A Radiant God

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Rev. Tara Beth Leach
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:1-18, focus on 3:18
“A Radiant God” sermon starts around 40:30

Rev. Tara Beth Leach, a Nazarene pastor, is the senior pastor at Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene (“PazNaz”), the first female senior pastor at that congregation. Ministry has taken her from upstate New York, to Chicago, to California serving in a variety of roles. She has been a part of Sacred Alliance from the beginning, leading a variety of Circles on conversations for women in ministry, including preaching. And it is her preaching, fueled by her love for the church, that offers numerous things to teach us as we endeavor to follow in her example of faithfulness to God. 

Expository Preaching with a Bullseye

Traditional expository preaching at times gets a bad reputation as boring or simply too dense for one sermon. The temptation when preaching from a large pericope like 18 verses(!) is to try to say everything. In doing so, however, a preacher will usually say nothing. Rev. Leach keeps from this temptation by focusing in on a particular verse, 2 Corinthians 3:18. When she reads the passage, she even alerts the listener that the sermon is going to focus on that particular verse. This helps to signal that the listener needs to hold that verse in their mind. In choosing a focus, however, Rev. Leach does not skirt around the other verses. She moves through the text explaining helpful context about Paul, references to the Old Testament, and connections to other parts of Jesus’s ministry and Paul’s writings. She then uses this focus verse throughout the rest of the sermon as a way of reflecting on their current situation and what God is calling them to do. This sermon is rich in its biblical grounding and clearly arises out of the saturation of Rev. Leach’s life in the Word of God.
What are your scripture reading habits? What parts of scripture are neglected in your own reading? How might your sermon this week benefit from being grounded in the whole witness of God in the Bible?
As you address your scripture passage in the sermon, what verse(s) are the focus? How does this focus guide what stays in the sermon and what is kept out?

Building Tension for the Eye and the Ear

In this series Rev. Leach is building on what it means to be a holy and Christlike people— what she terms as radiance. In the course of a series that focuses around a single topic, the preacher can explore the tension within the biblical text and the current situation in a way that allows each week to be a fresh expression of the series. Rev. Leach does this well in setting out what it means to be a radiant people of God, those who are being transformed into God’s image by contemplating God’s glory, and then asks what the road blocks are to being that people. She notes two, a sinful, broken world and disobedience, but signals that the third road block is most important for the sermon at hand, a malformed image or construct of God that does not come from Jesus. She builds the tension by using boxes with different descriptions of what these constructs might be (“the elitist God,” “the nationalist God,” “the violent God”). As each construct is described, a box is visually placed building a small wall. As this tension is built, Rev. Leach then resolves the tension later in the sermon by looking to Jesus. As she quotes a scripture and describes Jesus’s ministry, she throws its corresponding box off the wall until they are all in a heap. The tension is resolved by grace, malformed images of God are done away with in Jesus so that all may be transformed into Christlikeness.
As you prepare your sermon for Sunday, what tension rises up from the scripture that might get in the way for the listener? How is this tension resolved by grace? What are some ways this tension can be demonstrated visually in the sermon?