Lenten Sermon Series: A Word for “You” (RCL Gospel)

If you watch Jeopardy very often, you’ve likely seen a category title or two that uses quotation marks to indicate that a letter or word must appear in every answer to the questions in that category … or rather, every question to the answers in that category. A category titled MAY”B” has answers that begin with the letter B; a category titled “PART”Y has answers that include P-A-R-T, such as particle and impartial.

The Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings for Lent — with one exception — include a direct “you” in the texts, which invites the opportunity to place ourselves as readers & hearers on the receiving end of these scriptural directives. Of course, we often insert ourselves into Scripture; making use of the “you” in Lent’s lectionary is a familiar tool for reflection. As always with Scripture, don’t recommend reading/hearing ourselves in these readings without first doing our homework on the biblical context of each “you.” Moving too quickly to make a passage relevant to our own context runs the risk of misunderstanding the passage’s own context and meaning.

Sunday, February 18: Mark 1:9-15

You are my beloved.” Yes, you. And me. And all persons. Even the wild beasts and the angels (reading to verse 13). What peace might we begin to realize & embody — not only when we accept God’s claim & love for ourselves but also when we trust God’s love & affirmation for all people and all creation?

Sunday, February 25: Mark 8:31-38

You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” It’s not hard to see how often and how easily we focus on (panic over) this world and the stuff of our daily living. But in the theological complication called incarnation, that human stuff is divine stuff too, isn’t it? How do we discern? How do we focus?

Sunday, March 4: John 2:13-22

You stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (“Den of robbers/thieves” is the language of Matthew 21:13.) Recognizing the “you” in John 2:16 requires a trip down memory lane to reacquaint ourselves with imperative sentences, but to the point: How do our faith communities develop God-focused and community-transparent financial habits? And what does it look like to engage the Church (its building, its community, its global network) not as a commodity?

Sunday, March 11: John 3:14-21

Here’s the one Gospel passage that needs a bit of “you” added to it — I suggest in place of “those.” With this shift, John 3:21 for example reads (loosely): “You who do good are not afraid of Truth, because everything you do has been for the glory of God.” Are you (am I) seeking the glory of God in word and deed?

Sunday, March 18: John 12:20-33

“This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.” Jesus tried to give the disciples signs and symbols in advance of his death, so that they would have something to hold onto in the awful aftermath of catastrophe: hints of death, metaphors of life, reminders for hope. And still today we are given signs to understand God’s work: thunder and angels and stories for our sake, for our faith.

Sunday, March 25: Mark 11:1-11

“What are you doing?” I’d hazard the suggestion that this question is at the heart of discipleship. It’s the juncture at which persuasion becomes incarnation, conviction becomes commitment, belief becomes action. Why have you untied a colt. Why have you loved a neighbor? Why have you walked with someone through death?

I’ve omitted Ash Wednesday (February 14) and Easter Sunday (April 1) from this sermon series outline, as the themes for those two days are prescribed and can stand alone … yet can also fit into almost any sermon series.

Looking for other sermon series ideas for Lent? Check out my suggested #solidarity sermon series for the Narrative Lectionary or my idea for a series on Lamenting Injustice using the Revised Common Lectionary’s Old Testament texts. And because Lent and the lectionaries repeat faithfully in church life, you can skim back to my 2015 blogpost that offered eight quick Lenten sermon series ideas. You can also find Ash Wednesday liturgies on my blog, which you are welcome to use (with citation) in your worship setting.

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