Preaching Connection: Covenant

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Exodus 33:12-23

In military and government work, informal clearance is often withheld with a simple phrase, “that is need to know,” meaning that you don’t. You can complete your assignment or your project without the answer to that particular question. It seems as though, in this text, Moses is not satisfied with the information God has been…

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Exodus 32:1-14

What is taking God so long? There’s a whole sermon to be preached in the opening clause of this text: “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down the mountain…” Of course, the key theme of the text is idolatry: the making and worshiping of the golden calf by the Israelites. …

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Psalm 103: (1-7), 8-13

In past sermon commentaries here on the CEP website I have relayed the anecdote involving the author John Donne.  A friend of mine who taught English once lent an acquaintance a book of collected writings by John Donne.  When the person returned the book, my friend asked him what he thought of Donne’s work.  “He’s…

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Exodus 1:8-2:10

Comments, Questions and Observations: On Pharaoh Over time, we’ll see Pharaoh’s heart become hardened, which means that, at some point and in some way, his heart was tender and open. How does a person like that come to the conclusion that having infants murdered and people enslaved and oppressed is a good idea? That seems…

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Genesis 29:15-28

“When morning came, there was Leah!” Hands down that is one of the funniest lines in the Bible.  Imagine the fun a good Hollywood director would have setting up the scene and the dramatic flair of music to accompany the moment of the big reveal.  Jacob wakes up, wipes the sleep out of his eyes,…

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Genesis 28:10-19a

It’s a shame the RCL cuts off this story in Genesis 28 before getting to the final 3 verses.  Perhaps it would be a stretch to say those verses are the kicker but for certain they tell us a great deal about this rascal Jacob who is the focus of this middle part of Genesis. …

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Genesis 25:19-34

Since the fulfilling of God’s covenant with Abraham hinged hugely on Abraham’s having descendants, you would think that in the childbearing department things would have gone more easily.  And yet in story after story we deal with some level of infertility that becomes a deep source of concern and that God eventually is said to…

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Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Last week we looked at the exceedingly fraught and difficult story of the binding (and near sacrifice) of Isaac in Genesis 22.  We noted how maddeningly spare that narrative is.  The story cries out—nearly screams out—for more details.  Instead we get a crisp, bare-bones narrative that dispatches with the whole terrible story in a short…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Across its 52 verses, Psalm 89 covers a lot of ground.  You would not sense that from the mere 8 verses the Lectionary has carved out for this lection but if you range beyond those verses, you will see a lot going on.  There is praise and thanksgiving.  There is a nod to the more…

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Genesis 22:1-14

A mere 21 chapters into the Bible, the Holy Spirit was brave when it inspired the authors and redactors of Genesis to include a scandalous story such as the one we get in Genesis 22.  As some have noted across the ages, here is a narrative with so many fraught elements—not the least being things…

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Genesis 12:1-9

Go! Have you ever been struck by the fact that this is God’s very first word to Abram?  Go.  Leave.  Hit the road.  Have you ever been struck by how unattractive this must have sounded to Abram at his advanced age?  Why would he want to go anywhere?  He had his home.  He had established…

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

One could wish that this Lectionary passage began a few verses earlier because there is delicious imagery starting in verse 11 where Moses says (in essence) to the people of Israel, “Hey, folks, this stuff God is saying to you through me about life in the Promised Land ain’t rocket science.  You don’t have to…

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Psalm 67

It can be a little hard to know how to read Psalm 67.  On the face of it, this is a pretty simple Hebrew poem.  It’s short.  It is upbeat for the most part.  It aims squarely at the praise of the one true God of Israel. Yet there are some interesting angles one could…

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Genesis 15 is full of curiosities and oddments.  But right in the middle of this chapter is a verse that went on to exercise an enormous influence on the New Testament. “Abram believed Yahweh and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  In Romans and Galatians this one verse became a linch-pin in Paul’s argument…

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Psalm 25:1-10

When I read Psalm 25, I find myself drawn to its utter realism. If you enter into the rhythms and patterns of these verses, what you will find is probably something akin to your own life. If you are like most people, including most Christian people, then the pattern of your piety is probably something…

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2 Samuel 7:1-14a

This is arguably the most important text in the books of Samuel, indeed, in what scholars call the Deuteronomistic history from the Pentateuch through Chronicles.  So, although I’ve written on it just 7 months ago at the height of Advent, I will attempt to offer some fresh preaching ideas for this Eighth Sunday of Ordinary…

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2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

This is a little text, but it is the exclamation point of the whole David story.  He gets everything God promised him, and then some.  The boy whom we first met when he was shepherding his father’s flock becomes the King of Israel, the shepherd of God’s flock.  And he establishes Jerusalem as the capital…

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

This remarkably sunny text may seem a peculiar choice for the dark journey of Lent, unless we see it in the light of theme of covenant on which the RCL has been focusing during this Lenten season. We began with God’s covenant with Noah and all of nature, the covenant on which all life on…

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

As any regular reader of my Sermon Commentaries on these Old Testament readings can easily tell, the theme for Lent in Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary is covenant.  Every one of our Lenten readings has to do with God’s covenant in one way or another, even our upcoming lesson from Numbers 21, which…

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Genesis 9:8-17

As we begin our annual Lenten journey to the cross and the tomb, our Old Testament reading takes us to the new journey of the human race after The Flood.  In words that almost directly parallel the Genesis account of creation, the opening verses of Genesis 9 lay out God’s mandates for the new human…

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Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

When preaching on this text, there is a huge temptation to focus on verse 15c alone.  “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  That bold declaration of commitment and intention has been posted on many a front door, mine included back in the days of my young parenthood.  It’s a…

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Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

What a massive text for one sermon!  I’ve preached ten-part series on these verses, spending much time on each word of the successive commandments.  No wonder the RCL tried to help us by leaving out the crucial theological material connected to the second and fourth commandments, which is unfortunate given how important those verses are….

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Psalm 67

If you read Psalm 67 a certain way, it could look like some example of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” or “One hand washes the other.”  The poem begins with an echo of the great Aaronic benediction from Numbers 6 with reference being made to God’s face shining on people.  And it…

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Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

The last time we saw Isaac, he was being laid on the altar by his father Abraham (Genesis 22).  It is now many years later.  Abraham has laid his wife, Sarah, in a grave purchased from the surrounding Hittites (Genesis 23).  And now he has one more item of unfinished business.  Isaac is 40 years…

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Genesis 21:8-21

During Ordinary Time in the church’s calendar, we are encouraged in our walk with the God who has done great things for us.  The opening line from Charles Dicken’s masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, perfectly summarizes a particularly poignant time in Abraham’s walk with God.  “It was the best of times, it was the…

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Acts 10:34-43

In this (Old Testament?) reading, we hear not the original story about how Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified by Roman soldiers, but a retelling of that story to a Roman soldier.  If you want to emphasize the fact of the resurrection in your Easter sermon, choose the Gospel readings for your text. …

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Luke 1:46b-55

The Year A Lectionary presents two options on this week’s Psalm.  One option is what I will reflect on here from Luke 1.  The other is a portion of Psalm 146.  I am not writing on that as this entire psalm was the Lectionary psalm just a couple of months ago.  If you wish to…

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2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

I think that a really helpful way to frame a sermon on the lectionary text for today, including if you choose to cover the verses that the lection skips over, is our covenant relationship with God. A covenant is an agreement between two parties where each makes promises about how they will be to and…

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Hebrews 12:18-29

My colleague Scott Hoezee, to whom (August, 2016 commentary) with Tom Long (Hebrews, John Knox Press, 1997) I owe a great deal for this commentary’s ideas, compares reading this morning’s text to watching a good tennis match’s extended rally.  After all, spectators must constantly turn their heads to watch a good rally.  They must look…

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Joshua 5:9-12

Why in the world would you preach on this text, when the Lectionary offers you the options of Jesus’ dramatic Parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15) and Paul’s magnificent doctrine of new creation in Christ (II Corinthians 5:15-21).  I mean, this text from Joshua seem so small and insignificant.  Plus, preaching on it will make…

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

This is one of the great seminal passages of Scripture, on a par with Genesis 1, Psalm 23, and John 3:16 in importance for both Jews and Christians.  But what a mixture it is, filled with peculiar ancient inheritance customs (adopting a slave to become your heir), divine promises that still shape international politics today…

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Isaiah 43:1-7

On this second Sunday in the Epiphany season, the church focuses on the Baptism of Jesus, arguably one of the greatest manifestations of his glory.  This Old Testament reading was undoubtedly chosen because of its baptismal echoes of passing through the waters and being called by name.  In the same way that Isaiah 60 anticipated…

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2 Samuel 23:1-7

Like other great leaders of Israel before him (Jacob in Genesis 49 and Moses in Deuteronomy 33), David concludes his life with famous last words.  Though he undoubtedly spoke other words after this (cf. opening chapters of I Kings), “[t]hese are the last words of David” in an official way, his last pronouncement, his prophetic…

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Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

What’s the Church’s most important task?  Some people might answer, “Sharing the gospel’s good news with the whole world,” or “Teaching children to follow Jesus.”  Others answer, “Being God’s hands of justice and mercy in the world” or “Being a welcoming place.” Each of those is certainly among the church’s important tasks.  But were you…

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Psalm 106:1-6, 9-13

Back in the day, a radio commentator named Paul Harvey became famous for the way he reported the news.  He would remind his listeners of a well-known news item and then he would tell “the rest of the story,” the other side of the story that everyone thought they knew.  That’s exactly what we have…

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Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

We are now deeply into Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar.  During Ordinary Time we don’t celebrate any of the extraordinary Feasts of the Christian year; we simply walk along with the Incarnate God, the Crucified Jesus, the Risen and Ruling Christ by the power of the Spirit.  Our reading for today speaks to one…

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Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

Psalm 105 is a history psalm.  To be more specific, it is what German biblical scholars once called Heilsgeshichte, salvation history.  It recalls the five stages at the beginning of the story of God’s redemption of Israel, from the promise of the Land to the possession of the Land.  Of course, as the long and…

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Genesis 28:10-19a

While Christians profess that God is graciously present to everything everywhere, we also have to admit that it’s sometimes hard to recognize that presence.  Especially when God’s adopted sons and daughters are busy running from some kind of pursuer. Genesis 28’s Jacob is at least figuratively on the dead run.  He has, after all, swindled…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Psalm 89 is one of the darkest of all the Psalms, the better looking twin of the exceedingly dark Psalm 88, which ends with “the darkness is my closest friend.”  Psalm 89 rallies from that kind of despair with bright opening words.  In our reading for this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, it’s a new…

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Genesis 21:8-21

If only the narrator of the Old Testament text that the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday had just quit at verse 8.  After Isaac is weaned, Abraham throws a big soiree.  Period.  It would have made for a happy ending that would send everyone home happy.  But that’s not the way Genesis 21 ends.  Pain…

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Jeremiah 31:27-34

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider I am not sure why the Revised Common Lectionary’s series of passages from Jeremiah skips around the way it does (one week Jeremiah 32 but then next time around it’s back to chapter 29 and now we leap to chapter 31) but I think I can understand why the…

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Hosea 1:2-10

Few parents seem to pick their children’s first names on the basis of their meaning anymore. It appears many pick names on the basis of their popularity or family history. Israelites, however, chose their children’s names because of their meanings. So, for example, Hannah names her son Samuel because she “asked the Lord for him.”…

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Psalm 25:1-10

On first reading (and, I confess, second and third as well), I could not imagine preaching on Psalm 25. I mean, it jumps all over the place and has no easily discernible preaching theme. In one place it seems that David has a guilt complex, in another a persecution complex, and in still others an…

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Joshua 5:9-12

Few of us like new beginnings any more than we enjoy the change that precedes them. A new neighborhood. A new school. A new job. Old circumstances often produce old headaches. Yet new circumstances also produce new headaches. Since Joshua 9’s Israelites have just crossed the Jordan River on dry land, their feet are neither…

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

It’s fairly easy to trust God to keep God’s promises when things are going well. But when things don’t go well, even Jesus’ most faithful followers sometimes wonder how God will ever keep God’s promises. It’s at those difficult times that trust is a particularly precious gift. The Abram whom God told to leave his…

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Genesis 13:1-18

Have you ever returned to a special place from your past? The place you got engaged, for instance, your old dorm room, your first job. What about a place where you distinctly heard the voice of the Lord? Even sadder places seems to pull us back or make us speed up as we pass them:…

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Genesis 48:1-22

The scene: The whole crew is in Egypt: Jacob, their patriarch, his twelve sons and all their families, servants, possessions. Jacob is at the end of his life. As is the custom, all male heirs went to his deathbed to receive their blessing. Joseph, Jacob’s long lost son, the one he believed he would never…

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Exodus 15:22-27

Exodus 15:22-27 is one of numerous stories driven by Israel complaining, grumbling, or murmuring because of the conditions of the exodus. Like God does in the other stories, God provides for the Israelites even though they are rebellious against him. But what stands out in this particular narrative is God’s self-proclaimed title in verse 26:…

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Romans 3

No one will ever be able to accuse Paul of lacking passion. It oozes out of each of his letters in the New Testament. Sometimes though, when you’re passionate, your arguments don’t always make logical sense or flow smoothly from point to point. The opening of Romans is a good example of this. In Romans…

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Judges 4

Comments and Observations The refrain is common in the book of Judges: “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (4:1). The pattern repeats itself over and over again in Judges: the Israelites abandon God, God delivers them into the hands of their enemies, Israel cries out to God, God sends a…

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Hebrews 7:1-22

Comments and Observations Were it not for the book of Hebrews, Melchizedek would be little more than an interesting footnote in commentaries on the book of Genesis, a bewildering moment in the life of Abraham when this shadowy figure emerges briefly to bless Abraham, only to return to the realm of obscurity. In Hebrews Melchizedek…

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Exodus 2:11-25

Comments and Observations Sometimes deliverance takes a long time. The Israelites lived in Egypt for almost four hundred years before God raised up their deliverer. In the midst of forced labor and the murder of their infant sons, Moses was born. Miraculously, God delivered him from what should have been a certain death, because he…

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Exodus 11:1-10

Sermon Idea:  God will fight for His people. Comments and Observations: Everybody loves a hero.  Tales of individuals who will champion the cause of someone who is unjustly oppressed fascinate us. True heroes, however, are hard to find.  Most of us feel as though others are hardly interested in our struggles.  Even if we find…

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Comments and Observations At first blush, Genesis 17 may not seem like a real likely Lenten text.  But stay tuned in this sermon commentary and eventually we’ll come around to seeing how this text fits in with Lent after all and with also the Mark 8 passage assigned for this Second Sunday in Lent of…

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