Welcome to Summer!
Consistency during the summer is always a challenge for pastors. Families are traveling, kids are at camp, and schedules never seem to align. At the same time, we all have similar experiences that we associate with summer. We go to beaches, we go to mountains, we go to lakes, and we go on road trips. Even with online streaming available, that transience can reduce our connection to the church—and possibly even to God.
When we look in the Bible, however, we often find people on the go. We read about landscapes similar to our own vacation spots that were part of our Bible ancestors’ everyday lives and travels. With half a world and thousands of years’ distance, it can be easy to feel detached from that environment. Reading deeper, however, we also see the Spiritual significance of these places and their images in the story of God’s work and salvation. Do we equip our people with the same sense of significance when they are going from place to place in their own world? Can we imagine ourselves in the story of God’s salvation by getting in touch with the imaginations of the Bible characters themselves?
“Summer Settings” is a 6-to-8-week summer preaching opportunity that looks at four common summer experiences that we have today, blending Old Testament themes and New Testament experiences to show how the ground we tread can point to the stories we cherish. The Bible’s references to shorelines, lakes, mountains, and travel are many, but we invite you to explore a few of them with us. You can even add your own, using similar themes and relevance to your own context.
Here we offer two sermon ideas each for mountains, lakes/streams/rivers, beaches/oceans, and road trips. Each topic has an Old Testament week, a thematic “gospel transition” point to accompany the Old Testament passage and a New Testament week. Common themes for each of the features are included.
- Summary of the Text
- Key Quote
- Key Illustration
- More Illustration and Quote Themes
- Liturgical Elements (optional)
An Overview of the Services
Week 1: 1 Kings 18:22-39 (Elijah on Mt. Carmel)
In this passage, Elijah calls upon God amidst scarcity and God proves Himself over and against the pagan priests and the false god Baal. Still, throughout the Old Testament, we find faithful people meeting God on mountains, worshiping Him there, and putting up cairns (“ebenezers”) and altars there. Major themes include mystery, location of “the gods”, “el Shaddai” (“God Most High” or “God from the Mountains”), power, etc.
Gospel Transition—Psalm 121:1-2 is famous for its reference of mountains, but there are two ways to take it. People lifted up their eyes to Jerusalem and to the mountaintops for God’s help, but it is from God Himself, not the mountains, that they receive their help. God ultimately showed that He was with them in Jesus, for whom high places were made low and valleys lifted up.
Week 2: John 4:7-24 (The Woman at the Well)
New Testament—New Testament—While the woman at the well was not on a mountain, two mountains loom in the background when she speaks with Jesus: is God to be worshipped at Mt. Gerizim (as the Samaritans do) or on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (as the Jews do)? Jesus’ surprising answer: neither. They will worship in Spirit and in truth. Mountains feature prominently throughout Jesus’ ministry, notably in the feeding of the multitudes (see John 6:1-15), in which Jesus himself provides abundance from scarcity, recalling the Elijah episode.
LAKES AND STREAMS
Week 1: 2 Kings 5:1-14 (The Healing of Naaman), Joshua 12:1-3 (The Sea of Galilee)
The Old Testament has very little about “lakes,” with the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are mainly referred to as boundaries (hence the Joshua passage). Necessarily, this sermon would be mostly thematic and explore the divisions between peoples, even among the tribes of Israel themselves. Naaman’s visit to Elisha and healing in “fresh” (i.e., swampy) water points both to the concerns about fresh water and the bringing together of the peoples in water.
Gospel Transition—The mix of peoples around the Sea of Galilee at Jesus’s time is a testament to the changes in economy and society, with Romans, Jews, and other peoples gathered around the lake for commerce. Jesus spends significant time in this area.
Week 2: Mark 1:16-28 (The Calling of Disciples and Casting out Demons)
New Testament—Galilee in the first century is a place of gathering and diversity, with many different peoples mixing together. Jesus calls out his disciples and clearly reigns over whatever other spirits may be present. He heals and gathers crowds in the area throughout his ministry, bringing people together despite differences and boundaries.
Week 1: Jonah 1:1-17 (Jonah’s Flight and the Storm)
The Israelites had a generally foreboding view of the sea, although there was great commerce there, typically from other peoples but occasionally among the Israelites themselves. The parting of the Red Sea could be used, as well as some Psalms and prophetic references against Tarshish, Tyre, Sidon, etc. Ultimately, the point is the danger of the sea, with only God or His blessing parting them. We see this in Jonah, who would rather go upon the sear with foreigners than go preach God’s word to Nineveh. In this passage, it is clearly God who controls the sea, despite the Israelites’ misgivings and other peoples’ beliefs.
Gospel Transition—From the OT to the NT, we see God’s providence and control change the sea from a place of danger and foreboding to a route by which the gospel of Jesus may be spread. There may still be fear, but there is also faith.
Week 2: Acts 27:27-44 (Paul’s Shipwreck)
New Testament—Paul is shipwrecked, and he and his associates were not afraid to venture onto the seas (even as prisoners). Paul is also an example of peace in the midst of turmoil. The seas are a mode for spreading the gospel. While a shipwreck isn’t the best image for a beach vacation, it keeps the connection to God’s power as something that can be intimidating but also beautiful and usable for His sake. Plus, there was gratitude in reaching the shore. The beach can remind us of God’s power and beauty…and how nice it is to be on solid ground.
Week 1: Genesis 12:1-9 (Calling of Abram)
The callling of Abram is a good example of the uncertainty of hitting the road. Whether by God’s command (Abram), fear (Jacob), or a forced journey (Joseph), the road was a place of uncertainty and reliance on God’s guidance. Abram’s call has the feature of a clear choosing (election) and a promise on the part of God. Abram went in faith.
Gospel Transition—We still go in faith, but also with knowledge. We may have our own designs on our road trips, but we are still in God’s guidance and company.
Week 2: Acts 9:1-19 (Saul’s Conversion)
From sending us and having us wait to see His will, God sends us on the road and meets us there. It is easy to think of a road trip as a getaway, but it can also be a place to find God’s guidance. Pentecost, Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan are helpful complementary texts on the value of inviting people from the highways and hedges, the supposed riffraff Jesus teaches will ultimately be a part of the Kingdom of God.
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