Summary: Preaching a sermon that repeats a motto as a learning tool

Lesson Goal

Learn how to preach a sermon that repeats a motto.

Lesson Intro

Psalm 136 is a song with a repeating refrain, "for his steadfast love endures for ever." We can also preach a sermon with a repeating refrain. We already saw how the jewel or diamond sermon is one point tied together by continually repeating a theme. This sermon is similar, except that it is several points tied together by the continual repeating of a refrain, a phrase or motto.

Lesson Plan

We are going to discuss how to research several pericopes in different contexts which are tied together with a theme.

Lesson Body


Those who claim that certain churches are not "Bible churches" often ignore the fact that the liturgy of those churches may be filled with scripture. One part of such liturgies which rely heavily on Bible use in music, homilies, prayers, readings and responses, is a lectionary. If you do not use a lectionary plan for scripture readings and sermon material, I encourage you to examine one and see what I mean. Lectionary readings such as the Revised Common Lectionary, the Episcopal or the Roman Catholic Lectionary or a combination of all three such as is found at lectionary DOT com are quite balanced, providing a reading from the Old Testament, the Epistles, the Gospels and a Psalm each week.

The Gospel reading becomes the center or focus, and the other three readings are supplementary. Lectionaries often cover 75% of the Bible in a three year period, which helps preachers to remain balanced in their long-term sermon planning. A lectionary is not meant to be a straight jacket, as many pastors or priests will preach on a different topic entirely. In such cases, the lectionary may be used for the readings, but not the homily.

Comparing Pericopes

Have you ever noticed that the three or four scriptures which the lectionary gives for a particular day seem to have a theme or other common elements which tie them together? We should not force a theme into the comparison which seems weird, but after prayer and meditation often a thought or idea which is common and natural to all three or four pericopes will emerge. Often a preacher will choose two of the lectionary readings for the sermon and compare just the two pericopes. There is no reason that all three or four must be used for the sermon at all.

There is also nothing wrong with choosing pericopes that are not a part of the lectionary for the day either. In such a case choose two or three pericopes which have a common thread among them, or lend support to a common argument.

Look at the surrounding text for context and larger themes,

Look at things which are the same in each pericope,

Look at things which are different in each pericope,

Look at how each pericope relates to the overall themes of the Bible, the cross, salvation, eternity, grace, love, etc.

Harmonizing Similar Accounts

Many times in the gospels or the books of Kings and Chronicles, or other parts of the Bible, different ingredients of the same story are emphasized. Other times, after careful examination, the two seem to be separate stories entirely, but with some common elements which makes them seem as if they are one story. According to A Synoptic Gospels Primer (1997, Mahlon H. Smith, American Theological Library) there are four different ways to harmonize similar Bible accounts:

Radical - which suppresses variations and forces a uniform account,

Synthetic - which adds all variations to form a complete account,

Sequential - which preserves them as two separate accounts, and

Parallel - which preserves both versions side-by-side and is the preferred method.

The Refrain

A simple way to organize a sermon with three pericopes A, B and C or merely two pericopes A and B with a common refrain X is as follows:

Comparing 3 Pericopes

Goal: Teach X

Intro: pre-X

Plan: A, B, C


1. Pericope A + Refrain X

2. Pericope B + Refrain X

3. Pericope C + Refrain X

Outro: post-X

Comparing 2 Pericopes

Goal: Teach X

Intro: pre-X

Plan: A, B


1. Pericope A + Refrain X

2. Pericope B + Refrain X

Outro: post-X

In the introduction you may give a teaser for X which arouses curiosity and interest, and in the conclusion, you may give a final summary and a power statement regarding X. You may even decide to add a refrain before point 1 or at mid points of 1 and 2 for extra emphasis. This is like poetry. It is your choice, as you are led by God, how you construct your refrain sermon.

Example Sermon

Title: "Salvation is a Mercy Mission"


To discover God's mercy.


I love people who have suffered, who have gone through some of the trials of this life. They are among the sweetest people to be around, because they understand, they have compassion; they have been to hell and back and survived. Jesus is the same. He went through some of this life's greatest trials so that he could understand us and show mercy to us. God is compassionate on you and me. He understands our weaknesses and offers us the only way out of all our trials and troubles. He wants us to be at home with him for eternity. Lord Jesus have mercy on us!

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