Finding Your Story in the Easter Story: a preaching resource

I had the privilege of participating in a discussion led by Steve Carter with Mark Moore for Preaching Today entitled “Finding Your Story in the Easter Story.” This may be behind a paywall, but here is the description at Preaching Today about this resource:

It’s another Easter season, so we are preparing to preach on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. But what about the other days? How often do we neglect, in our sermons, to preach the entirety of Holy Week and help our listeners truly understand Jesus’ week leading to the Cross and his Resurrection?

Steve Carter, editor for Preaching Today, invited Mark Moore, pastor at Christ Church of the Valley in Arizona, to march us through the entirety of Holy Week.

In this powerful, insightful, and moving video:

Moore traces Jesus’ steps from meeting Zacchaeus (the Thursday before Palm Sunday) to Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday. His detailed retelling is filled with historical and geographical information to help us preach our Holy Week sermons.

He also helps us understand the importance of each day leading up to Easter Sunday.

Moore challenges us to preach the same powerful story that everyone is expecting to hear, but it has to be our story and our experience with the story.

Then stay tuned to hear how Steve Carter and Matt Erickson, pastor of Eastbrook Church in Wisconsin, are going to apply Moore’s wisdom in their preaching this Holy Week.

Since, we are in the middle of Lent, Erickson also gives us some tips about how to lead our churches through Lent. If you are interested, you can read more in his article “Finding Our Way Back with Christ.”

Finding Our Way Back with Christ: Four pathways for preaching Lent

I recently wrote an article for Preaching Today on approaches to preaching during Lent. I explore the following ways to preach Lent:

  • A Call to Repentance
  • Facing into the Darkness of Human Experience
  • Journey through the Longings of the Human Heart
  • Follow the Journey of Jesus

This is a parallel article to my “Recovering the Wonder of Christmas: Four pathways for preaching during Advent.” Both of these articles on preaching during seasons of the Christian year flow out of my earlier article “Time Touching Eternity: Preaching through the Christian Year.”

While it is behind a paywall, you can read the entire article here. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

Several years ago, our family traveled by road from our home in the Midwest to Montreal and Quebec City. While we enjoyed seeing the new sights, including road signs and business names written in French, navigating the roads was a challenge at times. On our way to explore the city of Montreal, I followed the GPS navigation, taking a sharp turn through a construction zone only to suddenly discover I was driving the wrong direction on a one-way road. After a few sharp exclamations and some evasive maneuvers, we turned around and made our way safely to our final destination.

Sometimes when we get turned around in life. It can happen through quick decisions that dramatically turn us around or through slow and almost imperceptible changes that lead us off-course. When this occurs, we need to take action, reorient ourselves, and get back on track. Unfortunately, we do not always know how to do this, what action we should take, or what direction we should follow.

In the spiritual life, the Christian year is a resource to help us take action and find our way back on course. With steady attention on the life of Christ and framed within the story of the church, the Christian year literally forms our days around Christ’s days through a series of seasons and celebrations.[1] In a more focused way, the season of Lent dramatically reorients us around Jesus’ journey to the Cross with a forty-day period (not including Sundays) of preparation, beginning with Ash Wednesday and culminating in the Passion or Holy Week.

This journey echoes the forty-year journey of Israel to the Promised Land and Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness, intending to lead us into deeper engagement with God. We turn from ourselves and turn to God. We repent of sin, lament our brokenness, and enter the fires of refining. This extended journey allows us to enter slow time with Christ and his suffering before we leap into our celebration of the Resurrection at Easter.

As preachers, we have a unique opportunity to help our congregations see how lost we are and how much we need Jesus. Our preaching offers a reorientation, new direction, and the way to get back on track by God’s grace with Jesus as the center.

I am going to offer us four pathways for preaching in Lent so that our congregations can find their way back through Christ.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 January 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


63737“The Danger of Preaching Without Jesus” – Pete Scazzero at Preaching Today: “To preach and teach in the name of Jesus is one of the greatest privileges in the world. What makes it particularly dangerous, however, is how easy it is to preach for Jesus without Jesus. I know this only too well. I was in my early years as a Christian when I first came to grips with the sad truth that God appeared to use prominent Christian leaders whose relationship with Jesus was either nonexistent or seriously underdeveloped. It was a discovery that left me confused and disoriented. Yet, after decades in ministry, I am no longer so confused. Why? Because I have experienced to some degree what it’s like to be one of those leaders. I have prepared and preached sermons without thinking about or spending time with Jesus. I know the experience of doing good things that helped a lot of people while being too busy in my own whirlwind of leadership worries to be intimately connected to Jesus.”


St Basil the Great“Naked We Came: From the sermon ‘I Will Tear Down My Barns,’ on Luke 12:16–21” – St. Basil the Great in Comment: “‘But whom do I treat unjustly,’ you say, ‘by keeping what is my own?’ Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common—this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, so no one would be poor, and no one would be in need. Did you not come forth naked from the womb, and will you not return naked to the earth? Where then did you obtain your belongings? If you say that you acquired them by chance, then you deny God since you neither recognize your Creator, nor are you grateful to the One who gave these things to you.”


silence-in-worship“A worship practice Zoom can’t replicate” – Chris Palmer in The Christian Century: “I’m a relatively new pastor, and most of my clerical life—all but two months—has been spent in the grip of the COVID pandemic. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit trying to mitigate the suspicions of corporate bodies in physical space. Are you sure this will give people six feet of distance? Looking at the numbers, should we delay the sacrament again this week? These past months have also revealed the fragile core of the church’s life together. The nation has moved through cultural upheaval that demands the intimacy of proximity, and yet it has been nearly impossible to gather together. I’ve seen cruel words in emails that I never believed Christians could write. I’ve heard pastors, the progenitors of flourishing ministries, detail their excitement thinking about a career change. It’s hard to imagine that there’s no connection between the physical distance and the disenchantment of our time. Much of our nation’s religious practice has migrated online. Facebook has been partnering with a variety of denominations, including my own, to develop digi­tal spaces for online worshipers. How are we being formed by these technologies? What do they make possible, and what do they make impossible? While many have debated the blessings and woes of digital worship, few have discussed the role of silence. Silence cuts against the grain of disembodied online chatter. A shared, instructive silence is one thing I’m convinced that Zoom cannot facilitate, not even with the mute button.”


hill_complex_render_2“Unearthing the Truth: A Zimbabwean archaeologist reimagines the story of a momentous African civilisation” – In The Economist: “in its prime, from around 1200 to 1550, Great Zimbabwe was home to about 10,000 people. The state covered 1,779 acres, more than twice the area of New York’s Central Park. unesco, the un’s cultural body, declared it a world heritage site in 1986. At independence in 1980 Robert Mugabe renamed Rhodesia Zimbabwe (roughly “house of stone”) after the site. Yet it is far less visited, or understood, than Machu Picchu, say, or Egypt’s pyramids. One scholar has made it his life’s work to show how Great Zimbabwe was the foremost example of a precolonial sub-Saharan African state. Shadreck Chirikure was born in 1978, some 60km from Great Zimbabwe in Gutu, a town in eastern Zimbabwe. At school he learned little about the site. His first visit was as a student, aged 22. He has since made up for lost time. A renowned archaeologist, Mr Chirikure is a professor at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford. He has worked across Africa. But he is always drawn back home.”


Pope Francis - pets“Opting for pets over children is selfish and ‘takes away our humanity,’ says Pope Francis” – Joshua Berlinger at CNN: “Pope Francis has criticized couples who choose to have pets instead of children as selfish, arguing that their decision to forgo parenthood leads to a loss of ‘humanity’ and is a detriment to civilization. The Pope made the comments Wednesday while speaking to a general audience about Saint Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. Francis was lauding Joseph’s decision to bring up Jesus as ‘among the highest forms of love’ when he veered into the topic of adoption and orphaned children today. He then turned his focus on couples that opt for animals instead of children. ‘We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children,’ the Pope said.”


ridley-8-scaled“In ‘Wild Design,’ Vintage Illustrations Expose the Patterns and Shapes Behind All Life on Earth” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “Focusing on the patterns and shapes that structure the planet, a new book published by Princeton Architectural Press explores the science behind a trove of organically occurring forms. Wild Design: Nature’s Architects by author Kimberly Ridley pairs dozens of vintage illustrations—spot the work of famed German biologist Ernst Haeckel among them—with essays detailing the function of the striking phenomena, from the smallest organisms to the monumental foundations that extend across vast swaths of land. These structures are simultaneously beautiful and crucial to life on Earth and include the sprawling mycelium networks connecting life above and below ground, the papery, hexagonal cells comprising honeycomb, and a spider’s funnel-like web tailored to trap its prey.”


Music: Chris Thile, “Ecclesiastes 2:24,” Laysongs

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 June 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


K Shaped Recovery“After the K-shaped Recovery” – Here is Andy Crouch from the 2021 Praxis Redemptive Imagination Summit: “To begin, consider a simple thought, counter-intuitive in one sense and almost indisputable in another sense: In all likelihood, in the history of the 2020s, Covid-19 will be a footnote. When our great-grandchildren think about the 2020s, they will probably remember the pandemic just as little as we—until last March—remembered the Spanish Flu when we thought about the 1920s. Pandemics and other natural disasters are rarely history-shaping events by themselves. Instead, natural disasters accelerate and intensify cultural realities and trends. This is why we wrote last year that the lasting ‘ice age,’ the long-term effects of Covid-19, would be more about economy than epidemiology. The little ice age would not so much be the twelve to eighteen months of pandemic ‘winter’ itself, but the dislocation and social change that would be left behind. Today we see three major dislocations, not caused by the pandemic but accelerated by it, that will shape the horizon of redemptive action in the next decade.”


The Louvre Museum Reoppens To The Public - Paris

“New Louvre Director to Resurrect Plans for Long-Debated Byzantine and Coptic Art Department” – Alex Greenberger in ARTnews: “In one of her first moves as the newly appointed president of the Louvre, Laurence des Cars plans to formally launch a department devoted to Byzantine and Coptic art at the Paris museum. If that department comes to fruition, it would signify a break with the Louvre’s current president, Jean-Luc Martinez, who had deemed its formation unnecessary, and a willingness to expand the ways the museum presents religious art. ‘It is a magnificent collection that deserves a department in its own right,’ des Cars said in an interview with the French radio station France Inter. In 2014, Martinez called the department ‘not an emergency.’ At the time, the Louvre owned 10,000 Coptic objects and 1,000 Byzantine artworks, according to a report by the French Roman Catholic newspaper La Croix. At the time, just 750 of those 11,000 works were on display, and it has historically been difficult to view them together in one designated space.”


Tulsa Church“Hundreds gather at historic Tulsa church’s prayer wall” – Peter Smith at APNews: “Hundreds gathered Monday for an interfaith service dedicating a prayer wall outside historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood on the centennial of the first day of one of the deadliest racist massacres in the nation. National civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Barber, joined multiple local faith leaders offering prayers and remarks outside the church that was under construction and largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area. Estimates of the death toll range from dozens to 300.”


_118666319_darkenergymap“New dark matter map reveals cosmic mystery” – From Pallab Ghosh at BBC News: “An international team of researchers has created the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of so-called dark matter in the Universe. The results are a surprise because they show that it is slightly smoother and more spread out than the current best theories predict. The observation appears to stray from Einstein’s theory of general relativity – posing a conundrum for researchers. The results have been published by the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration. Dark Matter is an invisible substance that permeates space. It accounts for 80% of the matter in the Universe. Astronomers were able to work out where it was because it distorts light from distant stars. The greater the distortion, the greater the concentration of dark matter. Dr Niall Jeffrey, of École Normale Supérieure, in Paris, who pieced the map together, said that the result posed a ‘real problem’ for physics.”


primary_the-tree-of-life-37“Terrence Malick and the Christian Story” – In research for something entirely different I came across this 2016 article by David Roark at RogerEbert.com on the film-making of Terrence Malick: “Wherever one lands on the polarizing style of Terrence Malick, no one would deny the spiritual gravitas of his work—cinema obsessed with and overwhelmed by the mystical and the metaphysical. As much as has been said and written about Malick, there still remains debate and confusion around the spirituality of his films. In attempting to mine meaning from his work, folks continue to land all over the map, seeing him as everything from a pantheist to an agnostic. The sense of mystery is compounded because Malick is an artist before he is a theologian or philosopher, and because he hasn’t given an interview about his own films since 1979.  All that said, I believe Malick’s cinema is not vaguely or ambivalently religious or spiritual but is, in fact, distinctly and explicitly Christian.”


Laos“Christian pastor in Laos will avoid jail if he promises not to preach for a year” – This puts perspective on the problems I face after preaching certain sermons. “A Christian pastor, held in police detention in the Southeast Asian country of Laos for a year, has been spared jail after he was made to sign documents swearing not to preach until 2022. A court convicted Sithon Thippavong, 35, in April of “disrupting unity” and “creating disorder” after he was found to have held church services in Savannakhet province without government permission. The church leader, who started his ministry among villagers in southern Savannakhet in 2011, was arrested on 15th March, 2020.”


Music: Solar., “Lost in My Mind”

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 April 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


040721ugwu-church“Christian clergy are being kidnapped and killed in Nigeria” – Patrick Egwu in The Christian Century: “On April 24, 2018, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyola­ha were presiding over an early morning mass for about 50 parishioners at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in a village in north central Nigeria. About 20 minutes into the service, gunmen, suspected to be from the largely Muslim Fulani ethnic group, stormed the parish and opened fire on the congregation. Nineteen people were killed, including both priests. The gunmen also razed houses, destroyed crops, and left the community in a state of chaos. After the attack, bishops, priests, and thousands of residents demonstrated to protest the killings. The protesters called on the Nigerian government to arrest and prosecute the killers. Three years later, no one has been arrested or prosecuted.”


“What Is the Good Life and How Do We Find It? A Forum with Dr. Jonathan Pennington” – As I have steadily been working through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in a preaching series entitled “Becoming Real” at Eastbrook Church, I have benefited from many works on that part of Matthew’s Gospel. From Augustine to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from R. T. France to Dallas Willard, many voices have helped me. One new voice that has been particularly helpful this go round with Jesus’ most famous sermon is Jonathan T. Pennington. In this lecture for the Center for Public Christianity, Pennington draws upon his work in two books, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing and Jesus the Great Philosopher, to speak about the good life from a Christian perspective.


Matthew D Kim“Addressing Racism in Light of the Image of God” – This article by Matthew D. Kim is adapted from “Preaching on Race in View of the Image of God” by Matthew D. Kim in Ministers of Reconciliation: Preaching on Race and the Gospel edited by Daniel Darling (Lexham Press, 2021). He writes: “Race and ethnicity are taboo subjects in many pulpits across the United States. Knowing that some of their congregation will see it as “liberal” talk, a social gospel incongruous with the true gospel, or a ploy of the political left’s agenda, many pastors shy away from teaching and preaching on the issues of race and racism—regardless of their rationale for such avoidance. Two camps emerge out of this salient concern. The first camp wonders why we are still needing to talk about race, while the second camp is exhausted by having to explain to the other why discussions on race and racism are essential.”


08.10-On-Correcting-Children“On Correction and Children” – As I was preparing my message on Matthew 7:1-6 for this coming weekend at Eastbrook as part of our series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Becoming Real,” I came across this article by Dallas Willard on the passage. This is really an excerpt from Willard’s fantastic book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, which is an extended exposition on discipleship through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount. I also consider that book as one of my must-read books on living with God through Jesus Christ.


“On ‘getting’ poetry” – Both during Lent and now during Easter I have posted a poetry series (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter”). I know that many people find poetry hard to understand or enjoy. Here is Adam Kirsch in The New Criterion addressing that very challenge. “I hear the same thing regularly from people who love to read novels and biographies, who are undaunted by string quartets and abstract paintings, but find poetry a closed door. No one is more aware of this disconnect between poetry and the reading public than poets themselves. The debate over why poetry moved from the center of literary culture to the outskirts of the academy, and how it can regain its place in the sun, has been going on at least since Dana Gioia’s landmark essay “Can Poetry Matter?” appeared in The Atlantic in 1991.”


“InterVarsity Wins Suit Against Wayne State” – Kate Shellnutt in Christianity Today: “The fight for campus access for faith-based student groups scored another legal victory this week. A district court judge ruled on Monday that Wayne State University violated the First Amendment with a 2017 decision that temporarily denied InterVarsity Christian Fellowship its status as a student group over the chapter’s requirement that its leaders be Christian. Wayne State’s nondiscrimination policy, according the 83-page opinion by Robert Cleland, ‘violated plaintiffs” rights to internal management, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and free exercise as a matter of law.’  The judge ruled that the First Amendment protects religious organizations’ rights to select their own ministers, and that the InterVarsity chapter’s student leaders qualified as ministers. While InterVarsity is open to all students, it asks leaders to sign a statement of faith.”


Music: Jpk. (featuring Nemetz), “Patience