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C Ordinary Time (early)

By Tim Isbell

After Pentecost Sunday begins Ordinary Time, but this doesn't mean we're entering a season for mundane sermons! The lectionary use of "ordinary" refers to the word's Latin root which means items that are "ordered." Ordinary Time begins on Trinity Sunday and proceeds through several numbered weeks Proper 4, 5, 6... 26, 27, 28, finally finishing on Christ the King Sunday, right around Thanksgiving. This is such a long stretch of Sundays that I've divided it into 2 pieces. This first piece stretches through Proper 19.
Ordinary Time Sundays have two sets of Old Testament readings. The first is a continuation of the "topological" set, meaning the Old Testament readings either compliment or contrast the gospel. The second set is a stream of "semi-continuous" readings, meaning the Old Testament scriptures work their way through a book or books in sequence. Lectionary preachers choose one or the other of these Old Testament paths or bounce between them.

Below on this page, you can browse sermon summaries for the early part of Ordinary Time. Clicking on a title link takes you to the Google Doc of the entire sermon, which you can print from your browser or download in various formats (such as Word, RTF, or PDF). If you are using Word 2007 or later, downloading in the Word format works fine. If you are using an earlier version of Word you may need to download the sermon in RTF. You can open that in Word 2003 with most (if not all) of the formatting intact.

At the end of each sermon file is a link to its Google Slides (which you can download into PowerPoint if you prefer) and a pointer to the audio recording for most sermons dated after 10/15/2005.

Another way to access these and all sermons on this site is through the Sermon Chart. Once there, browse down the first column until you see Week # A 27 - which is Trinity Sunday. Click on the sermon title to view/download the sermon notes. Notice that you can sort this chart on any column.

To learn more about the Revised Common Lectionary and its use in your church, 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.
A note about the pictures of flowers on this page: These are my wife's work. They sit in tall containers on each side of the front door to our house.


Trinity Sunday: Trinity - the Divine Team

Romans 5.1-5. Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight... For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Thesis: The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a key differentiator of Christian faith, affirming that God is beyond us, beside us, and within us.

This is the first sermon in the series: The 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith, and it is a perfect fit as a stand-alone sermon for Trinity Sunday. 

However, if you are looking for a great place to kick-off The 10 Big Ideas series you might like The Result of Right Worship to introduce the series. At least from my point of view, The Result of Right Worship is one of the best sermons the Lord ever gave me to preach. I ended up in tears (of joy) while editing it for posting on this site.

C Trinity Sunday: Facing Outward

Romans 5.1-5, Ezekiel 16, 1 Peter 3.15

Thesis: In this life, we are to display who God is to a watching world. And when people notice something different about how we operate and react, we are to find ways to deflect the glory to God.

I begin this sermon by unpacking Trinitarian theology and its implications for the building of community. This part relies on riffing through the Ezekiel and Romans passages. Then it moves to a time of transparency where I tell some personal experiences describing what this sort of life looks like in everyday circumstances.

C Proper 4-8: Lessons from Elijah, Ahab, and Elisha (3-sermon series)

This series unpacks the stories of two Old Testament heroes (Elijah and Elisha) and one Old Testament jerk (King Ahab). The stories unfold across many chapters from 1 Kings 16 through 2 Kings 10. If you preach them across 3 successive weeks it is a great opportunity to re-engage your congregation in Bible reading by introducing them to several great Old Testament stories.

C Proper 4-9: Slip Sliding Away


Thesis: The best way to find real truth among all the candidates in our world is to follow the Apostle Paul’s advice to the Galatians: trust your life to the only one who was raised to the dead and ascended into heaven for all eternity - and who promises the same life to all who will follow him now.

After reminding people of the roots of the Galatia churches, and the intellectual and religious context of that time and place, this sermon addresses some of these issues that are still common in our time. Things like:

  • How do we relate to friends who mix snippets of Christian faith, of Oprah, of New Age, and then claim the label of Christian?
  • How do we know when to keep or hold others to rules, and when to give grace?
  • How do we know when to demand justice and when to forgive?
  • How do we know which biblical passage to invoke when?
  • Do we analyze scripture to see where the Bible’s emphasis is? Then apply this as some sort of formula in the various instances of life? This is very difficult to do. Humans will never know God’s heart this way.
  • How can we trust the man/woman with the near-death or back-from-the-death story who claims to have a new revelation?
  • How are regular folks like us to sort all this out?

C Proper 5-8: Courageous Living (4-sermon series)

The Bible repeatedly instructs God's followers with "do not be afraid."  It also teaches God's followers that the "fear of God is the beginning of wisdom."  This poses a bit of a paradox!  This 4-sermon series resolves the paradox and promotes courageous living even (especially) in the face of fear. 

C Proper 6: A Message for Mistakers

Psalm 32. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt... And you forgave me. All my guilt is gone!

Thesis: God’s message for Mistakers is: “It’s worse than you think; you are sinners. And it’s better than you think; I love you so much that I sent a Savior. But to receive salvation you must confess your sin.”

For this sermon, I coined the word "Mistakers" for those people who are willing to admit that they've made mistakes and are open to instruction on how to live better. But Mistakers have not gone the crucial step of acknowledging that they are sinners. While "sin" and "sinners" are not popular words in today's vocabulary, they are important biblical words that authentic Christians understand and acknowledge as descriptive of themselves. This sermon unpacks these concepts, drawing the listener into a fresh understanding of God's grace and the joy that comes from acknowledging our sin and receiving forgiveness. 

C Proper 7: Growing Up in God's Family

Gal 3.23-26. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.

Thesis: God’s law protects us while he transforms our hearts to beat increasingly like Jesus’ heart so that we can live in the freedom of this relationship instead of slavishly following the Law.

This is a sermon full of stories and teaching that encourage the deeper life God has for us beyond conversion. It is based on the Family metaphor and finishes with a couple of examples of the kinds of signs or marks we see in very mature Christians.

C Proper 7: God's Redemptive Loops

Gal 3.23-26. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.

Thesis: Repeatedly passing through God’s redemptive loops is the core of the gospel that leads to a heart that beats increasingly like Jesus’ heart.

This sermon unpacks the Beyond Conversion: The Personal Journey Towards Christlikeness, especially the concept of God's redemptive loops. It also contains teaching on a subset of the Marks of Christlikeness.

About a month earlier, in a different church and using a different scripture, I preached a similar sermon: What's Beyond Conversion?.

C Proper(7-19): Powers of Darkness (4-sermon series & 1-sermon option)

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 and a few other pastor friends. Also, some of the content comes from my experience pastoring 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 a 4-sermon series and also a 1-sermon version in the link.

C Proper 9: God's Formula

2 Kings 1.1-15 God uses Elisha to heal Naaman.

Thesis: God refuses to be captured in a formula, but invites us to join him in an adventure of faith.

This sermon starts with some fun illustrations about formulas (using mathematical examples), then moves on to the Naaman story to see if it might establish a healing formula. To test this, the sermon moves on to other healing and miracle stories in the Old and New Testaments to discover that God seems to establish a miracle formula. The sermon suggests why this is, and eventually connects to the Westminster Catechism. This is a very enjoyable sermon to preach (I've preached it 3 times in different settings).

C Proper 10: Raising Up the Weak

Luke 10.25-37. The most important commandment and the Good Samaritan story.

Thesis: It is not enough to know what to do and to care for God’s creation, we must take action.

This sermon begins with an attention-getter about adlets and blinks, which are 5 and 3-second advertisements we sometimes see on TV. It likens these to the first part of the interchange between Jesus and the "expert in religious law." As does the biblical passage, this soon transitions to Jesus' inductive approach where he tells a story about the Good Samaritan.

The rest of the sermon is designed to teach the concept that it is not enough to know the right answer or the right thing to do. Neither is it enough to care deeply about the person in need. We must take action. This sermon is a great companion for the next one.

C Proper 10: Living with the Weak, the Strong, and Even Our Enemies

Luke 10.25-28 (the most important commandment), 2 Peter 1.1-11(... Supplement faith with: moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, and love for everyone.)

Thesis: God’s love for us is “unprovoked” and he intends for all disciples of Jesus to also extend unprovoked love to those weaker, stronger, and even to those who are our enemies.

This sermon unpacks the concept of "unprovoked love," which is love with no apparent payback. It is loving someone who doesn't deserve it and doesn't appear to offer anything in return. 

The sermon uses 3 stories to illustrate this sort of love in regards to people weaker than we are, stronger than we are, and even our enemies. Then it moves on to the concept that God's love for us is not only unprovoked, but his instruction for us is to become the kind of person who extends unprovoked love to the world around us. 

This sermon is a great companion for the previous one.

C Proper 10: Jesus and the Fellowship

This sermon is part of The Alternate Life, 4-sermon series. I hope you will consider packaging this series somewhere around this time in year C. It also fits later in this year, around Christ the King Sunday.

Note that this series is a part of a larger group of sermons called The Alternate Life Collection. There you will also find some single sermon approaches to the alternate life material.

C Proper 11:

Sorry, I don't have a stand-alone sermon for this lectionary Sunday.

Colossians 2.8-10. Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense...

Thesis: When we realize that the world’s high-sounding logic is actually high-sounding nonsense it is time to turn to God, repent of our self-worship, and give him all our worship.

This sermon deals with questions/statements such as:

  • Jesus didn't rise from the dead; science proves this is impossible.
  • The Bible's resurrection claim arose long after Jesus died.
  • What convinces you that the early Christian writers wrote truth instead of fiction?
  • The Koran says that someone else was crucified in Jesus' place.
  • Other religions teach that Jesus was just a good, moral teacher.

C Proper 13: The Bulls-Eye Is Too Small

Colossians 3.1-10, Heb 10.11-25, Rom 12.1

Thesis: God is creative enough to provide an atonement for our sins so that we can live in the Most Holy Place for all eternity – without contaminating it.

This is a classic sermon on sin, which accomplishes the task regardless of how close your definition of sin is hitting the bulls-eye. It acknowledges that we are incapable of hitting even our own bulls-eye, let alone God's bulls-eye of holiness. And we have no way to make up for the misses. Only one person ever did hit the bulls-eye, and he turned around and offered himself to God in our place. Through this path, we are offered a holy relationship with the one-and-only holy God.

C Proper 14: Trusting What's Over-the-Edge

Hebrews 11.1-19. 

Thesis: The human birth process gives us a hint about the dying process.

This sermon leverages off of a Henri Nouwen anecdote about a conversation between twins in the womb. It goes on to help people understand the dying process in terms of this analogy. It's a great way of unpacking the death process for all ages. I've used it with young people (who often ask questions along these lines as they are awakening to the eventuality of death) as well as to those who are in the dying process. Whether or not you ever preach this concept, it's worth reading this sermon!

C Proper 14: Ancestors & Descendants Galore

Gen 12.1-2, 15.1-6; Heb 11.8-16; Gal 3.6-7, 26-29, Deut 11.1-21

Thesis: God invites us to a place at the table in his everlasting household, populated with our uncountable spiritual ancestors and descendants.

This sermon is designed to encourage the childless by helping them understand that, as they nurture others in the faith, they accumulate uncountable spiritual descendants, growing in number from generation to generation! It also deals with the call to live faithfully "in the meantime," as did those listed in Hebrews 11. And it provides some advice on what that looks like. All this is framed in three parts: What? So What? and Now What?

C Proper 14: Practical Tips on Blessing

Luke 12.32, Gen 12.2

Thesis: God blesses those who follow Jesus, and wants them to bless others.

This sermon unpacks five elements to a blessing (from Smalley & Trent's book The Blessing): 
  1. Meaningful touch
  2. Spoken words
  3. Express their high intrinsic value
  4. Help them envision a favorable future
  5. Make an active commitment to them

C Proper 15: God's Family Stories

Hebrews 11.29 - 12.2. ... since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...

Thesis: You have more ancestors than you think – and they are cheering you on as you run the race of life.

This sermon uses the preacher's family stories, and the story of Rahab, and the link to the story of Boaz/Ruth... King David... Jesus to connect us all to God's family story. It's also a great chance to have a parishioner help by telling the Rahab story.

In addition to connecting the believer to God's story and our biblical ancestors, it also provides a vehicle to lift up 2-3 items that we can learn from the stories of our ancestors. While these depend on which family stories you tell, in my implementation these items are:

  • God's grace
  • The value of long-term prayer for the salvation of a loved one
  • Advice on seeing clearly when it's time to make a change onto a new road God has for you.

C Proper 15: Jephthah - the Danger of a Strong Faith and a Weak Theology

Hebrews 11.29 - 12.2. It would take too long to recount the stories of Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jephthah...  Judges 11-12 

Thesis: Great trust in God AND a strong theology benefits you and everyone around you.

The core concept and text behind this sermon came from listening to a sermon by Haddon Robinson, an author, and professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The sermon starts with a news story about a sincere Christian who refuses to take his 5-year-old child with pneumonia to the hospital, and the child dies. It moves on to connect this with the Old Testament story of Jephthah, who also had a strong faith - but also had a weak theology. A point that comes through strongly is that if our theology is shallow, then the more devout we are, the more dangerous we are to ourselves and others. And it provides pointers on how to strengthen our theology.

C Proper 15: Resilient Life (2-sermon series)

Hebrews 12.1-4 is the text for both sermons.

The Resilient Life sermon series, based on Hebrews 12.1-4, is designed to help people survive through hardship and "finish well."  Different ages will hear these 2 sermons through their own filter, and God will speak to each age at a very practical and deep level. The concepts come from my own experience,  framed by material from Gordon MacDonald's book: A Resilient Life, and to a lesser extent from his book: The Life God Blesses.

Thesis for sermon 1: Two important building blocks of a resilient life are a commitment to finishing strong and keeping the big picture in view.

Thesis for sermon 2: Three more important building blocks of a resilient life are living free from the past, train to go the distance, and run in the company of a happy few.

C Proper 16: Responding to God's Blessing

Hebrews 12.14-29. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God... You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness... Mount Sinai... No, you have come to Mount Zion.

Thesis: “Brushing off” God’s current blessings lead us into bitterness; giving God the gift of thank-filled and worship-filled lives leads to the ultimate blessing: God’s presence in conversational relationship. 

This is a deceptively theological sermon. It's got it's light parts, such as my illustration of the Laundry Basket Law that Robin has imposed at our house. And it also unpacks a fresh contrast of the difference between the deeper symbolism in Mount Sinai (of the Old Covenant) and Mount Zion (of the New Covenant). 

Whether you ever preach it or not, it's worth a read for the structure and for a new spin on conventional theology.

C Proper 16: Some Rules Need Breaking

Luke 13.10-17 Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath in the synagogue.

Thesis: Sometimes God prompts us to break a rule; usually it is to help someone in need.

This sermon invites the congregation to stand beside each of the characters in this New Testament story:

  • The "Pastor" (the leader of the synagogue)
  • The crippled woman
  • Jesus
  • The worshipers

It provides several ways to make important points along the way and eventually leads to the over-riding theme: at least in a couple of kinds of situations we need to break a rule.

  1. For needy people who are willing to receive (even if they haven't asked).
  2. To make time to get alone with the Father.

C Proper 17: The Result of Right Worship

Jer 2.5 (… They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves.)2 Cor 3.18 (And we… are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.), Ps 115.8 (And those who make idols are just like them...)

Thesis: Understanding the 10 big ideas of Christian faith helps us build a prevailing life, grow a heart like God’s, and witness more fruitfully. (or, if used as a stand-alone sermon: We become like what we worship.)

This sermon serves two purposes. It is the introductory sermon for the series: The 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith. Or you can also easily adapt it as an extraordinarily strong stand-alone sermon to make the point that we become what we worship, It's one of the very best sermons God ever gave me. It includes great stories to make an incredibly important point. While editing it for posting on this site I ended up in tears of joy.

This sermon leans on some teaching I heard from Haddon Robinson. It also utilizes Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story: The Great Stoneface. Very powerful.

C Proper 17: Hospitality Means Making Room

Heb 13:2, 1 Pet 4:9, Rom 12:13

Thesis: God not only teaches his people to extend hospitality, but he also extends it to all who will receive it. 

This is a delightful sermon to preach because it includes a lot of biblical story-telling, some biblical exegesis about hospitality, and unpacks how God is the ultimate offer-er of hospitality. It is a very appropriate sermon to lead into communion. 

C Proper 18: A Persuasive Strategy


Thesis: Paul’s letter to Philemon is a good example of the techniques of being persuasive and at the same time being an authentic Christian.

This is a very practical sermon that offers Paul's letter to Philemon as a framework to help us persuade people. In this case, Paul is asking his personal friend, Philemon, to take back and forgive Onesimus, a slave who had run away.

C Proper 18: Hearing God

Jeremiah 18.1-11 (potter/clay), Genesis 6.11-15 (God/Noah), 1 Samuel 23.1-14 (David escaping King Saul), Acts 16.1-15 (Paul's desire to take the Good News to Turkey)

Thesis: There is a special quality of life available when a fully devoted follower of Jesus lives in a conversational relationship with God.

This sermon encourages and coaches listeners to live the kind of lives that result in an intimate, conversational relationship with God. It leverages off of biblical stories where characters live in this sort of with-God life. It uses material from Dallas Willard's Hearing God - Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (a "must-read" for Christian leaders and pastors).

C Proper 19: Fully Reconciled Apprentices

1 Timothy 1.1-17 ... Don't let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculation .. be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith...

Thesis: God chooses us, trusts us with important work, gives us the strength to do it, and then uses us as prime examples of his grace to the people around us.

This is an expository sermon that leads to a call to live as more than just forgiven Christians but to live as fully reconciled followers of Jesus. The message is to move people beyond living like guests in God's household and take our places as fully functional members of God's household.

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