The Preacher's Toolbox: Reviewing the Lectionary Kick-Start Podcast

Reading Time: 4 mins

More than once, as I have listened while driving, this podcast prompted me to pull over in order to make some notes.

In the year of our Lord 2023, there is no shortage of tools for pastors to use when preparing to preach. There are many commentaries, journals, homiletical helps, and videos which are all designed to help get you ready to bring the good news to God’s people from Sunday to Sunday. Think of how someone like the estimable preacher C.F.W. Walther, armed with little more than his Greek New Testament, the Book of Concord, and Luther's postils, who would marvel at the panoply of resources we now have at our disposal. Eat your heart out, Carl Frederick!

Among these many and various contemporary tools are the on-demand audio programs known as podcasts. The blessing of podcasts is how a thousand flowers which would never have seen the light of day on your radio dial in decades past are now able to bloom. That is also the curse of podcasts. There is such an embarrassment of riches it is hard to know where to start.

Case in point is the niche category of lectionary-related preacher programming. You have the OG Lectionary at Lunch, Sermon Brainwave from Luther Seminary, and Same Old Song from Mockingbird, and even our own Preaching the Text just to name a few. Now, there is a newcomer to your preacherly podcast feed: Lectionary Kick-Start, from the good folks at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL). For this working preacher, Lectionary Kick-Start has leapt to the top of the podcast pile, or should I say, to the front of the podcast dial.

Here are some initial impressions of the podcast to get your sermon prep moving.

The podcast is hosted by Jessica Bordeleau, who some listeners will recognize from the too-short-lived Speaking of Jesus podcast put out by Lutheran Hour Ministries and its speaker, Mike Zeigler. She is joined by a pair of preaching professors from CSL, David Schmitt and Peter Nafzger (for the sake of full disclosure, both men write for this website, but this is not a sponsored post and there are no affiliate links). These guys are far from stuffy academic types, and not only are they both fine preachers, but they are also capable expositors of the preaching task. Their takes on texts are often fresh without being novel. More than once, as I have listened while driving, they prompted me to pull over in order to make some notes.

The format is straight-forward. Jessica introduces the Sunday in the Church Year, and then asks David or Peter which of the appointed texts he would preach on and why. There is a ten-to-twelve-minute conversation about that text, and then it flips to the other guest for his choice and how he might handle it. In a departure from other lectionary-based podcasts, Kick-Start does not attempt to provide a mini-commentary on each of the lectionary texts. It is true to the title, a kick-start. The podcast provides some initial impressions on one or two of the lectionary texts which are meant to get your creative engine turning over, not take you to your destination.

The podcast provides some initial impressions on one or two of the lectionary texts which are meant to get your creative engine turning over, not take you to your destination.

I also appreciate how the speakers are unapologetically seeking homiletic angles and evangelical hooks for proclamation. This is how pastors actually read the Scriptures in their preaching prep, and it is refreshing to have the panel concede as much and cut to the chase. Rarely do both guests opt for the same Scripture reading, so the odds are good that at least one of them takes up whichever text you were leaning toward in any given week. And though it is not a regular feature, the guests will often suggest promising ways to structure the message as well.

The twenty-five-minute length for the podcast is right in the sweet spot. I like to listen to it on Monday after I have spent time studying and formed some initial impressions of my own. The podcast has become a weekly staple in my diet of preaching preparation, alongside the Septuagint, any pertinent writings from Bo Giertz, and the score to Braveheart (because every preacher dies, but not every preacher truly preaches... or something).

That said, I have a few friendly suggestions which I think could make the podcast even better.

First, Jessica is an asset to the production. She is an educated, thoughtful layperson who asks insightful questions and does an excellent job of playing “the person in the pew.” However, I do not think her voice is heard enough. Sometimes she will do the introduction and transition between the two profs, and that is it. Both Peter and David are great, so I am happy to let them cook, but some more poking and prodding from Jessica along the way would further enhance the conversation.

Secondly, and maybe this is my own bias, from time to time one of the co-hosts will zag from the obvious choice for preaching in a way that feels gratuitous or forced. For example, for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, the Gospel was the Call of Levi and the comforting words of Jesus in Matthew 9: “I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” The Epistle was the powerful passage from Romans 4 about Abraham and the importance of faith; great choices both. But Dave Schmitt went with Hosea 5:15-6:6, which would be a remarkable flex in the pulpit and unrealistic. Give me Matthew 9 every day and twice on Sunday.

Finally, I mentioned how they will occasionally gesture toward possibilities for structuring the sermon. This is a really helpful feature and one I have not heard in any other preaching podcast. Schmitt is the dean of sermon structures and I think they ought to capitalize on his expertise. I would love to see “structure thoughts” become a weekly part of the discussion.

These gentle critiques aside, I am grateful to Concordia, St. Louis for producing this podcast. It is a helpful addition to the preacher’s toolbox and now a regular fixture in my weekly rhythm for preparing to preach. If you want to get your pulpit-motor running, I recommend giving a listen to Lectionary Kick-Start.