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 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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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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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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Romans 15:4-13

I didn’t have much money when I was in college.  So I tried to drive as far on a tank of gas as I could.  As a result, I ran out of gas in the middle of the night twice … in the space of less than a month.  Each time I called my relatively…

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Romans 13:11-14

While few people have labeled procrastination a “deadly sin,” our text at least suggests that one form of it may be the deadliest sin of all.  That’s a sobering assertion for someone like me who is naturally one of the worst procrastinators that I know. At least some of us are tempted to procrastinate in…

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2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

I think that a really helpful way to frame a sermon on the lectionary text for today, including if you choose to cover the verses that the lection skips over, is our covenant relationship with God. A covenant is an agreement between two parties where each makes promises about how they will be to and…

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John 14:23-29

Jesus kept saying it, kept repeating it that night: Let not your hearts be troubled. But it’s difficult to imagine a more troubling context in which to try to say such a thing!  Jesus kept talking about peace, but all hell was about to break loose on Jesus and on his band of followers.  In…

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Psalm 23

Presidential funerals always draw a huge television audience.  We saw that recently with the funeral services for George H.W. Bush.  We have seen it for Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon.  But when you watch such services, you need not have the funeral program in your hands to guess that probably at some point…

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Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Call it the little Psalm that could.  Call it the Psalm of stealth and surprise.  Call it the Psalm that fits the Gospel bill. Why?  Because out of all the 150 psalms in the Hebrew Psalter, many people have their favorites but those favorites—most anybody’s “Top 10 Greatest Hits of the Psalter” list—would likely not…

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1 Corinthians 15:19-26

Some biblical texts deal with rather ordinary things such stealing, eating and even caring for animals.  Other texts, however, open readers’ eyes to far bigger issues.  While Paul talks much about daily concerns early in his first letter to the Corinthians, he closes it by talking about bigger concerns.  As Daniel J. Price to whose…

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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 6:27-38

If you are a preacher who likes to highlight the fact that Jesus was always friendliest toward the very same “sinners” that were shunned by the religious authorities of his day, then it can be a little disconcerting to hear Jesus in this passage use the word “sinners” in what sounds like a pejorative way. …

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

In the more than twenty years that I’ve ministered with and to the church I currently serve, I’ve never preached on 1 Corinthians 13.  Now I remember why.  Not only is it so lovely that it nearly defies description.  It’s also like a figurative lit stick of dynamite.  So I take comfort in the assertion…

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Colossians 3:12-17

Some people who proclaim Colossians 3 this week are old enough to remember a kind of worship battle that largely preceded today’s battles over music.  Some of those battles were fought over appropriate clothing for wearing to worship. During the 1960’s and 70’s my dad always wore a suit and tie and my mom wore…

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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 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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Colossians 3:12-17

The Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a good day to find a guest preacher to fill in for you. I mean, after all the hoopla of the holidays, people are exhausted and after exploring the depths and heights of the Incarnation. So is the preacher. What do you say on this first…

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Mark 9:38-50

Comments and Observations: Unity is important in preaching and teaching.  We drill that message into our seminary students in preaching class.  We often refer to the mnemonic device devised by Paul Scott Wilson that can be remembered by the phrase “The Tiny Dog Is Now Mine.”  The first letter of each word in that phrase…

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