son of David on the throne of Israel. And the people who had been set free from Babylon and Persia were then taken captive by Rome. Once again God’s people were ruled by pagans, not by Davidic kings. They didn’t take it well, remaining a stubbornly, sometimes violently rebellious nation under Rome. But they remained under Rome for a long time.
But as I said at the beginning of this piece, the promise given in the best of times when it didn’t seem necessary was fulfilled in the worst of times when it didn’t seem possible. In a time when only a few were still looking for the redemption of Israel (notably Simeon and Anna), the angel Gabriel came to a humble virgin named Mary. His Advent promise to her was the exact promise made to David. “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “You are to give him the name Jesus.”
Even as God reversed the reversal David had in mind when he decided to do something for God, God will reverse the reversal that has overtaken the world which has decided that we humans are God. I’m referring here to Mary’s song of praise in response to the Good News of the coming Messiah. The Magnificat is full of reversals. From this “humble servant” the Mighty One has done great things: scattered those who are proud in their own thoughts (imagining that they can act as their own Lord and Savior), bringing down rulers from their thrones and lifting up the humble, filling the hungry with good things but sending the rich away empty.
The message of this text for this Fourth Sunday of Advent is crucial for this time of unrest and turmoil. Even when you think that all is lost because the world has been turned upside down, even when it seems as though God hasn’t kept his promises, he will send his Messiah, son of David and Son of God, to reverse things and restore shalom. He is only 5 days away, as God measures time.
This text about “houses” is particularly relevant for those of us who have just lived through the troublesome times surrounding the succession of the United States presidency. Who would be the next king? Who would decide? With deep suspicions on both sides, there was high fear throughout the country. In our text, the word of the Lord settled the issue of succession once and for all time. Jesus will be King, no matter who sits on the throne of any nation. And that gives his servants deep comfort and high hope, even if the “wrong” candidate ascends the throne of any country. Remember, God’s word does not fail, even when it seems as though it has. The King is coming!
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Author: Scott Hoezee
Most of what makes Psalm 89 such an interesting poem cannot be seen if you restrict yourself to just the verses that the Lectionary has carved out of the psalm’s full 52 verses. Because this poem that begins in such an upbeat tone and with such a full-throated desire to sing praise to God for God’s faithfulness ends with long and bitter notes of lament.
We start by praising God. Then, in verses 5-14 that the Lectionary skips, the psalmist praises God more for his creation. But then the poet begins a slow slide into lament. It starts in verse 19 when David is mentioned as an anointed one of God who would never be forsaken. But soon enough it becomes clear that whoever is writing this psalm thinks he deserves the same protections David had been promised but, alas, nothing of the kind if happening and he is at the mercy of many foes, being mocked and abused and feeling just generally completely neglected by God.
We will comment in a moment as to how one might account for this combination of praise with lament and what it means but first a couple contextual notes.
First, some wonder if Psalms 88 & 89 are meant to form a pair, kind of one Psalm in two parts (similar to Psalms 42 and 43). Psalm 88 of course is the darkest of all lament psalms. This is the only example of a lament in the Hebrew Psalter that not only never turns the corner back toward brighter things but actually concludes with the bleak line, “Darkness is my best friend.” If Psalm 89 is meant to continue Psalm 88, then perhaps its opening lines are an attempt to be brighter after all even if—by the time also Psalm 89 concludes—it is clear that all that was lamentable in Psalm 88 is still there. In any event, Psalm 88 casts an exceedingly dark shadow and Psalm 89 at the very least stands in that shadow.
Second, internally the Book of Psalms is divided up into five sub-books, each concluding with some version of Psalm 89:52, “Praise be to the LORD forever” (see also Psalms 41:13, 72:19, 106:48, 150:6). No one has ever definitively figured out if each of the five sub-books has a theme or an emphasis. Laments are scattered pretty evenly throughout the books but are concentrated in the first three even as the entire collection concludes with the strongest of all praise psalms starting around Psalm 144 and on through to the end in Psalm 150. Still, it is good to note that Psalms 88 & 89 wrap up Book Three with two decisive notes of lament, signaling perhaps that this is just how life goes sometimes, even for the most faithful of God’s people. Things don’t always turn out sunny right away. Sometimes darkness is your only friend and try though you may to praise God for God’s faithfulness as the first part of Psalm 89 does, the things that nettle us may not disappear right away.
Let’s admit that this is not the cheeriest message one could hear. Particularly in this time of 2020 as we are experiencing both the sorrow and fright of the pandemic of COVID-19 and also experiencing the tensions and sorrows of racial unrest in the wake of the unjust killing of more black people, we maybe are not overly heartened to hear that sometimes—even for God’s faithful people—such difficult times don’t just evaporate as soon as you ask God for help. We may not know why that is the case but for certain we can know that it very simply IS the case and that it has ever been so for God’s people as reflected in many Psalms of Lament or even in many psalms that seem to start out as Psalms of Praise (as with Psalm 89) but that curdle back to some lament after all.
Then again, although the Lectionary’s carving out only a few of the happier parts of this psalm obscures this, the fact is that Psalm 89 does manage some obviously heartfelt praise in the midst of lament. There are things we can focus on in even darker moments that may not lift all the gloom but that can point us toward better, more hope-filled things.
Please know that I am not being a Pollyanna here nor encouraging anyone to preach Pollyannaish sermons. This I would never do! But there may be something to be said for pondering God’s faithfulness in times when the bottom seems to be dropping out on many parts of our lives and of our world. And though we are now in the last Sunday of Advent 2020 with Christmas a scant five days away, we have to face the fact that we are in the midst of a long, dark winter. Hope may be on the horizon. Vaccines may yet tame the virus and end the pandemic so that a year from now as 2021 closes, maybe, maybe, maybe things will be better. But not yet and not for sure even so.
There may be something to be said for doing what the psalmist does in verses 5-12 through pondering the creation (something maybe these summertime months give us the opportunity to do more than in the bleak midwinter where many of us find ourselves just now) and connecting this to the awesome power of God.
In other words, maybe it is spiritually at least a little helpful in seasons of genuine and legitimate lament to do what we can to praise God for God’s faithfulness and for God’s awesome and majestic power on display in the creation. Perhaps although not eliminating all the difficulties, such postures of praise and adoration can fan embers of hope in our souls that God is in charge, that God can and will do something, that God can and will still bring all things to where he wants them to be when the kingdom of Christ fully comes.
And perhaps as Christians if we connect God’s faithfulness to its most radical instance ever—the death of God’s own Son on the cross that that truly human birth in Bethlehem made possible—then we can be reminded of just how far God is willing to go to be faithful to God’s own promises. And that most assuredly can inspire hope. To quote the well-known line of Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption: Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And good things never die.
Thanks be to God.
Be sure to check out our 2020 Year B Advent/Christmas resource page for more sermon and worship ideas and links to many sample sermons as well. Visit us all through Advent!
I have perhaps used this illustration before in some other connection here on the CEP website but the psalmist’s posture of praise in the midst of lament and suffering definitely puts me in mind of the end of Maya Angelou’s classic essay “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” It goes like this:
Back in the 1930s and 1940s Maya lived with her family in the Deep South where her parents ran a small grocery store. One day when Maya’s Mama was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the store, a group of white girls came by and decided to spend some time mocking Mama. They laughed at her for being black. They said nasty, racially wounding things. One 13-year-old girl did a handstand at one point, allowing her dress to fall down around her shoulders to reveal she was not wearing any underwear. So she mooned Mama with her bare bottom and her bare front.
And watching her Mama from a corner of the porch, young Maya was furious that Mama did not do something, say something, shoo those nasty girls away. But Mama stayed calm and as Maya moved a little closer to her Mama, Maya could hear her singing softly, “Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more.”
The girls tired of the show eventually and left. And as Mama stood up to return to the store, Maya could hear her singing softly again “Glory hallelujah when I lay my burden down. Glory hallelujah when I lay my burden down.”
Author: Doug Bratt
I suspect that were Romans 16’s proclaimers to ask our hearers which of the Bible’s books are the most “theological,” at least some of them would answer “Romans.” Its themes of human sinfulness, righteousness from God and the need for appropriate responses to God’s grace run throughout this letter. Romans is also Paul’s letter that contains one of the epistles’ most famous but mysterious verses: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (8:28).
Isn’t it interesting, then, that Paul concludes this letter that he so packs with good theology and pastoral care with a doxology? That his very final word to Rome’s beleaguered Christians is, “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen?”
Of course, Paul has alluded to glorifying God throughout this letter. Already in chapter 1 he characterizes human sinfulness as knowing God, but failing to glorify or thank God. So right at the beginning of his letter to Roman Christians, the apostle lays down a marker of what it means to be truly human: to respond to the knowledge of God with praise and thanksgiving.
Yet as L. Ann Jervis points out in the December 21, 2008 “Working Preacher,” such glorification of and thanks to God remains an ideal. People, after all, naturally act as if God doesn’t even exist. So we naturally direct our glory and thanks to each other rather than the living God. Even Christians sometimes struggle to glorify for who God is and thank God for what God does.
In fact, people have so distorted the nature of praise that, as John Frederick notes in December 20, 2020’s “Working Preacher,” we naturally assume Paul’s call to give glory to God is grounded in God’s neediness or arrogance. We wonder what sort of neurotic god would need this kind of affirmation and recognition not only from people, but also from the whole world.
Paul understood, however, that it’s not that God somehow craves God’s creation and creatures’ praise. Praise and thanks to God is appropriate because God deserves all the thanks and praise that creation and those creatures can muster – and far, far more. What’s more, God creates people in God’s own image in part in order to give thanks and praise to God. So Paul might argue that people are seldom being more fully human than when we offer God “glory forever through Jesus Christ.”
God, in fact, has graciously freed Jesus’ followers to offer that praise. God has equipped God’s beloved sons and daughters, in fact “all nations” (26) to respond to God’s amazing grace with “obedience.”
God, after all, opened the way to such faith, obedience and praise by revealing what verse 25 calls “the mystery hidden for long ages past.” By that, as Jervis notes, Paul isn’t speaking of the gospel itself as mysterious. It isn’t like a crime to be solved or a puzzle to be assembled. In this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson, as well as elsewhere in the Scriptures, “mystery” refers, instead, to something that human sinfulness had previously been unable to recognize or perceive.
Scholars disagree on just what constitutes this “mystery.” In his fine 2014 Sermon Starter on this passage, my colleague Stan Mast, for example, suggests that it’s that God will save Gentiles as completely as the Jews. That’s certainly a biblically-appropriate understanding that can, with the Spirit’s leadership, take a proclamation of Romans 16:25-27 in an appropriate direction.
For this Starter’s purposes, however, I’d suggest that the “mystery” of which Paul speaks here is simply God’s gracious character and nature. After all, it’s not as if the gospel of God’s amazing grace hadn’t existed before the Son of God took on human flesh at measured time’s pivotal moment. God’s grace is, in fact, at least arguably older than sin. That grace has been operative, after all, since near the beginning of measured time.
But at least some of God’s people had difficulty recognizing that grace. They came to understand God as largely a God who judged not the basis of God’s loving mercy, but faithful obedience. While they recognized God as merciful, some of God’s people thought of God as more “legalistic.”
So Romans 16’s proclaimers might explore with our hearers a kind of parallel between the “mystery” of God’s grace and COVID-19. After all, both God’s grace and COVID operated even before people fully recognized and understood them – though God’s grace has existed infinitely longer than COVID.
Researchers, statisticians and others are working 24/7 to uncover some of this pandemic’s “mysteries” so that they can more quickly recognize it as well as understand its origins, nature, most effective treatments and vaccine against it. We’re all looking forward to the day when God equips people to uncover COVID’s secrets by revealing and making known this terrible virus.
While some people failed to recognize it, God, in fact, revealed God’s “pre-existing condition” that is grace through what verse 26 calls “the prophetic writings.” People like Isaiah, Amos and Malachi proclaimed God’s grace as surely as did Paul, John, Peter and Jesus. So the gospel was only unveiled to Rome’s Christians in the sense that they didn’t recognize it until the Holy Spirit empowered Paul to proclaim it to them and them to recognize it.
So this mystery is as Jervis notes, no longer a mystery because humanity somehow figured it all out. God’s ways are no longer mysterious only because God has graciously chosen to unveil them.
In the Jesus’ whose birth most Christians plan to celebrate this week, we see God’s gracious character most fully. We see and proclaim God as the One who cared about God’s creation and creatures enough to take on human form and nature, while still remaining perfectly faithful and obedient.
In fact, throughout Advent we proclaim that Jesus Christ didn’t just come to be born in Bethlehem, live and die for his followers’ sins, as well as rise from the dead to God’s glory and for his adopted brothers and sisters’ eternal well-being. That same Christ is coming again to make all things new.
So this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s proclaimers announce that God has graciously uncovered for God’s people in “all nations,” in Rome and Jerusalem, Newfoundland and Nebraska, Berlin and Brasilia what we failed to recognize for millennia. We proclaim Jesus Christ’s coming to save sinners in Karachi and Caracas, Lagos and Lahore.
This Sunday’s Advent worship celebrates God’s amazing grace that empowers people in San Salvador and Seoul to “believe” (26). Even now God’s dearly beloved sons and daughters are responding in Beijing and Baghdad are obediently looking forward to Christ’s return.
All of this and more offer all the reasons Jesus’ followers need to both now and always to praise and thank God. So perhaps this Sunday God’s adopted sons and daughters can at least begin to turn from Advent’s hymns of longing such as “Come, thou Long-Expected Jesus” to Christmas carols’ “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
And perhaps near the end of 2020’s utter strangeness and the beginning of 2021’s complete mystery, we can keep on singing those Christmas carols about the mysteries of God’s ways that Christ’s coming has unveiled. After all, while much about the present and future is highly mysterious to us, God’s grace to us in the come and coming Jesus Christ sends us into that future singing about God’s amazing grace and gracious ways.
I’ve already referred to Stan Mast’s fine December 15, 2014 Sermon Starter on this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson. Near its end he asks how we can “glorify the God who already has all the glory.” What, Mast muses, can that mean?
Mast tells of reading a report about the first official scrimmage of the Cleveland Cavaliers after LeBron James rejoined that team back in 2014. James was and, arguably, remains the best player in the National Basketball Association. People and organizations have honored James and given him awards ever since he began to play basketball. He already has all that “glory.”
But the article described how glorious James was in this first scrimmage — how he passed, rebounded, dunked, shot, and defended. The article’s author noted how, in fact, the entire Cavalier team was better because he was there. “This report,” writes Mast, “proclaimed the glory of LeBron James in a way that made him seem even more glorious. His glory was magnified for all to see.”
That, concludes Mast, is something like what Paul calls us to do with God in our own lives and in the world. We give the already glorious God glory because of God’s grace that God most clearly displayed in Jesus Christ.