Preaching Connection: Repentance

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Reading for Preaching

People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil

Peck quotes St. Theresa of Lysieux on contrition: “If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.”
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Additional content related to Repentance

Mark 1:14-20

The lectionary makes it a habit of giving us two weeks from two different gospels stories of Jesus calling his first disciples. Moving from John’s gospel to Mark’s, it’s as though our perspective in the calling narrative has changed to Jesus’s side of things. “Fresh” from the desert and the evil one’s temptations, Jesus is…

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Mark 1:1-8

Comments, Questions, and Observations The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ starts with someone else. In fact, from this point-in-chronological-time of John the Baptist in Mark 1.1-8, Jesus the Messiah is still a future prospect (in verse 8, John uses the future tense in reference to the Greater One), the story seems to…

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Matthew 18:15-20

If you have a gut reaction of fear, dread, or hopelessness when you read this message from Jesus, you’re not alone. Let’s be honest at the get-go: this passage has become its own clobber tool and a cover for a lot of sinful practices, structures, and further victimization of some of God’s beloved children. Frankly,…

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Matthew 4:12-23

Depending on what you preached last week, these two weeks of Lectionary passages from different gospels may leave you with some explaining to do—particularly if you made a big deal about the calling narrative of Andrew and Peter last week! For here we are again, in a new geographical setting, hearing about them becoming disciples…

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Matthew 3:1-12

Comments, Questions, and Observations During Advent we follow God’s people to the wilderness and heed the prophetic wisdom of John the Baptist. What was true for waiting for the coming Messiah still holds for those waiting for the second and final advent of our King. Was it John’s eccentric ways that drew the crowds to…

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Romans 13:11-14

Doesn’t it almost seem as if the Revised Common Lectionary’s editors must have been citizens of the northern hemisphere? Of course, this Sunday’s first in the season of Advent makes their choice of Romans 13’s reflections on Christ’s return appropriate. But Paul sure spends a lot of its time talking about darkness in it. Citizens…

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Luke 19:1-10

Both Zacchaeus and Jesus are depicted as seeking in this story. In fact, seeking, or seeing, is a central and repeated theme in the passage. Zacchaeus wants to see, Jesus is seeking, the crowd sees. We readers are even pulled into the story through seeing: Luke starts with giving us details about Zacchaeus, but does…

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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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Micah 5:2-5a

When the Lectionary dishes up just 3.5 verses, skipping the first verse of a chapter and stopping just halfway through the fifth verse, you just know it’s like putting blinders on us readers to keep us from seeing something on either side of the lection.  I don’t know why they made this choice but lyric…

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Psalm 80:1-7

If you are going to choose a Psalm of Lament for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, you may as well include the most Adventy and hopeful part of the Psalm!  But the RCL did not do that, choosing to break off the reading of Psalm 80 already at verse 7.  Had they gone on to…

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Luke 3:7-18

Last week we ended with a consideration of the possibility that these two Advent weeks spent in chapter 3 could be viewed as the covenant obligations on display. Verses 1-6 highlight what God will achieve, and here in verses 7-18 we receive the invitation from God (through the prophet John) to respond to God’s activity….

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Zephaniah 3:14-20

I used to watch a TV show that was quite compelling and enjoyable but it did have one feature to it that I did not much like: in some episodes the show’s characters would find themselves sunk very deep down into dreadfully complex circumstances.  The episode would devote something like 92% of the time to…

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Malachi 3:1-4

Have you ever read a classic book you’d never before read only to run across a line you knew by heart?  “Oh,” you might say, “I didn’t know this is where that saying came from!”  For instance, John Donne’s works are peppered with lines that have assumed a life of their own.  People who don’t…

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Luke 1:68-79

Someone once said that visits always bring pleasure because even if the arrival of a certain visitor didn’t make you happy, his departure will!  The comedic pianist Victor Borge also touched on this topic when he once noted that the mythic figure of Santa Claus has the right idea: you should visit people just once…

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Advent 3: Real Repentance

Homiletics is the theological term for the study and craft of sermon making. Seminarians take a couple of courses on homiletics of course, and there are lots of books on homiletics written for the guidance of preachers. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emphasis on the introductions of sermons. The theory is that the modern audience…

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Psalm 51:1-12

This semester I am a co-instructor in Calvin seminary’s Psalms & Wisdom Literature course.  Last week I did a class session on tips for preaching the Psalms.  One warning I always give—based on past experience with student sermons that went off the rails—is never to preach the superscriptions.  Whether it is simply the common superscription…

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Acts 19:1-7

The woman who told me with a puzzled look on her face, “I don’t think anyone here has the Holy Spirit,” had been part of a church community I pastored for about six months. Yet in that short time she’d concluded that members of our church didn’t have the Holy Spirit. So she sadly left…

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Mark 1:1-8

Imagine yourself a Kindergarten teacher who gathers a group of wide-eyed five-and six-year-olds onto the square of carpeting in the classroom that is reserved for “Story Time.”  You smile into their innocent faces and begin your story. “Once upon a time a little girl named Goldilocks was fast asleep in a lovely little bed—a bed…

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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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Matthew 18:21-35

Matthew 18 reminds us of a core Christian conviction: Forgiveness is something we live, something we embody, every moment.  But that only stands to reason.  After all, the very foundation on which our identity as Christians is built is nothing less than the death and resurrection of Jesus and the flood of gracious forgiveness which…

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Acts 17:22-31

On this sixth Sunday of the Easter season, we continue our reflections on the Resurrection of Jesus with this fascinating story which shows us how Paul preached the Risen Christ on the continent of Europe.  Directed by the Holy Spirit to leave Asia, Paul worked his way down the coast of the Aegean Sea to…

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Acts 2:14a, 36-41

As I said last week, the RCL doesn’t want us to celebrate Easter for one glorious day and then move on to something else.  It invites us to spend 7 Sundays reflecting on this world changing event with a leisurely journey through the book of Acts.  We began on Easter Sunday with Acts 10, where…

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Matthew 4:12-23

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south, travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

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Matthew 3:1-12

“Across the United States in recent weeks, there have been tidal waves of accusation and blame, counter-accusations and blame, judgments and more judgments from the left and from the right and from all points in between.  Political parties are said to have been judged by the voters.  Individual politicians are said to have been repudiated…

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Jeremiah 18:1-11

Who do you think you are?  In our text for today, that question floats in the background. It’s a question that can be asked in a friendly manner, or as a challenge.  In Jeremiah 18 it is asked in a challenging way.  Who does God think he is?  Answer- the Potter who “molds and shapes…

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Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

Our reading for today is arguably the most important of the Lectionary’s 69 selections from Isaiah, because it summarizes the message of this truly “major” prophet.  Verse 1 reveals the author, place and time of this prophecy.  Most significantly, it tells us why we should listen to the prophet—what he writes is the “vision” he…

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Isaiah 55:1-9

An old farmer once told me that there are two ways to break an egg—you can smash it with a hammer in a second or you can put it under a warm mother hen for a few days.  An old preacher once told me that there two ways to call a sinner to repentance and…

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Luke 13:1-9

Someday I’d like it explained to me why the Lectionary would assign the final verses of a chapter for the week prior to looking at its first 9 verses.  Nobody reads the Bible backwards like that so it’s not the least bit clear to me why preaching it this way makes any sense, either.  In…

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Like all good preachers, Moses knew how important it is to end your sermon with a story.  After multiple chapters of “do this and don’t do that,” Moses is coming to the climactic end of his sermon to Israel.  They are at the last stop in their wilderness wandering, standing at the brink of the…

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Isaiah 6:1-13

Somewhere in my reading recently, I ran across this familiar rant about God’s invisibility.  “If God really wants us to believe in him, why doesn’t he come out of hiding, you know, make himself visible, write in words across the sky, speak audibly so that everyone can hear his voice, do some miracle that would…

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Psalm 80:1-7

If you are going to choose a Psalm of Lament for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, you may as well include the most Adventy and hopeful part of the Psalm!  But the RCL did not do that, choosing to break off the reading of Psalm 80 already at verse 7.  Had they gone on to…

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Luke 3:7-18

Well what did you expect John would say?  His preaching was getting through to the people.  Bigly.  His “in your face” approach to getting a message of repentance across was succeeding and before you knew it, John’s got people of all sorts asking “What should we do?”  And in response to this earnest query, what…

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Acts 3:12-19

When our family visited China a number of years ago, my wife had a hard time keeping up with our sons who all stand over 6 feet 4 inches tall.  So we’d often walk a few steps behind them.  As we did so, we lost count of how many people passed them, turned around and…

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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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Psalm 106:1-6, 9-13

Back in the day, a radio commentator named Paul Harvey became famous for the way he reported the news.  He would remind his listeners of a well-known news item and then he would tell “the rest of the story,” the other side of the story that everyone thought they knew.  That’s exactly what we have…

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Matthew 18:21-35

Matthew 18 reminds us of a core Christian conviction: Forgiveness is something we live, something we embody, every moment. But that only stands to reason. After all, the very foundation on which our identity as Christians is built is nothing less than the death and resurrection of Jesus and the flood of gracious forgiveness which…

Explore

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Peter’s first Pentecost sermon’s aftermath at least suggests that preaching and teaching the Scriptures is a bit like brandishing a lethally sharp sword.  Since it can cut very deeply, its handlers want to be both very careful and prepared to help stop any bleeding our proclamation may cause. Reading the lesson the Lectionary appoints this…

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Matthew 4:12-23

We’ve come to call it “the Holy Land.”  From the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the country of Jordan in the east, from Syria in the north to the Sinai in the south, travel companies, tour groups, and tourists treat this piece of Middle Eastern real estate as a unity.  It’s where Jesus walked…

Explore

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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Matthew 3:1-12

Across the United States in recent weeks, there have been tidal waves of accusation and blame, counter-accusations and blame, judgments and more judgments from the left and from the right and from all points in between.   Political parties are said to have been judged by the voters.   Individual politicians are said to have been repudiated…

Explore

Psalm 17:1-9

There are a number of ways to read this Psalm.  Clearly, it is a prayer, but what kind of prayer?  A cursory reading might dismiss Psalm 17 as the proud prayer of a self-righteous person, an Old Testament version of the Pharisee’s prayer in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:11,12).  One wag said that the Pharisee had…

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Psalm 32

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we’re a little past mid-point on our journey to the cross, and Psalm 32 gives us an opportunity for a mid-course correction. It is very easy to make light of Lent by giving up something that doesn’t really matter or by playing at spiritual disciplines. Psalm 32 reminds us…

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1 Corinthians 10:1-13

If in a sermon for seminary any of my students did to the Old Testament what Paul does in 1 Corinthians 10, I would probably tell the student to start over or fail. Paul seems to be playing a bit fast and loose, a bit midrash and allegory where some key stories from Ancient Israel…

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Genesis 19:1-29

There’s a good chance that if you selected the entire chapter of Genesis 19 for your upcoming sermon, you’re questioning your choice. After all, reading these words in front of the entire congregation is rightfully uncomfortable; at the very least, it may feel best read after the children have been dismissed for Sunday School. Those…

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Hebrews 6:1-12

Comments and Observations In the well-known and well-loved musical The Sound of Music, the governess Maria spends some time teaching her young charges how to sing.  She starts the lesson by saying (in song, of course) “Let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.  When you read you begin with”….

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Genesis 33

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. -Martin Luther Comments and Observations: Early in his monastic life, Martin Luther was consumed with the worry that his righteousness was not great enough.  He tried fasting, praying, and self-flagellation in order to convince…

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Psalm 51:1-12

Comments and Questions Psalm 51 is what Old Testament scholar James Mays calls a “liturgy of the broken heart.” Like so many of the psalms, it’s the prayer of someone who is in deep trouble. Here, however, the psalmist doesn’t complain to God about God or other people. He admits he alone has caused the…

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