Preaching Connection: God

Movies for Preaching

Decalogue 1 (1989) – 2

Decalogue I (1989).  Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz.  Directed by Kryszstof Kieslowski.  Cinematography by Wieslaw Zdort.  Music by Zbigniew Preisner.  Starring Henryk Baranowski , Maja Komorowska, and Wojciech Klata.  Facets Edition.  Rating:  G, 56 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. In the late 1980s in Poland, two fellows put together what is generally recognized as…

Explore

Decalogue 1 (1989)

Decalogue I (1989).  Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz.  Directed by Kryszstof Kieslowski.  Cinematography by Wieslaw Zdort.  Music by Zbigniew Preisner.  Starring Henryk Baranowski , Maja Komorowska, and Wojciech Klata.  Facets Edition.  Rating:  G, 56 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. How to know God, if there is a God? This is the question that in…

Explore

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…

Explore

Wide Awake (1998) – 1

Wide Awake (1998).  Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Joseph Cross, Rosie O’Donnell, and Robert Loggia. Rated PG.  88 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes 67%. The question of what actual love looks like has plagued humankind since, well, the beginning, whether that be Adam and Eve left to themselves in a garden or some humanoid…

Explore

Ida (2013)

Ida (2013).  Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.  Co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.   Starring Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska.  PG-13.  82 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes 96%; Metacritic 91%. A young Polish novice, Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), a WW II orphan raised in a convent, is summoned by the Abbess with the instruction to visit an aunt she…

Explore

Reading for Preaching

Mere Christianity in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

Lewis muses over what plenty of people have mused over—the possible existence of God.  “If there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do.  This is the terrible fix we are in.  If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our [moral] efforts are in the...
Explore

“Ubiquity” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

“Every automobile bears on its license plate a number that represents the number of years that have elapsed since the birth of Christ.  This is a powerful symbol of the omnipresence of God and the indifference of the human race.”
Explore

“Buechner” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

“When I tell you my name, I have given you a hold over me that you didn’t have before.  If you call it out, I stop, look, and listen whether I want to or not. In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses that his name is Yahweh, and God hasn’t had a peaceful moment...
Explore

Solzhenitsyn at Harvard: The Address, Twelve Early Responses, and Six Later Reflections

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 commencement address at Harvard University, a defining moment in the twentieth-century culture wars, indicted Western godlessness, materialism, and consequent superficiality.  The West has thrown away God, said Solzhenitsyn, as well as the accountabilities and depths of purpose that used to be attached to belief in God; it has substituted for these weighty...
Explore

Gilead

“Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience.  That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense. . ....
Explore

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

”’They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.’ And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometime happened to you in a dream that someone...
Explore

Night

In Wiesel’s mind, God is on trial: ”Blessed art Thou, Eternal, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all races to be tortured day and night, to see our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end in the crematory. Praised be thy Holy Name, Thou who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine altar.”...
Explore

Miracles: How God Intervenes in Human Affairs

“It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive!’ . . An ‘impersonal God’–well and good. A Subjective God of beauty, truth, and goodness, inside our own heads–better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap–best of all. But...
Explore

Excerpts from the Diary of the Late God

“A word about earthquakes. I am sick and tired of being blamed for earthquakes. I do not, could not, would not, have not, and will not cause earthquakes! It would be entirely out of character. I’d be much more likely to knock the bottom out of the stock market. Once and for all: I did...
Explore

Excerpts from the Diary of the Late God

“If I didn’t know I am perfect I would suspect I’ve been possessed by a demon. It’s this business of my ‘sake.’ What in limbo do they mean when they speak of God’s sake? Over and over again I hear them: ‘For God’s sake!’ What sake? I have no sake. Yet they invoke it so...
Explore

The Young Lions

“Noah stopped in front of the church [in England during World War II]. It was a squat, stone building, with a heavy square tower. It looked as though the God who was addressed within it was a forbidding Old Testament God, who laid the Law down squarely, and with no frills or subtleties, to the...
Explore

Night

p. 31: At Auschwitz, the young Wiesel sees babies thrown into a ditch that is alive with flame. Children in the flames. A larger ditch for adults. “Around us everyone was weeping. Someone began to recite the kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I do not know if it has ever happened before, in the...
Explore

“Reflection on Psalm 23”

Ps. 23:4 “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.” Marty quotes Joseph Sittler: “The text does not speak of the valley of death but of the valley of the shadow of death. There is a difference. The valley of death is an experience through which we...
Explore

Additional content related to God

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…

Explore

John 3:1-17

We visited part of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus back in Lent. But back then, we focused on verses 14-21 and we didn’t get Nicodemus’s great question for Trinity Sunday in verse 9: “How can these things be?” Of course, Nicodemus is asking about how it’s possible for humans to be born from above or again,…

Explore

Psalm 114

The Lectionary assigned parts of Psalm 118 for both Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter and since the March 24 sermon commentary here on the CEP website was on Psalm 118, I will direct you to look that up in our Sermon Commentary Library.  But for this commentary we will take the psalm for Year B Easter…

Explore

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…

Explore

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…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 80:7-15

Carving out only the middle section of Psalm 80 (as the Lectionary does) has several drawbacks, not least that if you only read those 9 verses, you miss the framing refrain of this poem as it occurs word-for-word in verses 3, 7, and 19: Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us,…

Explore

Psalm 138

Years ago I read a wonderful novel by Indian writer Arundhati Roy and one of the things I liked about the book was its great title: The God of Small Things.  That title can be an apt summary for something you run across often in the psalms, including in Psalm 138. Israel praised their God…

Explore

Psalm 67

When we think of getting a blessing, we tend to focus on ourselves as the recipient of something good—something that will be good for us, something that will benefit us.  The classic Aaronic Benediction from Numbers 6—that is clearly echoed in Psalm 67:1—is a good example.  When I give this benediction in church, I am…

Explore

Psalm 85:8-13

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Here is a lyric and pretty well-known line from Psalm 85.  But based on how this psalm begins—in the part the Lectionary would have us leap frog over in the first 7 verses—you would not have predicted this Hebrew poem would end up including…

Explore

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

The RCL had us in the heart of Psalm 145 a scant month ago for its July 9, 2023, psalm lection.  Why we are looping back to some of these same verses so soon is not clear.  In any event, I refer you to that sermon commentary and will not here repeat everything I said…

Explore

Genesis 21:8-21

Whatever else a person may think about the Bible and about the Old Testament in particular, you have to say this: it’s honest.  The text does not generally shy away from presenting less-than-savory facts about even some of the most important characters in the biblical story.  It’s often the proverbial “warts and all” presentation.  The…

Explore

Psalm 100

It will never happen of course but sometimes one could wish that for certain absolutely key vocabulary words in Hebrew or Greek, all Bible translations in English (or in any language) could agree on one translation of that word that would get used consistently every time it occurs.  That way readers of the translation would…

Explore

John 14:15-21

Separating this part of Jesus’s conversation with the disciples from last week’s helps us focus on the bonded (in the sense of stuck to/with) nature of God-with-us, no matter which particular person of the Trinity it is who is with us. The ties that bind us, of course, is the love of God. If we…

Explore

John 14:1-14

Comments, Questions, and Observations “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” These words can apply to so many different situations, but in this particular text, they immediately follow Jesus’s prophetic promise that he is about to be betrayed by one them, will be leaving them, and will be denied by one of the most loyal…

Explore

Isaiah 42:1-9

Throughout the “Servant Songs” in this part of Isaiah, despite the focus on the Servant, there is no question who is really in charge and calling all the shots.  The Servant has work to do and will achieve that work to a stunning degree of effectiveness.  Nothing short of the bringing of justice to all…

Explore

Psalm 121

When I was a little kid, I remember Psalm 121 being read in church or sometimes at our dinner table.  Back then various versions of the Bible translated that first line, “I lift up mine eyes to the hills, whence cometh my help.”  The sentence is in the indicative mood.  Read this way, it is…

Explore

Jeremiah 31:27-34

I am not sure why the Revised Common Lectionary’s series of passages from Jeremiah skips around the way it does (one week Jeremiah 32 but then next time around it’s back to chapter 29 and now we leap to chapter 31) but I think I can understand why the Lectionary saved this passage from the…

Explore

Psalm 146

In contemporary music there are few crescendos quite as dramatic and raucous as the one that concludes the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.”  A somewhat wild cacophony of strings, brass, and percussion all come together to end this remarkable song with a bang followed by a very long sustain on a piano that…

Explore

Jeremiah 2:4-13

According to the old adage, “You are what you eat.”  But parts of the Bible, including Jeremiah 2, give voice to a different point of view: You are what you worship.  In Jeremiah 2, one of the prophet’s initial broadsides against the people of Israel was the sad fact that in worshiping gods that were…

Explore

Psalm 66:1-9

A bit cheeky.  A goodly dose of chutzpah.  A tad forward.  You have to admire the psalmists who on many occasions are not the least bit adverse to ordering the whole world to praise the God of Israel.  Make no mistake: all those “Praise the Lord” lines in so many of the psalms are in…

Explore

Psalm 16

Psalm 16 presents the words of a person whose life appears to be going swimmingly. Everything is working for this poet. These look to be the words of a winner, of a person who was born sunny-side up as a confirmed optimist. And I suspect we’ve all met people like this. I also suspect that…

Explore

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…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 67

It can be a little hard to know how to read Psalm 67.  On the face of it, this is a pretty simple Hebrew poem.  It’s short.  It is upbeat for the most part.  It aims squarely at the praise of the one true God of Israel. Yet there are some interesting angles one could…

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 91:1-2, 9-16

It is an unhappy fact that with very little effort, we could update the language of Psalm 91 to fit our present age (and although the RCL only takes the first and last few verses, this Sermon Commentary will encompass the whole psalm).  Talk of a “fowler’s snare” sounds suspiciously like the kind of traps…

Explore

Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)

It was the year King Uzziah died. Or, it was the year President Kennedy died. Or it was the year 9/11 rattled the world to its core. Or it was the year the COVID pandemic began. It was the year when things fell apart, when foundations were shaken, when the markets crumbled, when all that…

Explore

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…

Explore

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…

Explore

Ruth 1:1-18

To my mind stopping the reading of Ruth 1 at verse 18 is the narrative equivalent of ending the movie Field of Dreams just before the moment when Ray encounters his long-dead and estranged father on his magical Iowa baseball diamond.  Why stop short of the scene that brings the whole thing together!? So trust…

Explore

Exodus 14:19-31

“Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!”  Well, not so fast, children of Israel.  You have walked away from your enslavement in Egypt, but your former Master is chasing you down.  Once Pharaoh awakened from the midnight horror of losing his oldest son and looked at his situation in…

Explore

Psalm 66:1-9

A bit cheeky.  A goodly dose of chutzpah.  A tad forward.  You have to admire the psalmists who on many occasions are not the least bit adverse to ordering the whole world to praise the God of Israel.  Make no mistake: all those “Praise the Lord” lines in so many of the psalms are in…

Explore

Psalm 16

Psalm 16 presents the words of a person whose life appears to be going swimmingly.  Everything is working for this poet.  These look to be the words of a winner, of a person who was born sunny-side up as a confirmed optimist.  And I suspect we’ve all met people like this.  I also suspect that…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

It is an unhappy fact that with very little effort, we could update the language of Psalm 91 to fit our present age (and although the RCL only takes the first and last few verses, this Sermon Commentary will encompass the whole psalm).  Talk of a “fowler’s snare” sounds suspiciously like the kind of traps…

Explore

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

Nothing quite grabs our attention like a voice in the night.  After all, it almost always signals trouble.  The voice may be that of a child from the next bedroom: “Grandma, I’m sick,” or a teenager’s cell phone: “Dad, I’ve run out of gas.” Sometimes, of course, the voice in the middle of the night…

Explore

Psalm 29

The Revised Common Lectionary chooses this Psalm for this first Sunday after the Epiphany of Christ in all three years of its reading cycle.  Clearly the Lectionary sees Psalm 29 as a parallel to the baptism of Jesus, because in both the voice of God rings out over the waters.  Psalm 29 shows us an…

Explore

Hosea 11:1-11

Few issues seem to more deeply divide North American Christians than the final fate of God’s Jewish people. Will God save them en masse so that all Jews get to experience the peace of God’s new creation? Will the Holy Spirit convert some Jews to the Christian faith before Christ returns? Will God finally grant…

Explore

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Psalm 91 has what Karl Jacobson calls a “checkered” history. On the one hand, it has been a source of inspiration and comfort to millions of Christians. The great theologian Athanasius said to Marcellinus, “If you desire to stablish yourself and others in devotion, to know what confidence is to be reposed in God, and…

Explore

Matthew 13:10-17

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Thus far in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus has been busy.  He’s been teaching and preaching, he’s been healing, he’s been explaining, he’s been gathering disciples, and he’s been traveling.  And, here in chapter 13 he does something new.  He tells his audience a story – a parable –…

Explore

2 Corinthians 7

Comments and Observations Recently my congregation lifted up their voices and sang “Blessed Be Your Name” (Matt and Beth Redman).  The song speaks of the ups and downs in life – we sang of the times when we’re “in the land that is plentiful, where your streams of abundance flow” we sang of the times…

Explore

2 Samuel 5:1-10

Some years ago the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible was published, illustrated by the well-known artist, Barry Moser.  I had the privilege of hearing Moser talk about his work some while back and since I am not the most astute observer of art, listening to the artist describe what he did in his various black-and-white drawings opened…

Explore