Preaching Connection: Joy

Movies for Preaching

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).  Written and directed by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Frank Capra.  Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, and Henry Travers.  130 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. It’s a film that supposedly everybody knows, and loves, hauled out each Christmas ad infintum in ever-so-boring bleached out copies.  It’s an…

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Babette’s Feast (1987) – 2

Babette’s Feast (1987).  Written by Karen Blixen (short story) and Gabriel Axel (screenplay).  Directed by Gabriel Axel.  Starring Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Bergitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, and Jean-Philippe Lafont.  Music: Per Nørgaard.  Cinematography: Henning Kristiansen.  Rated G; 102 mins. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (1987) is a remarkable film of many pleasures, and…

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Fargo (1996) – 2

Fargo, Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi.   98 minutes, Rated R. The bulk of the Coen brothers’ film Fargo is fraught with the tawdry and the evil.  A car salesman’s scheme by which to swindle his father-in-law out of $1 million goes about…

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Reading for Preaching

Anatomy of a Murder

“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck by the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.”
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Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim

K. Chesterton used to ponder the problem of pleasure. “He found materialism too thin to account for the sense of wonder and delight that sometimes marks the world, a sense that gives an almost magical dimension to such simple human acts as sex, and childbirth, and artistic creation. Not everyone will accept the Christian philosophy...
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“How Shall We Then Laugh?” in his Literature and Theology as Amiable Companions

“Just what it is that prompts laughter has engaged some of the best minds in history.  It is a phenomenon which Christopher Fry calls ‘the surest touch of genius in creation.’ From Aristotle and Plato down to the present, the fact that man is the only creature that laughs has evoked great interest and voluminous...
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Mere Christianity, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

“God created beings which had free will.  That means creatures who can go either wrong or right.  Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong.  I cannot.  If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad.  And free will...
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“Hope is More Than Happiness”

Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist is mostly a sad tale of an innocent and earnest boy struggling with the evil forces that beset him—life in a workhouse, hunger, desolation, abuse by an evil genius, “the Jew” Fagin.  But Dickens needed to sell his books, and he knew the route to his readers’ satisfaction, namely, the...
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“Jogging” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

“Jogging is supposed to be good for the heart, the lungs, the muscles, and physical well-being generally.  It is also said to produce a kind of euphoria known as joggers’ high.  The look of anguish and despair that contorts the faces of most of the people you see huffing and puffing away at the side...
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The Seven Perennial Sins and Their Offspring

“It has been said that one of humanity’s greatest boons is to be able to eat when we’re not hungry and to drink when we’re not thirsty.  This is due to our ability to reflect on the pleasures of the palate and our eagerness to prolong them.  According to tradition, the ancient Greek hedonist Philoxenus...
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The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script

In the film The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) locks himself in the Warden’s office, and plays a recording of a duet from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro over the PA system.  The whole prison stops to listen.  Andy’s friend Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding reflects on what happened: “I have no idea...
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Against Heresies, 5.33.3 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1

“The days will come in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will...
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Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet

Fosdick’s definition of success was intelligent and much quoted. “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave to world a bit...
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“The Pleasures of Reading”

Reading is “a serious act.” Sensual, too. Reading (as opposed to being read to) allows you to go exactly at the pace you want. (540): “I have never met a good writer who wasn’t also a penetrating reader; and every good writer, with varying degrees of consciousness and subtlety, is also a plagiarist.” (542): Justice...
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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Freud claimed that people on cocaine, enjoying the well-being and euphoria it produces, are normal. “They have what in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person.” How about this? Are all the rest of us depressed by sin, anxiety, dull inattention? Will the new heaven and earth be like a cocaine...
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A Separate Peace

Gene Forrester (age 16) speaks: “It was hard to remember when one summer day after another broke with a cool effulgence over us, and there was a breath of widening life in the morning air–something hard to describe–an oxygen intoxicant, a shining northern paganism, some odor, some feeling so hopelessly promising that I would fall...
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The Sacred Journey

Buechner came alive through George Buttrick’s preaching in New York: “It was not just his eloquence that kept me coming back, though he was wonderfully eloquent, literate, imaginative, never letting you guess what he was going to come out with next, but twitching with surprises up there in the pulpit, his spectacles a-glitter in the...
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“On Fairy-Stories” in The Tolkien Reader

“[The fairy tale] does not deny the existence of . . . sorrow and failure; the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of the deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat . . . , giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls...
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Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

“You pull the shade on the snow falling, white on white, and the child comes to life for a moment. There is a fragrance in the air, a certain passage of a song, an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book, the sound of somebody’s voice in the hall that makes your...
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Where the Red Fern Grows: The Story of Two Dogs and a Boy

“When I left my office that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me. To begin with, everything was too perfect for anything unusual to happen. It was one of those days when a man feels good, feels like speaking to his neighbor, is glad to live in a country...
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Additional content related to Joy

Zephaniah 3:14-20

I used to watch a TV show that was quite compelling and enjoyable but it did have one feature to it that I did not much like: in some episodes the show’s characters would find themselves sunk very deep down into dreadfully complex circumstances.  The episode would devote something like 92% of the time to…

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Isaiah 12:2-6

More than we realize, the Bible is a trove of images, similes, metaphors, and visual depictions.  Throughout Scripture God describes himself through a battery of metaphors that inevitably lead you to form a picture in your mind’s eye.  Many of the images are, on the face of them, contradictory, until you realize that even to…

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Malachi 3:1-4

Have you ever read a classic book you’d never before read only to run across a line you knew by heart?  “Oh,” you might say, “I didn’t know this is where that saying came from!”  For instance, John Donne’s works are peppered with lines that have assumed a life of their own.  People who don’t…

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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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Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider At least partly because I struggled to relate it to life in the 20th and 21st centuries, I didn’t preach a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews for the first 20 years of my ministry. Since the book had always seemed to me to be so impractical,…

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2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

There is no question what this text is about—the ark of the covenant.  It is mentioned over and over, nine times in all.  So is David; his name comes up even more.  David brings the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.  That’s what this text is about.  But, so what?  Why was that so important…

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul certainly had lofty ideals for the Christian Church. At the beginning of his first letter to Thessalonica’s Christians, he describes the Church as a community loved and chosen by God. That community, the apostle adds, draws its life from God and lives that life with faith, love and hope. When Paul concludes this letter…

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Isaiah 40:1-11

Advent began last week with a lament filled with longing for the coming of God (Isaiah 64).  On this Second Sunday of Advent, the mood changes dramatically with the Good News that God is coming soon. That shift of mood parallels the radical shift between Isaiah 39 and Isaiah 40.  Even the most casual reader…

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

So, Christmas is finally over, I mean really over.  The visitors have all gone home, the tree has been put back in the box, the decorations are down in the basement, and the gifts, well, the gifts have been celebrated, enjoyed, used, broken, returned, or forgotten. But the Lectionary says, “Not so fast. Let’s keep…

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Luke 19:1-10

Maybe it was that sycamore tree that did it. Maybe even before Jesus wandered by, Zacchaeus looked at where he was and wondered how it had come to this.  What was it that had quite literally chased him clean up a tree?  His nice Armani tunic had a chlorophyll stain or two on it from…

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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…

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Psalm 126

For a Lenten selection, this psalm is pretty sunny-side up and cheerful.  Maybe as Lent is coming to a close, we are supposed to see in this poem the promise of restoration beyond the cross toward which we are journeying this season.  This is, after all, one of the “Songs of Ascent” in the Book…

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Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Go ahead, try to be creative.  Mess with this story if you must.  Others have.  Texts that are super-familiar to many people always tempt one to do something different.  “Goodness, people have heard this story SOOOO many times” we think. Thus when it comes to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, folks have tried to…

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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…

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Like all good preachers, Moses knew how important it is to end your sermon with a story.  After multiple chapters of “do this and don’t do that,” Moses is coming to the climactic end of his sermon to Israel.  They are at the last stop in their wilderness wandering, standing at the brink of the…

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Psalm 91:1-2, 14-16

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 Starter will encompass the whole psalm).  Talk of a “fowler’s snare” sounds suspiciously like the kind of traps…

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Nehemiah 8:1-10

This passage will deeply move every preacher who reads it, either to joy or to sorrow, to gratitude or to envy.  I mean, what happens here is a preacher’s dream.  The whole congregation– men, women (not typical in a Temple service), and children old enough to understand what was going on—spontaneously gathered for worship.  They…

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Hebrews 10:5-10

What on earth is this whole Christmas business about?  Why is it worth all the effort so many people put into celebrating it?  To answer that, not just the Church but also the world needs to know just why Jesus came to be not only born in Bethlehem, but also to grow up to live,…

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