A SERMON IN FOUR SCRIPTURES

Exodus 32:7-14    Psalm 51:1-10     1 Timothy 1:12-17    Luke 15:1-10

Jeff Davidson

If you look up a dictionary definition for “preach,” you will find that one of the definitions is “to give religious or moral instruction, particularly in a tedious manner.” One popular form of preaching is “expository preaching.” According to Wikipedia, this is a form of preaching that details the meaning of a particular text or passage of scripture. It explains what the Bible means by what it says. That makes sense; the Bible is not always clear about what it means, and when the meaning is clear how to apply that meaning sometimes is not.

There are a lot of different ways to divide up preachers and preaching. I googled “styles of preaching” and found all different kinds of ways to categorize, define, and classify preachers and sermons.

The bottom line for all of us as preachers is that the Bible has a message for us today, here and now. That message may be applied differently by different people in different settings, but the basic message is the same. Sometimes it takes a lot of study and thought to figure out what the message might be. Sometimes there are many messages and the challenge is to figure out which one to preach on. Sometimes the message is right there in the Scripture, and in that case the preacher’s job is to get out of the way.

I’ve talked before about the lectionary, a list of four suggested readings for each Sunday and other special days like Christmas, Lent, and the like. When I read the four lectionary readings for today, I realized that they almost exactly made a sermon just as they were. Now, I just need to see how well I can get out of the way. With just a few additions from me, this is a sermon in four scriptures.

(Exodus 32:7-14)  The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'”

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

The Lord changed his mind. Moses interceded, and God changed his mind. Surely if God can change his mind about the Israelites, God can forgive me. (Psalm 51:1-10) “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Amen.

It’s not just me to whom God has shown grace. It was Paul too. (1 Timothy 1:12-17)  “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

It’s not just me. It’s my friends. It’s my neighbors. It’s my family. It’s you. (Luke 15:1-10)  Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Confession. Repentance. Mercy. Grace. The message of scripture is clear today. It needs nothing more from me or from you except to live out of it, and to extend the same mercy to others as God extends to us. Amen.

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