Preaching Connection: Lent

Additional content related to Lent

Philippians 2:5-11

Comments, Observations, and Questions This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson points its proclaimers to the horrible degradation and subsequent exaltation of Christ Jesus. So God the Son is always the primary subject of any proclamation of Philippians 2:5-11. Its proclaimers can find a wealth of good help proclaiming Christ Jesus in this site’s various commentaries. But those…

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Luke 19:28-40

Comments, Questions, and Observations “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” These words are shouted by a “multitude of disciples” as Jesus rides on a donkey into Jerusalem (v 37). The people are compelled to shout these praises because of all…

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Four Pages: Jesus the Lonely Victor

Though the crowds that surround Jesus have shrunk since Palm Sunday, at our text’s beginning his friends still surround him. At its end, however, those friends are nowhere to be found. Jesus’ persistence in the face of their desertion says something about both them and him. After the sun sets on the last full day…

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John 12:1-8

Comments, Questions, and Observations Jesus is anointed around the time of Holy Week in each of the gospels, but the details of each account are markedly different. Here in the Gospel of John, it occurs earlier in the timeline, before Jesus enters Jerusalem for Passover. In fact, John’s telling of the event is directly connected…

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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…

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Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Comments, Questions, and Observations Like Easter and Christmas, you sometimes wonder what else is left to say about such well-known stories like the Prodigal Son. But given the liturgical posture of Lent, and thinking about last week’s passage of warning, we are given a natural link to build between the elder brother and the parable…

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2 Corinthians 5:16-21

There are Sundays when nearly all of us feel like the Spirit inspired the Scriptures’ authors to address the day’s headlines. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson is one of those times. As I write this Commentary, Russia continues to escalate its assault on Ukraine and its people. Its troops recently bombed a maternity and children’ hospital,…

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1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Comments, Observations, and Questions Gospel proclaimers who don’t have a strong working knowledge of the Scriptures’ original languages benefit from access to a good Greek and Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible. After all, English translations of the Scriptures sometimes obscure important points that the Holy Spirit makes through their original languages. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson provides (at…

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Luke 13:1-9

Comments, Questions, and Observations Why did the bad thing happen? Did they deserve it? This is how the text starts. And just to get it out of the way, Jesus doesn’t answer the why question. When it comes to theodicy, Scripture rarely, if ever, does. Instead, God’s wisdom is to turn our hearts and eyes…

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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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Luke 13:31-35

Jesus is a man on a mission. He is in the region of the Galilee, not yet in Jerusalem for the events of holy week, and we continue our lenten journey by following him towards his suffering death. We don’t really know the motives of the Pharisees as they warn Jesus to get out of…

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Luke 4:1-13

Comments, Questions and Observations Couched between our text for this Sunday and the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3.21-22) is Jesus’ genealogy. The words immediately before Jesus entering the wilderness are, “the son of Adam, the son of God.” (3.38) Thus, not only can we read Jesus’ forty days of trials in the wilderness alongside the…

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

This passage is at once lyric and heartbreaking.  It’s lyric for all the reasons I will detail below in terms of how handily these verses get at some very core spiritual truths regarding our lives within God’s creation.  It’s heartbreaking because you sense that things never quite worked out this way once the people of…

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Romans 10:8b-13

Comments, Observations, and Questions Some Christians at least imply that grace is what we might call a “Yesbut” phenomenon. “Yes,” they say, “We’re saved by grace alone through faith. But people also need to oppose gay marriage or voting restrictions in order to be truly saved.” Or “Yes, people who confess that Jesus is Lord…

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Good Friday: Explaining (Without Explaining Away)

They should have seen it coming. That’s what a number of people said about the U.S. Intelligence community following the horror of September 11. The CIA, the FBI, our spies in other countries: no one saw the attack coming, but not a few critics think they should have. When something big happens, we want explanations,…

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Palm Sunday: A Flash in the Dark

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is like a flashbulb going off in a dark room.  Most of us know what that’s like.  You are sitting in the middle of a very dark room when suddenly, maybe as a prank, somebody pushes the test button on a camera’s flash.  Just before the flash, the room is so…

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Lent 4: Everything I Have

He had a point, you know.  The older brother: he had a point.  And if you don’t believe that, then maybe it will help to admit that it’s a point you and I have made in the past and it’s a point we are liable to make again in the future, too.  I’m not saying…

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Lent 2: Christ the Hen

When I was a kid in the early 1970s, Saturday night meant watching my favorite TV show, Emergency!  I loved that show about two brave paramedics from Squad 51 of the Los Angeles Fire Department.  When Johnny and Roy were in danger, my pulse raced.  Thanks to my father, who was a real-life volunteer fireman…

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Philippians 3:4b-14

“Are you becoming perfect?” is the perhaps strange way Carole Noren, to whom I owe many ideas for this Commentary, begins a sermon on Philippians 3.  It is, however, also an appropriate question, in light of the amount of attention the New Testament pays to the issue of perfection. While Christians may sense that the…

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Exodus 17:1-7

Israel is wandering in territory that is all too familiar to us—in the great wilderness of In Between, between release from bondage and possession of the Promised Land.  As the New Interpreters Bible puts it, this passage is “a paradigm for the crisis of faith that occurs between bondage and well-being.” Thus it is relevant…

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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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John 11:1-45

Sample Sermon: “Just about Everywhere” : In one of her short stories the writer Annie Dillard has a scene in which a family is sadly gathered at a grave to commit a loved one’s body to the earth. At one point the minister intones the familiar words from I Corinthians 15, “Where, O Death, is…

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

At first glance, this famous vision of the valley of dry bones seems more like an Easter text than a Lenten text.  I mean, if the text left us with a valley full of dry bones, it might fit the somber mood of the last week of Lent.  But it doesn’t, because the bleached-out bones…

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Ephesians 5:8-14

Few Lectionary texts begin more mysteriously than this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson.  “You were once darkness,” Paul reminds Ephesus’s Christians, “but now you are light in the Lord” (8). The apostle seems to assert that God’s adopted sons and daughters don’t just naturally live in spiritual darkness.  We naturally are spiritual darkness.  God doesn’t just summon…

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John 9:1-41

Sample Sermon: Now I See: It was probably the big goofy grin on his face that kept some folks from recognizing him.  Oh, they’d seen him for years.  But rarely had they seen him at eye level.  Instead they’d long ago grown accustomed to seeing this hapless man sitting, legs akimbo, on the ground near…

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

In our first reading for this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are introduced to the most famous king of Israel, David son of Jesse.  It’s a favorite passage for many Bible students because of the parade of likely candidates from Jesse’s family, each of whom is rejected, and then the entrance of the least likely…

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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

While the kind of peace about which Paul writes in this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson may seem hard to define, it may be even harder to achieve.  Perhaps, however, that’s at least partly because we sometimes start to work for peace in the wrong places. We sometimes first think of the lack of peace in places…

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John 4:5-42

Across the centuries people always gather where beverages are available.  Even today we sometimes call a restaurant or lounge our favorite “watering hole” because it’s the place where we go after work to unwind with our friends over a glass of wine or something.  In fact, even the phrase “scuttlebutt” has similar origins from the…

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Psalm 95

Growing up in a tradition that had once upon a time been founded on Psalm singing only in church, I sang lots of psalms in my boyhood church even long, long after my Reformed tradition had added also hymns to our standard Psalter Hymnal songbook.  Even as a young boy, though, I was struck by…

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Romans 4:1-5,13-17

When I was a teenager, we liked to sing a song that also had motions.  With arms and legs flailing, we’d sing something like: “Father Abraham/ Had many sons;/ Many sons had Father Abraham;/ And I am one of them,/ And so are you,/ So let’s all praise the Lord.” Now once you got past…

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John 3:1-17

In John 3 Jesus does something quite unexpected: he reaches back to Numbers 21 from the Old Testament and evokes the image of that bronze serpent Moses lifted over the people as a cure for snakebites.  The Israelites had to look at an image of the very thing that was afflicting them, and somehow doing…

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Genesis 12:1-4a

The early chapters of Genesis show us the steady downhill slide of humanity beginning with the Fall in Eden, with some terrifying secondary falls along the way—Cain and Abel, the increasing depravity of humans resulting in the massive cleansing of the Flood, the building of Babel resulting in the scattering and confusion of the nations….

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Psalm 121

For the second week in a row the Year A RCL has assigned a psalm that was also the Year C Psalm lection just a few months ago.  So with modest modifications, here is a bit of a rerun on my recent thoughts on preaching this well-known—and very lovely—Hebrew poem. When I was a little…

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Romans 5:12-19

It’s always humbling for my wife and me to have a problem with our computer or cell phones.  After all, we, on whom our sons depended for so many years, must now largely depend on them to help us.  I’ll never be as technologically savvy as our thirty-something sons. Fleming Rutledge, who lent me some…

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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…

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Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

And so our Lenten journey begins.  The text chosen by the RCL for this First Sunday of Lent remind us that the journey to salvation began at a tree where salvation became necessary and ended at a tree where salvation was accomplished.  Genesis 3 shows us the disastrous human choice that brought death in all…

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Psalm 32

It was only a few short months ago that the Year C Lectionary assigned most of Psalm 32 as the Psalm Lection.  Now here it is again assigned in its entirety for the First Sunday in Lent in the Year A Lectionary.  Since I don’t have any new thoughts on this psalm since last Fall—and…

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John 12:1-8

In Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of the characters keeps saying over and over to the character of Big Daddy that you can just smell “the mendacity in the air.”  This was a play with many layers of deception and lying and it became so very nearly palpable to some…

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Isaiah 43:16-21

All four of the Lectionary readings for this Fifth Sunday of Lent share a “past and future” theme.  Psalm 126 talks about the restoration of Israel’s fortune in the past and calls on God to restore Israel’s fortunes in the future, so that those who “sow in tears can reap with shouts of joy.”  In…

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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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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…

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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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Joshua 5:9-12

Why in the world would you preach on this text, when the Lectionary offers you the options of Jesus’ dramatic Parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15) and Paul’s magnificent doctrine of new creation in Christ (II Corinthians 5:15-21).  I mean, this text from Joshua seem so small and insignificant.  Plus, preaching on it will make…

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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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2 Corinthians 5:16-21

“From now on,” Paul insists to the Corinthians in this Sunday’s RCL Epistolary Lesson, “we regard no one from a worldly point of view (16)”.  Yet whenever I hear him say that, I want to ask, “Really?!  Do we really no longer view people from a worldly point of view? After all, how quick aren’t…

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Luke 13:1-9

Someday I’d like it explained to me why the Lectionary would assign the final verses of a chapter for the week prior to looking at its first 9 verses.  Nobody reads the Bible backwards like that so it’s not the least bit clear to me why preaching it this way makes any sense, either.  In…

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Isaiah 55:1-9

An old farmer once told me that there are two ways to break an egg—you can smash it with a hammer in a second or you can put it under a warm mother hen for a few days.  An old preacher once told me that there two ways to call a sinner to repentance and…

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Psalm 63:1-8

When a psalm is as relatively brief as Psalm 63 and yet you notice that the Lectionary would have you stop reading—and presumably stop preaching—three verses shy of the actual conclusion of the poem, one might be justified in wondering what’s up.  What is in those last few verses?  Why the full stop before this…

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1 Corinthians 10:1-13

It’s likely that nearly all of us have heard Christians say something like, “God never gives us more than we can handle.”  Because the people who say this generally have a lot to “handle,” I’m reluctant to confront them on it.  But I’m always tempted to ask them, “Where exactly does God make that promise?”…

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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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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

This is one of the great seminal passages of Scripture, on a par with Genesis 1, Psalm 23, and John 3:16 in importance for both Jews and Christians.  But what a mixture it is, filled with peculiar ancient inheritance customs (adopting a slave to become your heir), divine promises that still shape international politics today…

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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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Philippians 3:17-4:1

We generally think of citizenship as, for instance, American, Canadian or whichever geographic country we call “home”.  That citizenship not only identifies us but also shapes at least some of our attitudes and behavior. The Epistolary Lesson the RCL appoints for this Sunday, however, is not about national, but heavenly citizenship.  That citizenship too, writes…

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Luke 4:1-13

“He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them, he was hungry.”  Luke 4:2 I’ll say. This curious line in verse 2 is easy to glide past en route to the real drama to come once the devil shows up to woo Jesus to his side.  At best we see this as…

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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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Romans 10:8b-13

This may seem like a rather peculiar text to proclaim at the beginning of the season of Lent.  After all, we generally think of Lent as a season of repentant preparation for our celebration of the two most important events of the Christian year, Good Friday and Easter. Romans 10, however, may seem like a…

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Symposium 2019: The God of Joy in the Midst of our Troubles

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Symposium 2018: Jesus Appears to Thomas

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Symposium 2018: Dusty Faith

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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…

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John 12:1-8

In Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of the characters keeps saying over and over to the character of Big Daddy that you can just smell “the mendacity in the air.” This was a play with many layers of deception and lying and it became so very nearly palpable to some…

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1 Corinthians 10:1-13

If in a sermon for seminary any of my students did to the Old Testament what Paul does in 1 Corinthians 10, I would probably tell the student to start over or fail. Paul seems to be playing a bit fast and loose, a bit midrash and allegory where some key stories from Ancient Israel…

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Luke 13:1-9

Someday I’d like it explained to me why the Lectionary would assign the final verses of a chapter for the week prior to looking at its first 9 verses.   Nobody reads the Bible backwards like that so it’s not the least bit clear to me why preaching it this way makes any sense, either.  In…

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Philippians 3:17-4:1

Was the church better off when it was persecuted or when it wielded significant political power and influence? It’s one of history’s bigger questions. Over the course of the first three or so centuries of the Christian church’s existence, a number of Roman emperors persecuted the church. One emperor, however, believed in the church, even…

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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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Romans 10:8b-13

Romans 9-11 can make for tough reading. Paul is clearly tortured here where the question of the future of the Jewish people is concerned. In these three chapters it is almost as though Paul is thinking out loud, trying to write his way to a solution to a vexing theological question: now that God’s covenant…

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Luke 4:1-13

“He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them, he was hungry.” Luke 4:2 I’ll say. This curious line in verse 2 is easy to glide past en route to the real drama to come once the devil shows up to woo Jesus to his side. At best we see this as…

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