Preaching Connection: Evil

Movies for Preaching

The Thin Red Line (1998) – 3

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%. Despite the plethora of smarmy villains and gnarly monsters, American films of any sort rarely take on a dead-serious probing exploration of evil, human and otherwise. …

Explore

Dark Knight (2008) & More

The Dark Knight (2008). Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Aaron Eckhart. 152 minutes. Rated PG-13. Evil.  We don’t hear much about it these days, at least from pulpits.  Unless, of course, it is some sort of sexual something.  The rest, like greed or idolatry, not so much as a peep. …

Explore

Fargo (1996) – 1

Fargo, Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi.   98 minutes, Rated R. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) has had it up to here working under the thumb of his cold, stingy father-in-law, Wade Gustafsan.  For years Jerry has been the lead salesman in the…

Explore

Places in the Heart (1984) – 1

Places in the Heart (1984).  Written and directed by Robert Benton (Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay).  Starring Sally Field (Academy Award for Best Actress). John Malkovich, and Danny Glover.  PG, 111 min. The opening to writer-director Robert Benton’s Places in the Heart is a set up, to be sure, but a most telling and…

Explore

Reading for Preaching

The Four Loves

Lewis, for a celebrated academic and popular author, was remarkably astute about domestic matters, including domestic tyranny, in which a dominant figure could be “a good person in the worst sense of the term.”  So his account of “Mrs. Fidget,” who “very often said that she lived for her family.  And it was not untrue. ...
Explore

Confessions

Even the greatest theologians are stumped by the mystery of iniquity.  So Augustine confesses to God that he can’t figure out how evil got into the universe.  “Who made me?  Is not my God not only good but the Supreme Good?  Why then have I the power to will evil and to reject good?  Who...
Explore

Confessions

Even the greatest theologians are stumped by the mystery of iniquity.  So Augustine confesses to God that he can’t figure out how evil got into the universe.  “Who made me?  Is not my God not only good but the Supreme Good?  Why then have I the power to will evil and to reject good?  Who...
Explore

“Unresolved Evil: On Justice and the End of the Unabomber”

Between 1978 and 1995, Theodore (“Ted”) Kaczynski killed 3 people and injured 23 with homemade bombs.  Wanting to avoid national publicity for Kaczynski’s cause (resistance to technology), the court permitted Kaczynski to accept a plea bargain entailing no trial, life imprisonment, and no possibility of parole.  David Gelernter argues that the nation needed to have...
Explore

The Things They Carried

A story of men fighting in Viet Nam. (P. 69) “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end...
Explore

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

“Soldiers respect a leader who is competent. They admire a leader who is competent and bold. When he is an accomplished student of war, leads boldly, and also savors gambling his own life, he acquires a mystique. Cautious officers shake their heads at this love of danger and condemn it as dare-deviltry, which it often...
Explore

A Rumor of War

“A man saw the height and depths of human behavior in Vietnam, all manner of violence and horrors so grotesque that they evoked more fascination than disgust. Once I had seen pigs eating napalm-charred corpses–a memorable sight, pigs eating roast people.” (P. 90) “We became leaner and tougher. . .and a callus began to grow...
Explore

Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945

“In 1944-45, the Germans and Russians had one attitude toward casualties, and the rest of the allies, besides Russia, another. Stalin’s commanders looked forward to the last phase of their struggle for Europe with their customary indifference to death and suffering, save insofar as these influenced the Red Army’s ability to fight its next battle....
Explore

Truman

McCullough reasons that even if the A-bomb attacks on Japan were horrible, a good case can be made that the A-bomb saved many lives–Japanese as well as Americans. In 1945 Japan was scarcely ready to quit. “Japan had some 2.5 million regular troops on the home islands, but every male between the ages of fifteen...
Explore

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

World War II troops knew that “optimistic publicity and euphemism had rendered their experience so falsely that it would never be readily communicable. They knew that in its representation to the laity what was happening to them was systematically sanitized and Norman Rockwellized, not to mention Disneyfied. The real was tragic and ironic beyond the...
Explore

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur: 1880-1964

People like MacArthur would “[slog] in the mud, enduring filth, living in stinking clothing and crawling over jagged soil under criss-crosses of barbed wire to have a bloody dash with a bestial enemy.” Why? “The explanation was that men like MacArthur, raised to believe in Victorian heroism, invested even the nightmare of trench warfare with...
Explore

“Second-person Accounts and the Problem of Evil”

Summary: Christians look at the problem of evil differently from non-Christians in at least this way: Christians may rightly believe they have been directly encountered by God (a “second-person experience’) or can so easily imagine such an encounter that second-person accounts of other people’s second person experiences are almost as vivid to them as if...
Explore

Observation on Job and on Suffering

It’s important that Job never really finds out what’s going on. Given Job’s righteous status, his suffering appears not to have been triggered by anything Job had done. Surely it’s not retribution, in this case. God finally overwhelms Job with the stuff about “Were you there when I . . . ?” Point: God may...
Explore

Sighing for Eden: Sin, Evil, and the Christian Faith

In Pickeve, South Carolina, February, 1947, a mob of about 50 whites descended on Pickens County Jail where a black man, William Earle, was incarcerated on suspicion of knifing Tom Brown, a white taxi driver. The mob beat, stabbed and shot Willie Earle so that the bushes around his body were spattered with brain tissue...
Explore

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Japan’s imperialism in the 30s and 40s was born of her peculiar situation as a growing and dynamic nation with very few natural resources. Her trade was also stymied by high tariffs in the East and low demand for her manufactured goods. So she started looking around at her rich neighbors. Didn’t they have fabulous...
Explore

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps

Journeys to the death camps in railroad cars were unimaginable hell. [This from the whole book but especially chapter 8, ‘The Trains of Death’]. A space large enough for perhaps sixty people would be crammed with twice that many under blows from whips and rifle butts. Because of the incredible mass of people the SS...
Explore

Band of Brothers

E Company had a problem in the person of 1st Lieutenant, later captain, Herbert Sobel: he had a long face, a large, hooked nose, and a receding chin. He “exuded arrogance.” If he didn’t like a man he tyrannized him. For tiny infractions Sobel imposed major penalties. He would make a man who had come...
Explore

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

Tells how sanitized the war was for folk at home of all nations, and how disillusioning it was for soldiers to find this out at the end. Fussell quotes, Barry Broadfoot, ed., Six War Years 1939-1945: Memories of Canadians at Home and Abroad. “A returning soldier is met on the quay by ‘nice, smiling Red...
Explore

Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic

Paul Fussell was a combat infantryman in Europe during the last two years of WW II.  “Before we’d finished in Europe we’d seen hundreds of dead bodies, GIs as well as Germans, civilians as well as soldiers, officers as well as enlisted men, together with ample children.  We learned that no infantryman can survive psychologically...
Explore

Blessings: An Autobiographical Fragment

Hanka, a Pole beaten and interrogated by the Nazi Gestapo, is finally sent to Majdanek: “For a time she was made to separate the newly arrived mothers from their children, under threat that, if she refused, the guard dogs would be let loose to do the job more thoroughly.” As it was, children, she knew,...
Explore

Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth

“At the end of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the young hero is saved from death at the hands of his companions, former choirboys, by the forces of law and order: the crew from a warship designed to kill men from rival nations. This says it all. The very powers which keep us from...
Explore

Letter to Neal Plantinga

This letter was written shortly after Galen Meyer visited Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau: “The Germans built their death plants with care—with good quality molding on the concrete girders, excellent design in the brick masonry. They never saw that they’d want to blow these up five years later. They built them to last, and they built...
Explore

People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil **

People never ask “Why is there good in the world? It is as if we automatically assume this is a naturally good world that has somehow been contaminated by evil. In terms of what we know of science, however, it is actually easier to explain evil. That things decay is quite explainable in accord with...
Explore

Rabbit Run

Rabbit’s wife Janice has gotten drunk and lost control of their baby daughter Rebecca so that, as Janice is bathing her, Rebecca drowns. Rabbit goes to the bathroom there afterward. “A heavy, calm volume, odorless, tasteless, colorless, the water shocks him like the presence of a silent person in the bathroom. Stillness makes a dead...
Explore

Under God: Religion and American Politics

Wills quotes the Marquis de Sade, who says it is the duty of any woman (or girl) to submit to any man’s sexual desire at any time and in any form. Nature has proved it by making men stronger. To deny the urge to conquer others, or the right to do it, is “Sade’s version...
Explore

What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?: An Attempt to Come Closer to Truth

“The block-leaders would parade a captured officer before the assembled men, dressed only in his cap and sword belt. They made him run in front of the other prisoners, while the SS men laughed and beat his thighs. Or prisoners were given this order: ‘’In double-quick time, take up your position facing each other. Attention....
Explore

East of Eden

In prison, to avoid savage punishment, a man has to remove every expression of life from his face and body. He has to try to become invisible to the guards. “A clean face, an open face, an eye raised to meet an eye–these drew attention and attention drawn brought punishment. Adam [a prisoner] thought how...
Explore

“Stephen King’s Tragic Kingdom”

Striking piece on the astounding popularity of Stephen King, who sometimes has four or five books simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list. King gives Americans a narrative, a way of accounting for why things go so terribly wrong, plus “a whole amusement park of chills,” plus a satisfying defeat of evil in the...
Explore

Night

Francois Mauriac tells us what had drawn him to Wiesel: “The look, as of a Lazarus risen from the dead, yet still a prisoner within the grim confines where he had strayed; stumbling among the shameful corpses. For him Nietzsche”s cry expressed an almost physical reality: God is dead, the God of love, of gentleness,...
Explore

A Month of Sundays

The narrator says that he had trouble forgiving God for “the pain of infants, the inexorability of disease, the wantonness of fortune, the billions of fossilized deaths, the helplessness of the young, the idiocy of the old, the craftsmanship of torturers, the authority of blunderers, the savagery of accident, the unbreathability of water, and all...
Explore

Crossing to Safety

Stegner ruminates about how evil is more interesting and is portrayed more interestingly than good. Masaccio’s Expulsion from Paradise: “his Eve clumsy with woe, stricken with desolate realization, and Adam stumbling beside her with his hand over his eyes.” Could a painter capture the reverse situation? “Could a painter capture in expression and posture the...
Explore

Against All Hope: The Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares

Among the evils Castro visited on political prisoners was a refusal in his prisons to let them be clean. They had to live in their own filth, getting scummy, diseased, and slimy. And they had to watch rats coming up out of their sewer pipes (prevented only by stuffing your shoe into the putrid pipe)....
Explore

Roger’s Version

“’If God is so ingenious and purposive, what about deformity and disease? What about the carnage that rules this kingdom of life at every level? Why does life feel, to us as we experience it, so desperately urgent and so utterly pointless at the same time? . . . . Men disbelieved in God long...
Explore

Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder

“SS guards at Treblinka had a general cold indifference to the fate of prisoners. But they also occasionally cultivated ‘favorites’ among them and protected them a while. The prisoners feared being a favorite, despite its promise of reprieve, for it made them conspicuous. Anybody who was conspicuous was a target of one of the SS...
Explore

Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View

We humans tend not only to hurt people we hate; we also tend to hate people we have hurt. In the famous Milgram experiment at Yale, testing ordinary people’s obedience to authority, and how far down the road of torture ordinary people would go if ordered to do so, Milgram discovered that ordinary people who...
Explore

Treblinka

In the death camps, “after what point was it no longer necessary to delude the victims? . . . At the Nuremburg trials, Rudolf Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz, criticized Treblinka where, according to him, victims knew they were going to be killed. Höss was an advocate of towel distribution at the door to the gas...
Explore

“The Lion and the Unicorn”

“As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty,’ as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of...
Explore

The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

“. . . [obvious] devils exist, but they are rare . . . much more often the intensely destructive person will show a front of kindliness . . . There is hardly a man who is devoid of any kindness, of any good intentions. If he were, he would be on the verge of insanity...
Explore

No Future Without Forgiveness

Of serving on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu says: “we were shattered at what we heard and we did frequently break down or were on the verge of it. . . . we may never know just how much what we went through has affected us; the cost of it to us and to...
Explore

The Billionaire Boys’ Club

Ron Levin, one of the men the BBC rubbed out, was an eccentric, lying thief. He boasted of his dishonesties (often answering the question, ‘What do you do?’, by claiming ‘I’m a thief.’) He screamed at waiters in restaurants, was ashamed of his respectable, but not glamorous Jewish roots, and made up stories of different...
Explore

Additional content related to Evil

Psalm 1

As the Year B Lectionary brings Eastertide in for a landing, it returns us to the very head of the Hebrew Psalter.  As we conclude our celebration of the resurrection and anticipate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Psalm 1 reminds us of what the righteousness we have in Christ looks like in…

Explore

Psalm 23

Across the years I have written sermon commentaries on Psalm 23 so often that I am fairly certain I have little new or creative to say that has not been conveyed in one way, shape, or form before!  It also does not help that this may be the single most familiar psalm of them all. …

Explore

Psalm 50:1-6

It is not difficult to see why the Lectionary has us go to Psalm 50 on Transfiguration Sunday in Year B.  There is much here about glory and shining and the splendor—very nearly we could term it the terrible splendor—that surround Israel’s God.  We are only being asked to look at the first six verses…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 70

At Calvin Seminary for the past two academic years we have been holding a once-weekly Public Reading of Scripture where we gather for 30 minutes to read aloud a couple chapters each of an Old Testament passage, a Gospel passage, and a Psalm.  Not long ago Psalm 70 was read by a student and you…

Explore

Romans 12:9-21

It’s important to note that near this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s beginning, Paul says not, “Hate who is evil,” but, instead, “Hate what is evil” (9). That summons’ close proximity to his description of love as “sincere” suggests that sincere love includes a counter-cultural perspective on and reaction to both evil and evildoers. North American culture…

Explore

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

There are three parables that Jesus tells to the crowds and then explains to his disciples and all of them are in this chapter of Matthew. We considered the first one last week as we read about Jesus the sower of the seed of “the word of the Kingdom.” The last one is much shorter…

Explore

Psalm 32

It was only a few short months ago that the Year C Lectionary assigned most of Psalm 32 as the Psalm Lection.  Now here it is again assigned in its entirety for the First Sunday in Lent in the Year A Lectionary.  Since I only have just so many insights into Psalm 32—and since some…

Explore

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

It is one of the more important questions you could ever pose. Perhaps that is also why it is one of the most-asked questions in history: Where does evil come from? As Christians, we perhaps think that surely the answer to this vital inquiry must be somewhere in the Bible. But it’s not there. Everywhere…

Explore

Isaiah 9:1-4

The Common Lectionary’s choice to cut off this reading at verse 4 feels artificial.  It’s like asking someone to break off singing midway through verse 2 of “Joy to the World.”  It doesn’t work.  You both want to finish the song and anyway you hear the song finish up in your head even if you…

Explore

Matthew 2:13-23

Comments, Questions, and Observations This story is the Magi’s quick appearance in Year A—they are the ones who have just left in verse 13.  Our little family is at the center of an evil maelstrom, plucked out by Joseph’s willingness to continue to be obedient to the Lord’s messenger angel. The journey the angel commands…

Explore

Psalm 32:1-7

Most of his friends had been hanged.  But despite his central role in helping to construct Adolf Hitler’s Nazi nightmare, Albert Speer somehow managed to receive from the Nuremberg trials only a 20-year sentence at the Spandau Prison in Berlin.  Not long after arriving in Spandau, Speer met with the prison chaplain.  To the chaplain’s…

Explore

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:…

Explore

Psalm 1

It’s not by accident.  It wasn’t editorial happenstance.  No one flipped a coin to decide which Hebrew poem to turn into Psalm 1 in this collection.  Rather, the Hebrew Psalter is a carefully edited, thoughtfully and intentionally put together collection of poems.  The design of the larger book is evident in many ways (for instance,…

Explore

Psalm 32

Most of his friends had been hanged.  But despite his central role in helping to construct Adolf Hitler’s Nazi nightmare, Albert Speer somehow managed to receive from the Nuremberg trials only a twenty-year sentence at the Spandau Prison in Berlin.  Not long after arriving in Spandau, Speer met with the prison chaplain.  To the chaplain’s…

Explore

Psalm 63:1-8

When a psalm is as relatively brief as Psalm 63 and yet you notice that the Lectionary would have you stop reading—and presumably stop preaching—three verses shy of the actual conclusion of the poem, one might be justified in wondering what’s up.  What is in those last few verses?  Why the full stop before this…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 36:5-10

One of my Christmas gifts to my wife was a cookbook on making bread written by Paul Hollywood, one of the judges on the much-loved Great British Baking Show.  When I put a picture of the book’s cover on Facebook along with a picture of my wife’s first and fantastic looking loaf, a couple people…

Explore

James 3:1-12

“Not many of you should presume to be didaskaloi (teachers),” James begins this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson (1). About now, many teachers might agree with him. A few weeks (or days) into the new school year have probably begun to tax even the most dedicated teachers in ways that may leave them considering some kind of…

Explore

Psalm 34:15-23

Welcome to Week 3 of Psalm 34. As noted before, the Lectionary for some reason devotes three consecutive Sundays to this relatively short psalm. What’s more, in the original Hebrew this is an acrostic poem, meaning it is meant to be memorized and seen as a unity. But despite via the Lectionary we have considered…

Explore

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

I have this theory that although the actors who win the Academy Award earn the award for the entirety of their performances in the movies in question, there is often (maybe always) one key moment in those films that really cinches things.  So in Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks is impressive throughout but it’s that moment…

Explore

Mark 6:14-29

How sordid.  How tawdry.  How stupid.  How tragic.  It’s all here in Mark 6 where we learn to our shock and sadness that the last great Old Testament prophet and the first great New Testament gospel herald, John the Baptist himself, was done in because of a boozy promise made by an oversexed older man…

Explore

Mark 1:9-15

Lent begins in the wilderness.  And it’s not a terribly safe place to be all things being equal.  Some years ago after a seminar I was attending in Tucson, Arizona, wrapped up around the noon hour, my wife and I decided to check out a nearby National Park.  We took a big bottle of water…

Explore

Matthew 14:13-21

John the Baptist was the last great Old Testament prophet and the first great New Testament herald of the Gospel.  He is a unique figure, a pivotal figure, a figure very nearly without parallel in the history of redemption. And yet he dies because of a stupid, senseless, lusty, and boozy blank check promise made…

Explore

1 Samuel 16:1-13

In our first reading for this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are introduced to the most famous king of Israel, David son of Jesse.  It’s a favorite passage for many Bible students because of the parade of likely candidates from Jesse’s family, each of whom is rejected, and then the entrance of the least likely…

Explore

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

And so our Lenten journey begins.  The text chosen by the RCL for this First Sunday of Lent remind us that the journey to salvation began at a tree where salvation became necessary and ended at a tree where salvation was accomplished.  Genesis 3 shows us the disastrous human choice that brought death in all…

Explore

Matthew 4:1-11

Many of us have seen the bumper sticker, “Lead Me Not into Temptation: I Can Find It By Myself.”  Cheeky humor aside, we know that God never actively leads us to sin and probably does not actively lead us to temptation (though this need not rule out God’s ability to test our faith).  God is…

Explore

Romans 5:12-19

It’s always humbling for my wife and me to have a problem with our computer or cell phones.  After all, we, on whom our sons depended for so many years, must now largely depend on them to help us.  I’ll never be as technologically savvy as our thirty-something sons. Fleming Rutledge, who lent me some…

Explore

Psalm 1

It’s not by accident.  It wasn’t editorial happenstance.  No one flipped a coin to decide which Hebrew poem to turn into Psalm 1 in this collection.  Rather, the Hebrew Psalter is a carefully edited, thoughtfully and intentionally put together collection of poems.  The design of the larger book is evident in many ways (for instance,…

Explore

Psalm 63:1-8

When a psalm is as relatively brief as Psalm 63 and yet you notice that the Lectionary would have you stop reading—and presumably stop preaching—three verses shy of the actual conclusion of the poem, one might be justified in wondering what’s up.  What is in those last few verses?  Why the full stop before this…

Explore

James 3:1-12

Even some casual sports fans are at least somewhat aware of the controversy that continues to surround the use of what are called performance-enhancing drugs.  People have accused numerous athletes of taking drugs like steroids to improve their performance. Studies suggest that the use of anabolic steroids, for instance, increase lean muscle mass and strength. …

Explore

John 17:6-19

“You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.”  That is a saying of my former colleague Ron Nydam.  And he’s right.  Worse yet, we all know that you cannot insure the happiness of your children, either.  And that truth is married to another undeniable fact and that is this: the wider world in which we…

Explore

Genesis 9:8-17

21st century society seems to largely believe that people have the world and its future squarely in our own hands.  They claim that if we don’t somehow make history turn out right, it simply won’t happen.  Yet experience suggests that if it’s up to people to make things right, we’ve got real trouble on our…

Explore

Mark 1:4-11

Fans of Peter Jackson’s films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy will recall the opening sequence in the final film, The Return of the King.  As the movie opens, we are taken back hundreds of years from the main action of the trilogy to the time when Smeagol finds the Ring of power, murdering…

Explore

Judges 4:1-7

You’d probably have to thumb through a lot of children’s Bible story books before you’d find a retelling of Judges 4.  It’s, after all, very resistant to the kind of moralizing such books sometimes like to do.  In fact, even adult readers may have to dig pretty deeply to find anything edifying in this text….

Explore

Romans 5:1-8

By now many of us have heard about the recent flap regarding the well-known contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone.”  Seems a certain hymnal committee wanted to formalize what a number of congregations had already done informally on their own and that is swap out language about how on the cross “the wrath of God was…

Explore

Matthew 2:13-23

There’s nothing like kicking off a new year with a story about slaughtered babies . . .   But there it is.  New Year’s Day 2017 falls on a Sunday, and if bleary-eyed people who stayed up for champagne and the Times Square ball-drop manage to get to church the following morning—it’s really the same morning—and…

Explore

Psalm 5:1-8

For the second week in a row, I’m going to write on the alternate reading from the Psalter, since I covered Psalm 32 just a few months ago as part of Lent. In a sense, Psalm 5 and Psalm 32 are about the same thing—egregious evil—though Psalm 32 focuses on the evil we commit ourselves,…

Explore

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a

In the hymn This Is My Father’s World we profess, “Though the wrong is great and strong, God is the ruler yet.” Yet the “wrong” often seems almost too strong. It often has so many willing allies. All too many powerful people and institutions seem so eager to use their power for “wrong” purposes. Set…

Explore

Psalm 97

It’s not hard to understand the message of Psalm 97; it’s just hard to believe. There’s no doubt about its message: “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad, let the distant shores rejoice.” But, if a growing consensus of scholars is right, there must have been a great deal of doubt in the minds…

Explore

Psalm 63:1-8

I have always been moved and challenged by Luke’s description of Christ’s decisive turn to the cross in Luke 9:51. “At the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” An older translation put it more graphically; “Jesus set his face to go up to Jerusalem.” I…

Explore

Judges 6:(1-10), 11-32, (33-40)

Angles, insights, and illustrations as entry points into the text and sermon Theological themes that should not be missed: The God of Israel is faithful and responsive to Israel’s cries even when Israel is not faithful. The God of the Exodus who delivered his people out of Egypt will raise another leader who will rescue…

Explore

Psalm 36:5-10

Verse 1’s reference to an “oracle” that’s in the psalmist’s heart about the wicked’s sinfulness may puzzle citizens of the 21st century who link Oracle to Internet technology. They may wonder if this is some sort of moral “Cloud.” That’s why it’s important to remember the term “oracle” generally refers to some kind of revelation…

Explore

Exodus 11:1-10

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

Explore

James 3:1-12

Comments, Observations, and Questions As I’ve said before, the Epistle of James aims to help “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1) conduct themselves in consistently Christian ways in a difficult and deceptive world.  Rather than spelling out the Gospel, this letter simply assumes that its readers believe in and love Jesus Christ. Thus,…

Explore

Numbers 21:4-9

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider You really cannot appreciate this passage from Numbers 21 without paying attention to the surrounding context.  In the first three verses of this chapter, we get a tiny narrative snippet about a time the Israelites got knocked around by some Canaanite king named Arad.   A few Israelites got nabbed,…

Explore

Deliver Us from Evil

from 2009 – Calvin Chapel service

Explore

Isaiah 9:1-7

Sample Sermon: History is full of tragic figures who had great potential, who had perhaps even risen to prominence, only to fall from the very heights they had worked so hard to scale. Often what accounts for the downfall of a leader is the fact that he or she possessed either great wisdom or great…

Explore