Preaching Connection: Kingdom

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Movies for Preaching

Places in the Heart (1984) – 3

Places in the Heart (1984).  Written and directed by Robert Benton (Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay).  Starring Sally Field (Academy Award for Best Actress), John Malkovich, and Danny Glover.  PG, 111 min. Finally, after travail upon travail, after tragic loss, everything finally looks like all will end happily, or least alright, for they fought…

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Places in the Heart (1984) – 2

Places in the Heart (1984).  Written and directed by Robert Benton (Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay).  Starring Sally Field (Academy Award for Best Actress). John Malkovich, and Danny Glover.  PG, 111 min. She’s suddenly a widow with two suddenly fatherless young children, and it is the depths of the Great Depression in rural Texas. …

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Tender Mercies (1983) – 2

Tender Mercies (1983). Written by Horton Foote.  Directed by Bruce Beresford. Starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, and Wilfred Brimley.  92 Mins.  Rated PG. Notions of what exactly is meant by the kingdom of God have regularly shifted vastly ever since the phrase came into being.  A lot of that fuzz continues still, needless to say,…

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The Innocents (2016)

The Innocents (French title Agnus Dei). 2016. Directed by Anne Fontaine.  Written by Peter Bonitzer and Anne Fontaine.  Starring Agata Buzek, Lou de Laâge, and Vincent Macaigne.  115 Mins.  Rated PG-13. In Poland during the last days of WW II a young French physician-in-training (Lou de Laâge) finds herself in a very difficult, and wholly…

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Additional content related to Kingdom

Mark 4:26-34

Mark chapter 4 has three different parables about seeds. The first parable is the well-known story about the sower who sows his seed in four different kinds of soil (v 1-9). While with his disciples a little later on in the day, Jesus tells his disciples that the sower and the soil story is about…

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Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

By the end of Psalm 118 it is easy to see why the Lectionary would connect these words with Palm Sunday.  The imagery of a festal throng of people going up to the Temple waving tree branches exuberantly in the air makes this fit the traditional ways we picture the events of Jesus’s entrance into…

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John 12:12-16

What sets John’s account apart is perspective. Instead of following the story play out from among the disciples and Jesus’s instructions, John tells a story more focused on what the crowd is doing and saying. In fact, even though all attention is on him, Jesus doesn’t speak a word in John 12.12-16. The larger narrative…

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Ephesians 1:15-23

I am physically near-sighted. But I grew up in an era before schools did systematic vision-testing. So neither my parents nor I knew that I was near-sighted until we went to a Detroit Tigers baseball game when I was in the sixth grade. When I told my mom and dad that I couldn’t read its…

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Matthew 25:14-30

We pick up right where we left off last week, listening to Jesus teach his followers some important truths about how they are to live in light of what he will do in the future. This parable deals with the same question of how people ought to actively wait for the coming of the Lord,…

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Matthew 22:1-14

This is the third parable that Jesus tells to the temple leaders after they tried to trap him in a conversation about his authority. (Remember that Jesus had cleared the temple the previous day, and the temple leaders bandied together and confronted Jesus when he came back to the temple to teach the crowd.) The…

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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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Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The lectionary has gathered for us here the rest of the parables about the Kingdom in Matthew 13. God’s Kingdom is like a mustard seed, yeast, a treasure that can be buried, and a pearl—all small things that have the potential to lead to big changes. The Kingdom of heaven is also like a net…

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Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

There are three parables that Jesus tells to the crowds and then explains to his disciples and all of them are in this chapter of Matthew. We considered the first one last week as we read about Jesus the sower of the seed of “the word of the Kingdom.” The last one is much shorter…

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Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

This week we transition to parables, Jesus’s stories that bend and challenge our understanding with essential truths shared through images that spark our imaginations. The parable of the sower and the seed is a teaching about how—or even if—we come to understand these things of God and his Kingdom. We begin with the sower, or…

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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…

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Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

Packed into this passage is a description of not only the calling we have as Jesus’s disciples to be people who proclaim the good news through our actions, it also gives us a real-time picture of how Jesus feels for us. We don’t have nearly as many live-action emotive moments from the Christ in the…

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1 Peter 3:13-22

One of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs begins, “You may be an ambassador to England or France/ You may like to gamble, you might like to dance/ You may be the heavyweight champion of the world/ You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.” “But,” Dylan repeatedly adds, “you’re going to have…

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Genesis 12:1-4a

 “Go!” That is God’s first word to Abram.  And it sets up what will become a curious dynamic for the people of God forever after.  The people of God are a traveling people.  Wherever “home” might be for us, it is as often as not something still up ahead of us rather than something we…

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Psalm 2

Thanks to Handel’s oratorio Messiah, Psalm 2 often gets associated with Christmas as traditionally it is during Advent that many choirs/orchestras present this well-known piece of music, including the thundering and fiery solo “Thou Shalt Break Them.”  Yet here we are on Transfiguration Sunday looking at this very psalm.  And if applied to the Messiah…

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Matthew 5:1-12

According to Matthew, this isn’t Jesus’s first sermon, but it is the first one that Matthew records. Jesus is in Galilee, preaching, teaching, and healing, and drawing crowds from all over—mostly of the sick and those in need of healing. Imagine the people and their needs that Jesus has encountered—both those who he healed, and…

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Sometimes as a preacher you are pretty sure that the best idea you could have would be simply to read the passage and then sit down.  Or just read it again.  And sit down.  But for goodness sake, don’t start to let your own pedestrian reflections clog up a passage so full of wonder! That’s…

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Matthew 11:2-11

Comments, Questions and Observations We are a far cry from last week’s gospel lectionary text. Then, John was fire and brimstone, calling out the people of God, baptizing and supporting people’s repentance work. Now, months later in the gospel timeline, John is in a prison-cave cell at Herod Antipas’ Machaerus fortress—itself in the wilderness land…

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Isaiah 11:1-10

For all its lyric beauty and familiarity, Isaiah 11 is both striking and odd.  It’s striking because of the far-reaching results that we see sketched here on account of God’s sending forth a truly righteous ruler from the stump of Jesse.  It’s odd because it moves so nimbly between what you’d expect to be the…

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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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Isaiah 2:1-5

Over time many people, including most certainly many church people, have come to view Advent (and certainly Christmas) as a time when we need to do our level best to keep at bay any and all thoughts about sad things.  Hence, a death in the congregation anywhere near Christmas just feels worse somehow than how…

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Jeremiah 23:1-6

Just beyond the ending point for this particular Old Testament Year C reading is a rather striking line in Jeremiah 23:7-8.  Anyone who grew up hearing the Ten Commandments—as well as other Old Testament passages—read on a fairly regular basis in church or at the dinner table knows that one of the most famous catch-phrases…

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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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Luke 23:33-43

If you are new to the lectionary cycle, you may have found this week’s gospel passage quite jarring: the crucifixion in November? What is going on? It is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Sunday that comes at the end of the church year, our quasi-New Year’s Eve, and on it our focus is…

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Colossians 1:11-20

When the people in Colosse originally heard Paul’s letter to them, they knew about the kinds of dominions about which he talks in verse 13. After all, when things went wrong in their day, their contemporaries didn’t generally blame each other. They, instead, blamed powers that their culture understood to be “in charge.” They pointed…

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Isaiah 65:17-25

It doesn’t get any more lyric than this!  Here in the 65th chapter of the sprawling book that just is Isaiah, we find the prophet sketching one huge vision for the renewal of all things.  But like many such visions in the Old Testament—and indeed throughout the Bible—what is striking here is how utterly earthy…

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Philippians 3:17-4:1

In this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson Paul calls his Philippian audience to “join with others in following” his “example” (17). To 21st century ears, however, such an invitation sounds like nails scraping an old-fashioned chalkboard. Its apparent arrogance doesn’t just, after all, hurt our ears. Such a bold call to imitation also no longer fits into…

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Psalm 99

All these millennia later it is easy to read the Psalms, especially one like Psalm 99, and forget how at once scandalous and vaguely ridiculous they might appear to be.  Or at least how they could appear to an outsider to Israel who was looking in.  After all, in poems like this one, the psalmist…

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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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Jeremiah 31:7-14

You can’t accuse the Old Testament prophets of not being specific enough when it came to describing the blessings of God’s salvation! Sometimes believers today content themselves with generic or generalized descriptions of felicity in “heaven,” sometimes not advancing in their views of the New Creation much beyond the wispy, cloudy, ethereal realm that New…

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John 18:33-37

It is the last Sunday in the liturgical year and the lectionary marks it as Christ the King Sunday by bringing us deep into the Passion week narrative to Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. It can be a little jarring to just jump here from the teaching ministry in Mark, but a liturgical focus on Christ…

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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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Mark 12:28-34

The text’s message this week is simple. It’s the all-encompassing nature of the application that gets overwhelming. Did you know, for instance, that there are 613 commandments in the Pentateuch? Summarizing and prioritizing, as Jesus does here, was a normal practice among the rabbis and scribes of Judaism, not to mention that it’s a helpful…

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Mark 10:35-45

It turns out that Peter is not the only one of the disciples who can get in over his head in conversation with Jesus. This time it’s brothers, James and John, who think they know what they’re talking about. Though it isn’t included in our selection for today, James and John’s request comes right after…

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Mark 4:26-34

Like the message they convey, so also the two parables in this part of Mark 4 are mighty small.  This is no Parable of the Prodigal Son that takes up the better part of a whole chapter.  Jesus manages to convey something about the smallness of the kingdom via two stories that are themselves pretty…

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Mark 1:29-39

Usually we are far too casual about God’s kingdom.  “Your kingdom come, your will be done” we say each time we intone the Lord’s Prayer, but when we finish our prayer and open our eyes, we do not see any such kingdom. It is difficult for us to conceive of a kingdom that is not…

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Mark 1:14-20

If Mark were a Broadway play, then the first 13 verses are like the overture.  As we come to verse 14, the curtain is about to go up on the drama and when it does we see . . . Galilee.  We’re not in a bigger city like Jerusalem or Sepphoris or Rome.  Nope, little…

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Mark 1:4-11

Fans of Peter Jackson’s films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy will recall the opening sequence in the final film, The Return of the King.  As the movie opens, we are taken back hundreds of years from the main action of the trilogy to the time when the Hobbit-like person Smeagol finds the Ring…

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Ephesians 1:15-23

I once heard my colleague Jack Roeda compare going to church to visiting an opthamologist.  After all, worshipers have a very hard time seeing what’s really going on.  Six days a week we see much chaos. We see a global pandemic shadowing our lives, racial injustice rattling our world and political turmoil roiling our countries….

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Matthew 25:1-13

When I used to meet with an engaged couple prior to their wedding, and certainly at some point during the wedding rehearsal the evening before the big day, I always made a point to tell people, “Now don’t forget to enjoy yourselves!  It goes fast so have fun!”  Typically I remind them just to relax…

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Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Probably most of us have benefitted from mnemonic devices at some point.  We might remember the primary colors in the visible light spectrum by remembering the name Roy G. Biv (which in turns gives us Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet).  A strange one used by my junior high science teacher has nevertheless…

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Matthew 9:35-10:8

Be careful what you pray for—you might just get it!  You can see a little of the dynamic of this bit of proverbial wisdom in the pivot from Matthew 9 to Matthew 10.  At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus tells the disciples to pray that more workers would be sent out into the ripe…

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Acts 1:6-14

On this Seventh Sunday of the Easter season, it is fitting that the first reading is about the Ascension of Jesus.  There is a real sense in which Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension are two parts of one glorious act; he rose from the dead and he kept rising into heaven.  Between the two risings…

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Matthew 4:12-23

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south, travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

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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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Luke 20:27-38

“And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” That must have come as a great relief to Jesus in that he had lately been pummeled with one tricky query after the next.  Technically that line in verse 40 falls just outside the lection prescribed here, which ends in verse 38 (why it ends…

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Haggai 1:5b-2:9

For me, one of the greatest proofs of the Bible’s divine inspiration is its applicability to life in every era of history.  The prophecy given in Haggai was written in the last period of Old Testament prophetic activity, after Israel’s return from Exile, in the year 520 BC.  And yet its narrow focus on a…

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Joel 2:23-32

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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Luke 9:51-62

Fred Craddock once delivered a sermon on “The Gospel as Hyperbole.”  In this message he pointed out that the gospel is loaded with statements that are, on the face of them, ridiculous.  We’re told to remove the log-pole from our own eyes before criticizing others.  We’re told that if we have even a smidge of…

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Luke 13:31-35

Luke knew how to spin a tale!  Today he’d likely be a best-selling writer no matter what his genre: novels, biographies, essays.  Luke had style, narrative panache.  Dip into any of his stories in The Gospel that bears his name or in The Book of Acts (that he also authored) and you see this readily….

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Luke 6:17-26

Whereas Matthew gives us the famed “Sermon on the Mount,” Luke gives us much of that same material in what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain.”  It’s difficult to know whether this is the same sermon described in two different ways by two different evangelists or whether Jesus had a few sermons in…

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Luke 5:1-11

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

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Luke 4:14-21

Suspense!  If you stop at verse 21 as the Lectionary would have you to do and hold off on what happens in verses 22 and following next week, then a sermon on this text ends in some suspense as we wait to see how the people will react to what Jesus has just said and…

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Luke 1:39-45 (46-56)

We like musicals.  Back in the day Hollywood turned out a great many films in this genre, though in recent years the movie musical has been pretty well restricted to Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  A recent exception was the exceptional La La Land that somehow managed to capture the power,…

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Mark 13:1-8

Digging into the Text: We have just gone through a tumultuous election campaign in which one of the candidates banked on the theme of fear. He wanted us to see that our country is going to hell in a handbasket, and he was the one who will save us. Most of us have had enough…

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Mark 9:38-50

The challenge of this lectionary text is that it reads like a hodgepodge of Jesus’ sayings, something like the book of Proverbs with its often unconnected string of wisdom sayings. Because of its lack of apparent cohesion, it would be difficult to build a coherent sermon by moving though the entire text. So, the text…

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Mark 9:30-37

Digging Into the Text: Jesus and the disciples are “on the road again,” headed for Jerusalem.  But Jesus didn’t want anyone to know.  He didn’t want any more disturbances or interruptions because he was teaching the disciples, preparing them for what lay ahead.  Now, for the second time he tells them exactly what it is…

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Psalm 14

Psalm 14 is not my favorite Psalm; I’ve never preached on it.  And it is not a Psalm that occurs over and over in the RCL like Psalm 23.  It is easy to see why.  It is about as politically incorrect as anything in the Bible.  It’s not the sweet political incorrectness of the Gospel,…

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Isaiah 25:6-9

Easter Sunday may not seem like an ideal time to compare God’s kingdom to Isaiah 25’s lavish feast.  After all, many of those who proclaim and hear the Old Testament lesson the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday will spend at least some of Easter preparing, eating and cleaning up food. Yet nearly every culture and…

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Isaiah 64:1-9

It’s always tempting for those who preach and teacher God’s Word to talk more about prayer than actually pray.  So those who proclaim Isaiah 64 won’t just want to explore, exegete and apply it carefully this week. We’ll also want to actually spend time praying, perhaps using its structure and themes to do so. The…

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Matthew 25:1-13

When I meet with an engaged couple prior to their wedding, and certainly at some point during the wedding rehearsal the evening before the big day, I always make a point to tell people, “Now don’t forget to enjoy yourselves!  It goes fast so have fun!”  Typically I remind them just to relax and to…

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Psalm 99

Psalm 99 is the last of the Enthronement Psalms that proclaim that Yahweh reigns not only over little Israel, but also over the entire world.  It is a particularly exquisite declaration of Yahweh’s reign because of its symbolic use of numbers, notably the numbers seven and three.  The former is the number of perfection throughout…

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Psalm 149

Psalm 149 is one of the five Psalms that make up the “Hallelujah Chorus” with which the Psalter ends.  Beginning with Psalm 146 each of these Psalm begins and ends with Hallelu Yah, which means, literally, “Praise Yahweh.”  What a fine uplifting way to end this magnificent, variegated collection of Israel’s song!  Let’s just praise…

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Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

In our seminary preaching classes, we familiarize our students with Paul Scott Wilson’s little mnemonic device to ensure sermon unity: The Tiny Dog Is Now Mine or TTDINM in which each of those letters is preceded by the word “One” as in “One Text,” “One Theme,” and so on with the “I” being “One Image.”   …

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Colossians 3:1-4

No one likes being accused of “being so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good.”  Karl Marx has his own version of this (religion = narcotic) as have any number of cynics and critics of faith.  Yet there it is in Colossians 3: if you have been raised with Christ, set your minds…

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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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Matthew 5:13-20

At a restaurant in California recently I asked the waitress if their Cioppino was good.   She assured me it was.  Cioppino is a wonderful seafood stew, and the server assured me theirs contained a lot of very fresh clams, shrimp, calamari, and more.   I ordered it.    And . . . it lacked all salt.   Seemed…

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