Believe it or not, once a year at Life on the Vine, we preach through a topic. Some might call this topical preaching but given how we preach, that label doesn’t make sense. Generally speaking, Life on the Vine follows the lectionary (in some fashion) from first Sunday of Advent to Pentecost Sunday. After Pentecost, during the summer we preach through an epistle or book of the Bible doing what we call the College of Preachers. The College of Preachers is composed of four candidates for training into the ways of preaching, liturgy etc. at the Vine. They preach throughout the summer. The college meets once a week throughout the summer for prayer, examination, feedback, encouragement and help with preaching. When September comes, we preach on the doctrine of the church. We ask what is God calling us to be as His people, the Body of Christ in our geographical location. Every year it’s different. Once this is over we take this time between September and Advent (still during Ordinary Time) to address a pressing issue of our people as we seek to follow Christ. We then return to the lectionary at Advent and start the process all over again.
Even when we preach a topic, i.e. when we address a pressing issue during this time between September and Advent, we still preach a lectionary. The whole of Scripture must be the context from which we preach a given text. So even when we are preaching a topic (like this month), we still work from an Old Testament Scripture, a Psalm, an epistle and a gospel selection together. We must in effect craft our own lectionary for the given topic. It is a discipline that guides the preacher away from prooftexting a particular point (s)he’s got on his or her mind.
This year’s topic is “How to Live With Money: The Way of Jesus and Money.” We are seeking God together as a body for growth in this area as we seek to resist the overwhelming forces bearing upon us to get sucked up into greed, stress, consumerist desire etc. Preaching for us is never teaching. Teaching happens at the 9 a.m. hour. We’ve been having a great time at 9 a.m. studying and talking together these issues as a community. Three different people are leading us through the texts and the issues we all face with living with money (or lack of money). The gathering happens after this at 10:15 a.m. Here the preaching is not meant to be a cognitive exercise where we take notes, go home and try to be better people. It is the proclaiming of the reality as made possible in Christ. It is the “speaking into being” of Truthful Reality by the Holy Spirit and the submission of our lives to it. It is the Call of God and the Response right there in the gathering. The preaching of the Word, by the Spirit, is the hearing of the Word, and responding and thereby we are changed.
ALL THIS TO GET TO THE REASON WHY I WROTE THIS POST. Below are the texts I chose and the structure of the six weeks on “Jesus and Money.” I list the topics, and after each topic a discipline for spiritual formation is offered to submit to in your life. There might be some disagreement about the disciplines. Offering the tithe as a discipline of spiritual formation into trust might be controversial to some of my missional co-laborers. It smacks as an easy way out of the all-encompassing claims of Christ upon our lives and money. However, I think if you were with us during the whole time, you’d see I did not offer it in a manner like that. I offer this outline as a help to other missional churches seeking to shape and form a community in ways that follow Christ and resist society’s idolatry towards money. Sorry I cannot offer any mp3’s. We believe that extracting the sermons from the overall context of the liturgy of the service could grossly skew the preaching and it could be mis-construed. For now, here is the outline of the series. Feel free to use. What do you think? What problems do you have with it?
1. STRESS – to The Way of Simplicity. Ecc 4: 1-8; Ps 37:7-16 2 Pet 1: 2-11, Matt. 6:24-34; the discipline of simple living.
2. GREED – to The Way of Charity Isa 58:6-11; Ps 49:16-19: 1 John 3:16-18, Luke 12:15-21: the discipline of giving to the poor.
3. (IN)SECURITY – to The Way of Trust /Dependence. Deut 14:22-29, Ps 33:18-22, 2 Cor 8:1-5; Mark 12: 42-44 The discpline of the tithe.
4. (Insatiable) DESIRE – to The Way of Contentment. Ex 16: 15-27; Ps 118:1-9; Phil 4:10-20; Luke 9:1-6 the discipline of living beneath your means.
5. PRODIGAL – to The Way of Prudence. Ecc 5:10-11; Psalm 119:129-136; 2 Thess 3:6-15; Luke 16.10-12 the discipline of budgeting & working unto the glory of God.
6. OWNERSHIP – to The Way of Stewardship. Lev 25:13-24 (1 Chron 29:12-14), Ps 50:1-12, Rev 3:14-19, Luke 14: 25-33 the discipline of thanksgiving – and offering.