Preaching Connection: Prayer

Additional content related to Prayer

Psalm 4

Psalm 4 isn’t necessarily the cheeriest Hebrew poem to consider during the otherwise joyful season of Eastertide.  Though it ends on an up-beat note, it is also a plea, a lament, a rebuke, and a challenge.  But maybe we need to encounter such realities in the midst of this Eastertide season just as much as…

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Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Psalm 107:2 invites people to tell their stories.  Ironically no sooner does that begin to happen in this poem and the Lectionary has us stop reading to jump over a lot of the stories that get told!  Truth is, Psalm 107 is semi-repetitive but it is structured that way to make a point about the…

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Psalm 25:1-10

If the Lectionary decided for whatever the reason to not recommend all of Psalm 25, they could have at least extended this to verse 11.  Since this is the reading for the First Sunday in Lent, you’d think the one verse of this psalm that is a straight up confession of sin would make the…

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Mark 1:29-39

SO MUCH IS HAPPENING HERE! Welcome to the Gospel of Mark. Last week felt like it was quite the scene, but look what the rest of the day brought! Jesus and the disciples leave the synagogue and go to Peter (still being called Simon) and Andrew’s house, where Jesus performs a private healing of Peter’s…

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Psalm 111

You have to like the fact that a psalm that claims God has worked to make sure his deeds are remembered is itself written as an acrostic in the original Hebrew precisely as an aid to memorizing the psalm!  Beginning each of the 22 lines of this poem with successive letters in the Hebrew alphabet…

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Psalm 62:5-12

As usual when we encounter this phenomenon in the Revised Common Lectionary, it is unclear why this lection sheers off the first 4 verses.  Certainly one can preach on Psalm 62 starting with verse 5 and the psalm is not particularly diminished.  But why not let a sermon on this encompass the whole thing? In…

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Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

It may be somewhat understandable that the Lectionary would have us stop short of this psalm’s sudden shift in tone starting in verse 19.  A poem that had been 100% a lyric reflection on the abiding presence of God somehow briefly morphs into a full-throated imprecation against the wicked.  This seems to come up like…

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Psalm 70

At Calvin Seminary for the past two academic years we have been holding a once-weekly Public Reading of Scripture where we gather for 30 minutes to read aloud a couple chapters each of an Old Testament passage, a Gospel passage, and a Psalm.  Not long ago Psalm 70 was read by a student and you…

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Psalm 43

Most scholars seem pretty certain that Psalms 42 and 43 were either originally just one psalm or that they are such tight companion psalms that you are not really supposed to read either of them in isolation from the other.   But here we are being asked to look at only Psalm 43.  A glance back…

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Psalm 80:7-15

Carving out only the middle section of Psalm 80 (as the Lectionary does) has several drawbacks, not least that if you only read those 9 verses, you miss the framing refrain of this poem as it occurs word-for-word in verses 3, 7, and 19: Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us,…

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Psalm 25:1-9

Psalm 25 has its share of ups and downs.  On the one hand there are some very sunny promises here.  The opening of the psalm assures us that those who trust in the Lord will never be put to shame.  Were we to peer at the dozen verses that round out Psalm 25 beyond the…

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Psalm 26:1-8

Most Bible scholars have serious doubts about the authorship attributions in the psalms.  Certainly we know the superscriptions were added much later and are not considered canonical (like ones that claims a certain psalm stemmed from a time when David was fleeing Saul and such).  And even all the psalms that are said to be…

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Psalm 138

Years ago I read a wonderful novel by Indian writer Arundhati Roy and one of the things I liked about the book was its great title: The God of Small Things.  That title can be an apt summary for something you run across often in the psalms, including in Psalm 138. Israel praised their God…

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Psalm 86:11-17

In one of her novels Anne Tyler shows a woman named Maggie attending a funeral.  In the course of the service the pastor reads a psalm, and Maggie found it to be a lovely poem full of warmth and hope.  This was a relief to her since ordinarily she thought of the psalms as often…

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Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

The Revised Common Lectionary is usually a straightforward affair when it comes to selected texts.  But with semi-regularity you get a text chopped up the way Psalm 69 is divided in this lection.  First we jump onto the already moving train only at verse 7, then we grab 4 verses, put 5 more in parentheses…

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John 17:1-11

Unity, it seems, is that elusive description for God’s church. We hear the calls for it but disagree on the terms. We know it is part of God’s solution for what ails humanity, but we cannot grasp the way of sacrifice on the road to peace. We rightly identify it as the way that Jesus…

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John 20:1-18

Perhaps you have heard, or even led, the same prayer as me before preaching: it’s something along the lines of, “Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts and minds to understand, and hands and feet willing to go and do what we hear from you in the Word today.” These petitions are…

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Psalm 130

This poem is labeled a “Psalm of Ascent” but it starts as a Psalm of Descent.  It is called De Profundis in older Bibles—the Latin for “from the depths.”   When last this came up for the Lectionary Year A Fifth Sunday in Lent in 2020, the initial COVID lockdown was in its second week.  Some…

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Exodus 17:1-7

It’s the kind of thing that could become a family inside joke.  Perhaps years before, the family had taken a Spring Break trip somewhere.  Except that on this particular trip the weather was disastrously bad the whole week.  No outdoor activities were possible.  Instead the family got stuck inside a hotel room where arguments over…

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Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

Over the years of writing articles and a few books, I’ve learned a lot about grammar from my editors and from a former professor turned friend who knows more about English grammar than anyone I can think of.  Thanks to folks like this I’ve finally figured out (most of the time!) the “that/which” distinction and…

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Psalm 27:1, 4-9

C.S. Lewis said somewhere that when you add it all up and consider it all together, in the end we would 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 who…

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Psalm 40:1-11

Did David (or whoever wrote this psalm) write it backwards?  You can divide Psalm 40 rather neatly into two halves (though most of the second half is left out by the Lectionary).  The first ten or so verses are full of confidence and gratitude for God’s deliverance.  As usual in the psalms, we cannot detect…

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Psalm 17:1-9

Those of you who read the Psalm sermon commentaries here on CEP know that I frequently observe that different psalms fit different seasons of life.  And so we always have to nuance upbeat songs of praise with the downbeat psalms of lament such that no one in the church gets the impression that true believers…

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Luke 18:1-8

The “unjust judge” is the key comparison in this parable: it is the judge from whom we are meant learn something about God. This is made clear by the fact that this is a parable of comparison. If this judge, who is at the other end of the spectrum of what we know God’s character…

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1 Timothy 2:1-7

Paul packs this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson with “all’s.” In fact, he uses a form of the Greek word panta no less than five times in its seven verses. But while the apostle loads this text with “all,” nearly every use of the word carries with it both some mystery and the seed of controversy. So…

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Luke 11:1-13

Coming straight on the heels of Jesus telling Martha that her sister Mary will not be deprived of sitting in the presence of God, Luke depicts Jesus as doing the same. The stories are less chronologically connected (i.e., there is no indication that this scene immediately played out after his night as a guest at…

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Colossians 1:1-14

Elements of this week’s Epistolary Lesson are faintly reminiscent of Huck Finn’s experience with prayer. In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck recounts how his foster mother, Miss Watson, tried to teach him to pray. “Miss Watson … took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray…

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Psalm 25:1-10

In his book years ago The Closing of the American Mind Allan Bloom lamented the decline of true education in this nation’s colleges and universities. Bloom decried the way many professors had dispensed with the traditional canons of literature in favor of whatever was trendy and vogue. He mourned the fact that critical thinking and…

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Psalm 22:19-28

Ordinary Time is just beginning yet the Lectionary directs us to a sometimes difficult psalm.  Yes, we are being asked to consider only the hope-filled, praise-filled conclusion to this poem but it’s not as though we can forget its terrible opening set of verses.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” brings us…

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Psalm 31:9-16

Comments, Observations, and Questions It is Palm/Passion Sunday and so God’s people come to church.  We Christians come to church because we believe when we do, we come into the presence of God.  We believe in God and so we believe God is faithful to the promise that when we gather in God’s name, God…

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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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Luke 9:28-36

Comments, Questions, and Observations Given that this passage is often on the Sunday that immediately precedes Lent, I have often thought of it as a story that is mostly about Jesus giving his disciples a strong picture of him to hold on to as they enter the dark days of his suffering and death in…

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Psalm 1

Few of us do what many monastic and other traditions have done in history with the Psalms: namely, read them straight through and in order.  Instead we bob and weave our way through the Psalms, picking and choosing to read this Psalm or another for no particular rhyme or reason.  And so it’s easy to…

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Psalm 71:1-6

There is a part of the well-known story (and the popular Sunday School story) of “Jacob’s Ladder” that most people don’t know about or just ignore.  The outlines of the story are familiar and are also accurate enough to the biblical text in Genesis: Jacob is on the lam, fleeing the fury of his brother…

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

The Sunday text near Epiphany is the Sunday we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord. And yet, in the gospel of Luke, we pretty much miss the whole thing! Luke describes it in the past tense: Jesus was one of “all” the people who were baptized by the John the Baptist. Instead, Luke’s baptism account…

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Philippians 4:4-7

The season of Advent is, for many of Jesus’ friends, as well as the culture in which many citizens of the global west live, a perhaps especially busy one. Many of us are busily preparing for various holiday celebrations, even as a global pandemic and political strife continue to rage among and around us. So…

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1 Samuel 1:4-20

It’s curious how often the purposes of God move forward not just despite familial dysfunction but sometimes even because of it.  We’ve got a load of dysfunction coming up in the Samuel story through the shenanigans of Hophni and Phineas—and Eli’s hand-wringing inability to do a blessed thing about it all.  But we’ve got nettlesome…

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Hebrews 7:23-28

Few promises mean more to hurting people than, “I’m praying (or I’ll pray) for you.” We long to have someone “put in a good word for us” before God. In fact, I’ve even people whose faith is fragile or apparently non-existent seem to often appreciate the thought behind a promise of prayer, if not necessarily…

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James 5:13-20

Were “community” in the deepest sense of the word a commodity that’s traded on some kind of stock exchange, it would be soaring in value. That’s partly because of the law of supply and demand. Genuine community the word is in such short supply that the demand sometimes exceeds the supply. So many things isolated…

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Ephesians 3:14-21

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s first five words, “I kneel before the Father” (14) suggests that its hearers are eavesdropping on Paul’s prayer. However, the Scriptures’ prayers always almost make me wonder, “How do you preach about an inspired yet overheard prayer?” and “Should we even preach about an overheard prayer?” But Jesus’ friends might argue…

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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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1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul certainly had lofty ideals for the Christian Church. At the beginning of his first letter to Thessalonica’s Christians, he describes the Church as a community loved and chosen by God. That community, the apostle adds, draws its life from God and lives that life with faith, love and hope. When Paul concludes this letter…

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Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13a is not important, right? We can just skip to verse 13b, yes? We can just start with the question “Who do people say that I am?”  That’s the core if it all here, right? Wrong! We cannot skip the geographical marker in this incident.  If we do, we miss the key piece of…

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Psalm 40:1-11

Did David (or whoever wrote this psalm) write it backwards?  You can divide Psalm 40 rather neatly into two halves (though most of the second half is left out by the Lectionary).  The first ten or so verses are full of confidence and gratitude for God’s deliverance.  As usual in the psalms, we cannot detect…

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1 Timothy 2:1-7

Concerned about the divisions, the dissension from doctrine, and the deplorable way their inner congregational conflict looked to nonbelievers, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to try to make things better in the church. Back in chapter 1 verse 3, Paul reminded Timothy what he charged Timothy to do when he left: “instruct certain people not…

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Psalm 25:1-10

In his book years ago The Closing of the American Mind Allan Bloom lamented the decline of true education in this nation’s colleges and universities.  Bloom decried the way many professors had dispensed with the traditional canons of literature in favor of whatever was trendy and vogue.  He mourned the fact that critical thinking and…

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Psalm 22:19-28

Ordinary Time is just beginning in the early summertime of 2019 yet the Lectionary directs us to a sometimes difficult psalm.  Yes, we are being asked to consider only the hope-filled, praise-filled conclusion to this poem but it’s not as though we can forget its terrible opening set of verses.  “My God, my God, why…

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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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Luke 9:28-36

Not for nothing are they called “Mountaintop Experiences”!  In the Bible, when a story takes us up to a mountaintop, it’s a fair bet that something dramatic is going to happen—indeed, it’s a fair bet that something deeply revelatory is going to happen.  Luke 9 is no exception.  But the drama up there on that…

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Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

Across the spectrum of poems in the Hebrew Psalter are prayers that fit most every occasion and season in life.  Laments, petitions, confessions, praise, thanksgiving; songs that fit happy days and songs that fit rotten days; lyric expressions of trust and bitter cries of abandonment and anger.  It’s all in there.  That’s an important thing…

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Psalm 138

Our prayer life should be our autobiography, C.S. Lewis once observed.  But that is also why Lewis thought the Hebrew Psalter was such a fitting prayer book since it contains prayers that fit a wide variety of life’s experiences.  Were the 150 Psalms all in one particular emotional register, what help would it be for…

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Psalm 71:1-6

There is a part of the well-known story (and the popular Sunday School story) of “Jacob’s Ladder” that most people don’t know about or just ignore.  The outlines of the story are familiar and are also accurate enough to the biblical text in Genesis: Jacob is on the lam, fleeing the fury of his brother…

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Philippians 4:4-7

The Bible is full of commands to “Rejoice.”  Yet they’re not always calls to God’s people to just “be happy.”  After all, the Scriptures’ calls to rejoice sometimes seem to come in the context of the least happy times and places. For example, the Paul who writes the Epistolary Lesson the Lectionary assigns for this…

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Philippians 1:3-11

This second Sunday of the month of December seems like an appropriate time to explore Philippians 1:3-11.  Its theme of thanksgiving is, after all, consistent with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans recently celebrated.  What’s more, this Sunday is also near the beginning of the Advent season in which we look forward to “the day of…

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Hebrews 7:23-28

This may not seem like a particularly appropriate Sunday on which to preach about priests.  After all, Protestant Christians are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Reformation that the corruption of the Roman Catholic priesthood in part fueled. What’s more, the Reformation emphasized the priesthood of all believers.  Since Protestant Christians recognize that all…

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James 5:13-20

Difficult people, things and circumstances exist over which even the most skilled and powerful people have virtually no control.  But God graciously gives God’s adopted sons and daughters at least some control over how we respond to those difficulties. James 5:13-20 at least implies that the apostle understood that as well as anyone.  After all,…

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1 Kings 8:(1-6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43

This is one of the great pivotal chapters in the Bible.  It recalls an event that was to Israel much like the Fourth of July is to Americans.  It marks the end of a long struggle for freedom and security.  At last Israel had complete ownership of the Promised Land and there is peace, both…

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Ephesians 6:10-20

No matter when and where you read this, you are under attack.  After all, Ephesians 6:10-20 at least implies that those who read, study, consider, proclaim and hear it are under siege.  So Paul summons his readers to properly arm ourselves for that battle lest we go down to at least temporary defeat in the…

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1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

In preaching on this story or any part of the narrative literature of the Old Testament, it is absolutely crucial to remember what we are dealing with here.  This is not modern historiography, in which economic, political, or military factors play the major role in explaining the course of human events, although, of course, plenty…

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

In all three years of the Lectionary cycle, Psalm 80 is seen as an Advent Psalm, probably because of the central prayer in verse 2; “come and save us.”  In years A and C, it is the last Psalm of Advent.  This year, it is the first Psalm of Advent.  Its use here in the…

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Isaiah 64:1-9

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

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Psalm 123

Psalm 123 is the fourth of the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) and the first that is a prayer.  Most scholars think that Israelite pilgrims from all over the Promised Land (and perhaps beyond, if this is an early post-Exilic Psalm) sang these words as they journeyed up to Jerusalem and maybe even as they…

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Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13a is not important, right? We can just skip to verse 13b, yes? We can just start with the question “Who do people say that I am?”  That’s the core if it all here, right? Wrong! We cannot skip the geographical marker in this incident.  If we do, we miss the key piece of…

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Acts 1:6-14

Why do you stand here looking into the sky? is the compelling question around which, in some ways, the text the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday revolves.  However, it’s also a question that the Lord might pose to Acts 1’s preachers, teachers and those who listen to us: Why do you stand here looking into…

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Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Clearly, Psalm 116 was chosen for this Third Sunday of Easter because it is a Psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from death.  It reverses the order of things in ordinary life, where we move from life to death.  Here the Psalmist moves from death.to life, like Jesus in his crucifixion and resurrection.  Indeed, Jesus could…

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, just a week away from Christmas, it is easy to imagine those shepherds already in the fields keeping watch over their sheep, completely unaware of what is going to happen to them in just a few days. But we can’t go there yet.  It is not Christmas yet; it’s…

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Luke 18:9-14

“I am so glad that Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me, Jesus loves ME!” “How vast the benefits divine which WE in Christ possess!” “Blessed assurance, Jesus is MINE!” We sing such sentiments in church all the time. So before we get all squinty-eyed in regarding the Pharisee in Luke 18 as the quintessential spiritual…

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Luke 18:1-8

Most of us know the opening to the various iterations of the “Law & Order” TV series that has been running for years and now in reruns. We hear a two-note musical beat, the screen fades from black to reveal . . . a dead body on the floor, someone’s discovering a corpse in a…

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1 Timothy 2:1-7

In the United States, this September Sunday falls about seven weeks before the next presidential election. And it’s been an ugly season in what has seemingly become the nation’s never-ending presidential campaign. But it’s no longer just politics as usual that unsettles. No, it’s the deep, deep partisan divides that have taken hold the last…

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