Preaching Connection: Church

Movies for Preaching

The Apostle (1997)

Written by Robert Duvall. 134 minutes. PG-13. Starring Robert Duvall, Farrah Fawcett, June Carter Cash, and Billy Bob Thornton. Forty years a preacher, an apostle full of brimstone and sweet Jesus, and Euliss “Sonny” Dewey still doesn’t get it, specifically the nature of the “Holy Ghost power” he has relished and exalted his whole long…

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (2011)

Written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. 130 minutes. PG-13. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes. Hebrews 11 details the lives of some of the Bible’s biggest saints and heroes of the faith, concluding finally by claiming there are too many more to mention in any…

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Reading for Preaching

A Diary of Private Prayer in Devotional Classics

“Through all the ages, You, O God, have been the Lord and giver of life: The patriarchs trusted you and were not put to shame; The prophets sought You and You committed Your word to their lips; The psalmists rejoiced in You and You dwelled in their songs; The apostles waited upon You and You...
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The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

Al-Qaeda’s character as a death-cult was born across the 1980s, especially, but not exclusively, in the myths of the Afghan freedom fighters who battled the Soviet occupiers.  Calling themselves the “mujahideen” or “holy warriors,” these fighters cultivated stories of battlefield miracles (bullets would hit them but not penetrate), or failing a miracle, of illustrious deaths. ...
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Mere Christianity, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

“Charity—giving to the poor—is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns . . .I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give...
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“Holiness Necessary for Future Blesedness,” in his Sermons and Discourses (1825-39)

Heaven is not for everyone: it is an acquired taste, and hard to acquire while our taste buds still resemble a crocodile’s back.  An unholy person would be restless and unhappy in heaven.
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Contentiousness is a sign of life in the church. Don’t think that placidity is the only way to be. If people care deeply about things they will contend. And the unpleasantness–it looks awful and it feels awful–may sometimes be the cost of Christian discipleship. The church is a shaky investment, a sinful institution. So when...
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Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet

Andrew W. Blackwood (homiletics professor, Princeton Theological Seminary) raised hard questions about the content of Fosdick’s sermons (he admired the method). His comments could be directed to any liberal preachers: “When [Fosdick] writes on faith, which he does most admirably, he speaks rather as a psychologist than as a theologian. When he preaches on God...
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Churches that Abuse

summary: Legalism, authoritarian leadership, manipulation, excessive discipline, spiritual intimidation—it’s all out there in churches. It’s basically the kind of thing from which Jesus came to free us. Enroth is a real pro in this area. Really competent and insightful. The book is a huge case-study on the parasitic nature of sin, how it attaches to...
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The Collected Sermons of William H. Willimon

God chose Israel out of love, not out of awe because of Israel’s moral and spiritual achievements. In fact Israel was often proud, wayward, difficult, unfaithful. So “whatever is meant by ‘a people holy to the Lord,’ it means something other than a person pure and spotless. A biblical saint is not a person who...
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From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

The Protestant Reformation was actually a revolution (the violent transfer of power and property in the name of an idea”), and it is equal to or surpassed by only three others in magnitude: the 17th century monarchial revolution, the late 18th century French liberal and individualist revolution, and the 20th century Russian social and collectivist....
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A Dresser of Sycamore Trees

Keizer speaks admiringly of a fellow Episcopal cleric named Castle: “’And could you maybe give us a little cash?’ the spokesman for a small group of vagabonds with remarkably good teeth asked him. Quite possibly he could–in exchange for painting the church steps. I shall never forget Castle expounding on ‘Take up your bed and...
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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

“It is sometimes forgotten that the churches in America laid the foundation of our system of higher education. Harvard, of course, was established early–in 1636–for the purpose of providing learned ministers to the Congregational Church. And, sixty-five years later, when Congregationalists quarreled among themselves over doctrine, Yale College was founded to correct the lax influences...
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“An Overdue Reminder that Not All is Relative”

“The Vatican has issued a document, written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reasserting that salvation is available only through Jesus Christ, and that ‘only in the Catholic Church’ does the church that Christ founded continue to ‘exist fully.’ If you are going to run a religion, in a world...
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The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World

Quotation from Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos: “Catholic Christianity is the most preposterous of the three. It proposes, not only [what Jews and fundamentalists believe], but also that the man-god founded a church, appointed as its first head a likable but pusillanimous person, like himself a Jew, the most fallible of his friends, gave...
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“Men Need Church Too”

If you’ve got more pantyhose than beards in your church, “there’s one word for you: ‘typical.’” Women are more religious than men. Two-thirds to one-third in American churches. Some liberal Protestant churches have very few men. In black churches women are 75 to 90% of the whole, and it’s understandable. Women haven’t been crushed by...
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The Bonfire of the Vanities

“The mayor shook his head some more. He found the Christian churches baffling. When he was growing up, the goyim were all Catholics, unless you counted the shvartzer, which nobody did. They didn’t even rate being called goyim. The Catholics were two types, the Irish and the Italians . . . He was in college...
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The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World

“Sectarianism is the symptom of the ‘Protestant disease’ of reinventing Christianity to suit the circumstances. It is situational Christianity. Many Roman Catholics fear that the Protestant disease has made alarming headway in Rome since [Vatican II]. The church in the modern world they could perhaps take; it is the modern world in the church that’s...
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The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

The church is a church of sinners. ‘The church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn’t walk on water by himself . . . you are expecting his successors to walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. . ....
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Additional content related to Church

Micah 5:2-5a

When the Lectionary dishes up just 3.5 verses, skipping the first verse of a chapter and stopping just halfway through the fifth verse, you just know it’s like putting blinders on us readers to keep us from seeing something on either side of the lection.  I don’t know why they made this choice but lyric…

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Mark 12:38-44

Our two sections are directly connected by the mention of widows. In the first section, the widows are made destitute at the hands of the scribes, and in the second, a poor widow gives the last of her financial goods as a contribution to the faith community. Jesus clearly condemns the scribes in the first…

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Ephesians 2:11-22

Could Paul say anything more counter-cultural yet hopeful than Christ has made the two one? (14). We live, after all, in a world that’s deeply divided along so many lines. In fact, the gaps those fault lines create also seem to be widening. Democrats vs. Republicans. Liberal Party members vs. Conservative Party members. Vaxxers vs….

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul certainly had lofty ideals for the Christian Church. At the beginning of his first letter to Thessalonica’s Christians, he describes the Church as a community loved and chosen by God. That community, the apostle adds, draws its life from God and lives that life with faith, love and hope. When Paul concludes this letter…

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Psalm 122

Psalm 122 is one of fifteen psalms extending from Psalms 120-134, each of which is labeled “A Song of Ascents.”  The sense of that title is that these were pilgrimage songs sung by Israelites as they ascended up to Jerusalem.  Not surprisingly, therefore, the terms “Jerusalem,” “Zion,” and “house of Yahweh” occur with great density…

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Colossians 1:11-20

What a weird place to start our lectionary selection for Reign of Christ Sunday and the close of Ordinary Time. We get the last few verses of Paul’s thanksgiving prayer section, then all of the Christ hymn, but not the verses that describe the community’s reconciliation. If it’s “application” that we’re after, wouldn’t verses 21-23…

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Joel 2:28-32

As we near the end of Ordinary Time, the Lectionary begins to point toward Advent with prophecies that are more distinctly Messianic.  After 9 hard weeks in Jeremiah which was addressed to a nation on the brink of Exile, we turn to the Minor Prophets, beginning with the one about bugs. Joel rose out of…

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Psalm 84:1-7

In the Calvin Seminary Chapel above and behind the pulpit area is a large clear-glass window with a cross in the center.  A few years ago during a May Term preaching class in the chapel, we all noticed that a large Horned Owl had made a nest in the uppermost window pane near the top…

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2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

So here we are at the most intimate, and soul laid bare, part of Paul’s letters to Timothy. In these sermon starters, we’ve hinted all along about what Paul reveals in these verses—that he’s at the end of his earthly life, abandoned by fellow ministry partners, waiting on his imminent death. The lectionary selection leaves…

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

When asked to define “church,” at least some people answer by talking about a place like a building, an event like a worship service, or even a kind of organization that people join.  But when Paul defines “church,” he speaks of a living organism into which God’s children are born again, by God’s grace.  He…

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Matthew 2:1-12

Strange, isn’t it?  For ever-so-long now the Church has often been seen by those outside of the Church—and not infrequently by even a good many folks inside the Church—as being a kind of exclusive club.   Too often it all comes down to who’s in, who’s out.  In history popes and other religious leaders have used…

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