Where to begin?
I mean this question in relation to both the lectionary theme(s) and the individual texts for this coming Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
Where to begin identifying your sermon from such a rich list of texts offering an abundance of themes?
the shepherd & sheep image — implicit within any story of the shepherd-turned-king David (2 Samuel 7:1-14a, Psalm 23 and Psalm 89:20-37 this Sunday), continuing through Jeremiah’s warning against shepherds who scatter their sheep (23:1-6); and reflecting Jesus’ compassion for the crowds like a shepherd (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56)
the false equivalency of greatness with faithfulness — God in 2 Samuel assures David of his greatness and of their great relationship yet still denies David the task of building the temple; Jeremiah scornfully pronounces that “shepherd” does not by its title alone make a leader faithful to God or to the people; the subtle challenge of Ephesians 2:11-22 to our secret ambitions to be greater than, as faithfulness requires us to live instead as undivided equal people; the faithfulness of the apostles to Jesus’s never-ending work as his greatness increased (Mark 6)
God’s steadfast presence — always a preachable theme and found in 2 Samuel 7:6-7, Psalm 23:2-3, Psalm 89:28, Jeremiah 23:3, Ephesians 2:13, Mark 6:34 & 56
the necessary interconnectedness of our relationships with God and with others — from the apostles who long for a retreat with Jesus but instead spend their days serving alongside him (Mark 6), to the building-together of all people as one structure that is a dwelling for God (Ephesians 2), to the ways that King David succeeded and that Jeremiah’s shepherds failed to gather the people as one nation to the glory of God’s name.
“Where to begin” is also a question raised in the texts individually:
Where to begin building the temple? (2 Samuel)
Where to begin gathering the remnant of the flock? (Jeremiah 23)
Where to begin if your trust in God has been shaken or shattered? (Psalm 23)
Where to begin relating to one another across the dividing wall that Christ has broken? (Ephesians 2)
Where to begin the work of healing when the need is so great? (Mark 6)
So many options for sermonizing this week! Where will you begin, friends?