Preaching Connection: Justice

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Reading for Preaching

“The Subjection of Women”

“Some will object that it’s not fair to compare the government of the male sex with the other forms of unjust power that I have discussed, because it is natural while the others are arbitrary and brought about by mere usurpation. But was there ever any domination that didn’t appear natural to those who possessed...
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Additional content related to Justice

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Rejoicing in Salvation For those churches that celebrate a strict Advent fast from Christmas hymns, this Sunday lands with all the pent-up energy of the season.  Church musicians stuff this service full of all the carols that wouldn’t fit on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning worship.  There are plenty of “Joy to the Worlds” and…

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Luke 1:46b-55

The Year B Lectionary makes Mary’s song, “The Magnificat,” an alternative Psalm lection for both the Third and Fourth Sundays in Advent.   For Advent 4B the main Psalm lection is from Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26.  This commentary will be on Luke 1 and Mary’s song but if you want to read a prior Advent sermon commentary…

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Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus’s questions, on the lips of the vineyard owner, hit like bricks: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” That second question’s literal translation is, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” Though the “evil eye” image is unfamiliar…

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Exodus 1:8-2:10

Comments, Questions and Observations: On Pharaoh Over time, we’ll see Pharaoh’s heart become hardened, which means that, at some point and in some way, his heart was tender and open. How does a person like that come to the conclusion that having infants murdered and people enslaved and oppressed is a good idea? That seems…

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Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Patterns of preference and favoritism and jealousy replay themselves with uncomfortable regularity through the history of God’s people. Abraham’s son Ishmael is nearly written out of the story by Sarah’s jealousy.  Isaac and Rebekah are #TeamEsau and #TeamJacob accordingly. Jacob shames Leah and honors Rachel.  No doubt the ten sons of Leah have noticed Jacob’s…

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Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

In a classic scene of the old TV sitcom M*A*S*H Hawkeye Pierce decides to play a trick on his nettlesome bunkmate Frank Burns.  Lately Frank had been bragging about how his stock market portfolio had been getting richer.  But it is clear—to the consternation of the more pacifist Pierce—that the reason is that Burns is…

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Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

Over the years of writing articles and a few books, I’ve learned a lot about grammar from my editors and from a former professor turned friend who knows more about English grammar than anyone I can think of.  Thanks to folks like this I’ve finally figured out (most of the time!) the “that/which” distinction and…

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Micah 6:1-8

For some years I co-taught a Bible course on the prophets with one of my colleagues from the Old Testament division at Calvin Seminary.  My main task in that course was to talk about how to preach from the Prophets and then to grade a sermon the students write on a passage from Micah.  Somewhat…

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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…

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Psalm 96

Perhaps it counts as something of an irony that the Lectionary calls on us to reflect on Psalm 96 on Christmas Day.  After all, if ever there were a day in the church year when we do not want to do what Psalm 96:1 says—namely, sing to the Lord a new song—this day is it! …

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Comments, Observations, and Questions A week 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…

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Isaiah 7:10-16

Comments, Observations, and Questions As an inspired apostle and evangelist, Matthew may make any biblical connection he wishes and no one else can call him or question him on it.  He can unearth any nugget he wants from anywhere across the Hebrew Scriptures and if, having dug it out, Matthew then claims this verse was…

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Luke 1:46b-55

The Year A Lectionary presents two options on this week’s Psalm.  One option is what I will reflect on here from Luke 1.  The other is a portion of Psalm 146.  I am not writing on that psalm as this entire psalm was the Lectionary psalm just a couple of months ago.  If you wish…

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Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

At 98 years of age, Jimmy Carter is now not only the oldest currently living former President of the United States but he has now lived to become the oldest former President ever.  Strikingly, he has also been a former President for over 40 years.  During those four decades of time, Carter’s reputation has soared…

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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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Luke 18:1-8

The “unjust judge” is the key comparison in this parable: it is the judge from whom we are meant learn something about God. This is made clear by the fact that this is a parable of comparison. If this judge, who is at the other end of the spectrum of what we know God’s character…

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Psalm 82

What are we to make of Psalm 82?  Who are the “gods” that get referred to multiple times?  If you as an orthodox believer are convinced there really are no other gods beyond the God and Father of Jesus Christ, then these references to other gods may be a bit unsettling.  But as I read…

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Isaiah 5:1-7

As commentators note, Isaiah 5 begins with what looks like some light-hearted romantic ballad. A kind of troubadour opens this chapter by saying, “Listen up! I’m going to sing you a ballad about my beloved one–a song about the vineyard of our love!” It looks like a love song but quickly changes into a lament….

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Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

To get the full impact of Isaiah 1:10-20, you need to back up to verse 9 (left out regrettably by the Lectionary) in which the people of Israel say to themselves (in the wake of great desolation in their land) that with at least a few folks still living, they were not quite as bad…

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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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Amos 8:1-12

The Old Testament is downright chock-full of God’s overweening concern for that traditional triplet of the widows, the orphans, and the resident aliens within Israel.  Each group was vulnerable in the ancient Near East. By tradition, Israel was a male-dominated society.  Family and inheritance were key factors in a person’s having a stable place in…

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Genesis 45:3-11, 15

Easter in the Western Church can come as early as the third Sunday in March and as late as the last Sunday in April.  Falling as it does on April 17 this year, Easter’s late date means an extra-long season after Epiphany and that in turns means getting to some RCL texts we don’t see…

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Psalm 36:5-10

One of my Christmas gifts to my wife was a cookbook on making bread written by Paul Hollywood, one of the judges on the much-loved Great British Baking Show.  When I put a picture of the book’s cover on Facebook along with a picture of my wife’s first and fantastic looking loaf, a couple people…

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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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Psalm 85:8-13

To be honest, Psalm 85 is a little all over the place.  The first four verses reflect a time when God forgave Israel for some transgressions and restored them.  But then the next set of verses seems to indicate Israel went backwards, sinned again, and so found itself under the wrath of God again.  And…

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1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

As we continue to trace the development of the monarchy in Israel and use that history to reflect on the relationship between human leadership and divine sovereignty in our own lives, we come to this famous story of David and Goliath.  It is the second chapter in the story of David’s rise to power in…

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John 10:11-18

Those of you who are familiar with art may recall a funny habit that many Medieval painters practiced for quite a long time in Europe, and particularly in Germany.  Artists such as Lukas Cranach and others painted many depictions of biblical scenes but they did so with the curious twist of dressing the biblical characters…

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Matthew 25:31-46

Why don’t we pay more attention to life as we live it?  Why do we miss so much?  In Matthew 25 both groups, sheep and goats alike, say they didn’t realize that the poor of the world represented Jesus. Both missed that connection. Ever noticed that before?  The righteous are not commended for spying Jesus…

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

At last we have arrived at the end of our journey through Ordinary Time.  We have walked with ancient Israel through the geography and history of the Near East—from paganism in Haran and now back to pagan Babylon, with long stays in Egypt and the Promised Land in between, a long march through a trackless…

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Genesis 29:15-28

If I am Esau, sitting back home in Beersheba, the injustice of my situation is infuriating.  I’ve been deceived and robbed.  My life has been forever changed by the slippery ways of my little brother.  My birthright is gone; so is my blessing.  I’m left here with my blind old father and a mother who…

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

If this were a typical year, an ordinary summer season, probably not too many preachers would gravitate to the somewhat plaintive, somewhat brooding 69th Psalm.  In the Year A Lectionary for this particular year, this also falls on Father’s Day for those who observe this.  It’s getting to be summer, vacation season, a time for…

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1 Peter 2:19-25

Many members of the American civil rights movement embraced Peter’s commendation of Christians who put up with unjust suffering’s pain.  In fact, that movement produced a treasure trove of photos of people bearing up under such misery.  One could fill books with pictures of people kneeling in non-violent resistance to beatings and submitting to attacks…

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Micah 6:1-8

In the midst of the glory of Epiphany we encounter this sobering and bracing text about God’s lawsuit against his sinful people.  How is this an Epiphany text?  The only connection I could find lies in that little word “showed” in verse 8.  After the whole court proceeding laid out in verses 1-7, God reveals…

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Isaiah 42:1-9

On this First Sunday after Epiphany, the world-wide church celebrates the baptism of Jesus because that event was the first manifestation of the glory of God in the adult ministry of Jesus.  To help us see the magnificence of Christ’s glory, the Lectionary selects Isaiah 42 for its Old Testament reading.  It is a fine…

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Luke 1:46b-55

The Year A Lectionary presents two options on this week’s Psalm.  One option is what I will reflect on here from Luke 1.  The other is a portion of Psalm 146.  I am not writing on that as this entire psalm was the Lectionary psalm just a couple of months ago.  If you wish to…

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Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Jimmy Carter is now not only the oldest currently living former President of the United States but he has now lived to become the oldest former President ever.  Strikingly, he has also been a former President for nearly 39 years.  During those almost four decades of time, Carter’s reputation has soared but, of course, he…

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Isaiah 11:1-10

From the First Sunday of Advent to the Second, the imagery changes, but the message doesn’t.  We move from mountains and military in Isaiah 2 to plants and animals and a little child in Isaiah 11.  But both texts promise a day when there will be justice and peace on earth.  Isaiah 2 was less…

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Isaiah 2:1-5

What a text for this first Sunday in Advent! What a text for this moment in history!  This promise of universal peace arouses hope in our war torn world.  Or it sounds like an impossible dream.  As I write this, President Trump has just removed all US troops from northern Syria and Turkish forces have…

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Psalm 122

Psalm 122 is one of fifteen psalms extending from Psalms 120-134, each of which is labeled “A Song of Ascents.”  The sense of that title is that these were pilgrimage songs sung by Israelites as they ascended up to Jerusalem.  Not surprisingly, therefore, the terms “Jerusalem,” “Zion,” and “house of Yahweh” occur with great density…

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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 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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Psalm 82

What are we to make of Psalm 82?  Who are the “gods” that get referred to multiple times?  If you as an orthodox believer are convinced there really are no other gods beyond the God and Father of Jesus Christ, then these references to other gods may be a bit unsettling.  But as I read…

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Acts 9:36-43

Reading Dr. Luke’s account of the growth of the early church is a bit like watching a frog hop from lily pad to lily pad—from Jerusalem to the Gaza Strip to Samaria to Damascus to Joppa, from Peter and John to Philip to Stephen to Paul and now back to Peter.  OK, maybe the image…

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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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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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Psalm 146

Digging Into the Text: Psalm 146 marks the beginning of the last “Book” in the Psalms, four psalms that close the Psalter with a rising chorus of praise. Each one begins and ends with the word Hallellu Jah, “Praise the Lord [Jahweh].” Since the Psalms constantly admonish us to praise the Lord, it may seem…

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Psalm 26

Digging into the Text: I am writing this piece a day after the gut-wrenching spectacle of the Kavanaugh hearing. If you ever wondered about the context and meaning of Psalm 26, just think of it on the lips of either one of the witnesses who testified before the Judiciary Committee. Think of Blasey Ford’s hesitant,…

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Job 1:1, 2:1-10

After a month of looking at Wisdom literature from a woman’s point of view, we will now spend a month in the decidedly masculine book of Job which wrestles with the question that has confounded the wisest women and men in the world.  Why should a righteous person suffer in a world ruled by a…

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Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

Proverbs 22 is full of famous proverbs on subjects as varied as child-rearing, sexual relations with prostitutes, laziness, the value of wisdom and knowledge, choosing friends and companions, sucking up to the rich and the powerful, abusing alcohol, and money.  It is perhaps the best-known chapter in this book. At first, it seemed a little…

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

If you are searching for things to include under the heading “The Oddities of Scripture,” you likely could do no better than perusing the various chapters of Ezekiel.  The book opens with a vision so strange that not a few people in the last century concluded that Ezekiel witnessed a UFO replete with extraterrestrials.   (Back…

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Matthew 25:31-46

Why don’t we pay more attention to life as we live it?    Why do we miss so much?   In Matthew 25 both groups, sheep and goats alike, say they didn’t realize that the poor of the world represented Jesus. Both missed that connection. Ever noticed that before?  The righteous are not commended for spying Jesus…

Explore

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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1 Peter 2:19-25

If even once you have seen the photo, you know you’ll never forget it. Not so long ago in this country, it was both legal and commonplace to post signs in public places designed to cordon off some people from others. And so a drinking fountain in a hallway might be labeled “Whites Only.” A…

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Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

God expects our lifestyle to reflect our worship.  That is to say, God’s not pleased when God’s children act one way on Sunday, but quite a different way during the rest of the week. Isaiah 58 oozes frustration.  Clearly Israel is frustrated.  After all, she assumes that she takes God very seriously.  Israel claims to…

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Micah 6:1-8

What do you give to the person who already has everything?  It’s not just a question for Christmas, birthday or other gift giving.  It’s also, in some ways at the heart of the Old Testament lesson the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday: What do you give to the One who already owns everything? Micah 6:4-5…

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Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

I have given invocations at many events over the years—civic dinners with important speakers, the dedication of public and private buildings, the launching of significant social justice initiatives, even the inauguration of a local judge.  But I’ve never given the invocation at the swearing in of a President.  That is essentially what we have in…

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Isaiah 11:1-10

Some people claim the theologian Karl Barth said that modern Christians should always have an open Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other.  It’s advice that remains as good today as when Barth first offered it.  So those who preach and teach this Sunday’s Old Testament text the Lectionary appoints might…

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Psalm 122

When I began to study Psalm 122, I thought it was one of those homiletically barren texts from which any smart preacher should run as fast as she can.  It seemed utterly unfit for this first Sunday of Advent.  However, having plowed it now for some time, I’m not so sure my first impressions were…

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Psalm 17:1-9

There are a number of ways to read this Psalm.  Clearly, it is a prayer, but what kind of prayer?  A cursory reading might dismiss Psalm 17 as the proud prayer of a self-righteous person, an Old Testament version of the Pharisee’s prayer in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:11,12).  One wag said that the Pharisee had…

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Psalm 146

The book of Psalms ends as life should, with a flurry of ever-increasing praise to the God who has given us life and breathe and all things. Psalm 146 is the first of five Psalms that begin and end with the familiar Hebrew words hallelu yah, “Praise Yahweh.” But in between the summons to praise…

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Psalm 82

Psalm 82 is a most unusual Psalm for at least two reasons. First, it is not a Psalm of praise or thanksgiving or penitence or confession or lament or imprecation or coronation. Unlike most Psalms, it is not addressed to God in any of those ways, except in the very last verse. Rather, it is…

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Isaiah 5:1-7

Isaiah 5 begins with what looks like a light-hearted romantic ballad. A kind of troubadour opens this chapter by saying, “Listen up! I’m going to sing you a ballad about my beloved one–a song about the vineyard of our love!” It reminds me of the Paul McCartney song that claims the world will never have…

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Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

As this is being written, grim news fills our media. Terrorist attacks. Police shootings. Ambushes of police officers. Civil wars and attempted coups. They remind us that while the text the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday may be nearly 3,000 years old, both its context and the sins it describes are nearly as contemporary as…

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Psalm 49:1-12

The opportunity to preach on Psalm 49 comes at a particularly appropriate time in American history. The whole issue of income inequality has troubled our society for quite a while now, but it has become a hot button topic in the campaign for President. One of the candidates is a non-political figure who claimed very…

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Luke 10:25-37

If you are a baseball fan, you remember that bizarre play in Game 5 of last October’s playoffs between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers. The game was tied 2-2 in the 7th inning and Texas had a man on third base. The Toronto pitcher had just thrown a pitch to the Texas…

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Psalm 5:1-8

For the second week in a row, I’m going to write on the alternate reading from the Psalter, since I covered Psalm 32 just a few months ago as part of Lent. In a sense, Psalm 5 and Psalm 32 are about the same thing—egregious evil—though Psalm 32 focuses on the evil we commit ourselves,…

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Revelation 21:1-6

Among the best experiences I’ve ever had in life was snorkeling over coral reefs off the Caribbean island of Bonaire. My wife and I visited the island several times and each time continued to add to our “life list” of different types of fish and other sea creatures we had seen. Rainbow Parrotfish, Blue Tangs,…

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Numbers 14

Where does one begin with this story? Do you focus on how an entire people betray their faithfulness Saviour? Do you try to skip over how angry God is about their betrayal? Do you draw upon Moses’ request for Yahweh to forgive as the spot of hope in an otherwise very sad story? For that…

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