Preaching Connection: Redemption

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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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Babette’s Feast (1987) – 2

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%. Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (1987) is a remarkable film of many pleasures, and…

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A Man Called Ove (2015) – 1

Written and Directed by Hannes Holm (based on novel by Fredrik Bachman).  Starring Rolf Lassgård, Filip Berg, Bahar Paris, and Ida Engvoll. 116 minutes. Rated PG-13. Ove is an ornery, rather embittered old so-and-so, or so it seems.  Recently widowed, he lives alone in a small Swedish condo complex over which, as its one-time association…

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The Godfather: Part III (1990) – 2

The Godfather: Part III (1990).  Written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.  Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  Starring Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia, and Sofia Coppola.  162 mins.  Rated R. Redemption So at last, after decades of dire criminality, including the murder of his inept, needy brother Fredo (John Cazale), Michael Corleone (the…

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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 Shawshank Redemption (1994) – 1

Story by Stephen King, screenplay by Frank Darabont. 142 minutes, rated R. Starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. The first question of The Shawshank Redemption (1994) asks how in the world could this film—full of blasphemy, rancor, obscenity, and violence, though most of the last occurs off-screen—ever find its way onto a list of religiously…

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Reading for Preaching

Craddock on the Craft of Preaching

Craddock and wife Nettie were vacationing in the Smoky Mountains, eating hamburgers in a restaurant. An old guy comes up to them and asks them who they are, what Fred does for a living, how long they plan to be there, etc., all making Fred antsy. Then, after finding out that Fred is a preacher,...
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Additional content related to Redemption

Galatians 4:4-7

Ask almost any school-aged Christian why we celebrated Christmas, and she’s likely to answer something like, “Because it was Jesus’ birthday!” While she might have a harder time identifying why Jesus’ birthday is important, most mature Christians know that Jesus’ birthday is important because he grew up to redeem us from our sins. On this…

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Acts 2:14a, 22-32

“And for all who are far off . . .” I guess that’s us. I guess that’s everybody. It was even, at least for a time, Peter and company.  After all, the crucifixion accounts make it clear that the disciples watched Jesus die from a distance.  It’s the same word as in Acts 2: makran,…

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Isaiah 55:1-9

The Year C Revised Common Lectionary would have us stop reading and thinking about Isaiah 55 at the 9th verse.  But to me that’s rather like singing just the first two stanzas of “By the Sea of Crystal” but being told you can’t sing stanza 3.  But since stanza 2 ends with “Hark the heavenly…

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Ephesians 1:3-14

Few Scripture passages are theologically weightier than this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson. In fact, in an earlier commentary on it, Scott Hoezee remembers once asking the congregation he served about how it would feel if he were from then to on base every sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14. He notes that while most would call it a…

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Psalm 126

Some of us might remember that another version/translation of Psalm 126:1 mentions specifically the time when “the captives” were brought back to Jerusalem.  That framing of this psalm places this on the far side of the seventy-year exile in Babylon as the people of Israel slowly returned from captivity after Persia conquered Babylon and the…

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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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Psalm 92:1-4,12-15

What’s in verses 5-11?  This lection from Psalm 92 is one of many RCL texts that clearly skips a certain section of a passage, forcing the curious Bible student to wonder why a chunk gets leapfrogged over.  Psalm 92 is hardly too long for a single reading or sermon.  Yet the Lectionary deletes almost exactly…

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1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

This old story about God’s choice of David as the new king of Israel fairly bubbles with contemporary relevance, especially in America.  I wrote the first draft of this Sermon Commentary just a few weeks after the inauguration of the Biden/Harris team.  The words of Shakespeare’s witches of Eastwick described the national mood perfectly: “Double,…

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

It takes so long for Christmas to get here.  We wait and wait through the long season of Advent for the coming of the Lord.  Then in one day we celebrated his coming, and we’re done.  No wonder many non-liturgical Christians simply ignore Advent and spend a month celebrating Christmas.  Such a miraculous event deserves…

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Isaiah 40:1-11

Advent began last week with a lament filled with longing for the coming of God (Isaiah 64).  On this Second Sunday of Advent, the mood changes dramatically with the Good News that God is coming soon. That shift of mood parallels the radical shift between Isaiah 39 and Isaiah 40.  Even the most casual reader…

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Isaiah 64:1-9

Sometimes I scratch my head over the Lectionary choices for a particular day or season, but not today.  These words from Isaiah 64 are absolutely perfect for this First Sunday of Advent. I mean, it has all these famous verses, each of which would make for a great sermon text all by itself: verse 1,…

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

How fitting it is that the life of Moses should end as it does!  The man who spent all those days up on Mt. Sinai speaking to God face to face comes to the end of his days on Mt. Nebo speaking face to face with God.  And the God who miraculously saved Moses at…

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Exodus 32:1-14

In this text, Paradise has almost been regained.  Oh, yes, Israel is in a dry desert, not a lush garden.  But so much of what had been wrong has been put right.  Israel has been released from the house of bondage.  Their covenant Lord is leading them to the land of milk and honey, providing…

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Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Your attitude towards disobedience may depend on whether you view it from a parent’s perspective or a child’s.  After all, as the wonderful American preacher Fleming Rutledge notes, parents want children who obey. We want sons who don’t do things like touch hot stoves or abuse alcohol.  You and I want daughters who do things…

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Genesis 29:15-28

If I am Esau, sitting back home in Beersheba, the injustice of my situation is infuriating.  I’ve been deceived and robbed.  My life has been forever changed by the slippery ways of my little brother.  My birthright is gone; so is my blessing.  I’m left here with my blind old father and a mother who…

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Romans 7:15b-25

Those who find it relatively easy to lose weight can’t see the not-so-civil war that’s constantly being waged inside those who must struggle to drop pounds. I, for example, want to do the good that is eating less junk food and more healthy food. In fact, I know that I should eat fewer potato chips…

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1 Peter 1:17-23

A few years ago the University of Maryland’s football team found itself in trouble at halftime of one of the biggest games in its history.  It didn’t just trail North Carolina State’s team.  Maryland’s team also hadn’t played very well. Maryland’s head coach Ralph Friedgen knew he had to motivate his team to play better…

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Colossians 1:11-20

What a weird place to start our lectionary selection for Reign of Christ Sunday and the close of Ordinary Time. We get the last few verses of Paul’s thanksgiving prayer section, then all of the Christ hymn, but not the verses that describe the community’s reconciliation. If it’s “application” that we’re after, wouldn’t verses 21-23…

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Amos 8:1-12

A delightfully humorous Lutheran pastor in Arizona has trained his congregation how to respond to his annual stewardship sermon.  When he announces that sermon, they say in loud unison what all congregants think when they hear that it is stewardship Sunday.  “Oh no!”  That will undoubtedly be your congregation’s response when you tell them that…

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2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

What a way to go!  That’s my first reaction upon reading this story.  People my age often talk about the end of life.  Many want to live as long as they possibly can, to, say, a hundred, and then die peacefully in their sleep.  Others want to go in their prime, after hitting a three…

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Joshua 5:9-12

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

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Genesis 45:3-11, 15

The theme for this Sixth Sunday of Epiphany is the same in all four Lections—reversal of fortune.  Psalm 37 and Luke 6:27-38 talk about loving enemies, thus reversing the usual response to those who abuse us.  I Corinthian’s 15:35-50 expounds the great doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which reverses the apparent victory of…

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Isaiah 43:1-7

On this second Sunday in the Epiphany season, the church focuses on the Baptism of Jesus, arguably one of the greatest manifestations of his glory.  This Old Testament reading was undoubtedly chosen because of its baptismal echoes of passing through the waters and being called by name.  In the same way that Isaiah 60 anticipated…

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Ruth 1:1-18

As we near the end of Ordinary Time the lectionary lessons begin to lean into Advent with a focus on three faithful people, two of them in the genealogy of the Christ.  The end of the book of Ruth reminds us that Ruth, against all odds, was part of the family tree of David and,…

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Hebrews 9:11-14

This week’s Epistolary Lesson is a bloody one.  In fact, it’s so bloody that citizens of the already figuratively blood-soaked 21st century may be uncomfortable with it.  Even its preachers and teachers may wonder how to apply Hebrews 9’s truths to a world that’s already in some ways soaked in the blood of war, ethnic…

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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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Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

We often connect much of the Christmas season to happiness.  God’s people love to sing, “Joy to the World.”  We decorate our homes, stores and communities with bright lights.  Most of us like to celebrate with both the young in age and the young in heart. This Sunday, however, is also a part of a…

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1 Corinthians 1:3-9

The theologian Robert Jenson passed away recently.  “Jens” as he was known had the ability to see through to the core of many theological and historical matters.  He once made a curious point in the course of a seminar I attended one week.  Jens said that in history, the Christian Church has, of course, found…

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Joshua 3:7-17

Joshua 3 always feels, at best, somewhat anti-climactic.  After all, you might argue the Bible’s first five chapters have all been pointing toward the Jordan crossing it describes.  Patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have given their lives to God’s promise to make this happen.  The people of Israel have been heading (but sometimes meandering)…

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Few of us can read Deuteronomy 34 without getting at least a lump in our throat and tear in our eye.  After all, Moses has dragged the Israelites, often kicking and screaming, out of Egypt, through the wilderness and to the doorstep of Canaan.  Yet this Sunday’s Old Testament text reports that he never gets…

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Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

I’m sure they had their reasons.  I refer to the folks who put together the readings for the Revised Common Lectionary.  I’m sure they had their reasons to leap-frog over verses 20-24 but in so doing, they created something of an irony (if not something of an exegetical faux pas). Granted, Jesus’ rant against various…

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

The novelist Richard Ford said once that the goal of the characters in his novels is this: “All we want is to get to the point where the past can say nothing about us.” In the postmodern world, people hanker to be free-floating. They want to live with the illusion that they are inventing reality…

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John 11:1-45

Sample Sermons For this Fifth Sunday in Lent Sermon commentary, I again present a sample sermon of mine that I wrote in connection with doing a seminar with Frederick Dale Bruner as he completed his Commentary on John (Eerdmans 2012).  “Just about Everywhere” In one of her short stories the writer Annie Dillard has a…

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Psalm 130

As we continue our Lenten journey up to Mt. Calvary, the Lectionary puts a perfect Psalm before us on this Fifth Sunday of Lent.  We’re getting close to our destination, but here the path takes a severe dip, sort of like a saddle on a mountain just before the summit.  This Song of Ascents takes…

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

God is in the habit of graciously turning grief into joy.  Sometimes, however, the Lord does so in startling ways.  So those who grieve learn to stay on the lookout for God’s gracious comfort. The Old Testament lesson the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday begins in deep grief over the tragic character of Israel’s King…

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Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Considering that we all love gripping courtroom dramas at the movies or on TV, it’s a wonder people don’t find parts of Romans more engaging.  When you read Romans 4, for instance, it’s not the least bit difficult in your mind’s eye to picture Paul as an attorney, pacing furiously in a courtroom as he…

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Isaiah 35:1-10

With the words, “This text shouldn’t be here,” my colleague Barbara Lundblad begins a thoughtful presentation on Isaiah 35.  After all, as she points out, it’s not just that this text doesn’t address anyone by name.  It’s also that it almost immediately follows a poem that’s full of images of creational disaster: “Edom’s streams will…

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Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Some Christians have traditionally thought of God as largely having virtually no emotion beyond anger at human sin. Yet such a notion is more Greek than biblical. The living God of the Bible is quite capable of feeling a wide variety of emotions, including great grief. There is great sadness in the Old Testament text…

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1 Timothy 1:12-17

In the first century—and really for a large chunk of the church’s history—most everything a given person knew had to be memorized and carried around in one’s head. There were no published materials, no pamphlets or tracts or catechisms. Not surprisingly, then, by the time the Pastoral Epistles were written it is clear that the…

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Psalm 51:1-10

Psalm 51 will probably provoke very different reactions in most congregations. Some will be bored and skeptical because it is so familiar, and “familiarity breeds contempt.” Been there, done that, doesn’t work. Some will be scornful and dismissive because it is so out of fashion. Nobody thinks like this about sin and guilt anymore; it’s…

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Philemon 1:1-21

Garry Wills’s book, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, is a fascinating study of one of the world’s more famous speeches. Wills claims that in the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln, in the span of a scant 272 words which took him all of three minutes to deliver, forever altered our understanding of the…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

This Psalm gives the enterprising preacher a fresh alternative for a Pentecost sermon, because it focuses on the Spirit’s work not in redemption (as do the other readings for Pentecost Sunday), but in creation. Though a number of contemporary scholars think the mention of the Spirit in verse 30 is not a reference to the…

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Psalm 148

On this fifth Sunday of Easter, we continue our exploration of the impact of Christ’s resurrection. After a lovely look at Easter comfort in Psalm 23 last Sunday, our reading from Psalm 148 brings us back to the theme of celebration. In Psalm 148 we move from the intimate comfort of “The Lord is my…

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Joshua 5:9-12

Few of us like new beginnings any more than we enjoy the change that precedes them. A new neighborhood. A new school. A new job. Old circumstances often produce old headaches. Yet new circumstances also produce new headaches. Since Joshua 9’s Israelites have just crossed the Jordan River on dry land, their feet are neither…

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Isaiah 55:1-9

“Come and get it!” is a phrase that traditionally resonated with hungry North Americans. After all, we generally link it with an invitation to eat what someone has prepared. So when we hear “Come and get it!” we may think of Mom, standing on the front steps, hollering for us to come home for supper….

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Matthew 1:1-17

“This is the genealogy of Jesus…” So begins the gospel of Matthew. Frankly, it sounds a bit boring. After all, the genealogies are one of those the parts of the Bible that we skip over (unless someone is watching us and we feel guilty, because “all scripture” is supposed to be profitable, 2 Tim. 3:16)….

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Judges 4

Comments and Observations The refrain is common in the book of Judges: “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (4:1). The pattern repeats itself over and over again in Judges: the Israelites abandon God, God delivers them into the hands of their enemies, Israel cries out to God, God sends a…

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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. Musicals on Broadway, on the other hand, are as popular as ever. When I was in…

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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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Ephesians 1:3-14

Comments and Observations In the last two years the Revised Common Lectionary has taken us to this very text two other times, both around Christmas, that festive time in the world’s and the church’s calendar.  Now we’re in Ordinary Time.  Here in the United States we’ve just enjoyed the hoopla of the Fourth of July,…

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2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Professional football players are the best at it, I think.  Picture the chest thumping after a quarterback sack, or the trash talking after a safety intercepts a pass right in front of the league’s top receiver, or the end zone dance of a running back after a touchdown.  Can you see Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback, Richard…

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2 Samuel 1:1,17-27

You can see why the Revised Common Lectionary wants you to jump from verse 1 to verse 17!   There is an act of violence here in the skipped-over portion that tempts a Scripture reader to end the line “This is the Word of the Lord” in something of an interrogative mood: “The Word of the…

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