Preaching Connection: Law

Reading for Preaching

Anatomy of a Murder

A veteran attorney speaks: “The law is the busy fireman that puts out society’s brush fires; that gives people a nonphysical method to discharge hostile feelings and settle violent differences; that substitutes orderly ritual for the rule of tooth and claw.  The very slowness of the law, its massive impersonality, its insistence on proceeding according...
Explore

Additional content related to Law

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Textual Comments, Observations and Questions: Some commentators believe that these brief excurses (v. 5-6 and 10-11) signal a later addition to the original text, which could substantiate the lectionary compiler’s choice to excise them from the reading this week.  However, getting down to just 10 commands out of all the attitudes, postures, words and actions…

Explore

Psalm 119:33-40

The Lectionary now and again plunks down into some seemingly random segment in the sprawling Hebrew acrostic that just is Psalm 119.  This week’s Year A lection lands us in the fifth section in which every Hebrew word in the first line of these 8 verses begins with the Hebrew letter ה or He, the…

Explore

Psalm 119:129-136

A Bible reader could plunk down most anywhere in the Bible’s longest psalm and read pretty much the same kind of thing.  For this week the Lectionary has chosen the 17th of Psalm 119’s 22 sections.  Maybe as a nod toward the sheer length of this ode to God’s Law, each section corresponds to a…

Explore

Exodus 24:12-18

No one in Exodus 24 gets transfigured in this Old Testament Transfiguration Sunday Lectionary text, but it’s exceedingly easy to see why this text is featured for this particular Sunday.  The whole thing is all about mountains and glory and the shining effulgence of God, and if that does not remind you at least a…

Explore

Psalm 119:1-8

In the world of secular music, I would guess you would be hard pressed to find many songs with titles like “I Just Love Rules!”  In fact the website Ranker provided their top list of songs with the word “law” in the title but songs of the variety “I’m Lovin’ the Law” don’t seem to…

Explore

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

One could wish that this Lectionary passage began a few verses earlier because there is delicious imagery starting in verse 11 where Moses says (in essence) to the people of Israel, “Hey, folks, this stuff God is saying to you through me about life in the Promised Land ain’t rocket science.  You don’t have to…

Explore

Matthew 5:13-20

When the water in the Dead Sea evaporates, it leaves behind both salt and a mineral that looks a like salt, gypsum. Obviously, gypsum doesn’t have any of the qualities of salt (like saltiness) and it has different uses than salt. But as the saying implies, if it walks like a duck, it isn’t odd…

Explore

Psalm 111

In a recent sermon commentary on another psalm, I observed that although the poetry of the Psalms and the wisdom literature of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes are distinct in terms of biblical literary genre, there is a lot of crossover between the Books of Psalms and Proverbs.  Psalm 111 is another example of this with its…

Explore

Luke 13:10-17

“Don’t go getting any ideas.” That’s the leader’s message to the multitude of people who have gathered on the Sabbath day and were just given a spark of hope. That’s the leader’s response to Jesus’ miraculous healing of a woman’s horrible suffering. Not here, not today, not for any of the rest of you. Imagine…

Explore

Luke 10:25-37

Boundaries and rules can be good for us. Take the ten commandments: they help us put boundaries on our own actions for the sake of others as well as ourselves. In fact, all of God’s laws ought to be understood as helping to frame a picture of how we can live in order to discover…

Explore

Galatians 3:23-29

Occasionally the Revised Common Lectionary’s choice of where to begin and end a Lesson isn’t just puzzling. It’s also downright bewildering. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson is a case in point. After all, the chasm between verses’ 23-25 and 26-29 may seem to be a kind of grand canyon that has no bridge that crosses it….

Explore

John 5:1-9

The Lectionary gives us a choice on texts this week. I’m choosing to work with the healing on the Sabbath that occurred at the pool of Bethesda. By the way, if you’re looking to preach on the other lectionary text option this week, my colleague Scott wrote on it the last time through the Year…

Explore

Philippians 3:4b-13

Good gospel preaching, like faithful Christian living, always leans forward rather than backwards. While some Christians long for “the good old days,” this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson expresses the Apostle Paul’s longing for the good coming days. Of course, Philippians 3 says quite a bit about that on what Paul can look back. But the apostle…

Explore

Psalm 19

Almost 120 years ago an unknown patent clerk named Albert Einstein published a series of papers detailing what he called “special relativity.” At one fell swoop, Einstein shattered centuries’ worth of scientific theories about the fundamental nature of reality. The theories of Isaac Newton and his mechanical understanding of the universe’s functioning were swept away,…

Explore

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. …

Explore

Psalm 93

As I have noted before here on CEP, at Calvin Seminary we use Paul Scott Wilson’s “Four Pages of the Sermon” method as the grammar and structure of sermons.  A key part of that is locating what Wilson calls “Trouble in the Text.”  What is the tension, the crisis, the question, the issue at hand…

Explore

Psalm 119:1-8

In the world of secular music, I would guess you would be hard pressed to find many songs with titles like “I Just Love Rules!”  In fact the website Ranker provided their top list of songs with the word “law” in the title but songs of the variety “I’m Lovin’ the Law” don’t seem to…

Explore

Psalm 19:7-14

Admittedly Psalm 19 all-but begs to get split into two parts.  That does not mean, however, that the Lectionary was correct to cave into doing just that.  Whoever wrote this poem saw unity in it even if the rest of us ever since have had to work a bit to connect the first 6 verses…

Explore

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The lectionary’s selection of verses for this week could be seen as a helpful streamlining to the main idea or as a heavy-handed push to that main idea… Many lectionary commentaries choose to treat the passage as whole, so take time to consider whether hearing all 23 verses will benefit your congregation in understanding the…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 92:1-4,12-15

What’s in verses 5-11?  This lection from Psalm 92 is one of many RCL texts that clearly skips a certain section of a passage, forcing the curious Bible student to wonder why a chunk gets leapfrogged over.  Psalm 92 is hardly too long for a single reading or sermon.  Yet the Lectionary deletes almost exactly…

Explore

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…

Explore

Exodus 20:1-17

On this Third Sunday of Lent, the RCL continues its focus on the theme of covenant.  Though our immediate text does not mention covenant, it is very clear from the context (Exodus 19-24) that the Ten Commandments are part of a covenant making ceremony between the God who liberated his people and those liberated people. …

Explore

Psalm 19

Since I began teaching preaching about 15 years ago, one of the things I find myself most often urging students to do is pay good attention to their transitions.  Segues, metonymy, giving listeners little verbal hooks inside the sermon to help folks track the sermon’s forward progress: all of these things are vital to good…

Explore

Psalm 119:33-40

The PBS show Sesame Street traditionally included as part of their educational efforts the opening line for each episode, “Today’s program is brought to you by the letter B . . .”  Or it was by the letter R or E or G or whatever.  That letter would then get woven throughout the episode in…

Explore

Romans 13:8-14

I’ve always assumed the best work gets done under the pressure of a looming deadline. So I seldom felt the urgency of getting to work on school projects until very shortly before they were due. While I was attending seminary, for example, I waited until the last moment to write a major exegetical paper. I…

Explore

Psalm 119:129-136

Perhaps this would feel striking at any moment.  But during this COVID-19 time and all that we have experienced in recent months, parts of this snippet of the longest psalm feel particularly odd.  We have been living in largely unprecedented circumstances for most of 2020 and certainly since early March.  Governors and mayors in particular…

Explore

Matthew 4:1-11

Many of us have seen the bumper sticker, “Lead Me Not into Temptation: I Can Find It By Myself.”  Cheeky humor aside, we know that God never actively leads us to sin and probably does not actively lead us to temptation (though this need not rule out God’s ability to test our faith).  God is…

Explore

Psalm 147:12-20

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

Explore

Philippians 3:4b-14

“Are you becoming perfect?” is the provocative question with which Carole Noren begins a fine sermon (Pulpit Resource, October, November, December, 2002, p. 5) on the Epistolary Lesson the RCL appoints for this Sunday.  It is an appropriate question.  After all, Jesus, in Matthew 5:48, calls us to “Be perfect . . . as your…

Explore

Mark 12:28-34

Digging into the Text: The first thing I noticed about this text is that this is that while all the other encounters Jesus has with the Scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, are adversarial, this one is positive. This particular Scribe had been listening to Jesus discuss theology with the Jewish leaders, and he was…

Explore

Exodus 20:1-17

If we were to poll North Americans about what God is like, most of those who believe in God might say God is nice or forgiving.  If we were to poll them about what God looks like, many would answer God looks like a loving grandparent or kind uncle or aunt. How can we know…

Explore

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

After the heavy duty apocalyptic warnings and the stern commands of II Peter 3:8-15a, our reading for this third Sunday of Advent feels a bit lightweight, like a snow flurry of commands that don’t really fit the Advent season, except that our reading ends with Paul’s final reference in this letter to “the Parousia of…

Explore

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Comments and Observations When preaching on Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments, there are multiple directions to go in a sermon.    It’s a bit challenging to preach on all of the commandments at once, though a way can be found to do that, of course.   But for this sermon commentary, I have chosen to ponder…

Explore

Psalm 19

One scholar of the Psalter calls Psalm 19 “the problem child Psalm.”  He calls it that because it doesn’t fit any of the established genres of the Psalter.  Only Psalms 1 and 119 are like Psalm 19.  Further, some scholars are pretty sure that Psalm 19 was originally two Psalms, a nature hymn (verses 1-6)…

Explore

Exodus 17:1-7

As my colleague Scott Hoezee noted in an earlier Sermon Commentary on this text, a piece to which I’m deeply indebted for several of this piece’s ideas, at first glance this may seem like just another story of Israelite bellyaching to Moses about dragging them out of Egypt.  It seems to reveal nothing new about…

Explore

Romans 13:8-14

“Nothing good happens after midnight” the old bromide says, and you sense it’s a sentiment with which the Apostle Paul would agree.  As Paul continues in what is sometimes called the “application section” of Romans, he addresses yet again the question of how we now need to behave and live given our having become all…

Explore

Psalm 119:129-136

Given a choice, what busy preacher would preach on this reading from Psalm 119?  I mean, it is stanza #17 in an endlessly long, apparently meandering, often boring meditation on a subject that most of your listeners won’t care about at all, namely, the importance and beauty of God’s law. Some brands of Christianity don’t…

Explore

Romans 8:1-11

When a passage is as landmark a one as Romans 8, it is no surprise to see it pop up in the Revised Common Lectionary more than once.  About half of this Ordinary Time lection was covered during Lent not long ago.  In that sermon reflection I focused on what it means to live “in…

Explore

Romans 7:15-25a

Very few, if any, Christians in history have ever claimed that by virtue of being a Christian, they had become sinless.  Very few, if any, have ever gone through the “Confession and Assurance” portion of the weekly liturgy merely twiddling their thumbs in that they believed that part of the service did not apply seeing…

Explore

Psalm 95

The readings from the Psalms for this season of Lent are carefully and well chosen.  We began our Lenten journey with Psalm 32, which sets the penitential tone of Lent while still calling us to rejoice in forgiveness.  Psalm 121 gives Lenten pilgrims the deep assurance that Yahweh is watching over us as we make…

Explore

Exodus 17:1-7

At first glance, Exodus 17 may seem like just another story of Israelite bellyaching about leaving Egypt.  It appears to reveal nothing new about Israel or her journey toward the land of promise’s freedom. As you might expect of people traveling through a wilderness that has no fast food restaurants or rest areas, our text’s…

Explore

Exodus 24:12-18

Perhaps few preachers and teachers will tackle Exodus 24 as a stand-alone passage, even on Transfiguration Sunday.  That’s, however, at least somewhat regrettable.  The Spirit has, after all, embedded at least a few gems into this passage. Exodus 24 functions as a kind of “swing chapter,” in the words of Old Testament scholar, Terrence Fretheim. …

Explore

Psalm 119:33-40

Psalm 119 asserts again and again (almost ad infinitum) that the Law of God is the source of joy and delight, because it gives life and light.  But that’s not how the Law feels to most of us most of the time.  And, as we saw last week, that’s not how Paul talks about the…

Explore

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

If you can’t remember the last sermon or lesson that you preached, taught or heard on a text from the book of Leviticus, you’re not alone.  Even most of the preachers and teachers I know who are committed to communicating the Scriptures’ full truth seem reluctant to talk about Leviticus.  By appointing just one text…

Explore

Matthew 5:21-37

Say the word “radical” to the average person and the name of “Jesus” will likely not be the first thing that springs to anyone’s mind.   If you think about “radical acts,” the Sermon on the Mount is unlikely to come to mind, either.   Radicals throw Molotov cocktails at police and stage sit-ins and carry placards…

Explore

Psalm 119:1-8

Whenever I read Psalm 119, alarm bells go off in my head.  For one thing, it feels like a literary monstrosity, 176 verses of boring, repetitious monotony.  The great Old Testament scholar Artur Weiser wrote that Psalm 119 is “a particularly artificial product of religious poetry.  The formal external character of the Psalm stifles its…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 1

In the liturgical calendar, we’re still in Ordinary Time, but this time is anything but ordinary for the students in our congregations. It’s back to school time. After a summer of letting the brain relax, it is time to fire up those synapses again and learn, learn, learn. That makes Psalm 1 the perfect Psalm…

Explore

Galatians 3:23-29

Once Paul turned the corner on what he thought about God’s Law, he turned hard and never looked back. Indeed, Paul devotes some considerable space to this topic in his various New Testament epistles, coming up with ever-more creative ways by which to reframe the role and purpose of God’s Law. The end of Galatians…

Explore

Philippians 3:4b-14

When the cross of Christ was on the line, Paul’s language was blunt, direct, raw. As Paul begins what we call Philippians 3, it quickly becomes apparent that like so many of the congregations in the early church, so also the congregation in Philippi had come into contact with a group of Jewish teachers who…

Explore

Exodus 15:22-27

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Three days is a long time to go without finding water, especially if you have little ones under four. Nursing mothers are beginning to get desperate. When water is sighted, the kids run to it, laughing, whooping, but just a taste leaves them gagging, spluttering, wiping their tongues on…

Explore

Psalm 19

This is the kind of psalm that almost begs to be sung, even if it’s just a solo in the shower or car. After all, C.S. Lewis once called Psalm 19 “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” So it’s no wonder that lyricists have set a…

Explore

Acts 15:1-21

I’m going to start with the obvious observation that talking about circumcision is not simply an abstract theological conversation. The core of the discussion might be theological principles that are rooted in the biblical story, but the consequences of it are painfully practical. In the case of people new to the faith, being informed that…

Explore

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Comments and Observations It must have been a long, hot, tense six months.  The book of Nehemiah tells the story of the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.   Nehemiah secures permission to return to his home land in order to rebuild the walls.  But not everyone is pleased by…

Explore

Exodus 20:1-17

Growing up I heard the “Reading of the Law” every single Sunday morning in church.  In our Calvinist stripe of the Reformed tradition, this recitation of the Ten Commandments served the dual purpose of at once convicting us of our sin but also of laying out the rule of gratitude for how we should live…

Explore

John 1:(1-9), 10-18

Comments and Observations Most people will have to go back to work the day following this Second Sunday after Christmas.  It will be Monday, January 4, 2010, and the holidays will be officially over for most of us.   The kids enjoyed their two-week break but on Monday, it’s time to roll out of bed on-time,…

Explore