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B Epiphany

Here are some preaching ideas for the Epiphany season of Year B. You are welcome to extract ideas, anecdotes, sermon outlines, or digest the whole sermon and make it your own.

In the listing below, clicking on a sermon title takes you to a Google Doc of the sermon notes. You can view/print these from any browser, or download the file in various formats (such as Word, RTF, or PDF). If you are using a version of Word prior to 2007 you may need to download it in RTF. Then it will open with most (if not all) the formatting intact.

You can also access any of these sermons from the Sermon Chart, which displays them in the context of the entire 3-year lectionary cycle. Browse down the second column until you see the lectionary season of interest. To access the sermon notes just click on the sermon title.

Not a lectionary preacher? You can change the Sermon Chart so that it lists the sermons in the order of the primary biblical text for each sermon. In the Sermon Chart, browse down to the chart and look at the right-hand column. Click on Sort: Ascending. Notice that many sermons list additional scriptures. If you want to find all entries for a particular biblical book from the whole list just use your browser's Find function. The top of the Sermon Chart web page explains the biblical text abbreviation system I use.

For more about the Revised Common Lectionary, click on Lectionary Basics and Lectionary Preaching.

Feel free to extract any ideas, outlines, or entire sermons from my site. That's what it is for. To subscribe to email or RSS notifications of new posts from this site, click IsbellOnline News.

Epiphany Day: Let's Do Better than Herod

Matthew 2.1-13 (Visitors come from the East) 1 Peter 3.15 (Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope they see in you.)

Thesis: We have good news, and if we invite Jesus Christ to live his life through our ordinary practices then the people around us will receive the Good News, too.

The wise men came to Jerusalem and asked Herod and the people on the street for information about the Good News of the arrival of a messiah. Nobody had an answer for them. The point of this sermon is to encourage people to have an answer. Part of this is an unpacking of the concepts of Ordinary Practice Evangelism, a form of outreach we taught at New Life.

Epiphany Day: A Biblically Functioning Community

Ephesians 3.10-11 (God's purpose for the church in the broader world), Acts 2.42-47, 4.32-35 (The believers form a community and share their possessions.)

Thesis: The church is not designed to be a lifestyle enclave, but a community that embodies the characteristics of Acts 2 and 4.

At the core of this sermon are these 6 characteristics of a biblically functioning community:

  1. They devoted themselves.
  1. They were of one heart and soul.
  1. They shared with each other.
  1. They lived in awe of God's activity among them.
  1. They devoted some meaningful attention to people outside their community.

Epiphany Day: God's Mysterious Plan

Matt 2.1-12 (Wise men visit), Eph 3.2-11 (Saint Paul describes God's mysterious plan.)

Thesis: God is writing a mystery and it is as clear as it will ever get; will you accept your role in it?

Here's the starting excerpt, which hints at the sermon's trajectory: 

Robin and I like to watch mysteries on TV. She’s great at figuring out what is going on and even anticipates many endings. Me... not so much. 

Sometimes a scene goes by and I realize I simply did not get it. It may be because I get some of the characters mixed up. For instance, if the show has two brunette women in it of anywhere near the same physical build, I simply can’t keep them straight. And if there are many twists in the plot, I invariably get lost. For these reasons, I love the little 8-second rewind button on our remote! Sometimes I push it several times and that isn’t even enough. So, occasionally when we finish a show we go back through the entire thing again so Robin can explain to me the connections I missed.

You can imagine the difficulty I have in going to a movie where there is no 8-second rewind! It’s no wonder that if I hear of a great mystery or complex movie coming out that I’m not even tempted to go to the theater. I just await the video.

With that in mind, realize this: God is writing a mystery.

Epiphany Day: Epiphany - an Ahah Experience

Matthew 2.1-12 (The wise men visit from the East)

Thesis: New Life is a Christian community where God transforms all kinds of lives, especially through sharing the Good News of Jesus, table ministry, ministry of the towel, and worship.

Based on the wise men story in Matthew 2.1-12. It develops 4 core dimensions of church life in 4 unforgettable pictures, using people from the congregation. It's a good way to start the year. At New Life these four pictures were ingrained in the heads of nearly everyone in all 3 congregations, playing a key role in keeping us all "on the same page." We called these the "Epiphany in Four Pictures." An artist's rendering of the 4 pictures hangs above the worship center entry door.

1 Epiphany: Herod or Jesus

Matthew 2.1-12. (Wise men from the East visit Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.)

Thesis: King Jesus is a different kind of king than any earthly king, and the end King Jesus will prevail.

After sorting out the many different Herod's that show up in the New Testament, this sermon provides some historical detail on the first one: King Herod the Great. Then using Matthew's account it compares King Herod with King Jesus, whose kingdom is the Christian church. At the end, the sermon asks the congregation which king they will put their trust in, Herod (or any earthly king) or Jesus.

2 Epiphany: Recognizing God's Voice

1 Samuel 3.1-20. (The Lord speaks to the boy, Samuel.)

Thesis: Many times God takes the initiative by speaking to people, usually in quiet times; recognizing his voice and understanding his call is a learned ability.

This sermon is a good one to connect with the American holiday: Martin Luther King Day, in which case you'll want to shift it to the appropriate Sunday.

It begins by unpacking God awakening Samuel to give him a message, and an assignment. Then it moves to unpacking King's "I Have a Dream" speech as an illustration of how God speaks to people in our day. After adding a third story from my personal experience, the sermon wraps up with 4 observations: 1) It's God's initiative, 2) recognizing God's voice is learned, 3) God seems to prefer to speak in quiet times, and 4) scripture offers us many examples of God speaking into peoples' lives.

2 Epiphany: Sexual Purity (An Interactive Message on Living the New Life)

1 Corinthians 6.12-20. (The Apostle Paul's teaching on the importance of avoiding sexual sin.)

Thesis: God’s call on us is to live lives of sexual purity, and he provides the resources to do this even while living in a very impure world.

If you have never preached on this topic, I urge you to give this message (or something like it) a try. This one unpacks the text, especially noting that Paul's teaching here is aimed at Christians - who live in a sexually broken setting.

For more on this distributed sermon series follow the link to Interactive Messages on Living the New Life.

2 Epiphany: The Key to Mastering Money

This is part of a 2 sermon series on money. For more about the sermon, and to find more sermons on the topic of money, go to Money Sermons.

3 Epiphany: Lessons from Jonah

Jonah, Mark 1.14-20, Luke 11.29-30. (Connecting the story of Jonah to Jesus' New Testament teaching.)

Thesis: You can trust God’s story, long before Jesus was born God started scattering evidence and clues to point to Jesus, the bringer of Good News.

This sermon reminds people of the Jonah story and addresses the common question of whether to interpret this story as myth or fact. This lays the groundwork for connecting the Old Testament Jonah story to a couple of New Testament passages. The take-home messages are: let's pray with humble hearts like the Ninevites, let's trust God’s story, and let's take on God’s assignment to share the Good News of Jesus in our Nineveh.

3 Epiphany: Living Through Storms

Mark 4.35-41. Jesus calms the storm. (secondarily this sermon uses Jonah)

Thesis: God’s power is REAL, INFINITE, UNMANAGEABLE, and COSTLY; that’s enough to get us through any storm.

This message describes Jesus' power. It also deals with the situation of a person who is in a storm wondering "where is Jesus when I need him?  If he really has all that power and he really loves me as much as the pastor tells me he does, then why hasn't he quieted the storm already!?"

4-6 Epiphany: Disputable Matters (Living in the Grey Areas)

This is a 3 sermon series that connects to the lectionary best in this season of Epiphany. For the detail on this series, follow the link to the series.

4-7 Epiphany: Powers of Darkness sermon series

This is a very strong original series. It takes courage and years in ministry before most pastors are ready to preach this content to a modern congregation. Indeed, I sidestepped it for 17 years before deciding that I simply must help our people understand it. I sought advice from some Christian college professor friends of mine, a few other pastor friends. Also, some of the content comes from my experience ministering in a multi-congregational church with many first-generation Christian parishioners from families with long histories in ancestor worship and other pagan worship traditions.

While the full series is 4 weeks long, I once needed to preach the main concepts in a single sermon. So you will find both the 4-sermon series and also the 1-sermon version.

7 Epiphany: Living in God's Kingdom

This sermon is part of the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith. It is also an early sermon in the Alternate Life Collection.

Mark 2.1-12. (Jesus heals a paralyzed man.)

Thesis: The Kingdom of God is here, with outposts all over the world. And the Kingdom has a name and a face, the name and the face of Jesus.

This sermon begins with Jesus healing a man and moves on to contend that there is a place where "heaven and earth overlap," and that place is where Jesus is. A followup recent Missionary story describes another such place and labels these sorts of places as Kingdom Outposts (ie. places where Jesus is). Local churches are intended by God to also be Kingdom Outposts, where Jesus is, and where Kingdom things happen.

8 Epiphany: Grace

This is the 5th of 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith

8 Epiphany: The Fellowship and This World's Kingdoms and/or The Gospel in Daniel's life

Both of these two sermons are part of The Alternate LIfe 4-sermon series. So anywhere around late in Epiphany or early Lent you could consider preaching the entire series. You can find more about it at The Alternate Life, a 4-sermon series.

Note that this series is part of a larger collection of Alternate Life sermons, including some that fit a single sermon. For more on this larger collection, see The Alternate Life Collection.

Transfiguration: Living Without the Mask

Transfiguration Sunday is always simultaneous with the last Sunday in Epiphany, which in 2012 is 5 Epiphany. So preachers have the option of using either set of scriptures.

Luke 9.28-36 (Transfiguration story).

Thesis: We are invited up the mountain with Jesus to experience the glory of the Lord, and also follow him down the mountain to our own Jerusalem, challenges, and sufferings - and throughout all this radiate the presence of the Spirit of Jesus.

This sermon starts with Luke's Transfiguration story on the Mount of Olives and then gives the preacher the opportunity to tell connecting stories of Moses (with a unique view on the veil) and Elijah (on Mt. Sinai). Then it returns to the New Testament to stand beside Peter in his interchange with Jesus. The challenge of the sermon is to experience Jesus and then come down from the mountain with him to live something like Moses, but without the veil, as we embody the Spirit of the New Life in the context of our world.

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