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November 17, 2021

By The Rev. Dr. Rachel Wrenn, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

Equipping Leaders to Preach with Confidence from the Hebrew Bible

“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings out of his or her treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:52)

First Reading ( is for preachers who are feeling the burn.

Five years ago, I was a bright-eyed PhD student with a hunch. After years in the parish, I knew the feeling of exhaustion that preachers so often feel. I knew the feeling of deflation that washes over preachers when faced with the task of preaching yet another Advent. I knew the helpless feeling that can arise – even in the midst of trusting the Spirit to speak – when we think what can I possibly find that is new to say about these texts?

I also knew of something that could soothe the burn.

You see, five years ago, I had just begun PhD studies in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). What I was learning about the Old Testament excited me, thrilled me, sent me journeying into faith in a deeper and more profound way than I had before. What I learned cemented in me the idea that part of our preacher-ly burnout is due to the fact that we’re always trying to preach on the same texts. And as much as the Spirit is always bringing new insights to us, a whole treasure trove of the Bible was going untouched for sermon material.

Yes, I know of something that could help preaching burnout. But how to get it out to the world?

Enter Tim McNinch, fellow PhD student, fellow preacher, and fellow enthusiast for the Hebrew Scriptures. Together, we nurtured a hope that we could help preacher burnout. We were determined to make accessible to a wider preaching audience the scholarly insights that were moving our faith.

And thus, First Reading was born: a podcast for equipping leaders to preach with confidence from the Hebrew Bible. In this podcast, Tim and I, along with our newest co-host, Rosy Kandathil, lift up preaching insights from texts so long underused. Wrestling with God’s Word, we unearth the treasures of Scripture both confessionally and critically. We interview excellent scholars from diverse and underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. And finally, we undertake this endeavor with both humility and humor, taking our mission seriously and ourselves less so. (If you’d like to see a video example of the type of work we do, check out my lecture on “Exegeting Advent” from Trinity Lutheran Seminary’s “Trinity Days.”

Take heart, preachers: there is much that is new to say about these texts. Come join us on the journey at, and replace preaching burnout with the Spirit’s fire.

Trinity Lutheran Seminary forms leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.