Preaching Connection: Fear

Reading for Preaching

The Collected Sermons of William H. Willimon

Willimon writes about a church member he used to have—a man who owned a hardware store. He was hard on preachers who, in 1968, presented their weekly diatribe against Nixon and the Vietnam War. On one occasion of such doings, he “had stood up from where he was sitting, shook his head, and walked right...
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What Jamie Saw

A story about a good woman whose boyfriend Van one day tosses her daughter, actually hurls her daughter, whom, fortunately the mother catches. That’s the day the mother, her son Jamie (who saw the throw and the catch), and Jamie’s half-sister Nin move out of Van’s house. So the (by now half-famous) first sentence of...
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

She cites a lovely passage from Augustine: “Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security . . . We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both there...
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Additional content related to Fear

Matthew 25:14-30

We pick up right where we left off last week, listening to Jesus teach his followers some important truths about how they are to live in light of what he will do in the future. This parable deals with the same question of how people ought to actively wait for the coming of the Lord,…

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Exodus 32:1-14

What is taking God so long? There’s a whole sermon to be preached in the opening clause of this text: “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down the mountain…” Of course, the key theme of the text is idolatry: the making and worshiping of the golden calf by the Israelites. …

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Exodus 3:1-15

From the banks of the Nile to a parched mountain (the literal translation of Horeb), we find Moses settled into the humble lifestyle of a nomadic shepherd just about as far from Pharaoh’s court as humanly possible. The King James tells us that, as the curtain rises on this scene, Moses is hanging out with…

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Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Sometimes the Revised Common Lectionary gives us the same Psalm somewhat frequently but each time it is chopped up in different ways.  As it is, selecting some verses, skipping over others, and then including a few more is not always a great way to preach on a given Hebrew poem in that they were written…

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Psalm 23

It’s not quite true but sometimes it feels like Psalm 23 pops up in the Lectionary every couple weeks.  In fact, this psalm really was assigned just a few weeks ago during Lent.  Psalm 23 pops up at least once—and usually twice—inside any given calendar across Years A, B, and C of the Lectionary.  And…

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Psalm 27:1, 4-9

C.S. Lewis said somewhere that when you add it all up and consider it all together, in the end we would find that our prayer life is also our autobiography. Who we are, where we’ve been, the situations we’ve faced, the fears that nag us, and not a few of the core characteristics of who…

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Hebrews 12:18-29

What might Christian worship look like if each service began with Hebrews’, “Let us … worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”? What affect on worship might a sticky note on preachers, worship planners and leaders’ computers that read, “Let us … worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” have? Those who proclaim and hear…

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Luke 8:26-39

This is most definitely one of those texts that sends our modern senses spinning for application. Most of us do not have experience with exorcisms, and are generally uncomfortable with the idea/reality of demons. It may seem odd to say, but we can almost side-step the whole demonic exorcism if we focus our attention on…

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1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Sample sermon: When I go to different parts of the U.S. or Canada to speak or to preach, I often travel alone.  When I do, I sometimes enjoy going out to eat by myself at a restaurant.  It can be very interesting just to watch people and observe what is going on in ways you…

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Luke 5:1-11

Fear, as we all know, is a powerful motivator. History is full of proof of fear’s ability to keep awful people in power—and if we look deep enough, we also see how awful people are motivated by their own fears. But we also know from the biblical account that not all fear is a reaction…

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Hebrews 9:24-28

Hebrews’ proclaimers as well as our hearers may by now feel a little burned out by Hebrews. That’s the way my colleague Len Vander Zee begins his thoughtful and insightful 2018 commentary on this week’s Epistolary Lesson. Hebrews’ preachers and teachers may feel a bit like investigators at a crime scene that’s so covered with…

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Mark 9:38-50

It seems that the deflecting from discomfort that we saw last week is continuing this week. Though it may not seem like it at a first read through, Mark has placed this set of sayings here for a reason. Instead of the usual suspect, Peter, it’s John who speaks up this time. It could be…

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Mark 9:30-37

Verses 30-37 in Mark 9 provide us a very clear picture of a human response to fear and confusion: changing the subject instead of taking the risk to look foolish. Who likes to look dumb? Worse yet, it was just last week when we heard Peter speak up and “question” Jesus, and where did that…

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Mark 4:35-41

For fishermen ostensibly accustomed to being out on the water—presumably in all kinds of weather—the  disciples sure panicked over the weather often enough in the gospels.  The only calm one in all those storms-at-sea situations was the land-lubber carpenter from Nazareth.  So also here in Mark 4: with just a word, Jesus, who had not…

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1 John 4:7-21

Contrary to the Beatles’ sung claims, all we “need” isn’t “love.” But the full-orbed, whole person love to which this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson summons Jesus’ followers will go a very long way to meeting all sorts of “needs.” Jesus’ friends might call John’s first letter his “love letter.” That emphasis is, in fact, a theme…

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Psalm 29

My Mom has always had a fear of storms of any kind.  We used to joke about the fact that if ever there was a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or a Tornado Watch, you would soon see Mom’s purse on the top step of the stairs leading to the basement in case we had to flee…

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2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

It would be very difficult to pick a more fitting text for this last Sunday of Advent.  After focusing with ever growing intensity on the coming of God’s salvation, we are just 5 days away from our celebration of the birth of the long-promised Messiah. This text is “the mother of all Messianic prophecies,” “the…

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Isaiah 7:10-16

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, just 3 days away from Christmas, our reading from Isaiah 7 doesn’t seem very Christmasy.  Oh, it does if we focus only on verse 14 and the way our Gospel reading for today interprets it (Matthew 1:18-25). But if we read our text in its context, there’s no hint…

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Matthew 11:2-11

“The War on Christmas.”  We have heard about this a lot in recent years.  Some while back people assailed Starbucks for removing the word “Christmas” from their holiday coffee cups.  Some were upset some years ago that the White House wished a blanket “Happy Holidays” instead of specifically mentioning Christmas.  And some while back the…

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Luke 8:26-39

What do you suppose they were all so afraid of?  After all, that is the bottom line of this dramatic and startling story in Luke 8: all the witnesses and all the townsfolk were afraid. What was it that did them in, fear-wise?  Was it the sight of all those dead pigs floating in the…

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John 14:8-17 (25-27)

This is our Pentecost text, of course, but the setting in John 14 takes us back to that last night before Jesus died, some 53 days before Pentecost arrived. What that means is that even though this text ends up talking about peace and of Jesus’ telling the disciples “do not be afraid” (Jn. 14:27),…

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John 20:19-31

Sample Sermon:  Why didn’t they go looking for him? Today we pick up right where we left off last week on Easter here in John 20.  When last we saw the disciples, Mary Magdalene had just burst in with the excited and exciting news, “I have seen the Lord!” Earlier that day, when Mary told…

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Psalm 27

C.S. Lewis said somewhere that when you add it all up and consider it all together, in the end we would all find that our prayer life is also our autobiography.  Who we are, where we’ve been, the situations we’ve faced, the fears that nag us, and not a few of the core characteristics of…

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Mark 9:38-50

The challenge of this lectionary text is that it reads like a hodgepodge of Jesus’ sayings, something like the book of Proverbs with its often unconnected string of wisdom sayings. Because of its lack of apparent cohesion, it would be difficult to build a coherent sermon by moving though the entire text. So, the text…

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Mark 9:30-37

Digging Into the Text: Jesus and the disciples are “on the road again,” headed for Jerusalem.  But Jesus didn’t want anyone to know.  He didn’t want any more disturbances or interruptions because he was teaching the disciples, preparing them for what lay ahead.  Now, for the second time he tells them exactly what it is…

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Psalm 70

Psalm 70 is the alternate Lectionary reading from the Psalter for today.  I’ve chosen it because I wrote on the regular reading, Psalm 78, barely a month ago.  And it turns out that there’s a lot to ponder and perhaps preach in this apparently simple little Psalm.  It is given scant attention in many commentaries…

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Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Comments and Observations When preaching on Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments, there are multiple directions to go in a sermon.    It’s a bit challenging to preach on all of the commandments at once, though a way can be found to do that, of course.   But for this sermon commentary, I have chosen to ponder…

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Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24

Psalm 139 is a doctrinal and devotional classic. It bristles with theologically rich ideas and it hums a lullaby of divine care.  Oh yes, it also shocks with its infamous ending; “if only you would slay the wicked, O God!”  But for all its familiarity, Psalm 139 is hard to describe.  Is it a hymn…

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Psalm 103:1-8

In the dog days of August, in the heart of Ordinary Time, Psalm 103 is an immensely helpful self-initiated reminder not to forget all that God does for us, which is, simply, everything. That’s probably why my teachers back at Denver Christian Elementary School made me memorize these very verses at the ripe old age…

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Psalm 16

On this sixth Sunday of Ordinary time, reading the sixteenth Psalm brings back extraordinary memories for me. In my Bible, I have underlined many individual verses of Psalm 16 over the years and I’ve filled the margins with dates and notes that remind me of why I underlined those verses. For example, verse 6 is…

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Luke 8:26-39

What do you suppose they were all so afraid of? After all, that is the bottom line of this dramatic and startling story in Luke 8: all the witnesses and all the townsfolk were afraid. What was it that did them in, fear-wise? Was it the sight of all those dead pigs floating in the…

Explore

John 14:8-17 (25-27)

This is our Pentecost text, of course, but the setting in John 14 takes us back to that last night before Jesus died. What that means is that even though this text ends up talking about peace and of Jesus telling the disciples “do not be afraid” (Jn. 14:27), let’s just state the merely obvious…

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John 20:19-31

Sample Sermon : Why didn’t they go looking for him? Today we pick up right where we left off last week on Easter here in John 20. When last we saw the disciples, Mary Magdalene had just burst in with the excited and exciting news, “I have seen the Lord!” Earlier that day, when Mary…

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Acts 27:13-44

“Call me Ishmael.” So begins the epic sea adventure Moby Dick, in which the conflict between humanity and the Leviathan symbolizes so many other conflicts. It’s a story that captivates us, as we have always been captivated by stories of voyages and adventures at sea. The adventures and exploits of Odysseus, doing battle with mythical…

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2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Firm places often prove otherwise. Stand on financial security? One Wall Street crisis and retirements are on sinking sand. Stand on your strength of your heroes? Say it ain’t so, Joe, but even childhood idols like Lance or Tiger leave us disappointed. Stand on national defense? See 9-11. Stand…

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Numbers 13

Here in Numbers 13, the Israelites have arrived at the southern border of the Promised Land.  Ever since the days that they left Egypt, this is where they were heading.  The land was the gift that God had promised them.  This was “the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites” (13:1, emphasis…

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Malachi 4

Comments and Observations: In his book, The End of Memory, Miroslav Volf gives us a glimpse into the torment he endured while serving in the Yugoslavian army under the (erroneous) suspicion of being a traitor.  Because he was a Christian who was married to an American, the communist army suspected him of treason.  His time…

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Mark 9:38-50

Comments and Observations: Unity is important in preaching and teaching.  We drill that message into our seminary students in preaching class.  We often refer to the mnemonic device devised by Paul Scott Wilson that can be remembered by the phrase “The Tiny Dog Is Now Mine.”  The first letter of each word in that phrase…

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Mark 9:30-37

Questions to Ponder / Issues to Address: It’s quite a picture: Jesus is walking up ahead of his disciples.  Outwardly Jesus is watching the path ahead, minding the curves in the road and stepping over potholes.  Inwardly the eyes of his heart are on the cross and on all that was now just ahead of…

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Mark 4:35-41

For men ostensibly accustomed to being out on the water, the disciples sure panicked over the weather often enough in the gospels.   The only calm one in all those storms-at-sea situations was the land-lubber carpenter from Nazareth.   So also here in Mark 4: With just a word the Jesus who had not been sufficiently bothered…

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2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

“Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, perhaps the greatest truth.”  Those opening lines of M. Scott Peck’s bestselling, The Road Less Travelled, were a sensation back in the 1970’s.  Now, as the GEICO insurance commercial says, “Everybody knows that.”  What people don’t know is how to deal with the difficulty.  That’s what Paul…

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