Preaching Connection: Creation

Movies for Preaching

The Thin Red Line (1998) – 4

The Thin Red Line (1998).  Written and directed Terrence Malick.  Starring James Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, and Elias Koteas.  170 mins; rated R.  Metacritic: 78%; Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Pictures worth a thousand words?  Sometimes maybe, especially when mixed with music.  And then, perhaps, if done well, such can skin the soul alive, so to…

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Awakenings (1990)

Awakenings (1990).  Written by Oliver Sacks (book) and Steven Zaillian (screenplay). Directed by Penny Marshall.  Starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.  Rating: PG-13. 121 minutes.  Rotten Tomatoes: 88%; Metacritic 74%. So there is Leonard L. (Robert De Niro), virtually a lifelong victim of a baffling disease, later understood as a form of Parkinsonianism, apparently…

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Babette’s Feast (1987) – 1

Babette’s Feast (1987).  Written by Karen Blixen (short story) and Gabriel Axel (screenplay).  Directed by Gabriel Axel.  Starring Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Bergitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, and Jean-Philippe Lafont.  Music: Per Nørgaard.  Cinematography: Henning Kristiansen.  Rated G; 102 mins. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. It is a nameless place where nothing much happens, in part because it…

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John Adams (2008)

John Adams (2008).  HBO Mini-series.  Episode VII: “Peacefield.” Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti.  71 mins.  Rated TV-14. Sometimes preaching choices are easy.  In this instance, skip the sermon to play the following three times.  Or maybe four. Old John Adams (Paul Giamatti) is pushing 90.  Despite his distinguished career from…

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Séraphine (2008)

Séraphine (2008).  Written by Marc Abdelnour and Martin Provost. Directed by Martin Provost.  Starring Yolande Moreau and Ulich Tukur.  125 mins.  Unrated.  Rotten Tomatoes  89%;  Metacritic 84%. She certainly seems not to be the sort from whom one would expect religious wisdom of any sort, and that is true enough, at least at first glimpse.  In…

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Fargo (1996) – 2

Fargo, Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi.   98 minutes, Rated R. The bulk of the Coen brothers’ film Fargo is fraught with the tawdry and the evil.  A car salesman’s scheme by which to swindle his father-in-law out of $1 million goes about…

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The Tree of Life (2011) – 2

Written and directed by Terrence Malick. 139 mins. PG-13. Starring Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken. It’s one of the best scenes in a very remarkable film, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011). A mother (Jessica Chastain) plays and cavorts with her three boys, and what we see, all set to Smetana’s…

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The Tree of Life (2011) – 1

Written and directed by Terrence Malick. 139 mins. PG-13. Starring Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken. Hugely successful architect, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) slogs through his life in a trough of despair. Through the center of his soul runs a crevasse cut by contention with his harsh father and, even more so, lasting…

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Reading for Preaching

“Bread” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’S of Faith

“We don’t live by bread alone, but we also don’t live long without it.  To eat is to acknowledge our dependence—both on food and on each other.  It also reminds us of other kinds of emptiness that not even the blue plate special can touch.”
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“Nature,” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’S of Faith

“Unfortunately, Adam and Eve took nature with them [including human nature] when they fell.  You’ve only got to look at the sea in a November gale.  You’ve only to consider the staggering indifference of disease, or the field at Antietam, or a cook boiling a lobster, or the statistics on child abuse.  You’ve only to...
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Bright Orange for the Shroud

“Sharks have no bones. Just gristle. They have rows of hinged teeth that straighten up as they open their mouths. They shed teeth from the front row and other rows move forward. About one third the body weight is liver. The tiny spikes on their hides are tipped with enamel of the same composition as...
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A Rumor of War

Caputo has had Marine training and it has altered the way he looks at the earth. “A year earlier I would have seen the rolling Virginia countryside through the eyes of an English major who enjoyed reading the Romantic poets. Now I had the clearer, more pragmatic vision of an infantry officer. Landscape was no...
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The Genesis Code

“Think of DNA as a piano with a hundred thousand keys, and each of the keys is a genetic trait. In a differentiated cell most of the keys are covered. They’re off. They don’t work. But even so, a lot of the keys are still operational: with hair you’ve got curliness, pigmentation, thickness–like that. But...
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“Wilderness,” in The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

P. 245 “The oldest anecdotes from which we know ourselves as human, the stories of Genesis, make it clear that our defects are sufficient to bring the whole world down. For decades, environmentalists have concerned themselves with this spill and that encroachment, this depletion and that extinction, as if such phenomena were singular and exceptional....
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“Sunday Morning with the Sensational Nightingales”

“It was not the Five Mississippi Blind Boys who lifted me off the ground that Sunday morning as I drove down for the paper, some oranges, and bread. Nor was it the Dixie Hummingbirds or the Soul Stirrers, despite their quickening name, or even the Swan Silvertones who inspired me to look over the commotion...
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Distorted Truth: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Battle for the Mind

God (vs. spiritualizing monists) has made creation with “manyness” and variety. One implication: you treat chickens better than rocks or mosquitoes. Contrary to the egalitarian religion of some biologists, chickens are higher creatures than rocks or mosquitoes. They aren’t just “noisy egg manufacturers, or feathery bundles of white and dark meat.” They are chickens after...
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“Complexity in God’s Creation”

Marty likes to point out the complexity of the created order. This a boon for people who say “I’ve tried everything,” and are bored. According to David Spanier, Total Chess, “there are 400 different possible positions [in chess] after each person has made one move; 71,852 after the second; once three moves have been made...
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Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

Building a transcontinental railroad would require topographical surveys to determine most feasible routes. But Thomas Hart Benton, addressing the U. S. Senate on December 16, 1850 (“Highway to the Pacific: Grand National Central High-way) said this: “there is a class of topographical engineers older than the schools and more unerring than the mathematicians. They are...
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Orthodoxy

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough...
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Additional content related to Creation

Palm Sunday: Salvation’s Hospitality

In the summer of 1991 my wife and I spent some time traveling in Germany. One of our stops was a two-day visit to a pastor and his wife in Wittenberg. At that time, the fall of the Berlin Wall was still a very recent event. What had been the communist-dominated East Germany was still…

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Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is an ode to a thunderstorm. But this poem is not just that.  The primary aim here is to move through the storm to the Lord of the storm, to the King of Creation, to the one, only true, sovereign God: Yahweh. As such, Psalm 29, for all its lyrical and poetic beauty,…

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Psalm 148

Some years back at a worship service we used St. Francis of Assisi’s poem “Canticle of the Sun” as part of a responsive reading.  There was, alas, a slight typo in the bulletin that made it sound at one point as though we were worshiping Mother Earth.  This led a rather conservative member of my…

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Sometimes as a preacher you are pretty sure that the best idea you could have would be simply to read the passage and then sit down.  Or just read it again.  And sit down.  But for goodness sake, don’t start to let your own pedestrian reflections clog up a passage so full of wonder! That’s…

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Colossians 1:11-20

When the people in Colosse originally heard Paul’s letter to them, they knew about the kinds of dominions about which he talks in verse 13. After all, when things went wrong in their day, their contemporaries didn’t generally blame each other. They, instead, blamed powers that their culture understood to be “in charge.” They pointed…

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Psalm 98

Reading Psalm 98 is like uncorking a well shook-up bottle of champagne.  The cork rockets upward and the bubbly inside the bottle fountains forth in exuberance.  We’ve all seen those locker rooms after a team wins the World Series or the Super Bowl when players spray each other with such bottles—some years ago someone finally…

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Isaiah 65:17-25

It doesn’t get any more lyric than this!  Here in the 65th chapter of the sprawling book that just is Isaiah, we find the prophet sketching one huge vision for the renewal of all things.  But like many such visions in the Old Testament—and indeed throughout the Bible—what is striking here is how utterly earthy…

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2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

It’s hard to read this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson without getting a lump in one’s throat. After all, it’s not just that it contains what are perhaps among the imprisoned Paul’s last recorded words. It’s also that it suggests that the apostle who has befriended to so many seems about to die virtually all alone. Acts…

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Psalm 111

In a recent sermon commentary on another psalm, I observed that although the poetry of the Psalms and the wisdom literature of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes are distinct in terms of biblical literary genre, there is a lot of crossover between the Books of Psalms and Proverbs.  Psalm 111 is another example of this with its…

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Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

Silent Spring. Or better written, Silent Spring in italics as befits a book title because that was indeed the title of Rachel Carson’s well-known book that was among the first cries of the modern ecological movement. Years ago, before I knew what that book was about, upon hearing the title I pictured some serene setting:…

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Psalm 8

The poet of Psalm 8 stared into the night sky and was properly dazzled at what he saw. But to put it mildly, what he did not see was a lot! Had this psalmist been able to spend a scant ten minutes looking through a telescope, he would doubtless have fainted in wonderment. Ancient astronomers…

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Are the Lectionary folks winking at us a bit with this text selection for Trinity Sunday?  Obviously you don’t get any robust Trinitarian texts anywhere in the Old Testament.  If it is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit you are looking for—or any combo of a couple of those at least—then Proverbs or Psalms or anywhere…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Sample sermon: You wouldn’t think a wasp could do so much damage. Unless you are allergic to bee and wasp stings, getting stung by these bugs, though briefly painful and annoying, does not generally create any lasting effect or damage. However, about 150 years ago there was one particular kind of wasp that appears to…

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Psalm 148

Some years back at a worship service we used St. Francis of Assisi’s poem “Canticle of the Sun” as part of a responsive reading.  There was, alas, a slight typo in the bulletin that made it sound at one point as though we were worshiping Mother Earth.  This led a rather conservative member of my…

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Revelation 5:11-14

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s John reminds me of young children who tell their parents or grandparents a story that so excites them that it tumbles out of them in a string of run-on sentences that begin with “And ….” You may know the form. “I was walking home from school and I saw this big…

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Isaiah 55:1-9

The Year C Revised Common Lectionary would have us stop reading and thinking about Isaiah 55 at the 9th verse.  But to me that’s rather like singing just the first two stanzas of “By the Sea of Crystal” but being told you can’t sing stanza 3.  But since stanza 2 ends with “Hark the heavenly…

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Psalm 19

Almost 120 years ago an unknown patent clerk named Albert Einstein published a series of papers detailing what he called “special relativity.” At one fell swoop, Einstein shattered centuries’ worth of scientific theories about the fundamental nature of reality. The theories of Isaac Newton and his mechanical understanding of the universe’s functioning were swept away,…

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Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is a favorite of the Revised Common Lectionary.  Indeed, if you search the Sermon Commentary Library here on CEP, you will find not fewer than ten such commentaries from recent years.  Psalm 29 comes up most every year on the Baptism of our Lord Sunday after Epiphany and it pops up here and…

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Psalm 147:12-20

As we lurch into 2022 after another difficult year globally, we realize with a sense of startlement that we are technically now entering Year 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A couple years ago not a few of us hoped the worst of it would not last 3 weeks.  Even 3 months seemed hard to fathom. …

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

You can’t accuse the Old Testament prophets of not being specific enough when it came to describing the blessings of God’s salvation! Sometimes believers today content themselves with generic or generalized descriptions of felicity in “heaven,” sometimes not advancing in their views of the New Creation much beyond the wispy, cloudy, ethereal realm that New…

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Psalm 148

When I was a pastor, I liked every sixth year when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday.  First, it eliminated the need for an extra service and second, it eliminated conversations with leadership as to whether to hold any extra services in case . . .  well, in case Christmas Day fell on a Saturday. …

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Psalm 93

As I have noted before here on CEP, at Calvin Seminary we use Paul Scott Wilson’s “Four Pages of the Sermon” method as the grammar and structure of sermons.  A key part of that is locating what Wilson calls “Trouble in the Text.”  What is the tension, the crisis, the question, the issue at hand…

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Psalm 119:1-8

In the world of secular music, I would guess you would be hard pressed to find many songs with titles like “I Just Love Rules!”  In fact the website Ranker provided their top list of songs with the word “law” in the title but songs of the variety “I’m Lovin’ the Law” don’t seem to…

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Job 38:1-7, 34-41

Why did this happen?  Why didn’t God prevent this?  “Pastor, why did this happen?  “Pastor, where is God?” A child dies, a good person is killed, a freak accident takes the life of someone who was unspeakably precious to us, and we are left to wonder why. And if we’re honest as pastors, we just…

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Job 1:1, 2:1-10

Comments, Observations, and Questions As most everyone knows, the Book of Job is essentially one long disquisition on the age-old question of theodicy: Why does a good God let bad things happen to good people?  The conversations that take place around this question eat up the bulk of this book until finally God comes on…

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John 3:1-17

I wonder what Nicodemus was thinking about when he walked home that night. My guess is that it wasn’t the Doctrine of the Trinity!  Yet this is the Year B passage assigned for Trinity Sunday.  So what did he ponder?  No clue.  John doesn’t tell us.  That’s ironic seeing as, according to John’s reportage at…

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Psalm 147:12-20

Two rather striking features to this psalm leap out at you.  First, there is the singularly positive, sunny statements about how God has strengthened Jerusalem, given peace within Israel’s borders, and just generally provides a warm and safe environment for God’s people.  The second striking feature is the celebration at the end of Psalm 147…

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Psalm 98

Reading Psalm 98 is like uncorking a well shook-up bottle of champagne.  The cork rockets upward and the bubbly inside the bottle fountains forth in exuberance.  We’ve all seen those locker rooms after a team wins the World Series or the Super Bowl when players spray each other with such bottles—some years ago someone finally…

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Psalm 66:1-9

A bit cheeky.  A goodly dose of chutzpah.  A tad forward.  You have to admire the psalmists who on many occasions are not the least bit adverse to ordering the whole world to praise the God of Israel.  Make no mistake: all those “Praise the Lord” lines in so many of the psalms are in…

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Psalm 8

The poet of Psalm 8 stared into the night sky and was properly dazzled at what he saw.  But to put it mildly, what he did not see was a lot!  Had this psalmist been able to spend a scant ten minutes looking through a telescope, he would doubtless have fainted in wonderment.  Ancient astronomers…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Sample Sermon:  You wouldn’t think a wasp could do so much damage.  Unless you are allergic to bee and wasp stings, getting stung by these bugs, though briefly painful and annoying, does not generally create any lasting effect or damage.  However, about 150 years ago there was one particular kind of wasp that appears to…

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Revelation 21:1-6

Christ’s revelation to the apostle John includes what sometimes seems like an endless series of chilling images.  Nearly all of them portray intense persecution, bloody battles and immense suffering.  It’s a revelation that, if we didn’t know its “happy ending,” we might quit reading after about six or seven chapters. Some modern Christians assume that…

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Psalm 19

Almost 115 years ago an unknown patent clerk named Albert Einstein published a series of papers detailing what he called “special relativity.”  At one fell swoop, Einstein shattered centuries’ worth of scientific theories about the fundamental nature of reality.  The theories of Isaac Newton and his mechanical understanding of the universe’s functioning were swept away,…

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Psalm 148

We have but one Sunday after Christmas this year as Epiphany proper is already next week on January 6.   So the Lectionary decided to let loose with all the post-Christmas praise it could muster by choosing Psalm 148.  Talk about relentless!  This Psalm is one long string of the imperative hallelu yah or “Praise Yahweh,”…

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Job 1:1, 2:1-10

After a month of looking at Wisdom literature from a woman’s point of view, we will now spend a month in the decidedly masculine book of Job which wrestles with the question that has confounded the wisest women and men in the world.  Why should a righteous person suffer in a world ruled by a…

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Psalm 29

The Revised Common Lectionary chooses this Psalm for this first Sunday after the Epiphany of Christ in all three years of its reading cycle.  Clearly the Lectionary sees Psalm 29 as a parallel to the baptism of Jesus, because in both the voice of God rings out over the waters.  Psalm 29 shows us an…

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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Questions about the age of the universe, earth and the human race intrigue at least some 21st century Christians.  Some wonder just how God guided the development of creation and its creatures.  So God’s people sometimes turn to passages like this Genesis 1 and 2 for answers to those hard questions. However, it’s important to…

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Isaiah 35:1-10

With the words, “This text shouldn’t be here,” my colleague Barbara Lundblad begins a thoughtful presentation on Isaiah 35.  After all, as she points out, it’s not just that this text doesn’t address anyone by name.  It’s also that it almost immediately follows a poem that’s full of images of creational disaster: “Edom’s streams will…

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Isaiah 65:17-25

The “heavens and … earth” that Isaiah 65 describes are clearly “new.”  After all, they’re radically unlike the ones we know here and now.  In fact, the prophet’s picture of them is so earthly and yet different from what we now experience that it almost makes us weep with longing for what Isaiah’s vision symbolizes….

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Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

I suspect that were Jeremiah 4 not on the Lectionary schedule, few preachers and teachers would be willing to tackle it. After all, among other reasons, relatively few of us like to talk about the kind of divine judgment it so graphically describes. What’s more, its grim apocalyptic imagery resists easy understanding and application. Of…

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Psalm 8

Throughout the Christian church this is the Sunday to celebrate the Trinity. Our other readings for today are richly Trinitarian (John 16:12-15 and Romans 5:1-5) or at least suggestive of the Trinity (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31). Psalm 8? Not so much. In Year A of the lectionary cycle Psalm 8 is paired with Matthew 28, and…

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

On even the most “ordinary” Sunday it can be difficult to preach and teach from the book of Proverbs. It may seem well nigh impossible to do so on Trinity Sunday. It isn’t just that Proverbs that doesn’t mention the Trinity. After all, the term is found nowhere in the whole Bible. It’s also difficult…

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Isaiah 55:1-9

“Come and get it!” is a phrase that traditionally resonated with hungry North Americans. After all, we generally link it with an invitation to eat what someone has prepared. So when we hear “Come and get it!” we may think of Mom, standing on the front steps, hollering for us to come home for supper….

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Psalm 19

This is the kind of psalm that almost begs to be sung, even if it’s just a solo in the shower or car. After all, C.S. Lewis once called Psalm 19 “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” So it’s no wonder that lyricists have set a…

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Psalm 147:12-20

“January has always seemed to be something of a letdown,” writes James Limburg. After all, even if, as T.S. Eliot writes, “April is the cruelest month,” January is perhaps the coldest month, at least in many parts of North America. Christmas’ excitement generally allows North Americans to look past December’s sometimes-wintry weather. But now the…

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Psalm 148

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider This is a stirring call to praise that’s strikingly reminiscent of Francis of Assisi’s beautiful hymn, “All Creatures of our God and King.”  It’s an invitation to “all creatures of our God and King” to lift up their “voices and with us sing, alleluia, alleluia.”  In fact, Psalm 148…

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Hebrews 10:5-10

Sometimes you just have to wonder where the inventors of the Revised Common Lectionary got their ideas for the choices they made. I mean, here we are, 5 days away from Christmas, surely one of the most pregnant times in the church calendar. The other readings for this Fourth Sunday of Advent are clearly about…

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Job 1:1, 2:1-10

Comments and Observations: Lately I have been doing some reading of books that try to teach people how to become better writers.  Specifically these are books to help aspiring novelists hone the necessary skills that might one day help them to garner that much-coveted acceptance letter from a publisher.  One essay that I read recently…

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Psalm 24

Scholars call Psalm 24 a processional liturgy that celebrates Yahweh’s entrance to Zion.  They speculate that the poet composed it for either David’s bringing the ark into Jerusalem as reported, for example, in 2 Samuel 6, or a festival that commemorated that event, or the return of the ark to Jerusalem and its temple after…

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John 3:1-17

Comments, Observations, and Questions I wonder what Nicodemus was thinking about when he walked home that night. My guess is that it wasn’t the Doctrine of the Trinity!  Yet this is the Year B passage assigned for Trinity Sunday 2015.  So what did he ponder?  No clue.  John doesn’t tell us.  That’s ironic seeing as,…

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