Time Touching Eternity: Preaching through the Christian Year

My latest article at Preaching Today went live this week. In it I explore the ways in which preaching can benefit from following the Christian year. What follows is an excerpt, but you can read the entire article here.

When I was a college student, I gave up wearing a watch. I would keep track of time by listening to the clock tower near the center of campus that intoned time at fifteen-minute intervals throughout the day. The bells created a rhythm that punctuated my day, giving order in the midst of my classes, relationships, and activities that reminded me of what I was supposed to be doing and where I was supposed to be going. Having a good sense of the time helped me move in the right direction.

The same is true in our spiritual life generally. The men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12 are lauded as those “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chr. 12:32). The Apostle Paul tells believers to make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). We want to walk through the chronos of time so that we also understand what is happening and seize the kairos of time.

Certainly, we want to do this as individual followers of Christ, but we also want to journey this way as the community of God. In reading the Old Testament we encounter the annual cycle of festivals—Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles—as well as the high holidays and weekly Sabbath, which served to orient God’s people to the story of his work in their life and history. While not bound to this cycle as followers of Jesus and as preachers, keeping time, both chronos and kairos, with Christ is vital to moving in the right direction. One of the best, time-tested spiritual practices to help us do this is the Christian year.

The Christian year, sometimes referred to as the church calendar or liturgical year, is a meaningful way for Christians to mark time not according to secular or political calendars but according to the life of Christ. In a systematic and narrative manner, the Christian year enables us to enter into the life of Christ and the church in a way that is spiritually formative for us. Through the Christian year we literally mold our days to Christ’s days through a series of celebrations and seasons.

[Read the rest of the article here.]

You could explore additional resources on this topic here:

The Heart of God’s Deliverance: a word from John Oswalt on Isaiah 9

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

I came across this eye-catching word from John Oswalt while studying for an upcoming message from Isaiah 9:6-7:

How will God deliver from arrogance, war, oppression, and coercion? By being more arrogant, more warlike, more oppressive, and more coercive? Surely, the book of Isaiah indicates frequently that God was powerful enough to destroy his enemies in an instant, yet again and again, when the prophet comes to the heart of the means of deliverance, a childlike face peers out at us. God is strong enough to overcome his enemies by becoming vulnerable, transparent, and humble—the only hope, in fact, for turning enmity into friendship.

John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, NICOT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 245.

Preparing People for Christmas with Advent Preaching

It was a real privilege to join Matt Woodley for an episode of Preaching Today‘s podcast, Monday Morning Preacher, entitled: “Preparing People for Christmas with Advent Preaching.” Matt and I talked about the significance of Advent, why preaching the preparation of Advent is important, and also offered some examples of how I have done this over the years at Eastbrook. Advent has been incredibly important to me in my own spiritual journey, but also in my approach to ministry.

If this podcast interests you, let me encourage you to also read my article at Preaching Today on “Recovering the Wonder of Christmas: Four pathways for preaching during Advent.”

Bibliography for Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent

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When I conclude a sermon series, I often share the resources I used to help me study and prepare my sermons. Here is that list of books for the recent series, “Songs of the Savior, Psalms for Advent.”

Bibliography for “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together and The Prayerbook of the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Volume 5. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996.

Sidney Greidanus. Preaching Christ from Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016.

John W. Hilber. “Psalms.” In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary – Old Testament, volume 5, 316-463. Edited by John H. Walton. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller. The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. New York: Viking, 2015.

Derek Kidner. Psalms 1-72. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

________. Psalms 73-150. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

E. R. Hayes. “Justice, Righteousness.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, edited by Mark J. Boda and J. Gordan McConville, 466-72. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012.

C. S. Lewis. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harper, 1958.

James Luther Mays. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1994.

Willem A. VanGemeren. “Psalms.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, revised edition, volume 5, edited Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

N. T. Wright. The Case for the Psalms. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.