Preaching Connection: Righteousness

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Psalm 1

As the Year B Lectionary brings Eastertide in for a landing, it returns us to the very head of the Hebrew Psalter.  As we conclude our celebration of the resurrection and anticipate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Psalm 1 reminds us of what the righteousness we have in Christ looks like in…

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Rejoicing in Salvation For those churches that celebrate a strict Advent fast from Christmas hymns, this Sunday lands with all the pent-up energy of the season.  Church musicians stuff this service full of all the carols that wouldn’t fit on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning worship.  There are plenty of “Joy to the Worlds” and…

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Psalm 85:1-3, 8-13

This week’s Psalm selection for the Second Sunday in Advent is in some ways very similar to last week’s selection of Psalm 80.  In both psalms there are pleas for revival and restoration, for a relenting of divine anger over sin so that restoration could come to both land and people.  Insofar as Advent has…

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Psalm 1

With only a few weeks left in the Lectionary’s Year A cycle before Advent and Year B arrives, suddenly we arrive at Psalm 1.  Along with Psalm 2, this poem is like the gateway into the Hebrew Psalter.  As we have noted often in our sermon commentaries here on CEP, the Book of Psalms is…

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Psalm 85:8-13

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Here is a lyric and pretty well-known line from Psalm 85.  But based on how this psalm begins—in the part the Lectionary would have us leap frog over in the first 7 verses—you would not have predicted this Hebrew poem would end up including…

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Romans 6:12-23

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s preachers might begin their message by saying something like, “Claims of mastery over any human being is despicable – except in one case.” That won’t just, after all, grab our hearers’ attention. Claiming that one form of slavery is beneficial is, in fact, also at the heart of Romans 6:12-23. While…

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Psalm 96

Perhaps it counts as something of an irony that the Lectionary calls on us to reflect on Psalm 96 on Christmas Day.  After all, if ever there were a day in the church year when we do not want to do what Psalm 96:1 says—namely, sing to the Lord a new song—this day is it! …

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Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

At 98 years of age, Jimmy Carter is now not only the oldest currently living former President of the United States but he has now lived to become the oldest former President ever.  Strikingly, he has also been a former President for over 40 years.  During those four decades of time, Carter’s reputation has soared…

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Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

As most every Bible commentary would tell you, the way Paul uses Habakkuk 2:4b (“the righteous will live by faith”) in Romans and Galatians may be a bit different from how the text “sounds” and seems to function in the original context of Habakkuk 2.  Habakkuk has spent most of his prophecy up to this…

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Psalm 1

It’s not by accident.  It wasn’t editorial happenstance.  No one flipped a coin to decide which Hebrew poem to turn into Psalm 1 in this collection.  Rather, the Hebrew Psalter is a carefully edited, thoughtfully and intentionally put together collection of poems.  The design of the larger book is evident in many ways (for instance,…

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Psalm 112

Very often the Psalms are actually a form of beatitude.  Psalm 1 sets the tone: “Blessed is the one who does not walk with the wicked.”  Beatitudes—including the most famous ones of them all from Matthew 5—are very often blessings spoken over people whose lives the rest of the world may not deem to be…

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Psalm 82

What are we to make of Psalm 82?  Who are the “gods” that get referred to multiple times?  If you as an orthodox believer are convinced there really are no other gods beyond the God and Father of Jesus Christ, then these references to other gods may be a bit unsettling.  But as I read…

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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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2 Samuel 23:1-7

The so-called “last words of David” are curiously placed.  For one thing, there is quite a bit more action involving David in the balance of even 2 Samuel.  But there will be more words and more narrative to come in also the opening portion of 1 Kings.  It’s as though the author and editor of…

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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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1 John 1:1-2:2

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s proclaimers might lead into their presentation of it with a story of how they needed an intercessor. A number of years ago I traveled to sit with members of our church during their family member’s major surgery. Using an inaccurate map, I became lost in a maze of one-way streets. After…

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Mark 1:29-39

Usually we are far too casual about God’s kingdom.  “Your kingdom come, your will be done” we say each time we intone the Lord’s Prayer, but when we finish our prayer and open our eyes, we do not see any such kingdom. It is difficult for us to conceive of a kingdom that is not…

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Psalm 1

For a long time I never knew or recognized the fact that the Hebrew Psalter was a thoughtfully edited collection of 150 songs and poems.  I am not sure if I ever actually thought this collection was random or haphazard but it did not occur to me that someone put each psalm where it appears…

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Psalm 26:1-8

For the 1999 edition of the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, illustrator Barry Moser sketched two portraits of David.  The first is of the young David, the “getting ready to slay Goliath” David.   He’s young, brash.  The eyes say it all.   He has his whole life ahead of him and he’s confident it’s going to be…

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Acts 10:34-43

In this (Old Testament?) reading, we hear not the original story about how Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified by Roman soldiers, but a retelling of that story to a Roman soldier.  If you want to emphasize the fact of the resurrection in your Easter sermon, choose the Gospel readings for your text. …

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Ephesians 5:8-14

Few Lectionary texts begin more mysteriously than this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson.  “You were once darkness,” Paul reminds Ephesus’s Christians, “but now you are light in the Lord” (8). The apostle seems to assert that God’s adopted sons and daughters don’t just naturally live in spiritual darkness.  We naturally are spiritual darkness.  God doesn’t just summon…

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Psalm 1

It’s not by accident.  It wasn’t editorial happenstance.  No one flipped a coin to decide which Hebrew poem to turn into Psalm 1 in this collection.  Rather, the Hebrew Psalter is a carefully edited, thoughtfully and intentionally put together collection of poems.  The design of the larger book is evident in many ways (for instance,…

Explore

Psalm 112

Very often the Psalms are actually a form of beatitude.  Psalm 1 sets the tone: “Blessed is the one who does not walk with the wicked.”  Beatitudes—including the most famous ones of them all from Matthew 5—are very often blessings spoken over people whose lives the rest of the world may not deem to be…

Explore

Psalm 82

What are we to make of Psalm 82?  Who are the “gods” that get referred to multiple times?  If you as an orthodox believer are convinced there really are no other gods beyond the God and Father of Jesus Christ, then these references to other gods may be a bit unsettling.  But as I read…

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Isaiah 65:17-25

Every preacher knows what a challenge it is to preach on Easter.  On the one hand, it is the epicenter of the Gospel, the event that makes or breaks the claims of Jesus, as Paul says in I Corinthians 15.  So, how can we mere mortals do justice to such a world changing moment in…

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Philippians 3:4b-14

“Are you becoming perfect?” is the provocative question with which Carole Noren begins a fine sermon (Pulpit Resource, October, November, December, 2002, p. 5) on the Epistolary Lesson the RCL appoints for this Sunday.  It is an appropriate question.  After all, Jesus, in Matthew 5:48, calls us to “Be perfect . . . as your…

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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 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 26

Digging into the Text: I am writing this piece a day after the gut-wrenching spectacle of the Kavanaugh hearing. If you ever wondered about the context and meaning of Psalm 26, just think of it on the lips of either one of the witnesses who testified before the Judiciary Committee. Think of Blasey Ford’s hesitant,…

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

My wife and I have a friendly but persistent discussion about on what date we should begin singing Christmas carols.  Were it up to her, our home’s halls would start ringing with carols the day after American Thanksgiving.  Were it up to me, we’d begin singing Christmas carols roughly one week before Christmas Day. From…

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2 Peter 3:8-15a

“Like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”  So some Christians have characterized ecological stewardship efforts within the church.  And it is not difficult to discern why parts of this passage in 2 Peter 3 have been used to prop up the idea that Christians who work to save the environment are battling a lost…

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Psalm 17:1-7, 15

Psalm 17 deals with the age old problem of oppression and wickedness.  It’s a popular topic in many of the ancient Psalms, and it is a constant feature of news reports today.  All through history and all over the world, the wicked oppress the innocent.  How should the innocent respond?  Well, there are two basic,…

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Psalm 32

It is no wonder that the Lectionary takes us to Psalm 32 on this first Sunday of Lent; its somber focus on sin, confession, and forgiveness is perfect for this season.  But it is also a bit tiresome, because this is the third time in a little over a year that Psalm 32 is the…

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Matthew 5:1-12

There are several ways to approach the Beatitudes. You could fruitfully consider them one at a time or you could look at the overall sweep and direction of these blessings. Since the Lectionary gives us the whole smack for just one Sunday, our best option is to look at the bigger picture and consider, in…

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Psalm 15

Psalm 15 opens with a question that will trouble a lot of people in many congregations.  It’s a question put to God.  Now, questioning God is not a problem for most Christians these days.  In fact, it’s much in vogue.  Folks like David Dark speak eloquently about the necessity of asking questions if our faith…

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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 37:1-9

The lectionary is on a roll in these early weeks of autumn, or in a rut. How you see it will depend on whether you like being instructed. For the last four Sundays (Psalms 1, 113, 146, and part of Psalm 51) the lectionary has been focusing on Psalms that give counsel to God’s people…

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Psalm 112

Psalm 112 is one gorgeous piece of poetry about happiness. But there’s one simple problem with it: It just ain’t so. What it says about the happiness of those who fear the Lord doesn’t seem to be true, not for all of us, not all the time, and for some, not at all. At least…

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Isaiah 5:1-7

Isaiah 5 begins with what looks like a light-hearted romantic ballad. A kind of troubadour opens this chapter by saying, “Listen up! I’m going to sing you a ballad about my beloved one–a song about the vineyard of our love!” It reminds me of the Paul McCartney song that claims the world will never have…

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Psalm 15

Psalm 15 opens with a question that will trouble a lot of people in many congregations. It’s a question put to God. Now, questioning God is not a problem for most Christians these days. In fact, it’s much in vogue. Folks like David Dark speak eloquently about the necessity of asking questions if our faith…

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Psalm 23

What a wonderful change of emphasis Psalm 23 brings to this season of Easter. For the second and third Sundays of the Easter season, the lectionary readings from the Psalms helped to praise and thank God for his work of salvation culminating in Christ’s resurrection. Now on this fourth Sunday after Easter, the lectionary picks…

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Genesis 38

Genesis 38 has to be near the top of the list of least-preached texts in Scripture. There’s death (by the hand of God no less), sex—both in marriage and outside of it, and lots of things that parents might not be ready to have their kids understand (i.e. parents are too embarrassed to have to…

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Romans 3

No one will ever be able to accuse Paul of lacking passion. It oozes out of each of his letters in the New Testament. Sometimes though, when you’re passionate, your arguments don’t always make logical sense or flow smoothly from point to point. The opening of Romans is a good example of this. In Romans…

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Galatians 3:1-14

In the letter to the Galatian church, Paul pleads for the believers there to cling to the faith that unites them and reject what others have argued as being the most important component to knowing who one is: keeping the law, especially the parts of the law that easily identified the community of God (i.e….

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Psalm 1

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Psalm 1, in combination with Psalm 2, introduces the entire Psalter that is the book of Psalms.  James May suggests that the combination of those psalms invites hearers to read and use the entire psalm book as God’s guide to a what constitutes a “blessed” or “happy life.”  Some…

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