Preaching Connection: Hope

Additional content related to Hope

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…

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Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15

A real estate deal seldom had it so good.  All through the Bible you can find a recurrent theme related to real estate, to land, to who owns what.  It all began with a promise of land to Abram (who for some reason had to leave behind the land he already owned to set out…

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Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

“This hurts me more than it hurts you” our parents assured us as they doled out some form of punishment or another.  Timeouts, groundings, restrictions: our parents wanted to claim the greater pain was theirs in the issuing of the punishments than ours in the receiving of them.  We, none of us, believe this when…

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Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

Silent Spring. Or better written, Silent Spring in italics as befits a book title because that was indeed the title of Rachel Carson’s well-known book that was among the first cries of the modern ecological movement. Years ago, before I knew what that book was about, upon hearing the title I pictured some serene setting:…

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Hosea 1:2-10

We teach a certain rule-of-thumb to our seminary students.  We talk about it as colleagues in ministry.  And deep down we intuitively know this truth anyway.  We preachers know that it’s at best dicey to use our spouse and children as sermon illustrations, exemplars of behavior good or bad, or just generally as the starting…

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Psalm 30

A friend of mine who passed away last year on Easter used to respond to life’s oft-difficult circumstances by saying, “Ah well, joy cometh in the morning.”  Or at least joy may come in the morning but most of us know altogether too well that sometimes it doesn’t.  Or the “morning” in question ends up…

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Isaiah 43:16-21

One thing I always tell my preaching students is never utilize a sermon introduction that exists merely for the sake of grabbing people’s attention but that has precious little—if anything—to do with what follows or with the main thrust of the sermon.  So you would never kick off  a sermon by saying “Altogether too often…

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Genesis 15 is full of curiosities and oddments.  But right in the middle of this chapter is a verse that went on to exercise an enormous influence on the New Testament. “Abram believed Yahweh and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  In Romans and Galatians this one verse became a linch-pin in Paul’s argument…

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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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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…

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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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Isaiah 62:1-5

These first verses of Isaiah 62 are like a geyser erupting in hopefulness and wild abundance.  This is like a prophetic fireworks display with a never-ending grand finale as color and light fills the skies, eliciting a long string of “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” from those seeing the spectacle.  This is one of those passages so…

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Isaiah 43:1-7

Scholars tell us that there may have been at least two, probably three (perhaps four) “Isaiahs” whose prophetic words make up the one Old Testament book we call Isaiah.  If so, then the version of Isaiah we get in this 43rd chapter is definitely the “Happy Isaiah” as compared to the doom-and-gloom Isaiah from earlier…

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Micah 5:2-5a

When the Lectionary dishes up just 3.5 verses, skipping the first verse of a chapter and stopping just halfway through the fifth verse, you just know it’s like putting blinders on us readers to keep us from seeing something on either side of the lection.  I don’t know why they made this choice but lyric…

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Acoustics are so key.  How does a text sound?  Usually you need to pay attention to the context to figure that out.  But when you dive into the middle of a text like this lection, you can so easily miss or forget that wider context.  But remembering it can change the acoustics pretty significantly.  After…

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2 Samuel 23:1-7

The so-called “last words of David” are curiously placed.  For one thing, there is quite a bit more action involving David in the balance of even 2 Samuel.  But there will be more words and more narrative to come in also the opening portion of 1 Kings.  It’s as though the author and editor of…

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Psalm 16

Probably we misread Psalm 16, or at least its most famous verses about how our bodies will rest secure.  We have all been to our share of funerals that lift out verses 9-11 and put a resurrection spin on them.  And maybe as Christians exegeting the Old Testament there is something right about that.  All…

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Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

The Lectionary has us skip the drama of Ruth 2 and then dips in briefly to Ruth 3 for the connection with Boaz and then zooms ahead to the very end of Ruth 4 for the “happy ending” of the tale and how it all points forward to King David.  As preachers, we are either…

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Psalm 126

Some of us might remember that another version/translation of Psalm 126:1 mentions specifically the time when “the captives” were brought back to Jerusalem.  That framing of this psalm places this on the far side of the seventy-year exile in Babylon as the people of Israel slowly returned from captivity after Persia conquered Babylon and the…

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Psalm 54

In TV shows and movies—often as part of a comedic scene but sometimes in a more serious vein too—we have all seen the musical and visual effect that signals someone is having a flashback of a memory or is getting ready to recount something from his or her past.  As you can see in the…

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Psalm 145:10-18

The Lectionary likes Psalm 145 but chops it up a little differently each time.  That’s a shame since the psalm is meant to be read as a single unit and presents a unified theme too.  Probably for this particular Sunday the RCL chose this part of Psalm 145 because of the verse about God’s giving…

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Psalm 130

This poem is labeled a “Psalm of Ascent” but it starts as a Psalm of Descent.  It is called De Profundis in older Bibles—the Latin for “from the depths.”  It is certainly a curious, perhaps an almost stark, way to begin 2021’s Season of Ordinary Time!  And yet this psalm fits this time, these past…

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Psalm 98

Reading Psalm 98 is like uncorking a well shook-up bottle of champagne.  The cork rockets upward and the bubbly inside the bottle fountains forth in exuberance.  We’ve all seen those locker rooms after a team wins the World Series or the Super Bowl when players spray each other with such bottles—some years ago someone finally…

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1 Corinthians 1:3-9

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s “twin themes” of Paul’s thanksgiving and the return of Jesus Christ may seem particularly appropriate this week. After all, this first Sunday in Advent falls just three days after (U.S.) Americans’ celebration of Thanksgiving and at the beginning of the season of heightened anticipation of Jesus’ second coming. However, 1 Corinthians…

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Romans 8:6-11

Romans 8: is there a better loved, more soaring passage in the New Testament than this one?   There is much here to linger over, savor, celebrate.  The Lectionary carves out only six verses but the truth is, Romans 8:1-17 form such a logical—and also lyric—unit that I would suggest reading all 17 verses, and indeed,…

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

At first glance, this famous vision of the valley of dry bones seems more like an Easter text than a Lenten text.  I mean, if the text left us with a valley full of dry bones, it might fit the somber mood of the last week of Lent.  But it doesn’t, because the bleached-out bones…

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Psalm 147:12-20

Two rather striking features to this psalm leap out at you.  First, there is the singularly positive, sunny statements about how God has strengthened Jerusalem, given peace within Israel’s borders, and just generally provides a warm and safe environment for God’s people.  The second striking feature is the celebration at the end of Psalm 147…

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

A scant three days before Christmas this year, the Lectionary via Psalm 80 takes us out of any setting we might ordinarily associate with the holidays and settles us instead into a very bleak landscape.  There can be no missing in Psalm 80—despite the Lectionary’s attempted leap-frog over the starker verses in the middle of…

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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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Romans 15:4-13

I didn’t have much money when I was in college.  So I tried to drive as far on a tank of gas as I could.  As a result, I ran out of gas in the middle of the night twice … in the space of less than a month.  Each time I called my relatively…

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Jeremiah 23:1-6

All over the world the church celebrates the reign of Christ the King today.  For many of us, that is very good news because we live in places where there is huge controversy over the leadership of our countries.  Whether it’s Hong Kong where protestors clash with police over increasing communist control, or it’s Canada…

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Psalm 46

It probably counts as something of an irony that for all its soaring comfort in proclaiming the sovereignty of God and God’s rule over all things, Psalm 46 is invoked most often precisely in those times when it is most difficult to believe that a good and loving God is providentially in charge of the…

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Psalm 98

Reading Psalm 98 is like uncorking a well shook-up bottle of champagne.  The cork rockets upward and the bubbly inside the bottle fountains forth in exuberance.  We’ve all seen those locker rooms after a team wins the World Series or the Super Bowl when players spray each other with such bottles—some years ago someone finally…

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Both First and Second Thessalonians spend a lot of their ink on the second coming of Christ, the Parousia. In the verses for today, Paul takes on some fake news spreading about Christ’s return head on. The first five verses of chapter two, in a nutshell, are meant to bring comfort to the church. To…

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Joel 2:28-32

As we near the end of Ordinary Time, the Lectionary begins to point toward Advent with prophecies that are more distinctly Messianic.  After 9 hard weeks in Jeremiah which was addressed to a nation on the brink of Exile, we turn to the Minor Prophets, beginning with the one about bugs. Joel rose out of…

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Revelation 5:11-14

It seems in some ways appropriate that Revelation 5 begins with a sob but ends with a hymn.  That, after all, doesn’t just encompass part of the range of emotions within which God’s adopted sons and daughters generally live.  It also follows the arc along which God wants to move God’s beloved people.  That’s why…

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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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Isaiah 65:17-25

Every preacher knows what a challenge it is to preach on Easter.  On the one hand, it is the epicenter of the Gospel, the event that makes or breaks the claims of Jesus, as Paul says in I Corinthians 15.  So, how can we mere mortals do justice to such a world changing moment in…

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Isaiah 43:16-21

All four of the Lectionary readings for this Fifth Sunday of Lent share a “past and future” theme.  Psalm 126 talks about the restoration of Israel’s fortune in the past and calls on God to restore Israel’s fortunes in the future, so that those who “sow in tears can reap with shouts of joy.”  In…

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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…

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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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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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Isaiah 60:1-6

On this Epiphany Sunday, most preachers will choose the Gospel reading for their preaching text.  Matthew 2 shows us the very first Epiphany of Christ to the world.  Born in a barn in a far-off corner of the world, Jesus is worshipped and treasured by his parents and those shepherds and, if some carols are…

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Micah 5:2-5a

This is the quintessential Advent text, because it was so clearly fulfilled in the birth of Christ. In Matthew 2: 5, the chief priests and teachers of the law answer Herod’s frantic question about the birthplace of the long promised King of the Jews.  “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the…

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Luke 1:68-79

Someone once said that visits always bring pleasure because even if the arrival of a certain visitor didn’t make you happy, his departure will!  The comedic pianist Victor Borge also touched on this topic when he once noted that the mythic figure of Santa Claus has the right idea: you should visit people just once…

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Philippians 1:3-11

This second Sunday of the month of December seems like an appropriate time to explore Philippians 1:3-11.  Its theme of thanksgiving is, after all, consistent with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans recently celebrated.  What’s more, this Sunday is also near the beginning of the Advent season in which we look forward to “the day of…

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Luke 21:25-36

For Luke “as it was in the beginning” might be a good slogan to encapsulate his Gospel’s conclusion.  Because when Luke began, we heard a lot of very dramatic rhetoric as to what the coming of the Messiah would entail.  Even the Virgin Mary’s song in Luke 1—the Magnificat—is filled with violent imagery.  We read…

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1 Kings 17:8-24

We live a world that death and violence seem to have in their iron-like stranglehold. All too often they appear to have both the dominant and final word in our world. In the midst of this culture of violence and death, however, God is in the business of constantly giving life. Death stubbornly looms over…

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Isaiah 43:16-21

At first glance, Isaiah’s invitation to “Forget the former things” seems right up 21st century North Americans’ “alley.” After all, we’re not even very interested in last week’s “former things.” If it’s not on our homepage, the 6 o’clock news or local media website, we’re hardly interested in what happened even yesterday. Today’s news quickly…

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Psalm 27

While this Psalm has been the source of inspiration and consolation for many believers, there’s a sense in which it is a troubling Psalm. There is a great tension in it. Perhaps dichotomy is a better word. It is composed of two entirely different parts. The one is a magnificent confession of unshakeable trust in…

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

It’s fairly easy to trust God to keep God’s promises when things are going well. But when things don’t go well, even Jesus’ most faithful followers sometimes wonder how God will ever keep God’s promises. It’s at those difficult times that trust is a particularly precious gift. The Abram whom God told to leave his…

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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…

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Micah 5:2-5a

When the Lectionary dishes up just 3.5 verses, skipping the first verse of a chapter and stopping just halfway through the fifth verse, you just know it’s like putting blinders on us readers to keep us from seeing something on either side of the lection. I don’t know why they made this choice but lyric…

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Luke 1:68-79

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Has the Lectionary lost its way already on the second Sunday of the church year?  The “psalm” the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday is, after all, not actually a psalm, but the song that Zechariah sings at his son’s birth.  He was, of course, an elderly priest who was…

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Philippians 1:3-11

Comments, Observations, and Questions Of the four lectionary readings for this Second Sunday of Advent, this passage from Philippians gives the lightest and least obvious perspective on Advent.  I say, least obvious, because apart from the two references to “the day of Christ,” there’s no clear Advent character to Paul’s words.  These two references occur…

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Acoustics are so key.  How does a text sound?  Usually you need to pay attention to the context to figure that out.  But when you dive into the middle of a text like this lection, you can so easily miss or forget that wider context.  But remembering it can change the acoustics pretty significantly.  After…

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Psalm 25:1-10

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider How in the world can we preach or teach a Psalm on a Sunday when most of our listeners are already thinking about and mostly interested in getting ready for Christmas?  If they’re thinking about anything Scriptural, many Christians are thinking about Matthew and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ conception…

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