Preaching Connection: Hope

Additional content related to Hope

Psalm 4

Psalm 4 isn’t necessarily the cheeriest Hebrew poem to consider during the otherwise joyful season of Eastertide.  Though it ends on an up-beat note, it is also a plea, a lament, a rebuke, and a challenge.  But maybe we need to encounter such realities in the midst of this Eastertide season just as much as…

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Acts 3:12-19

They didn’t know what they were doing or — more importantly — who they were doing it to when they handed Jesus over to be killed, disowning him before Pilate and asking for Barrabbas to be released instead. After a gut-punching litany of accusation like that, there’s a small grace, at least, in Peter’s willingness…

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Isaiah 25:6-9

I wonder if there are many preachers who will choose to take the Old Testament Lection as their primary text on Easter Sunday morning? It seems to me that the greater gift and opportunity presented by this text is the way that it sings harmony on the song of resurrection.  So I will offer my…

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Mark 13:24-37

Advent comes in with an apocalyptic bang! This series of verses has come to be known as Mark’s “Little Apocalypse,” a snapshot of the turning point that ends this world and begins the new. I must confess that I can easily get lost in the devastating or destructive depictions in apocalyptic literature to the point…

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Isaiah 64:1-9

What are you waiting for? At the beginning of Advent, we turn our hearts toward the practices of waiting and anticipation. Though I suppose a lot depends on what it is you are waiting for: for out of town guests to arrive, best get busy preparing extra linens and stocking up on meals.  Waiting for…

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

In the northern hemisphere the days are becoming noticeably shorter. If the Lord tarries, where I live, for example, there will be nearly 13 minutes less daylight on this coming Sunday than there were just last Sunday. That contributes to the sense that this is a dark time of the year. That darkness, however, helps…

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Psalm 43

Most scholars seem pretty certain that Psalms 42 and 43 were either originally just one psalm or that they are such tight companion psalms that you are not really supposed to read either of them in isolation from the other.   But here we are being asked to look at only Psalm 43.  A glance back…

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Preamble: Although this text comes to us through the ordinary three-year lectionary cycle, it also lands with particularly distressing and uncomfortable timing. As war rages over the lands once promised to Moses, I urge pastors to tread lightly, as I have attempted to do here. First, we acknowledge that the modern nation-state of Israel is…

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Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Last week we looked at the exceedingly fraught and difficult story of the binding (and near sacrifice) of Isaac in Genesis 22.  We noted how maddeningly spare that narrative is.  The story cries out—nearly screams out—for more details.  Instead we get a crisp, bare-bones narrative that dispatches with the whole terrible story in a short…

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Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

The Revised Common Lectionary is usually a straightforward affair when it comes to selected texts.  But with semi-regularity you get a text chopped up the way Psalm 69 is divided in this lection.  First we jump onto the already moving train only at verse 7, then we grab 4 verses, put 5 more in parentheses…

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Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

Recently I made a multi-course gourmet dinner for my parents on the occasion of their 64th wedding anniversary.  The first step was figuring out a menu and then making a plan to secure the ingredients.  I ordered some venison online and picked up other ingredients in at least three other stores for this and that. …

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Genesis 12:1-9

Go! Have you ever been struck by the fact that this is God’s very first word to Abram?  Go.  Leave.  Hit the road.  Have you ever been struck by how unattractive this must have sounded to Abram at his advanced age?  Why would he want to go anywhere?  He had his home.  He had established…

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Romans 4:13-25

This week’s Epistolary Lesson draws those who follow it back to the theme of, among other things, hope. It does so, however, not long after we contemplated it in an earlier commentary. While that may seem repetitive, any “reading” of 21st century culture suggests that hope remains in short supply. In fact, one might argue…

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Psalm 66:8-20

For reasons unknown the RCL has us skip the first 7 verses of Psalm 66.  Mostly they are lovely sentiments of praise and thanksgiving.  But as we pick up the action in verse 8, we see a curious conjunction of things.  On the one hand there is one of those global statements you often find…

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Acts 2:42-47

Every once in a while when surveying the sometimes messy, untidy nature of church life, someone will say to me “If only the church today could be more like the Early Church in Acts.”  My typical, semi-cheeky retort to this is usually, “Have you read The Book of Acts?  We already are like the church…

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Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Across these past few highly unsettled and unsettling years around the world, Psalm 116 has provided thoughts that are at once inspirational and aspirational.  It is inspirational in its witness to God’s faithfulness in hearing our cries of distress from places of disorientation and even death.  It is aspirational in that—as in all times of…

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Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Garry Wills once wrote a fine book titled, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America.  Wills claims that in the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln—in the span of a scant 272 words that took him all of three minutes to deliver—forever altered our understanding of the Declaration of Independence.  Lincoln was not even the main…

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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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Psalm 31:9-16

Psalm 31:11 says “I am an object of dread to my neighbors; those who see me on the street flee from me.”  I suppose we all have our days when we feel like this but mostly we chalk it up to paranoia.  “I am just imagining that everyone I meet is averting their eyes.”  “It’s…

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Sample sermon:  It is a sad statement on the last 100 years that we can rather easily imagine the scene Ezekiel describes in his famous 37th chapter. Whether or not the people in Ezekiel’s original audience had ever seen such a valley full of bones, we have. We’ve seen the mass graves of Auschwitz and…

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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.”   When last this came up for the Lectionary Year A Fifth Sunday in Lent in 2020, the initial COVID lockdown was in its second week.  Some…

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Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is hands-down the most famous of the 150 psalms in the Psalter.  In terms of recognizability, Psalm 23 is probably right up there with popular ditties like “Roses are red, violets are blue,” with Shakespearean sonnets like “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” and well-known song lyrics like “Happy birthday to…

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Romans 5:1-11

Hope seems to be in far shorter supply than despair in the 21st century. In fact, were someone to post a list of endangered “virtue species,” hope might join Christian unity near or at the top of the list. In fact, divisions among Christians sometimes drains some of some of God’s dearly beloved people’s hope….

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Isaiah 9:2-7

The first and last titles that we read in Isaiah 9:6 remind us that in God’s Messiah, we find someone who embodies both wisdom and strength.  And as with John’s description of the Word of God being full of both grace and truth, so also with wisdom and strength: we all know people who have…

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Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

It’s not often that a true prophet of God ends up having prophetic egg on his face, but just that had recently happened to Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah 28 a prophetic wannabe named Hananiah delivered what he declared was a true revelation from God.  Hananiah made wonderfully sunny promises about Israel’s being released from captivity very,…

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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 32:1-3a, 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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Keeping Hope Alive

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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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Psalm 147:12-20

As we lurch into 2022 after another difficult year globally, we realize with a sense of startlement that we are technically now entering Year 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A couple years ago not a few of us hoped the worst of it would not last 3 weeks.  Even 3 months seemed hard to fathom. …

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John 1:(1-9) 10-18

There is overwhelming emphasis in this passage on how things “from above” are received here on earth. In the advent season, we remembered that we are actively waiting to receive the gift of the Word in full, and that God is actively at work to bring about his Kingdom on earth. In John’s prologue, it’s…

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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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Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

There is not much Esther in the Revised Common Lectionary, and few pastors have ever complained or requested more.  The Lectionary likewise does little with Song of Songs or Jude, and if you follow only the Lectionary, you would be unlikely to generate a long series of sermons on Nahum or Revelation, either. And it’s…

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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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Romans 8:12-17

It should be no mystery why the Lectionary chose this passage as a Trinity Sunday text.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all nicely on display in these half-dozen verses.  Of course, if you also chose the Romans 8 Lectionary text option for Pentecost last week, then you realize that for some reason the Lectionary…

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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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Jeremiah 31:31-34

This remarkably sunny text may seem a peculiar choice for the dark journey of Lent, unless we see it in the light of theme of covenant on which the RCL has been focusing during this Lenten season. We began with God’s covenant with Noah and all of nature, the covenant on which all life on…

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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…

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Psalm 62:5-12

Just why the Lectionary begins this short psalm in verse 5 is something of a mystery.  First of all, the first verse sounds the leitmotif of this brief poem.  Secondly, if you don’t see the context of WHY the psalmist needs to find his rest in God alone—because the psalmist is being attacked and ridiculed…

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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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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

It started out as words of comfort.  Paul’s intention was to soothe anxieties, tamp down sorrows, answer some hard questions that the Thessalonians were asking.  That’s how it started.  Over time, though, these words in 1 Thessalonians 4—coupled with some further talk on similar themes in the next chapter—have become a source of unending speculation,…

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Matthew 16:21-28

“In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.”  That is a hymn lyric that many Christians know. But the notion of the cross towering over various temporal “wrecks” gained new poignancy when we saw on the news—and for those of us who went to Lower Manhattan in the months after…

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Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

We can approach this text from two very different angles.  The first comes from renowned Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann.  He suggests that this story might have taken its final form during the reign of Solomon, a time of royal splendor in Israel, when everything was going well for God’s people. There was peace internationally,…

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Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

The Lectionary presents some mysteries for those of us who follow it closely.  In this case we are getting a couple carved-out sections of Psalm 145 a scant four weeks after we had a carved-out section of this exact same poem as the Psalm reading for July 5 (and parts of the August 2 reading…

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Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

In between Jesus’ telling of this famous parable and his own point-by-point explanation of the parable’s meaning and symbolism there comes an eight-verse section that the Lectionary would have us skip but that contains some of the most intriguing material in this part of Matthew 13.  Mainly what Jesus says there is that the seemingly…

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Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-13

For every psalm that stands out in some way or that is well-known for some reason, there are probably three or four psalms that are not very familiar and that frankly kind of all blend into one another.  Most Jews and Christians know Psalms 23 and 100 well.  Psalm 46 is a regular go-to poem…

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Psalm 145:8-14

The Lectionary has carved out just seven verses from the middle of Psalm 145 but in truth, the whole Psalm sounds the same notes.  Coming as this poem does near the very end of the Hebrew Psalter, we are definitely in the final exultation of singular praise with which this collection concludes.  The Psalms have…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Most of what makes Psalm 89 such an interesting poem cannot be seen if you restrict yourself to just the 8 verses the Lectionary has carved out of the psalm’s full 52 verses.  Because this poem that begins in such an upbeat tone and with such a full-throated desire to sing praise to God for…

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Psalm 66:8-20

What is this COVID-19 season for us?  A source of lament?  A time of testing?  Ten years from now, how will we look back on this time?  As one of the worst seasons of our lives that we are so amazingly glad is well behind us, or as a time for which we manage to…

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1 Peter 1:3-9

When my wife and I drew up our first will after our oldest son was born, we didn’t have many material assets.  So our will mostly addressed who would care for our children if we predeceased them. We later revised our will to include instructions about who will inherit what when we die.  Yet, candidly,…

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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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