Third Sunday After the Epiphany 2018 — Preaching Notes

January 21, 2018 (Year B)

Move  |  RISE UP!

Our guest writer for the Season after Epiphany is Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls. Dr. Smalls is a native of Washington D.C., and an elder in full connection with the Baltimore-Washington Conference. He currently serves as the senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan.

Dr. Smalls holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Claflin University, a Master of Divinity from Interdenominational Theological Center, and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary, where he focused on postmodern preaching to contemporary audiences with an emphasis on hip hop culture. During his twenty years in service to the United Methodist Church, Dr. Smalls has served in a variety of appointments. He is the founder of the Young Adult Christian Cafe and the Off the Hook Bible Study. He is an author who has published a book and a number of articles in periodicals, and he is a contributor to the Africana Worship Book.

Dr. Smalls is married to Lisa Karen Smalls. They share parenting responsibilities for their six children. We are pleased to share Dr. Smalls’s unique voice, poetry, and insights into the Scriptures with the wider church during this season.

Spoken Word

(Note that we recommend presenting the spoken word as part of the liturgy. See Worship Order for ideas on how to present this as part of the worship service.)

(A poem about two brothers, one adopted, attempting to get along.  Poem inspired by the TV Show, “This is Us”)

I never liked my brother
Probably too much attention to him
From my mother
I decided to look the other
When he suffered
Whether he sought me
Whether he fought for me
I didn’t care…I had a brother
to spare.

I ignored him most of
My life…causing unmeasurable
Strife between us

On the football field
I’d not yield applause when
He made a great play

At the school dances I went my way
And left him to fend for himself
Leaving our issues on the shelf
I refused to be his brother.

We grew up from those years
Facing our own individual fears
We found a way to connect

He was black I was white
And in spite of those differences
Never recognized by my folks
I lived with diff’rent strokes
In my own way…adoption
Gave me my brother
And created this family concoction of

But today, we are older
Grown men
Families that turn into similes
Like love
Like support like openness.

This time, I needed my brother
Not knowing he needed me.

I remembered his anxiety
Growing up
I, never having enough piety
To reach out…

But not this time…
I heard his break down
Through the distance
And I knew at that instance
What to do.

I went, no, I ran, fast as I can
To his office, found him
Bottled up in a corner
And unlike the former
I showed up
Knelt beside him
This time
Held him
My crime
In those years of deserting him
Grabbed him
As my father’s voice chimed
On us…
With a gentle
Loving smother

“Never forget, he says, he’s your brother.”

I answered
The call
I answered
My new standard
For loving.

He’s my brother, I’m his
No other way…will do…

Nineveh will neva’ cause me fear
But mere willingness to
Answer with the simple declaration

He’s my brother…I’m his
No other
way…will do…

Youth/Young-Adult Imagination

It is easy to talk about how going against God’s call and instruction is a primary behavior of young adults. One could preach this theme, however. Yet, perhaps a further stretch that would actually appeal to young adult/millennial culture could be how God is always “down” for an adventure and ready to make a different move. God is rebellious to Jonah’s prejudices. God overlooks them and demands his adherence. God plans to infiltrate Nineveh, give them an opportunity to move themselves, to turn from their ways, to repent and reconnect with God. This is phenomenal work. This move is one of God’s most radical ones yet! When Jonah finally submits to God’s beckoning, after failed attempts at escaping, he surprisingly encounters an amazing experience. That was the experience of those who were grateful for this servant and his message no matter how discontented Jonah was to give it. Surprises happen when barriers are broken down and doors are opened to possibilities. If there are any young adults in your context seeking a radical God, they find one in the book of Jonah.

Social Justice Imagination

In many cities across the world, sociological dynamics are changing daily. People across the globe are on the move. As these changes shift, anger often ensues around questions of equality, fairness, gentrification, displacement of the poor, and changing neighborhood dynamics. This is a marvelous time to raise the issue of not being afraid to cross the barriers that are often built around us every day. Congregations, churches, ministry settings are called to travel to their own cities, communities of Nineveh, overlook their hang ups, reach out and call people into the community of God. Homiletic surgery is required to carefully invite those on the outside in, and those on the inside out. Otherwise, a large fish awaits to entrap the religious community until it spits it out upon the grace of God and meets again the demand to say, “Hello Nineveh!”