Intro to Preaching: Sermon #3 Info

For the third sermon I preached for my Intro to Preaching course, I chose a public issue sermon and used Philippians 4:4-9.  Along with the sermon, we were required to turn in the following:

(1)  Select the Text: Philippians 4, 4-9; I selected this text as I thought it was a good text to explore in light of my topic of depression.

(2)  Reconsider the limits of the pericope:  I consider this pericope to be a logical part of the whole.

(3)  Establish a reliable translation of the text: I will be using the NRSV as I found it to be clear and concise.

(4)  Read the Text Aloud: It seems that Paul is not displeased with the church in Philippi but rather content with their spiritual growth thus far and excited about helping them continue to grow into their identity as believers in and followers of Jesus.

(5)  Consider the text within its larger canonical context: Compared to other epistles, the positive tone of Philippians is striking. It is in fact referred to as a “friendship letter.”[1] While it is true we only know half the story as stated above, it seems there were Judaizers in Philippi at the time Paul is writing to the church there and though it is not seen directly in this passage, he seems to be reiterating his call in chapter 3 for them to follow his example in living out the faith[2] (cf. 3:17).

(6)  Listen to the text on behalf of the various listeners represented in your congregation:

a.  This passage will present a significant hardship for those who struggle with depression.  Though they want to rejoice, they are not able to.  Their world is covered in a dense fog that is hard to escape.  In addition, since everyone who suffers from depression does not experience it in the same way, there are some who might be angry or feel further alienated by the discussion of it in a sermon.

b.  For those who live with someone who has depression this may be a difficult passage for them since it in some ways embodies the hope they have for the person who is depressed.  They probably struggle with the idea that it is not a choice the person makes to be depressed, but rather a biological issue that goes far beyond the idea of choice.

c.  For those who are experiencing hardships in life but do not suffer from depression, it might be frustrating, even infuriating, to hear what some may consider justification for a negative attitude.

(7)  Consult the commentaries for insight into the structure and origins of the text:

a.  This passage functions as part of the benediction.[3]

b.  Since the New Testament did not exist in the way canonical form in the early church, often following someone’s example was the way people learned how to do a craft or, in this case, follow “the way.”  This is key for our understanding of Paul’s exhortations to the church in Philippi as well as epistles in general.[4]

(8)  Explore the text literally (i.e., what genre is it and how does that affect interpretation?)  This passage is part of an epistle, or letter, to the church in Philippi.  More specifically, this passage comes from the end of the letter.  As such, the claims of the text are woven into that which Paul exhorts them to do.  While all of Scripture is contextual, epistles are highly contextualized to their audience.  This is problematic at times since we only have half of the conversation and are not entirely sure what questions or circumstances Paul is responding to.

(9)  Explore the text historically (i.e., how has this pericope been understood in the past?  What is the history of its development as well as the history of its use?)  The history of the book of Philippians as a whole is long standing.  According to Kent, “evidence for the early acceptance of this Epistle by the leaders of the church is plentiful and raises no questions.”[5] There is some question as to Christological additions that may have been made over time.  This is most clearly seen in 2:5-11 and as such, does not bear directly on the passage focused on here.[6]

(10)What are the theological concerns and claims of the text?

a.  Joy seems to be a key theological concern in this passage.  As Paul sees it, one of the differences between the joy he is talking about and happiness is that “this joy Paul comments is not something one can pursue” but rather “a “joy” that the English essayist C. S. Lewis described as the best translation he could make of the German idea of Sehnsucht, or longing.”[7]

(11)A corollary of this concern is the idea that prayer alleviates anxiety and joy brings peace though I wonder if these ideas would be challenged or supported by someone suffering from depression.

(12)State the claims of the text upon the listener in simple, declarative sentences.

a.  We have a choice in how we respond to the way others live their lives.

b.  Live your life in such a way that it is worship to God.

c.  Sometimes we have to accept things even if we don’t like them.

(13)Focus Statement: Sometimes rejoicing is not a question of feeling or desire but of choice and knowledge of truth.

(14)Function Statement: To challenge the popular understanding of this passage in light of the many people who struggle with depression.


[1] Third Sunday in Advent, Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, vol. 1 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Know Press, 2009), 63.

[2] Fred B. Craddock, Philippians, ed. James L. Mays and Paul J. Achtemeier, CD-ROM ed., Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985).  Since this is a CD-ROM version there will be no page numbers.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Homer A. Kent Jr., Philippians, ed. Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 152-153.

[5] ibid., 100.

[6] ibid., 99.

[7] Third Sunday in Advent, Year C, 64.


Craddock, Fred B. Philippians. CD-ROM ed. Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Edited by James L. Mays and Paul J. Achtemeier. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985.

Jr., Homer A. Kent. Philippians. Vol. 11 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Gæbelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.

Third Sunday in Advent, Year C. Vol. 1 Feasting on the Word, Edited by David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Know Press, 2009.


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One Response to “Intro to Preaching: Sermon #3 Info”

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