Monday, August 23, 2010

Homiletical Hot Tub- Monday

I'm guest blogging this week over at's "Homiletical Hot Tub", sharing my weekly process of composing a sermon for each Sunday

If you're a subscriber to (and you really should be, it's full of great preaching resources), you can read the first post here.

For those who aren't subscribers, here's what I wrote (hopefully I won't get in trouble for sharing subscriber content on my site)

Hello, friends. My name is Matt Kelley, and I’ve been asked to blog about my sermon writing process this week here in the Homiletical Hot Tub.

I practice a model of collaborative preaching that is partially based on the work of one of my seminary professors (more about that in a minute), so I follow a weekly schedule for the whole process to work properly along with all the other demands of parish ministry.

First thing’s first. I’m the pastor of Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. Last year we lost our historic church building when a bolt of lightning hit our steeple and burned the building down. During the last year we’ve been engaged in a process of revisioning and planning for the rebuilding, and during the month of August we’re conducting our capital campaign to raise funds for a new church building.

The theme of our campaign is “Bethlehem on the Rise”, and each of the worship services this month has had a theme of something rising. For August 29, the theme is “The Sun Rising”, and the scriptures, sermon, music, etc. are all chosen to fit this theme. So the two passages our capital campaign team picked for this Sunday are Genesis 1:3-5 and Matthew 5:14-16.

On Monday I do my exegetical work. I always use the, a set of which I have at home. I also consult other resources, depending on the passages and themes for the week. This week I also consulted the Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 1: Genesis 1-15  and Detrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, since it contains and extended meditation on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and David N. Mosser’s The Stewardship Companion: Lectionary Resources for Preaching.New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary

I usually also consult a variety of online resources. There’s a wealth of good stuff here on, as you probably already know. It’s all divided up according to the Revised Common Lectionary, but if you’re preaching from different texts, go to Vanderbilt’s Lectionary Website, type in the passage(s) you’re using in the search bar, and it will tell you when and where it occurs in the RCL. If you are following the lectionary (as I usually do), Journey with Jesus is another great site.

Using the resources mentioned above, and knowing I’ll need to incorporate the themes of Sun and light, and somehow tie that into giving money for our new building, here is my Monday exegesis.

Genesis 1 is part of the first of two creation stories that begin the Bible. The first creation story is generally credited to the Priestly source (read more on the 4 source theory for Genesis here), and may have been composed in its present form as late as the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (5th century BCE). It’s important to remember that this text represents a pre-scientific world view, so it should not be judged by post-Enlightenment standards of fact. God creates the light on day 1, and the Sun on day 2, suggesting that the ancients saw light as having a divine origin, the Sun being one of many luminaries placed in the sky. The sun goes away at night and returns in the morning, making each day a new creation, filled with possibility.

Jesus also talks about the concept of light in the Sermon on the Mount. He talks about it in two contrasting ways. Calling his followers “the light of the world”, Jesus may be highlighting that the purpose of light is not for itself, but for other things to be illuminated. Light points to something beyond itself. However, in the very next breath Jesus calls his followers “a city on a hill”, which certainly does draw attention to itself! The idea that the works of disciples of Jesus are to be seen stands in tension with other sayings about doing things “in secret” (ex- Matthew 6:3). These tensions should not be seen as “contradictions”, but as illustrative of the very real tension that followers of Christ experience in striving to live in such a way that points beyond themselves to the greatness of God.

Bohoeffer points out that disciples are not told to “become” or “strive to be” light for the world. Jesus makes the statement in the present tense: “you are the light”. Jesus is telling his followers to be what they already are. The light is a gift of which we are stewards, meant to be shared with everyone and not just those we want to let in. This passage occurs in the context of a teaching to a large group of people, most of whom are curious about Jesus but not yet committed followers. This is not a private teaching to the twelve. The very setting indicates the inclusiveness of Jesus’ gospel and reminds the church that it is not a closed society of the elect, but an ad hoc committee dedicated to the redemption of the entire world.

I have these exegetical insights in a notebook, which I will have with me on Tuesday night at our congregation’s weekly Roundtable Pulpit. We meet at a local Starbucks, and anyone (church members, friends, and complete strangers) is welcome to come and reflect on the texts and themes for the week. I take notes in the same notebook, and have it with me the rest of the week while I’m composing my Sunday sermon.

The title Roundtable Pulpit is unashamedly ripped off from a book of the same name written by John McClure, with whom I had the pleasure of studying at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

A while back I wrote an article on Worship Connection about the collaborative preaching process, and you can read that if you want to know more.

I’ll post again on Wednesday with a summary of our Tuesday night conversation, and again later in the week as I try to put it all together for Sunday.

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