What does it mean when a preacher finds himself facing the same kinds of lectionary readings over and over again? I am one of the three new faculty at Trinity this year, and I have now preached a number of times. In the last two sermons I preached, the issue of moral transformation and Christian discipleship was a key theme in the lectionary readings. In terms of Reformation theology, this is a topic that sometimes falls under a category called the “third use of the law.” This is an area that was somewhat controversial on this campus last year – the year before I arrived. So, as a new faculty member, I was understandably reluctant to preach on the topic. But there it was in the readings. So I preached on the readings.
I turn to the readings for this morning, and what do I find? In the gospel reading for this morning, we hear: “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10: 38-39) Turning to the epistle, we find the central discussion of baptism in Paul’s letters. The reading begins with the question: “Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6: 1) So there it is again. Moral imperatives! The third use of the law! I am quite tempted to preach on the OT lesson about Hagar and Ishmael. But perhaps, in God’s providence, the readings are there for a reason. Perhaps we at Trinity need to hear this message again. It is just as likely I think that I need to hear it, for I can hardly claim that I’m even close to getting a handle on this Christian discipleship thing.