March 1-5, 2017
Matthew 4:1-11
Romans 5:12-19
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7


Inward and outward faith
Ash Wednesday

Go to the full commentary
More commentaries from the archives

New illustrations
Illustrations from the archives


David Coffin
It is the week before “Fat Tuesday,” and a given group of people are gathered in a restaurant, living room, or place of socializing discussing how they look forward to the food on “Fat Tuesday,” but Ash Wednesday and Lent are not that great. It is a matter of “giving something up,” more so than a spiritual discipline. When a person of faith within the group presses the rest of the jovial crowd about growing spiritually, some simply heckle back, “Yeah? Who actually practices what they believe or what they say in church?”...

Go to the full commentary
More commentaries from the archives

New illustrations
Illustrations from the archives

Being sinners
Lent 1

Go to the full commentary
More commentaries from the archives

New illustrations
Illustrations from the archives


Sandra Herrmann
It’s the beginning of Lent, and having worshiped on Ash Wednesday, we have declared that we are separated from God by our own doing. Oh, wait. We probably evaded that idea by talking about “the sins of man.” That does not absolve any of us. WE are sinners. WE disappoint and offend each other on a daily basis. (If you think that’s not you, ask your spouse or children.)

We refuse to admit that we have made a mistake. We spend time trying to pin the blame for our failures on others or on circumstance. We refuse to go out of our way for the poor, those escaping their homes because of violence, or leaving their home countries because they were overrun by thugs who loot, pillage, rape, and laugh about it.1 We say that “charity begins at home,” but often this is an excuse to refuse to donate food, clothing, or money even to the organizations in our own town or neighborhood who provide these things for the needy.

Truthfully, we look at the situation in our world and it overwhelms us. What can I do that would make a bit of difference? We give up before we have even asked God how we might be useful. All of these failures are what constitutes sin.

The pastor who confirmed me told us that “sin” ought to be spelled “s-I-n,” because we are in a state of sin when we put ourselves and what we want at the center of our universe. This is clearly true, as our scriptures today will illustrate. And it tells us what Paul meant when he said in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

But it is important to understand the literal meaning of the words in the Bible. The word for “sin” in Hebrew means “to miss the mark” -- as when an archer or spear-thrower fails to hit the target. Beginners keep practicing so they can overcome those misses, because in the army missing one’s target can be a serious problem. If you miss the enemy soldiers coming at you, the result may be death -- if not your own, then that of someone standing nearby. This is the meaning of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.” It’s not just our death that Paul is referring to, but the results of our sin on the world.

Like Adam and Eve, we may not die as soon as we misbehave, but our sins may be the cause of someone else’s suffering. Think of a drunk driver; s/he knows s/he’s a “little tipsy,” but for the passenger in the car s/he hit, the penalty of death, paralysis, or mental impairment can be instantaneous. Many sins have long-term consequences that go unrecognized until we, or one of our loved ones, die of the effects of our behavior.

This is what it means to say that “the wages of sin is death.”...

Go to the full commentary
More commentaries from the archives

New illustrations
Illustrations from the archives

What is Emphasis Online?

Emphasis Online provides in-depth lectionary-based commentary on lectionary texts, plus thousands of sermon illustrations to help you create riveting sermons.

For over 35 years, Emphasis has provided subscribers with scripturally sound, Lectionary-based commentaries and sermon illustrations that really connect with the people in the pews.

For each Sunday, Emphasis writers and editors delve into the heart of the four lectionary readings, providing you with several fresh, solid ideas -- based squarely on the lectionary texts -- for creating sermons that speak powerfully to your audience. The team looks for overall themes that hold the readings together. Then, they zero in on the themes and the specific scripture links, suggesting directions for the sermon and worship service. Since a single idea each week may not provide what you are looking for at that particular time, Emphasis suggests several, giving you the opportunity to select the one that matches your specific needs.

Emphasis is like having a dedicated, thoroughly-versed sermon research and sermon resource team right in your own study to help you create riveting sermons that are truly yours, and that speak powerfully to your audience.

Easy-to-Use Format
Emphasis Online brings to the web the high quality content you have come to expect from Emphasis in an intuitive and easy-to-use format. No longer will you have to wait for postal delivery of your printed copy of Emphasis; just log-on to Emphasis Online and you can view the complete current issue as soon as it is published.

Archives
Emphasis Online gives you even greater value by putting back issues of the journal at your fingertips. This access to the Emphasis Archives, combined with powerful search features, takes the utility of Emphasis to an entirely new level. You can search the current issue, or the complete archives, for content from Charting the Course (commentaries) or the sermon illustrations, by lectionary, scripture reference, or keyword to find exactly what you need.

Become more Productive
Emphasis Online will add time to your day by helping you make more productive use of the time you spend on preparing your weekly sermon and worship service. Instead of locating and leafing through myriad of sermon resources in a time-consuming quest for relevant sermon material, you can now spend your valuable time crafting your own presentation.

>> Subscribe to Emphasis Online
This Week
March 1, 2017
Ash Wednesday
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives
Looking Ahead
March 12, 2017
Lent 2
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives

Recent Installments
February 26, 2017
Transfiguration Sunday
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives
February 19, 2017
Epiphany 7 | OT 7
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives
February 12, 2017
Epiphany 6 | OT 6
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives
February 5, 2017
Epiphany 5 | OT 5
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives
February 2, 2017
Presentation of the Lord
Commentary | Illustrations
January 29, 2017
Epiphany 4 | OT 4
Commentary | Archives
Illustrations | Archives
Commentary
Writers



David Kalas


Wayne Brouwer


Sandra Herrmann


David Coffin


Catherine Venkatesh


Frank Ramirez


Illustration
Writers



Mark Ellingsen


Ron Love


Bob Ove


Frank Ramirez


Bonnie Bates


Bill Thomas


R. Robert Cueni