Preaching Connection: Providence

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Movies for Preaching

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).  Written and directed by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Frank Capra.  Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, and Henry Travers.  130 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. It’s a film that supposedly everybody knows, and loves, hauled out each Christmas ad infintum in ever-so-boring bleached out copies.  It’s an…

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Babette’s Feast (1987) – 3

Babette’s Feast (1987).  Written by Karen Blixen (short story) and Gabriel Axel (screenplay).  Directed by Gabriel Axel.  Starring Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Bergitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, and Jean-Philippe Lafont.  Music: Per Nørgaard.  Cinematography: Henning Kristiansen.  Rated G; 102 mins. Rotten Tomatoes 100% Babette’s Feast is a film of many wonders—social, aesthetic (cuisine), narrative, cinematic, and…

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Reading for Preaching

“Coincidence,” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’S of Faith

“I think of a person I haven’t seen or thought of for years, and ten minutes later I see her crossing the street.  I turn on the radio to hear a voice reading the biblical story of Jael, which is the story I have spent the morning writing about.  A car passes me on the...
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Mystery and Manners

“We have plenty of examples in this world of poor things being used for good purposes.  God can make any indifferent thing, as well as evil itself, an instrument for good; but I submit that to do this is the business of God and not of any human being.”
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Iron and Silk

Chinese story all kids learn: “An old man’s horse runs away one day. His friends all say they are sorry to hear about the horse, but the old man says, ‘I’m not worried about it. You never know what happens.’ Sure enough, a few days later the horse returns, leading a whole herd of wild...
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The Young Lions

“It all started when he reached up to the copy of Yeats’ The Herne’s Egg and Other Plays on the library shelf. If he had reached for another book he wouldn’t have bumped into Roger and he wouldn’t have lived here and he wouldn’t have met Hope and she would probably be lying in another...
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The Life of Samuel Johnson

Boswell quotes Johnson: “Providence has wisely ordered that the more numerous men are, the more difficult it is for them to agree in anything, and so they are governed. There is no doubt, that if the poor should reason, ‘We’ll be the poor no longer, we’ll make the rich take their turn,’ they could easily...
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The Sweet Hereafter

The negligence litigator Mitchell Stevens, esq., is permanently teed off and became a lawyer to license his anger and make it pay. But is there a righteous dimension to his work? Seems so: “I turn into a heat-seeking missile, homing in on a target that I know in my bones is going to turn out...
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Reaching for the Invisible God: What Can We Expect to Find?

God gets blamed for a lot of things human beings do. When Princess Diana died, Philip was asked by a TV producer: “Can you appear on our show? We want you to explain how God could possibly allow such a terrible accident.” Philip: “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going...
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Additional content related to Providence

Psalm 146

In contemporary music there are few crescendos quite as dramatic and raucous as the one that concludes the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.”  A somewhat wild cacophony of strings, brass, and percussion all come together to end this remarkable song with a bang followed by a very long sustain on a piano that…

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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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Psalm 138

Psalm 138 has features shared by many psalms of praise.  There are vows to praise God.  There are references to the poet’s motivations for praising God.  There is the ardent hope that eventually all the earth and all the kings and peoples of the earth will learn to praise Israel’s God as well.  Like most…

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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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2 Kings 5:1-14

Martin Luther King, Jr., once preached a sermon on this text from 2 Kings 5, and I’m grateful to Richard Lischer for calling attention to it in a lecture he gave while working on his book The Preacher King.  In the classic style of preaching that Dr. King so well embodied, he picked up on…

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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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Acts 16:9-15

How did the Holy Spirit prevent Paul and company from entering into the regions of Asia, as Acts 16 narrates this for us?  Yes, Luke (our narrator) makes clear that the Spirit “prevented” them from going in the direction they were minded to go, but I wonder just how that all worked out.  Should we…

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John 10:22-30

This passage follows very closely Jesus’ “I am the good shepherd” speech. People were already suspicious of Jesus and how he described himself, thinking he had a demon or was out of his mind. There were some, though, who thought there might be more to Jesus than madness or possession (verse 20). Some scholars see…

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Psalm 23

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

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Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)

Acts 9 is one of those stories that has proven to have a pretty wide reach.  Mention the phrases “Damascus road experience” or “scales falling from your eyes” to most anyone—even to people who are not regular churchgoers—and they’ll know what you mean for the most part.  And to the minds of some of those…

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Joshua 5:9-12

These four verses from Joshua 5 are rather innocuous looking.  There is a lot of high drama in Joshua—and not a little of that drama is the stuff of deeply troubling matters involving holy war and total war and violence perpetuated by God’s people.  But these verses appear to be mostly devoid of drama.  They…

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Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

It is an unhappy fact that with very little effort, we could update the language of Psalm 91 to fit our present age (and although the RCL only takes the first and last few verses, this Sermon Commentary will encompass the whole psalm).  Talk of a “fowler’s snare” sounds suspiciously like the kind of traps…

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Genesis 45:3-11, 15

Easter in the Western Church can come as early as the third Sunday in March and as late as the last Sunday in April.  Falling as it does on April 17 this year, Easter’s late date means an extra-long season after Epiphany and that in turns means getting to some RCL texts we don’t see…

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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

The Lectionary likes Psalm 138 and slates it sometimes in Ordinary Time and sometimes in Epiphany.  I have several sermon commentaries on the CEP site on Psalm 138 but for this week I will riff on the last time I wrote about this in the Sundays after Epiphany. I have noted often in my sermon…

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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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Psalm 19

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

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Isaiah 43:1-7

Scholars tell us that there may have been at least two, probably three (perhaps four) “Isaiahs” whose prophetic words make up the one Old Testament book we call Isaiah.  If so, then the version of Isaiah we get in this 43rd chapter is definitely the “Happy Isaiah” as compared to the doom-and-gloom Isaiah from earlier…

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Psalm 147:12-20

As we lurch into 2022 after another difficult year globally, we realize with a sense of startlement that we are technically now entering Year 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A couple years ago not a few of us hoped the worst of it would not last 3 weeks.  Even 3 months seemed hard to fathom. …

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1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Two Temples. Two Boys. One boy is apparently lost.  The other boy is apparently given up by his parents. One boy is not at all lost but is at home in the Temple doing his real Father’s work.  The other boy is making his home in the Temple and slowly discovering what may well be…

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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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Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

The Lectionary has us skip the drama of Ruth 2 and then dips in briefly to Ruth 3 for the connection with Boaz and then zooms ahead to the very end of Ruth 4 for the “happy ending” of the tale and how it all points forward to King David.  As preachers, we are either…

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Ruth 1:1-18

To my mind stopping the reading of Ruth 1 at verse 18 is the narrative equivalent of ending the movie Field of Dreams just before the moment when Ray encounters his long-dead and estranged father on his magical Iowa baseball diamond.  Why stop short of the scene that brings the whole thing together!? So trust…

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Job 42:1-6, 10-17

And they lived happily ever after . . .  Really?  Is it really possible that the Bible’s most troubled (and at times most torturous) book has the proverbial “happy ending”?  Did Disney take over this project at some point?!  At first glance you might think so. Job replies to God that in the wake of…

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Job 38:1-7, 34-41

Why did this happen?  Why didn’t God prevent this?  “Pastor, why did this happen?  “Pastor, where is God?” A child dies, a good person is killed, a freak accident takes the life of someone who was unspeakably precious to us, and we are left to wonder why. And if we’re honest as pastors, we just…

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Psalm 91:9-16

For some reason on this occasion the Lectionary would have us skip the first 8 verses of Psalm 91, which is too bad in that those verses contain one of the most lyric images of God’s providential care of us in the whole Bible.  We are the baby birds who find shelter under the wings…

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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…

Explore

Psalm 138

Psalm 138 has features shared by many psalms of praise.  There are vows to praise God.  There are references to the poet’s motivations for praising God.  There is the ardent hope that eventually all the earth and all the kings and peoples of the earth will learn to praise Israel’s God as well.  Like most…

Explore

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…

Explore

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

It is an unhappy fact that with very little effort, we could update the language of Psalm 91 to fit our present age (and although the RCL only takes the first and last few verses, this Sermon Commentary will encompass the whole psalm).  Talk of a “fowler’s snare” sounds suspiciously like the kind of traps…

Explore

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

After surviving a blizzard of words (some from Job, many from his friends, and a few from God), we come to the end of the book of Job with this short chapter which reports on Job’s last words and last days.  It is a surprising and, for many readers, controversial ending to a surprising and…

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Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Psalm 91 has what Karl Jacobson calls a “checkered” history. On the one hand, it has been a source of inspiration and comfort to millions of Christians. The great theologian Athanasius said to Marcellinus, “If you desire to stablish yourself and others in devotion, to know what confidence is to be reposed in God, and…

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Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Comments, Observations, and Questions And they lived happily ever after . . .  Really?  Is it really possible that the Bible’s most troubled (and at times most torturous) book has the proverbial “happy ending”?  Did Disney take over this project at some point?! At first glance you might think so.  Job replies to God that…

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