Preaching Connection: Love

Movies for Preaching

Star Wars: Episode VI–The Return of the Jedi (1983) – 2

Star Wars: Episode VI–The Return of the Jedi (1983).  Written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas.  Directed by Richard Marquand.  Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and James Earl Jones.  PG.  131 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Nobody guessed it, and I mean nobody: exactly who was the Jedi that was to return?  Princess Leia…

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Star Wars: Episode VI–The Return of the Jedi (1983) – 1

Star Wars: Episode VI–The Return of the Jedi (1983).  Written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas.  Directed by Richard Marquand.  Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and James Earl Jones.  PG.  131 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. If the self-sacrificial death and redemption of Darth Vader comes as a surprise in the last moments of…

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Three Colors: Blue (1993)

Three Colors: Blue (1993).  Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz.  Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski.  Music by Zbigniew Preisner.  Starring Juliette Binoche, Florence Pernel, and Charlotte Véry.  98 mins.  Rating: R. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Metacritic: 85%. Suddenly, she’s a widow and also childless.  Just about all the bad that can happen to someone falls upon…

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Wide Awake (1998) – 1

Wide Awake (1998).  Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Joseph Cross, Rosie O’Donnell, and Robert Loggia. Rated PG.  88 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes 67%. The question of what actual love looks like has plagued humankind since, well, the beginning, whether that be Adam and Eve left to themselves in a garden or some humanoid…

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman (2017). Directed by Patty Jenkins.  Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Robin Wright.  141 mins.  Rated PG-13.   Wonder Who? The wonder of Wonder Woman is that, indeed, the film is a wonder, the best commix-inspired flick since the original Superman all the way back in 1978, some four decades later and countless…

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The Tree of Life (2011) – 1

Written and directed by Terrence Malick. 139 mins. PG-13. Starring Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken. Hugely successful architect, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) slogs through his life in a trough of despair. Through the center of his soul runs a crevasse cut by contention with his harsh father and, even more so, lasting…

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The Color of Paradise (1999)

Written and directed by Majid Majidi. Starring Hossein Mahjoub, Mohsen Ramezani, and Salmeh Feyzi. 90 mins. Rated PG. Hashem is not an easy fellow to like. In the lush mountains of Iran, a realm of streams, birds, meadows, and storms, he sees and relishes none of it, unlike his young blind son. A widower mired…

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Reading for Preaching

Mere Christianity, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

“Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality.  The Golden Rule of the New Testament (Do as you would be done by) is a summing up of what everyone, at bottom, had always known to be right.  Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do...
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Mere Christianity, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

Christians are “in a different position from others who are trying to be good.  They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or—if they think there is not—at least they hope to win approval from good people.  But the Christian believes that any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside...
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The Four Loves

“the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.  We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching.  Thus a heavy task is laid upon our...
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The Four Loves

Need-love is natural, healthy, inevitable because from the time we are infants on we are all a bundle of need: “incomplete, preparatory, empty, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are dangling loose.”  Lewis emphasizes how foolish any of us would be who denied...
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The Four Loves

Lewis distinguishes what he calls “Gift-love” from what he calls “Need-love.”  Gift-love is the kind of love which a dying parent shows by making provision for children—a kind of provision the parent will not share or even see in action.  Need-love, by contrast, is “that which send a lonely or frightened child to its mother’s...
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Religious Affections

“The more excellent things are . . . the more manifold will the counterfeits be.  So there are perhaps no graces that have more counterfeits than love and humility, these being virtues wherein the beauty of a true Christian does especially appear.”
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Help My Unbelief

Rutledge recounts a significant interview of the great French film star Jeanne Moreau by Mike Wallace in which she completely locked Wallace up into inarticulate bafflement. Wallace tried to get Moreau to bite on his conspiratorial statement, “There’s a feeling in America that passion in a woman of a certain age is unseemly.” Long pause....
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“Abraham’s Continuing Journey” in The Collected Sermons of William Sloan Coffin: The Riverside Years, vol. 1

“Yesterday I heard of a man who took great pride in his lawn, but he found himself with a large crop of dandelions. He tried every method he knew to get rid of them; still they plagued him. Finally he wrote to the Department of Agriculture. After listing all the things he had tried, he...
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The Collected Sermons of William H. Willimon

Willimon’s father-in-law, Carl Parker, retired from the ministry for the third time in the fall of 1989, declaring that, at long last, it was time for him to retire for good and “move to the mountains of Hendersonville [S.C.] to live among the Floridians.” At his retirement service he wanted some “sweet soprano voices to...
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

A story told by Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA. An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers and, if so,...
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Damage

The main figure, reflecting on his wife’s memories of her childhood home: “I had listened to all her dreaming memories with a politeness that should have worried me. A man in love does not listen to the tales of his beloved’s childhood with such detachment. Nor does he look on the house that sheltered her...
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Of Human Bondage

The protagonist, Philip Carey, falls in love with a trivial, hopeless woman. Norah, a more sensible and faithful woman “would make him much happier than he would ever be with Mildred: [the trivial one–she actually becomes a prostitute by the end of the novel] after all she loved him, and Mildred was only grateful for...
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Of Human Bondage

Philip Carey has fallen in love. “He had thought of love as a rapture which seized one so that all the world seemed spring-like, he had looked forward to an ecstatic happiness; but this was not happiness; it was a hunger of the soul, it was a painful yearning, it was a bitter anguish, he...
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

99: Lamott makes much of “reverance as awe, as presence in and openness to the world.” You want, every so often, to “have the fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone’s soul.” (100) The goal of writing is to help others have this “sense of wonder, of seeing...
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“Pure Love,” in The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays

Ideal love isn’t just benevolence. I wish you well. It’s desire for personal relationship involving union of some kind. The lover doesn’t just want the beloved to be served; the lover wants to be the one doing the serving. He wants closeness. And a mother feels terrible if she fails to protect her child from...
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“Sermons on the Song of Songs (36:3)” in Lane, Tony, “A 12th Century Man for All Seasons The Life and Thought of Bernard of Clairvaux,”

“There are some who long to know for the sole purpose of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity; others who long to know in order to become known, and that is shameful vanity . . . There are others still who long for knowledge in order to sell its fruits for money or honors, and...
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Additional content related to Love

John 12:20-33

Comments, Questions, and Observations There are many familiar themes in this week’s passage: losing one’s life in order to gain it, following Jesus, Jesus speaking about his impending death, and the way that his salvation work expands to all the nations. At the start of Lent, we heard the Father boom down with a message…

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1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Anyone who has ever tried to cross a Lego- or toy-strewn room in the dark should have received hazardous duty pay. After all, relatively few pains match the discomfort created by stepping on a small toy. So what are such “stumbling blocks’” worst enemy? Any kind of light that leads to awareness and caution. Paul…

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Mark 1:4-11

If you were following the Gospel lectionary texts in December, then the first four verses of our text today will be familiar because they were also in the passage for the second Sunday of Advent. In my commentary for that week, one of the things I focused on was the fact that God decided that…

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Psalm 85:1-3, 8-13

This week’s Psalm selection for the Second Sunday in Advent is in some ways very similar to last week’s selection of Psalm 80.  In both psalms there are pleas for revival and restoration, for a relenting of divine anger over sin so that restoration could come to both land and people.  Insofar as Advent has…

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

In the northern hemisphere the days are becoming noticeably shorter. If the Lord tarries, where I live, for example, there will be nearly 13 minutes less daylight on this coming Sunday than there were just last Sunday. That contributes to the sense that this is a dark time of the year. That darkness, however, helps…

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Matthew 22:34-46

Comments, Questions, and Observations We are still in the temple, still dealing with the temple leaders engaging Jesus in the hopes of trapping or discrediting him. Last week we read about the Pharisees sending their disciples to question Jesus, and in-between those verses and this week’s text, the Sadducees took a round in the inquisition….

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Psalm 103: (1-7), 8-13

In past sermon commentaries here on the CEP website I have relayed the anecdote involving the author John Donne.  A friend of mine who taught English once lent an acquaintance a book of collected writings by John Donne.  When the person returned the book, my friend asked him what he thought of Donne’s work.  “He’s…

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Romans 13:8-14

Once again the RCL’s editors did preachers and our hearers no favors when they omitted some Scripture, in this case, Romans 13:1-7, from an Epistolary Lesson. After all, in severing this Sunday’s Lesson’s verse 8 from verses 1-7, they stripped away its theological and literary context. So preachers might seriously consider including Romans 13:1-7 in…

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Romans 12:9-21

It’s important to note that near this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s beginning, Paul says not, “Hate who is evil,” but, instead, “Hate what is evil” (9). That summons’ close proximity to his description of love as “sincere” suggests that sincere love includes a counter-cultural perspective on and reaction to both evil and evildoers. North American culture…

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Romans 12:1-8

The Spirit’s work doesn’t just change Jesus’ followers’ view of God. It also transforms the way God’s dearly beloved people think of our neighbor. The Spirit transforms Christians from those who seek only our own interests into people who the Spirit equips to also seek the well-being of the people around us. Quite simply, the…

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Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

The RCL had us in the heart of Psalm 145 a scant month ago for its July 9, 2023, psalm lection.  Why we are looping back to some of these same verses so soon is not clear.  In any event, I refer you to that sermon commentary and will not here repeat everything I said…

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Romans 8:26-39

Few biblical passages offer a greater wealth of preaching material than Romans 8:26-39. Several earlier commentaries on this site examined some of its most glittering treasures – in 2017, Scott Hoezee’s, and in 2020, mine. However, preachers whom the Spirit leads toward one of this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s other glorious themes might focus on verses…

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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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Romans 5:1-8

In the space of just two verses (2b, 3a) Paul twice says that Christians “rejoice” (kauchometha). Few Christians are likely surprised by the first cause of our rejoicing that the apostle identifies in this text. Many of Jesus’ friends, however, may be startled by our rejoicing’s second cause. So those who proclaim not just this…

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Acts 2:42-47

Every once in a while when surveying the sometimes messy, untidy nature of church life, someone will say to me “If only the church today could be more like the Early Church in Acts.”  My typical, semi-cheeky retort to this is usually, “Have you read The Book of Acts?  We already are like the church…

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1 Peter 1:17-23

No one has, to my knowledge, ever produced a television series or movie entitled, “Strangers.” We prefer our shows to have titles like, “Friends.” So Peter’s first letter’s repeated references to “strangers” may seem to have no place in either our longings our culture. After all, few people want to be strangers. Most of us…

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John 11:1-45

Comments, Questions, and Observations The word “love” is used only three times to describe Jesus’s feelings for the siblings, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, but it permeates the entire narrative. Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus to let him know that their shared beloved, Lazarus, is ill to the point of death. Jesus tells…

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John 3:1-17

The fact that perhaps the most well-known bible verse, John 3.16, is part of this philosophical and ontological mind-bending conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus never ceases to fascinate me. Nicodemus is a leader of his faith community and he comes to speak with Jesus in the quiet and solitude of the night. I’m not sure…

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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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Luke 15:1-10

Taking his cue from the setting given to us in verses 1-3, Justo González says these parables are less for the lost than they are for the “never lost”—those who foolishly think they have no need for the Physician of heaven. Our lectionary passage starts with the grumbling Pharisees. What are they grumbling about? Jesus…

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Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

“Just tell me what I have to do, Pastor!” I suspect that nearly all of us have heard variations on this theme. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson seems to offer help in answering such questions. That may, in fact, be a reason why proclaimers’ attention is often most quickly drawn to its ethical pronouncements. Hebrews 13…

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Psalm 103:1-8

There are some pieces of music, certain poems, some scenes in movies that are so lyric, so moving, so flat out beautiful that it doesn’t matter how often you hear it, read it, or see it: it gets you every time.  Psalm 103 is like that.  I usually balk a bit when the Lectionary slices…

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Hosea 11:1-11

When trying to teach seminary students some techniques for effective Bible reading, Hosea 11 is a chapter I often assign.  I ask students to ponder the text and to then make a recording for me of what they would deem to be an effective interpretive reading.  I am often floored by how bloodless some such…

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Galatians 5:1, 13-25

It comes up repeatedly in our conversations with our Jewish friends and acquaintances. “How can you live without God’s law to guide your life?” The observant Jews we know and love can’t imagine living without the structure Torah gives them. “Doesn’t it lead to some kind of anarchy?” is one form of the questions they…

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Psalm 16

Psalm 16 presents the words of a person whose life appears to be going swimmingly. Everything is working for this poet. These look to be the words of a winner, of a person who was born sunny-side up as a confirmed optimist. And I suspect we’ve all met people like this. I also suspect that…

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John 17:20-26

Though Jesus prayed this prayer before his crucifixion and resurrection, as part of the season of Easter this passage continues to shape our understanding of the Resurrection New Life that God invites us to live. This is especially true because Christ’s prayer is for his people across time and space—and not just the disciples who…

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John 13:31-35

God glories in every act of love. We know this already about God’s own acts, but we might forget how it applies to our acts of love as well. The opening of the lectionary passage immediately follows the reveal of Judas—who is entered by Satan—as Jesus’ betrayer (it’s Judas who is referred to as leaving…

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Luke 6:27-38

Last week, I began the argument that Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain (Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount), is an invitation to understanding one’s identity as a disciple based on connection with Jesus. In verses 17-26, Jesus talks about being blessed when we are transformed—and thereby have our life situations transformed—by this connection,…

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Corinthians 13 is among the loveliest and most lyrical chapters in all of the Scriptures. It virtually sings in praise of love. Its truths are also, through the work of the Spirit, timeless. All of that and more, however, makes it easy to forget that Paul grounds this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson in the first…

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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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John 1:(1-9) 10-18

There is overwhelming emphasis in this passage on how things “from above” are received here on earth. In the advent season, we remembered that we are actively waiting to receive the gift of the Word in full, and that God is actively at work to bring about his Kingdom on earth. In John’s prologue, it’s…

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Colossians 3:12-17

Commentators use a variety of terms to describe this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s set of ethical commands. Leonard Klein calls it a “haustafel, a table of duties for those in various estates.” Elsewhere I have called it “the Christian’s wardrobe.” Yet no matter how its proclaimers label Colossians 3’s set of invitations to Christ-likeness, there can…

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1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson speaks about waiting during an Advent season that’s largely devoted to waiting. However, it addresses the kind of waiting that runs largely counter to our culture (and at least some of the Church’s) waiting. 1 Thessalonians 3 doesn’t describe, after all, how to wait for our celebration of Christ’s first coming….

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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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Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to mitigate it have changed the way at least some Christians have met or are currently “meeting together” (25). Restrictions have forced at least some of us to meet together remotely rather than in the same building.  Restrictions have also forced some Christians to worship somewhat differently even when they…

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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 9:38-50

It seems that the deflecting from discomfort that we saw last week is continuing this week. Though it may not seem like it at a first read through, Mark has placed this set of sayings here for a reason. Instead of the usual suspect, Peter, it’s John who speaks up this time. It could be…

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James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

My friend whom I’ll call Wayne is struggling to submit to God (4:7) right now. In fact, that struggle has produced a fairly deep crisis of faith in him. Yet to Wayne’s credit, he’s honest enough to share that struggle with me as well as seek my help in becoming more submissive to God. Wayne…

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2 Samuel 7:1-14a

This is arguably the most important text in the books of Samuel, indeed, in what scholars call the Deuteronomistic history from the Pentateuch through Chronicles.  So, although I’ve written on it just 7 months ago at the height of Advent, I will attempt to offer some fresh preaching ideas for this Eighth Sunday of Ordinary…

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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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2 Samuel 1:1,17-27

This is a strange and tough text to preach on, until you look at it through the lens of our contemporary situation, particularly in America. One of the hard realities of this past year was “the presence of [our] enemies,” as David put it in his most famous Psalm. Let me put this text in…

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John 17:6-19

“You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.” That is a saying of my former colleague Ron Nydam.  And he’s right.  Worse yet, we all know that you cannot insure the happiness of your children, either.  And that truth is married to another undeniable fact and that is this: the wider world in which we…

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John 15:9-17

Every week the sermon proclaims the Gospel.  Or at least in some fashion it should.  Every week.  Every sermon. Yes, there is always a small-t preaching text (Psalm 23, John 15) on which the sermon is based.  That’s the text projected onto the screen or printed in the church bulletin.  But that text is always…

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1 John 5:1-6

My colleague Judith Jones suggests that the community to which John writes his first letter was facing a crisis. Some former members of the community were denying Jesus was actually the Messiah, God’s flesh and blood, fully human, fully divine Son. So John’s letters’ readers seemed to struggle with whom they should believe, how they…

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1 John 4:7-21

Contrary to the Beatles’ sung claims, all we “need” isn’t “love.” But the full-orbed, whole person love to which this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson summons Jesus’ followers will go a very long way to meeting all sorts of “needs.” Jesus’ friends might call John’s first letter his “love letter.” That emphasis is, in fact, a theme…

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1 John 3:16-24

“Love” is a word everyone knows and everyone understands.  Or so we think.  But if that is so, why is it that when we are called to preach on “love,” it can feel so daunting?  Maybe it’s because we use the same word for so many things.  It would not be unusual, for instance, to…

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Numbers 21:4-9

In our Lenten journey this year, the RCL has been focusing on the theme of God’s covenant—with Noah and all creation, with Abraham and his descendants, with Israel at Sinai, and next week with the world as promised through Jeremiah’s words to the Exiles.  In our reading for today, we have a vivid picture of…

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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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Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Maybe the Consultation on Common Texts that puts together the Revised Common Lectionary thinks that Advent is no time to think about God’s anger over sin.  Because by carving verses 3-7 out of this lection from Psalm 85, we once again edit the Almighty.  It’s OK to start with the first 2 verses and lyric…

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Psalm 70

In his at-times searing memoir A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis at one point reflects on Jesus’ invitation “Knock and the door will be opened unto you.”  But in his grief and in his seeking of answers as to why his wife had died of cancer, Lewis claimed that he had in fact not just knocked…

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Philippians 4:1-9

Few of us will be sad to watch the year of our Lord 2020 draw to a close at the end of December. It has been, after all, to say the least, a most stressful year. COVID-19 has wreaked almost unimaginable havoc on countless lives, jobs and institutions. North Americans are struggling with racial injustice…

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Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13

It is difficult to carve up Psalm 103, though the Lectionary does its best to try doing so anyway.  There really is no reason to not preach on the entire Psalm, and that is pretty much the direction my commentary will go as well. What impresses you most of all about this well-known and lyric…

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Matthew 18:15-20

In some segments of the Christian church, “Matthew 18” has become rather like “Miranda Rights.”  As anyone who has ever watched police dramas on TV knows, when arresting a suspect for any reason, the arresting officer is supposed to “read him his rights,” which is a set series of statements that most of us have…

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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…

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Romans 12:9-21

When my family travelled in Asia we saw nearly countless products that were imitation brands. One of our favorites was “Poma” (not Puma) athletic shoes. Those knock-offs, in fact, looked quite a bit like the real thing. But they were actually low-quality counterfeits. When he invites his readers to “love” in this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson,…

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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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1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches From the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam chronicles her travels along the 10th parallel.  In it she notes that many Muslims and Christians live and work close to each other along that parallel. Peter wouldn’t surprise either Christians or Muslims in those areas when he says, “Your enemy…

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1 Peter 2:2-10

We can almost see them – an ordinary group of early Christians, somewhere in the early Mediterranean world.  They’re likely worshipping in someone’s house.  Their teacher reads to them this morning’s text, taken from what we call Peter’s first letter. These newly baptized believers’ teacher begins by telling them that they resemble what verse 2…

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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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Jeremiah 31:7-14

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

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