Summer Settings, a Sermon Series

Summer Settings Series

Lakes and Streams II

Summer 2023


Sermon Texts:

Primary Passage: Mark 1:16-28

Additional Passages: Acts 8:26-40Acts 16:11-15, any other Sea of Galilee episode

Highlighted Text: Mark 1:16-28

Summary and Themes for Preaching:

The purpose of this “Summer Settings” sermon series is to connect people’s favorite summer destinations with the biblical and theological importance of similar settings.  The hope is to help people see the stories and events in the Bible with new eyes and new understanding, identifying with our ancestors in the faith in ways we might not have known possible.  In so doing, we can gain a better understanding of how God worked in their imaginations and how He is longing to work in ours.

Going deeper, this series is a set of four two-week themes: mountains, lakes/streams/rivers, beaches/oceans/seas, and road trips.  The first week features an Old Testament passage with a passage that transitions toward the New Testament.  The second week focuses on a New Testament passage. 

For purposes of practicality and relatability, this series considers the Sea of Galilee to be a lake and classifies other fresh or mostly fresh water locations together under the same banner. The point is to relate our present-day affinity for lakes, rivers, streams, etc. to the ancients’ experiences with those places.  We have a similar qualifier for “Oceans,” since the marketing department rejected the title, “Summer Settings: Mountains, Fresh or Mostly Fresh Bodies of Water Including but Not Limited to Lakes, Rivers, Streams, Marshes, and Brackish Estuaries, Expansive Bodies of Salt Water that Take a Long Time to Traverse, and Road Trips.”

Have you ever spent a few years away from a place, only to return and find that nearly everything is different?  If you like history, architecture, or history of architecture, then there are lots of Twitter and Instagram accounts that show changes in neighborhoods and cities over the course of decades.  Most of them are probably bots, but it’s fun to see what they can come up with.

If you grew up in the Old Testament and then were suddenly transported to the New Testament, one of the changes that might surprise you is that all of a sudden a bunch of people were hanging around the Sea of Galilee.  Or, they were at least talking about it a lot more.  There are a couple of Old Testament mentions of the villages in the region of Galilee, but the lake itself was more commonly referred to as a boundary area that had a city of refuge for murderers (Joshua 21:32).

During the intertestamental period, however, the Greeks and Romans came through and really spruced the place up nicely, even giving some of their names to the villages and the lake itself (Sea of Tiberias).  Over a couple of centuries, the area had become home to an industrious mix of people from different backgrounds.  The ability to make a living on the lake had even led many Jews to get into boats and start fishing.  Incidentally, these were also Jews who had learned how to live alongside their Gentile neighbors, which would come in handy.

Enter Jesus, who in Mark’s gospel wasted no time in targeting the area for his first recruiting visit (though John’s gospel suggests this was after Jesus got Andrew from John the Baptist in the transfer portal).  In fact, Jesus had just come from downstream, where people had been going out to the Jordan River to see John for baptism and preaching on repentance and forgiveness of sins (flashback to Naaman in the Jordan last week).  Right from the start—especially in the case of Mark—it is clear that fresh water will be central to Jesus’s ministry.

There was still some danger with the water—storms and waves and the like—but Galilee became a fertile ground for Jesus’s miracles and teachings.  It also became a venue for demonstrating his Lordship, visible by lots of people but comfortably away from Jerusalem both in location and in risk.  We might be able to resonate with Jesus here.  There is a reason that lakes and ponds are not only popular for vacations, but also for retreat centers, camps, and even schools (feel free to cite the “Beach Games” episode of The Office).  We can get away to focus, to relax, to gather, to share ideas, and a nice lake communicates calm and some level of liminality, even if it is also a busy place.

The diversity Galilee provided Jesus with a forum for interacting with different people who were used to interacting with different people.  In the midst of this, he also communicated his authority over whatever those diverse people might think or believe and whatever footholds the evil one had gotten in their communities.  This is why his casting out of the impure spirit in Capernaum is on theme with the calling of the disciples.  Jesus had communicated “with authority” and the news spread around the lake. 

The impure spirit even did everyone the favor of naming Jesus “the Holy One of God!”  While Jesus commanded silence after that, the point was made.  News travels fast around a lake because everyone is united around a common source of water, food, and recreation.  Now they had a common source of healing, exorcism, weather control, loaves and fishes, and salvation in Jesus.  Whatever spirits they might have been following before, Jesus was now in charge. 

The freshwater cross-cultural meeting points would continue in the New Testament, notably with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch and Paul (with Silas, Timothy, and Luke?) finding Lydia at the river in Philippi.  So, whereas bodies of fresh water had previously been boundaries and dividing lines between contentious kingdoms, they became the unifying places of a new Kingdom that was open to any who believed.  With Jesus being the water of life, it should be no surprise that he also offers himself as the gathering place for all peoples and nations.   

Allen Thompson

Allen Thompson is senior pastor at Fairview Presbyterian Church in North Augusta, South Carolina.  Allen attended Pittsburgh Seminary (M.Div.) and Fuller Seminary (D.Min.)  His wife, Kelsey, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, and they have two children.

Allen enjoys golf, hiking, camping, cooking pigs, ice climbing, and live music.  He loves to imagine being in the story and culture of the Bible, wondering how we might have responded to God then and how we can follow Jesus now.  As an “ideas” person, Allen is passionate about working with others to find out how God is calling us to use the many gifts and resources the Holy Spirit provides.  

Allen holds a Doctor of Ministry (Fuller Theological Seminary) and a Master of Divinity (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary).

Sermon Resources


Key Quote

From the TPW quote page on diversity

Brenda Salter McNeil

It was the reception of the Holy Spirit that first offered the church hope of a social and spiritual community composed of people from “every tribe and nation” and unified by the centrality of Christ.

Taken from Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil (c) 2020 by Brenda Salter McNeil. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

Key Sermon Illustration

From the TPW illustration page on division

The Solution to Division

The solution to gender, race and social divisions is not to eradicate our differences but to see them in light of Jesus. The Pentecostal movement in the United States in the early twentieth century was astonishingly diverse. Blacks, whites and Latinos worshiped together, and women played an important role in ministry.

They were fond of saying that the “color line was washed away in the blood of Jesus.” This was because they saw their unity in the Spirit. Males and females, whites and blacks, rich and poor-all were conduits for the same Spirit. Equality was discovered not by disregarding differences but by finding the source of unity within their diversity.

Taken from The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love by James Bryan Smith, Copyright (c) 2010 by James Bryan Smith. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.


Additional Sermon Resources

Liturgical Elements

Call to Worship

Inspired by Psalm 29, Mark 1:11, Isaiah 43:1

 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters,

And in the temple God’s people say: Glory! 

The heavens opened, the Spirit descended, 

And a voice sounded: Your are my Beloved Son. 

Do not fear, for the Lord has spoken: 

I have called you by your name, you are mine. 

Austin D. Hill

Prayer of Confession


God of mercy, in your gracious presence we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. Lord, have mercy upon us; heal and forgive us. Please set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ. We offer our silent prayers of confession to you now… 

Austin D. Hill

Assurance of Pardon

Inspired by Psalm 51:9-12

The Lord has hidden his face from our sin. He has blotted out all of our iniquity. In Christ and his cross, he has created within us a clean heart and renewed a right spirit within us. So that, we are not cast away from his presence. We are endowed with his Holy Spirit, restored to the joy of God’s salvation and given a willing spirit to do all that he asks and desires of us. For in Christ Jesus, the perfect suffered for the imperfect, the sinless became sin for the sinner; we are forgiven and freed to live in a right relationship with God. Brothers & Sisters, you are forgiven, indeed! Amen.

We affirm the good news that this statement is completely true and should be universally accepted: Christ Jesus entered the world to save sinners. He personally bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and alive to God.  In Christ we are forgiven.  Amen. 

Stuart Strachan Jr.


Romans 16:25-27

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to [the] gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, to bring about the obedience of faith–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.