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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The Color of Paradise (1999)

Written and directed by Majid Majidi. Starring Hossein Mahjoub, Mohsen Ramezani, and Salmeh Feyzi. 90 mins. Rated PG. In several remarkable sequences, in utterly gorgeous landscapes of mountains and meadows, streams and sun, a blind boy exults as if he were Adam new-born in the Garden (where all is “pleasant to see” Gen.). Ten-year old…

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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

Psalm 29

The Revised Common Lectionary assigns Psalm 29 for the Year B Trinity Sunday but it is by no means clear what this ode to the power of God as seen in a thunderstorm has to do with the Triunity of God.  Granted there are actually not a lot of (if any) Old Testament passages that…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

“But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.”  If you look closely at the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm assignment for Pentecost Sunday in Year B, you will notice they don’t want you to know about verse 35a.  Just skip over it.  Pretend it’s not there.  It’s like an ugly belch…

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Psalm 98

“Sing to the Lord a new song.”  How often?  What about singing to the Lord some old songs too?  Obviously that is OK since what is the Hebrew Psalter if not a collection of very old songs that we have been using and in various forms singing for millennia.  Still, there can always be a…

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Psalm 19

A friend of mine is a professional physicist and astronomer and I have always enjoyed talking with her about astronomy as I have long been an amateur astronomy aficionado.  If we are blessed enough to experience it, there is nothing quite so breathtaking as being far away from any sources of light pollution so as…

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Genesis 9:8-17

Covenants For preachers interested in holding a cohesive theme through Lent, this year’s Old Testament lectionary readings provide an opportunity to reflect deeply on the nature of God’s relationship with God’s people through covenant.  This Sunday, it is his covenant not to destroy the earth, next Sunday, his choosing and making a great nation through…

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Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

A pastor friend of mine who is very dapper and proper in all things, including his attire, once observed another pastor show up for a summertime seminar dinner wearing a pair of shorts.  My friend saw this and I noticed the muscles in his jaw tighten slightly before he wryly said, “I believe it is…

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Psalm 111

You have to like the fact that a psalm that claims God has worked to make sure his deeds are remembered is itself written as an acrostic in the original Hebrew precisely as an aid to memorizing the psalm!  Beginning each of the 22 lines of this poem with successive letters in the Hebrew alphabet…

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Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

It may be somewhat understandable that the Lectionary would have us stop short of this psalm’s sudden shift in tone starting in verse 19.  A poem that had been 100% a lyric reflection on the abiding presence of God somehow briefly morphs into a full-throated imprecation against the wicked.  This seems to come up like…

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Psalm 29

Last summer a tornado ripped through our area.  It did not come very close to where I live but for those in and near its path, it was frightening.  Whole homes were destroyed and in some places so many trees came down, you could not recognize whole neighborhoods.  A man with whom I chatted this…

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Psalm 148

No moment on the annual calendar gets more associated with popping champagne corks than New Year’s Eve.  So it is appropriate that on this last Sunday and day of 2023 the Lectionary directs us to Psalm 148, which is in its own way a fizzing and frothing bottle of champagne in word form.  It is…

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Psalm 96:1-9 (10-13)

My pastor during much of my growing-up years back in Ada Christian Reformed Church in the 1970s often used the middle portion of Psalm 96 as his Call to Worship.  I can still recall hearing Sunday after Sunday “Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe…

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Romans 8:12-25

Those who wish to preach on this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson might benefit from spending some time reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. As we do so, we might note, among other things, the role that “seeing” plays in those Christian literary titans’ writings. Lewis, for example, sometimes refers to our world as…

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Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13

As I write this in July 2023, it feels at times like the world is on fire.  Canada certainly has been on fire for a good bit in 2023.  Canadian wildfires burning thousands of miles away have been blanketing with smoke cities as far away as Washington D.C. and also in the Midwest, giving us…

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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Science has long been fascinated with both the cosmic beginning and its ending.  Both involve a certain amount of speculation, though at least with the universe’s beginning there is real evidence to look at.  But since the end has not yet come, there is no data to examine, and so theory and speculation are all…

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Psalm 8

There is a sense in which Psalm 8 comes down to just one question asked of God by the psalmist: How in the world are you even able to see us at all?  Dwarfed by and mystified by the expanse of a starry sky on a cloudless night and long before there was such a…

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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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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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Psalm 8

Comments, Observations, and Questions The Lectionary usually reserves Psalm 8 for Trinity Sunday as it is assigned for that day in both Year A and Year C of the RCL. Oddly, it is not a cinch to see how Psalm 8 fits a Trinitarian theme but since in Year B we are getting this psalm…

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Psalm 92:1-4,12-15

What’s in verses 5-11?  This lection from Psalm 92 is one of many RCL texts that clearly skips a certain section of a passage, forcing the curious Bible student to wonder why a chunk gets leapfrogged over.  Psalm 92 is hardly too long for a single reading or sermon.  Yet the Lectionary deletes almost exactly…

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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 29

You can find an article with sermon ideas for Psalm 29 a total of 9 times in the Sermon Commentary Archive here on CEP.  That is because in all three Lectionary cycles of Years A, B, and C, Psalm 29 is always assigned for the first Sunday after Epiphany/Baptism of Christ and for Trinity Sunday….

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

You have to look pretty close to figure out what brings the latter portion of Psalm 104 to the fore on Pentecost Sunday.  But then you read verse 30 and perhaps you are reading a translation that capitalizes the word “Spirit” there, and then you connect the Lectionary dots.  That capital “S” signals that the…

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1 John 3:16-24

“Love” is a word everyone knows and everyone understands.  Or so we think.  But if that is so, why is it that when we are called to preach on “love,” it can feel so daunting?  Maybe it’s because we use the same word for so many things.  It would not be unusual, for instance, to…

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Psalm 114

[Note: The Year B Lectionary assigned Psalm 118 for both Passion Sunday and Easter.  I chose to post on that for Passion/Palm Sunday last week and the Easter evening Psalm for this week.  If you want to see last week’s post on Psalm 118, click here.] Psalm 114 is a curious choice for Easter Evening…

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Psalm 19

Since I began teaching preaching about 15 years ago, one of the things I find myself most often urging students to do is pay good attention to their transitions.  Segues, metonymy, giving listeners little verbal hooks inside the sermon to help folks track the sermon’s forward progress: all of these things are vital to good…

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Genesis 1:1-5

This First Sunday after Epiphany celebrates the Baptism of Jesus, that spectacular epiphany of his glory as he began his public ministry.  All of the Lectionary readings for this Sunday were chosen because they have to do with water, whether the primeval waters of Genesis 1 or the waters of the Mediterranean that spawn a…

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Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)

“A scribe to the Lord . . .”  At least that is what I heard my minister say when I was a young boy attending a church in Ada, Michigan.  Rev. Angus MacLeod began more morning worship services than not with that portion of Psalm 96 that repeats the call to “ascribe” to the Lord…

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Matthew 14:22-33

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. That was the title some years back of a popular book written by John Ortberg.  And the title reflects what is doubtless the most common “take” on this story.  Over and again this well-known story comes to mean something like…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Most of what makes Psalm 89 such an interesting poem cannot be seen if you restrict yourself to just the 8 verses the Lectionary has carved out of the psalm’s full 52 verses.  Because this poem that begins in such an upbeat tone and with such a full-throated desire to sing praise to God for…

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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

As we come to the end of the great celebrations of the church year and begin Ordinary Time, the RCL takes a Sunday to focus on the Trinitarian God who has done these great things. The readings from the Gospels and from the Epistles are clearly Trinitarian, the first naming the Triune God in connection…

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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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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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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

I love how the Lectionary brings the church year to a close.  Next Sunday, of course, is the celebration of the reign of Christ the King.  This Sunday we get a dramatic vision of the completion of the work of the King with this prophecy from Isaiah 65. It’s a welcome relief from our long…

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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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Colossians 1:15-28

If the first four verses of this Sunday’s RCL’s Epistolary Lesson don’t make its preachers and teachers’ heads spin at least a bit, we’re probably not paying enough attention to them.  In verse 15, after all, Paul insists, probably no more than 20 years after Jesus ascended into the heavenly realm, he’s “the image of…

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