Preaching Connection: Creation

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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

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 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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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 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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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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