Epiphany: Unraveling the Riddle of Readiness

Epiphany: Unraveling the Riddle of Readiness Sermon Audio Here

1 Cor.3:1-9

The current snowy weather has certainly changed how we prepare to begin a journey. What might have been a quick trip to the supermarket is starting to resemble something from Scott of the Antarctic…

How Do We Get Ready for Wisdom?

Don’t Get Stuck in the World ~ 1 Cor.3:1-4

  • v1 follow up from 1 Cor 2:14-16, distinction between the person living according to the Spirit, or according to the world; Corinthians are living by the world’s standards
  • v2 the world can’t digest God’s wisdom as a whole; if we are caught up in that system, we can’t either
  • v3 indications one is caught in the flesh? They act like the world, with argumentative attitudes
  • v4 They even take spiritual leaders and reduce them to rallying slogans

Focus On Who’s Really At Work ~ 1 Cor.3:5-9

  • v5 simply, God does the spiritual work; we just help as God chooses
  • v6/7 we do different tasks, but God gives the growth
  • v8 God notices our specific help; we’ll be rewarded eventually (that’s another sermon)
  • v9 notice that the Corinthians are not counted among the workers (they’re too worldly); they are the recipients of God’s work, not the co-laborers

Deut 30:19-20a ~ This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

God chooses us for Salvation; We choose to live IN that Salvation, by responding to His Love, listening to His Word, and walking in His Way.

Preaching Schedule for 2017

For a few years now, I have been planning my sermon schedules about a year in advance. I take a few days of retreat in October, and read a lot of Scripture to see what patterns might emerge, which I then hammer out into a schedule that takes me through the liturgical year.

This year, using the Revised Common Lectionary, we’re in “Year A”. The Lectionary texts are used all over the world on a three year cycle (A, B, C), and every other year, I use the RCL to select the texts I’ll be working with.

If you’re really interested, you can go to The Revised Common Lectionary at Vanderbilt to see what texts we’ll be using for the particular day.

Here are the themes and texts we’ll be using in 2017:

2016-2017 Lectionary Year A OT Reading NT Reading
11/27/16 Advent: Preparing for the Last Day Isaiah 2:1-5 Romans 13:11-14
12/04/16 Advent: Preparing for the Promise Isaiah 11:1-10 Romans 15:4-13
12/11/16 Advent: Preparing for the Presence Isaiah 35:1-10 James 5:7-10
12/18/16 Advent: Preparing for the Child Isaiah 7:10-16 Romans 1:1-7
12/24/16 Christmas Eve: Who Showed Up? Isaiah 52:7-10 Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)
01/01/17 Christmas: What Did You Get? Isaiah 63:7-9 Hebrews 2:10-18
01/08/17 Epiphany: Understanding the Directions Isaiah 60:1-6 Ephesians 3:1-12
01/15/17 Epiphany: Unpacking the Equipment Isaiah 49:1-7 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
01/22/17 Epiphany: Uniting In Leadership Isaiah 9:1-4 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
01/29/17 Epiphany: Upside-down Power Micah 6:1-8 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
02/05/17 Epiphany: Unction and Exercise Isaiah 58:1-9a 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)
02/12/17 Epiphany: Unraveling the Riddle of Readiness Deut. 30:15-20 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
02/26/17 Transfiguration: Seeing and Receiving Exodus 24:12-18 2 Peter 1:16-21
03/05/17 Lent: Our Need Genesis 2:15-1 Romans 5:12-19
03/12/17 Lent: Our Credit Genesis 12:1-4a Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
03/19/17 Lent: Our Peace Exodus 17:1-7 Romans 5:1-11
03/26/17 Lent: Our Light 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Ephesians 5:8-14
04/02/17 Lent: Our Struggle Ezekiel 37:1-14 Romans 8:6-11
04/09/17 Lent: Our Reception Isaiah 50:4-9a Matthew 21:1-11
04/16/17 Raised With Christ! Jeremiah 31:1-6 Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
04/23/17 Posts from 1 Peter: Hope is Alive Psalm 16 1 Peter 1:3-9
04/30/17 Posts from 1 Peter: Faith is Precious Psalm 116:1-4 1 Peter 1:17-23
05/07/17 Posts from 1 Peter: Endurance is Trust Psalm 23 1 Peter 2:19-25
05/14/17 Posts from 1 Peter: Placed for Praise Psalm 31:1-5 1 Peter 2:2-10
05/21/17 Posts from 1 Peter: Reasons for Hope Psalm 66:8-20 1 Peter 3:13-22
05/28/17 Posts from 1 Peter: Resisting and Restoration Psalm 16 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
06/04/17 Pentecost: The Breath of God Numbers 11:24-30 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21
06/11/17 Trinity Sunday: An Ocean of Mystery Genesis 1:1-2:4a Matthew 28:16-20
06/18/17 Gems from Genesis: God Hears Our Laughter Genesis 18:1-15 Romans 5:1-8
06/25/17 PULPIT SUPPLY (Annual Meeting)
07/02/17 Gems from Genesis: God Sees Our Sacrifice Genesis 22:1-14 Romans 6:12-23
07/09/17 Gems from Genesis: God Knows Our Need Genesis 24:42-49 Romans 7:15-25a
07/16/17 Gems from Genesis: God Knows Our Attitudes Genesis 25:19-34 Romans 8:1-11
07/23/17 Gems from Genesis: God Speaks to Our Hearts Genesis 28:10-19a Romans 8:12-25
07/30/17 Gems from Genesis: God Watches Our Choices Genesis 29:15-28 Romans 8:26-39
08/06/17 Gems from Genesis: God Is Willing To Wrestle Genesis 32:22-31 Romans 9:1-5
08/13/17 Gems from Genesis: God Is Aware of Our Situation Genesis 37:12-28 Romans 10:5-15
08/20/17 Gems from Genesis: God Reveals His Purpose Genesis 45:1-15 Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
08/27/17 Roaming Through Romans: Humility Transformed Exodus 1:8-2:10 Romans 12:1-8
09/03/17 Roaming Through Romans: Love Enacted Exodus 3:1-15 Romans 12:9-21
09/10/17 Roaming Through Romans: Holiness Awakened Exodus 12:1-14 Romans 13:8-14
09/17/17 Roaming Through Romans: Faith Accounted Exodus 14:19-31 Romans 14:1-12
09/24/17 Pearls from Philippians: Continuing Conduct Exodus 16:2-15 Philippians 1:21-30
10/01/17 Pearls from Philippians: Conforming Comfort Exodus 17:1-7 Philippians 2:1-13
10/08/17 Pearls from Philippians: Considering Commitment Exodus 20:1-4 Philippians 3:4b-14
10/15/17 Pearls from Philippians: Contending Companionship Exodus 32:1-14 Philippians 4:1-9
10/22/17 Thankfulness For Thessalonica Exodus 33:12-23 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
10/29/17 Thinking About Thessalonica Deut. 34:1-12 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
11/05/17 Thriving In Thessalonica Joshua 3:7-17 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
11/12/17 Theory of Thanatos in Thessalonica Joshua 24:1-3a 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
11/19/17 A Thief in Thessalonica? Judges 4:1-7 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
11/26/17 Confidence in the Incomparable Ezekiel 34:11-16 Ephesians 1:15-23

I hope that’s helpful to you as you prepare to study God’s word!
KFJ – Ed

Epiphany: Unction and Exercise

Epiphany: Unction and Exercise Sermon Audio Here

1 Cor.2:1-12
At the beginning of a new year, many people decide to embark on an exercise regime. It’s an admirable idea, but why do so many people give up on long-term implementation? Today we’ll talk about exercise… AND “unction”: an infrequently used word today which means anointed.

How Do You Know If You’ve Got “The Unction?”

Exercise of Spiritual Power ~ 1 Cor.2:1-5

  • v1/2 super spirituality is not required (“I could never be like ___”)
  • v3 Doesn’t everybody? This is GOD stuff we’re doing; we’re not worthy!
  • v4/5 God demonstrates HIS power in us so that HE is noticed, not us

Understanding Spiritual Gifts ~ 1 Cor.2:6-12

  • v6/7 we don’t need to worry about the rulers of “this age”; God’s wisdom will out
  • v8/9 our natural mind isn’t going to deduce what God will do through us
  • v10 Are we listening to the Spirit?
  • v11/12 We have received the Spirit FOR understanding God’s gift

Isaiah 58:6-8~ “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

We don’t receive “unction” just as an indicator of our salvation. We’re intended to exercise this spiritual state: If we want to see God move in miraculous ways, we can’t NOT stand up for His cause.

Epiphany: Upside-down Power

Epiphany: Upside-down Power Sermon Audio Here


We have different ways to describe “power”. Sometimes we mean force: the amount of energy needed to accomplish a task. Sometimes we mean flow: the transmission of energy from one point to another. Sometimes we mean influence: the ability to get someone to do something. We know how electrical power works (AC/DC); but what about God’s power?

Powerful Points to Ponder:

Our Ability Falls Short of God’s Glory ~ 1 Cor. 1:18-25

  • v18/19 reminder: God’s ways are NOT ours
  • v20/21 God’s choice: we can’t figure out God on our own on purpose!
  • v22/23 Jews can’t accept Messiah as Sacrifice (seen as Conqueror); Greeks can’t accept Christ’s Sacrifice because it means admitting that human wisdom is insufficient for salvation
  • v24/25 Christ’s power through submission to God’s plan; Christ’s wisdom through acceptance of God’s terms

Our Inability Shows God’s Grace ~ 1 Cor. 1:26-31

  • v26/27 who we are isn’t that important for God’s use
  • v28/29 God uses the uncomplicated so HE gets the glory
  • v30/31 our Inability just shows of HIS ability to make Himself known through us

Consider this: sand is opaque (you can’t see through it); when exposed to extreme heat, it reforms and becomes transparent. It’s got the same ingredients, but the internal change makes all the difference.

Micah 6:8 ~ He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Human power is the personal application of influence to control behavior; God’s power isn’t wielded, it’s yielded to. We don’t EXERCISE God’s power; we submit to it (obedience leads to God’s powerful presence in us).

Human wisdom is the learned beneficial application of knowledge; God’s wisdom isn’t learned, it’s received. We don’t WORK for God’s Wisdom; we accept it (as a gift).

Epiphany: Uniting In Leadership

Epiphany: Uniting In Leadership Sermon Audio Here

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

The Corinthian church faced a challenge: they wanted to define themselves by what leader they were willing to follow. But what if everyone didn’t pick the same leader…

What Shows The World That We Are ONE In Christ?

We Speak the Same Truth ~ 1 Cor.1:10-12

  • v10 “all agree”=all speak the same;
  • “may be perfectly united”=tricky combo verb: it means you SHOULD BE prepared TOGETHER
  • v11/12 the quarrels undermine that goal; seeking leadership outside of Christ is NOT going to send the Gospel message to the watching world

We Show the Same Proof ~ 1 Cor.1:13-18

  • v13/16 Paul deemphasizes baptism: it’s a rite of obedience, not an act of spiritual registration
  • v17 the Gospel isn’t about the perfect words to say; it’s the power of the Cross to change a life: THAT is Good News!
  • v18 Message of the Cross is DEATH TO SELF – of course that’s foolish to those who are dying– why would they want to speed up the process? But to those of us who have accepted Christ’s work in place of our own, our debts have been all canceled out – we have been set free by God’s power!

Isaiah 9:2 ~ “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

We, who have seen the light of the Cross, must demonstrate what difference Christ has made in us. THAT is the unity that the dark world needs so desperately to see.

Epiphany: Unpacking the Equipment

Epiphany: Unpacking the Equipment Sermon Audio Here

1 Cor.1:1-9

I’m married to a list-maker: when we’re preparing for a long trip, she (and many others like her) use lists to keep track of what is needed for the trip. Do you realize what’s on YOUR checklist already?

Your Checklist in Christ Includes:

What You Are ~ 1 Cor.1:1-3

  • v2 you ARE sanctified (to make or declare holy);
  •     you ARE called (appointed, placed on purpose)

What You Have ~ 1 Cor.1:4-9

  • v4 Grace (not generally to all, but specifically TO YOU)
  • v5 Enrichment (in Christ)
  • v6 Confirmation (stability)
  • v7 Completeness (of spiritual gifts)
  • v8 Blamelessness (no one has the right to impeach you)
  • v9 Fellowship (partnership – you share in His work & benefits)

Isaiah 49:5~ And now the LORD says– he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength…

God has had plans for your life before you were born; He knows what He’s doing, giving you what you’ve been given to accomplish what He has in mind for you!

Epiphany: Understanding the Directions

Epiphany: Understanding the Directions Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 2:1-12

In the old days, before the ever-present use of satellite technology, to find one’s way around the world took careful research and a good map.

Finding Our Way Like the Magi Means:

Seeking Sets Up Wisdom ~ Matthew 2:1-2

  • v1 magi=”oriental scientist”, observe/interpret world
  • v2 looked for meaning; acted on it: cf. James 1:5 (ask God for it)

Refining Required for Wisdom ~ Matthew 2:3-6

  • v3/4 disturbed; couldn’t be bothered to seek for himself
  • v5/6 wisdom IS available for those who bother to actually seek: cf. Job 28 compares gaining wisdom with the process of mining: hard work which requires refinement

Practicing the Process of Wisdom ~ Matthew 2:7-12

  • v7/8 Herod wants to subvert Magi’s seeking for his own agenda
  • v9 went ahead: another miraculous overlay – not JUST looking for wisdom through observation, but now depending upon God’s direct intervention
  • v10/12 response to direct intervention: joy, worship, fulfillment (they left differently).

This is still true: when we interact with God directly, we discover joy, enter into worship, and find fulfillment as God leads us in different directions.

Pastor Ed Backell

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