Preaching Connection: Epiphany

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Additional content related to Epiphany

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

At one level, Christians recognize the seasonal timeliness of 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. After all, this Sunday marks the transition from Epiphany, with its emphasis on light, to Lent, with its emphasis on darkness. It’s also Transfiguration Sunday, the day on which much of the Church focuses on “the glory of God in face of Christ”…

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1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Motivation is an immensely complex and mysterious force. The Psychology Today website identifies two sources of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. So 1 Corinthians 9:16-23’s preachers might fruitfully ask whether Paul’s motivation is intrinsic. Does it come purely from within himself? Or is his apostolic work’s motivation extrinsic? Is Paul, in other words, compelled by his…

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Mark 1:29-39

SO MUCH IS HAPPENING HERE! Welcome to the Gospel of Mark. Last week felt like it was quite the scene, but look what the rest of the day brought! Jesus and the disciples leave the synagogue and go to Peter (still being called Simon) and Andrew’s house, where Jesus performs a private healing of Peter’s…

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus has called his first disciples and now they have all gone to Capernaum. It’s the sabbath and Jesus takes the opportunity to teach those who gather in the synagogue. Immediately, the people are impressed: this rabbi is different. He speaks and the people can recognize his authority—it felt like a sharp contrast from the…

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1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Anyone who has ever tried to cross a Lego- or toy-strewn room in the dark should have received hazardous duty pay. After all, relatively few pains match the discomfort created by stepping on a small toy. So what are such “stumbling blocks’” worst enemy? Any kind of light that leads to awareness and caution. Paul…

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Mark 1:14-20

The lectionary makes it a habit of giving us two weeks from two different gospels stories of Jesus calling his first disciples. Moving from John’s gospel to Mark’s, it’s as though our perspective in the calling narrative has changed to Jesus’s side of things. “Fresh” from the desert and the evil one’s temptations, Jesus is…

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1 Corinthians 7:29-31

My family of origin frowned on few things more strongly than time-wasting. We were generally discouraged from doing frivolous things. My family of origin didn’t even waste our vacation time. We almost always either vacationed with an extended family member or visited at least one extended family member while on vacation. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s…

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1 Samuel 3:1-10, (13-20)

Calling In the context of this morning’s Gospel reading and perhaps even some elements of the psalm, a straightforward reading might catalog this text under the genre of “call stories.” There are plenty of texts that fall in this category throughout Scripture: Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, the prophets and, yes, the disciples called by Jesus:…

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John 1:43-51

Our lectionary text picks up in the midst of calling and witness narratives. After the prologue in verse 19, we start with the witness of John the Baptist (including his account of Jesus’s baptism, which isn’t recorded in John’s gospel) and then follow along as Jesus begins to call his disciples. He starts with brothers…

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1 Corinthians 6:12-20

When Paul asserts that God’s dearly beloved people’s bodies are “a temple [naos]* of the Holy Spirit [Hagiou Pneumatos],” (19) he makes a claim that’s more extraordinary than most Christians may realize. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s preachers might consider helping our hearers more fully appreciate that claim’s astonishing nature. Christians as a “temple of the…

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Acts 19:1-7

It’s even more sad than ironic that baptism is at least arguably one of the most divisive issues among Jesus’ friends. Christians whose baptism the Spirit unites sometimes argue almost endlessly with each other about things like the nature, proper timing and efficacy of baptism. Among the questions churches and denominations try to answer about…

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Mark 1:4-11

If you were following the Gospel lectionary texts in December, then the first four verses of our text today will be familiar because they were also in the passage for the second Sunday of Advent. In my commentary for that week, one of the things I focused on was the fact that God decided that…

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Genesis 1:1-5

Not How But Why A great deal of ink has been spilled on these opening chapters of Genesis, particularly in the last 200 years. With perceived threats from science, particularly evolutionary science, Christians have been anxious to make sense of Scripture’s creation narrative.  Literal 24 hour days or day-age theory? A gap large enough for…

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1 Corinthians 3:1-9

In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul returns to a subject that he has already addressed earlier in his letter: the profound need for Christian unity. After all, in 1 Corinthians 1:10 he begs his readers to “agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united…

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1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)

My Uncle Rich was one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. I don’t remember his IQ as being exceptionally high. Neither what Paul calls “this age” nor its rulers (6) would consider him to be particularly wise. He didn’t have a lot of formal education. So most people would claim that my Uncle Rich…

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1 Corinthians 1:18-31

A number of years ago The Christian Century invited theologians, pastors and other Christian leaders to attempt to succinctly summarize the gospel. It asked them to proclaim its good news in just seven words, and then expand on their summary in a few sentences. The November 29, 2011 edition of the Century published some of…

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Matthew 5:1-12

According to Matthew, this isn’t Jesus’s first sermon, but it is the first one that Matthew records. Jesus is in Galilee, preaching, teaching, and healing, and drawing crowds from all over—mostly of the sick and those in need of healing. Imagine the people and their needs that Jesus has encountered—both those who he healed, and…

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Matthew 4:12-23

Depending on what you preached last week, these two weeks of Lectionary passages from different gospels may leave you with some explaining to do—particularly if you made a big deal about the calling narrative of Andrew and Peter last week! For here we are again, in a new geographical setting, hearing about them becoming disciples…

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1 Corinthians 1:10-18

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson brings to mind the novelist William Faulkner’s lament about the post-Civil War American South: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It also in some ways resonates with the historian and philosopher George Santayana’s “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” If Christians didn’t know…

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Gospel proclaimers who think of preaching as largely the sharing of helpful hints for being a better Christian may find that this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson offers rather thin subject material. It is, after all, far longer on theology than on ethics. Many English translations of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9’s Greek have six sentences. People, however, are…

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John 1:29-42

Our text this week is yet another transition story between John and Jesus. This time, John “pushes his disciples out of the nest” by urging them to follow Jesus, the Lamb of God. We are to understand that John has already baptized Jesus, since he’s seen the sign God told him about: the Holy Spirit…

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Matthew 3:13-17

In the early third century church, it was the baptism of Jesus that focused the Epiphany celebration, not the visit of the Magi. In fact, Epiphany was included with Easter and Pentecost as the major Christian festivals marked by the Church (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). In the fourth century, Epiphany came to…

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Acts 10:34-43

Nearly all people, including Christians, have not just favorite people, but also favorite kinds of people. That helps shrink the leap for at least some Christians to the assumption that God too doesn’t just have favorite people, but also favorite kinds of people. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson challenges that assumption. As a result, it may…

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2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Some biblical texts hit so close to home that their proclaimers find them hard to proclaim. 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 is one of those texts. I can’t read this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson without seeing in my mind’s eye dear people like Bill and Carl, as well as Sharon, Ashley*, and countless others. I, honestly,…

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1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

One of the central questions some Christians have about the resurrection is, “Will we recognize each other’s resurrected persons in the new creation?” It echoes this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’ verse 35 where Paul quotes some people as asking, “With what kind of body will [the dead] come [to life]?” Both questions suggest that Christians sometimes…

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Corinthians 13 is among the loveliest and most lyrical chapters in all of the Scriptures. It virtually sings in praise of love. Its truths are also, through the work of the Spirit, timeless. All of that and more, however, makes it easy to forget that Paul grounds this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson in the first…

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11

An old cliché suggests that the more things change, the more they stay the same. However, Christians might like to think that the Church is immune to such inertia. After all, among the Reformers’ most cherished claims about the Church is that she is “always reforming.” Yet a comparison of Paul’s first letter to Corinth’s…

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

The Sunday text near Epiphany is the Sunday we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord. And yet, in the gospel of Luke, we pretty much miss the whole thing! Luke describes it in the past tense: Jesus was one of “all” the people who were baptized by the John the Baptist. Instead, Luke’s baptism account…

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Acts 8:14-17

Familiarity may, as the old cliche goes, breed contempt. But sometimes it also breeds a kind of blindness. I’ve written a sermon commentary on Acts 8:14-17. I’ve preached on it multiple times. My familiarity with it hasn’t yet dimmed my fascination with one of the Scriptures’ most mysterious and intriguing stories. However, my relative familiarity…

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tries to clear up some theological misunderstandings about the resurrection. Yet he insists that the Corinthians’ confusion about it isn’t just one among many problems that he’s already addressed. Lack of clarity about the resurrection isn’t like confusion about, for example, sexuality, food offered to idols and lawsuits that plague…

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Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)

On some liturgical calendars, we are in Ordinary Time right now.  But the Revised Common Lectionary helps us keep the glory shining for a bit longer by calling this the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.  The Lectionary throws us a curveball, however, with this hard-hitting text about fasting.  What on earth does this social justice passage…

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Matthew 4:12-23

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south, travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

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Isaiah 49:1-7

We met the famed Servant of Isaiah in last week’s Old Testament lesson, where God introduced him/them to us. Now in this reading, the second Servant Song, we learn more as the Servant reflects on his/their calling, ministry, failure, reassurance, and ultimate glory. The mixed pronouns in that last sentence reflect the long controversy over…

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Exodus 34:29-35

Fittingly, the season of Epiphany ends with Transfiguration Sunday.  With the possible exception of his resurrection, Christ’s Transfiguration was the most spectacular exhibition of his glory in his life.  Indeed, the Transfiguration was arguably even more glorious than the Resurrection, because Jesus resurrected body did not have about it the unmistakable glory of his transfigured…

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Luke 9:28-36

Not for nothing are they called “Mountaintop Experiences”!  In the Bible, when a story takes us up to a mountaintop, it’s a fair bet that something dramatic is going to happen—indeed, it’s a fair bet that something deeply revelatory is going to happen.  Luke 9 is no exception.  But the drama up there on that…

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2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Sometimes the lessons the Lectionary appoints for a particular Sunday seem about as loosely tied as some teenagers’ tennis shoes.  On this Transfiguration Sunday, however, that’s not the case.  It doesn’t take much work to recognize the themes that run through the Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel and Epistolary lessons.  Each in its own way reflects…

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Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

Across the spectrum of poems in the Hebrew Psalter are prayers that fit most every occasion and season in life.  Laments, petitions, confessions, praise, thanksgiving; songs that fit happy days and songs that fit rotten days; lyric expressions of trust and bitter cries of abandonment and anger.  It’s all in there.  That’s an important thing…

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Luke 6:27-38

If you are a preacher who likes to highlight the fact that Jesus was always friendliest toward the very same “sinners” that were shunned by the religious authorities of his day, then it can be a little disconcerting to hear Jesus in this passage use the word “sinners” in what sounds like a pejorative way. …

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1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

It may be a good thing that the Epistolary Lesson the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday comes up only about “once in a blue moon.”  Its sections of 1 Corinthians 15 contain, after all, what N.T. Wright, to whose book, Paul for Everyone: I Corinthians, (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003) I owe great deal…

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1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Few things are sadder than the sight of people who place their hopes in something that can’t deliver that for which they hope.  Think, for example, about the sad specter of people lined up to buy lottery tickets, pinning their hopes for wealth on a generally worthless piece of paper.  Or think about terminally ill…

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Psalm 1

Few of us do what many monastic and other traditions have done in history with the Psalms: namely, read them straight through and in order.  Instead we bob and weave our way through the Psalms, picking and choosing to read this Psalm or another for no particular rhyme or reason.  And so it’s easy to…

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

It is hard to see why this text was chosen by the Lectionary for this Sixth Sunday of Epiphany, except that its “blessed/cursed” formulary sounds much like Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, which is the Gospel reading for today (Luke 6:17-26 and see the reading from Psalm 1).  But there’s nothing here about the revelation…

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Luke 6:17-26

Whereas Matthew gives us the famed “Sermon on the Mount,” Luke gives us much of that same material in what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain.”  It’s difficult to know whether this is the same sermon described in two different ways by two different evangelists or whether Jesus had a few sermons in…

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Isaiah 6:1-13

Somewhere in my reading recently, I ran across this familiar rant about God’s invisibility.  “If God really wants us to believe in him, why doesn’t he come out of hiding, you know, make himself visible, write in words across the sky, speak audibly so that everyone can hear his voice, do some miracle that would…

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Psalm 138

Our prayer life should be our autobiography, C.S. Lewis once observed.  But that is also why Lewis thought the Hebrew Psalter was such a fitting prayer book since it contains prayers that fit a wide variety of life’s experiences.  Were the 150 Psalms all in one particular emotional register, what help would it be for…

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Luke 5:1-11

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

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Luke 4:21-30

I don’t quite understand this passage.  Or at least I don’t understand how it turns out.  It’s not so much what is contained in this Lectionary snippet of verses 21-30 as how this call follows on what we saw last week in the first part of this story.  After all, Luke 4:15 assures us that…

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Jeremiah 1:4-10

As encouraging and upbeat as Nehemiah 8 was for preachers last week, Jeremiah 1 is more than a bit intimidating and negative.  Nehemiah 8 depicted a preacher’s dream: a willing congregation that invited Ezra to open the Word of God, visibly demonstrated their ready hearts, listened intently to the Word and its interpretation, and responded…

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

In the more than twenty years that I’ve ministered with and to the church I currently serve, I’ve never preached on 1 Corinthians 13.  Now I remember why.  Not only is it so lovely that it nearly defies description.  It’s also like a figurative lit stick of dynamite.  So I take comfort in the assertion…

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Psalm 71:1-6

There is a part of the well-known story (and the popular Sunday School story) of “Jacob’s Ladder” that most people don’t know about or just ignore.  The outlines of the story are familiar and are also accurate enough to the biblical text in Genesis: Jacob is on the lam, fleeing the fury of his brother…

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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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Nehemiah 8:1-10

This passage will deeply move every preacher who reads it, either to joy or to sorrow, to gratitude or to envy.  I mean, what happens here is a preacher’s dream.  The whole congregation– men, women (not typical in a Temple service), and children old enough to understand what was going on—spontaneously gathered for worship.  They…

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Luke 4:14-21

Suspense!  If you stop at verse 21 as the Lectionary would have you to do and hold off on what happens in verses 22 and following next week, then a sermon on this text ends in some suspense as we wait to see how the people will react to what Jesus has just said and…

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

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

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John 2:1-11

Apparently we are going to have to revise our definition of “glory.” Sometimes things happen in life that make us update long-held notions and definitions.   It reminds me of the scene from the movie A Beautiful Mind in which the socially inept genius mathematician John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) haltingly proposes to his…

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Psalm 36:5-10

Once again our friends who put together the Revised Common Lectionary are trying to give us a kinder, gentler version of Scripture.  By carving out the middle half-dozen verses of this psalm and by leaving out verses 1-4 and 11-12, the Lectionary would have us only celebrate the goodness of God without having to be…

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11

God’s adopted sons and daughters generally like being related to Christ.  Through him, after all, we receive not only the gift of salvation, but also eternal life.  On top of that, we don’t have to deal with our brother Christ face to face.  So he doesn’t get on our nerves by doing things like hanging…

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Isaiah 62:1-5

At first I was puzzled by the Lectionary’s choice of this Old Testament reading for this second Sunday of Epiphany, but then I saw the light, literally.  In verse 1 Jerusalem is told that “her righteousness [will] shine out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch,” and, adds verse 2, “the nations will…

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Luke’s substantial narrative powers surely did not suddenly fail him in this third chapter.  So we need a different kind of explanation for the curious way by which Luke frames up this part of the story.  Consider: First, we get the odd insertion in verses 19-20 about John’s imprisonment following his finally crossing the line…

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Acts 8:14-17

While it’s at least tangentially related to this Sunday’s gospel lesson, Acts 8:14-17 may seem like a rather odd text for the second Sunday of the new year.  It isn’t, after all, just a mysterious text that even the most learned scholars struggle to fully understand.  While the Lectionary longs to unite Christians around the…

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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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Matthew 4:12-23

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south, travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

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Psalm 27:1, 4-9

It was Emily Dickinson who clearly enunciated one of the great principles of effective preaching: “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.”  Most everyone who hears your sermons already knows the truth.  Thus, you’ll have to find a new way to tell it so they will listen to the “old, old story.”  No, I didn’t…

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Isaiah 9:1-4

In the northern hemisphere this time of year is characterized, in part, by darkness.  While daylight is already beginning to push that darkness farther and farther back, people sometimes think of January as one of the darkest and, as a result, bleakest seasons of the year. That’s part of what makes Isaiah 9 an appropriate…

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John 1:29-42

“The world was made through him,” the apostle John wrote earlier in this chapter, “but when he was in the world, it didn’t recognize him.” Indeed, it didn’t. Jesus existed as just another face in the crowd. Even his own cousin, John the Baptist, almost missed recognizing him. And yet hidden inside that one man…

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Psalm 29

Anyone who regularly preaches on the Lectionary knows all too well that the there are times when the choice of readings doesn’t make sense.  That is not the case for this First Sunday after Epiphany when we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.  The “main” reading from the Gospels is, of course, about the baptism of…

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Isaiah 42:1-9

Christians are sometimes prone to hurdle the Old Testament’s original context in order to sprint to the finish line that is the Jesus to whom it points.  We always want, after all, to preach and teach Christ and him crucified. So preachers and teachers sometimes treat texts like Isaiah 42 as little more than an…

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Luke 9:28-36

Not for nothing are they called “Mountaintop Experiences”! In the Bible, when a story takes us up to a mountaintop, it’s a fair bet that something dramatic is going to happen—indeed, it’s a fair bet that something deeply revelatory is going to happen. Luke 9 is no exception. But the drama up there on that…

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