Preaching Connection: Salvation

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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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Reading for Preaching

“Miracle on the Beach,” in her Home by Another Way

“What we have lost . . . is a full sense of the power of God—to recruit people who have made terrible choices; to invade the most hopeless lives and fill them with light; to sneak up on people who are thinking about lunch, not God, and smack them upside the head with glory.”
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“’Titanic’—The ‘60s as Sacraments”

James Cameron, the director of Titanic, has been holding court in cyberspace with stricken fans. Young people weep through the film. They sigh over the love match, and wonder whether the now-elderly Rose dreams of reunion in heaven with Jack, or whether she just dreams. Cameron: one lesson in Titanic: “all you have is today.”...
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

“To me the most intriguing thing about John Calvin’s doctrine of predestination . . . is not his belief that some are gratuitously predestined by God to eternal salvation and some to damnation but that no one but God knows who is who. There, among the heroin addicts, is one destined for eternal joy. There,...
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Religious Affections

p. 315: “Christ is not in the heart of a saint as in a sepulcher, or as a dead Savior that does nothing;” but as a living presence moving within its own temple. The person who rises with Christ will change, since the resurrection power of Christ “has omnipotence on its side.” p. 347: “Godliness...
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Additional content related to Salvation

Acts 16:16-34

It was certainly an interesting day! In this story we get a little occult, an exorcism, some political intrigue, an earthquake, and in the end the exuberant joy of the gospel! Your average Lord’s day it was not. As Luke narrates it for us in Acts 16, Paul and Silas’ experiences in the city of…

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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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Isaiah 43:16-21

One thing I always tell my preaching students is never utilize a sermon introduction that exists merely for the sake of grabbing people’s attention but that has precious little—if anything—to do with what follows or with the main thrust of the sermon.  So you would never kick off  a sermon by saying “Altogether too often…

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Psalm 126

For a Lenten selection, this psalm is pretty sunny-side up and cheerful.  Maybe as Lent is coming to a close, we are supposed to see in this poem the promise of restoration beyond the cross toward which we are journeying this season.  This is, after all, one of the “Songs of Ascent” in the Book…

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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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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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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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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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Isaiah 62:1-5

These first verses of Isaiah 62 are like a geyser erupting in hopefulness and wild abundance.  This is like a prophetic fireworks display with a never-ending grand finale as color and light fills the skies, eliciting a long string of “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” from those seeing the spectacle.  This is one of those passages so…

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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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Jeremiah 31:7-14

You can’t accuse the Old Testament prophets of not being specific enough when it came to describing the blessings of God’s salvation! Sometimes believers today content themselves with generic or generalized descriptions of felicity in “heaven,” sometimes not advancing in their views of the New Creation much beyond the wispy, cloudy, ethereal realm that New…

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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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Hebrews 10:5-10

On this last Sunday before Christmas, the RCL (finally) turns its Epistolary Lessons’ eyes from that to which few North American eyes naturally turn toward that to which most Christians’ eyes have been turned for almost a month already. Hebrews 10, after all, turns our eyes away from Christ’s second coming and toward his first….

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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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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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Isaiah 12:2-6

More than we realize, the Bible is a trove of images, similes, metaphors, and visual depictions.  Throughout Scripture God describes himself through a battery of metaphors that inevitably lead you to form a picture in your mind’s eye.  Many of the images are, on the face of them, contradictory, until you realize that even to…

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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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Psalm 30

Psalm 30 is almost singularly upbeat in its incessant exaltations of God.  But the discerning reader and preacher will notice that underneath all this praising there has been a history of pain.  References are made to having gone down to the depths, to sinking into the pit, to enemies eager to gloat over the psalmist’s…

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Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

The Lectionary assigns Psalm 107 now and again—the most recent time was just earlier this year in March—but chops it up somewhat differently each time.  It never assigns the whole psalm, even though thematically it all hangs together.  Because if you read the entire psalm, you will discover it is a curious historical retrospective on…

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1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

As we continue to trace the development of the monarchy in Israel and use that history to reflect on the relationship between human leadership and divine sovereignty in our own lives, we come to this famous story of David and Goliath.  It is the second chapter in the story of David’s rise to power in…

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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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John 3:1-17

I wonder what Nicodemus was thinking about when he walked home that night. My guess is that it wasn’t the Doctrine of the Trinity!  Yet this is the Year B passage assigned for Trinity Sunday.  So what did he ponder?  No clue.  John doesn’t tell us.  That’s ironic seeing as, according to John’s reportage at…

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1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In a wonderful sermon commentary on this text (from which I drew numerous ideas for this one), Scott Hoezee suggests that there’s a danger in spending as much time in church and around Christians as some gospel proclaimers do. That’s when Christianity becomes commonsensical to us. And we also wonder why Christianity doesn’t make sense…

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John 1:6-8, 19-28

“Among you stands one you do not know.” Those were John the Baptist’s words as recorded in John 1:26.  Of course, at that time it was literally true that a quiet carpenter’s son from the backwaters of the Roman Empire was rubbing shoulders with lots of people—including the crowds that jostled together at the banks…

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Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

What a great text for this Third Sunday of Advent!  It is full of Good News, but there is still an air of mystery, a sense of “it’s not Christmas yet.”  This poetic description of what God is about to do for his suffering people is among the most lovely and powerful in the Bible. …

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2 Peter 3:8-15a

We usually think of a “last will and testament” as a dry legal document by which a now-dead person divvies up his or her possessions. Yet we periodically see or hear about a last will and testament that’s really a kind of testament that communicates the deceased person’s final thoughts. Sometimes its words scold family…

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

“The Lord make his face to shine upon you . . .”  That’s a line from the great Aaronic Benediction originally given to Israel in Numbers 6 and it is a line with which many Christians are exceedingly familiar on account of having heard it at the end of a church service so many times. …

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Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

And so our Lenten journey begins.  The text chosen by the RCL for this First Sunday of Lent remind us that the journey to salvation began at a tree where salvation became necessary and ended at a tree where salvation was accomplished.  Genesis 3 shows us the disastrous human choice that brought death in all…

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

So, Christmas is finally over, I mean really over.  The visitors have all gone home, the tree has been put back in the box, the decorations are down in the basement, and the gifts, well, the gifts have been celebrated, enjoyed, used, broken, returned, or forgotten. But the Lectionary says, “Not so fast. Let’s keep…

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Romans 1:1-7

God saves God’s adopted children by grace alone that we can only receive with our faith in Jesus Christ.  However, God always calls those whom God loves to express that faith with our obedience. Someone once said, “Make a good beginning and you’re half the way to winning.”  Certainly, then, Paul seems halfway to winning…

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Advent in Year A of the Lectionary’s cycle of readings is a poetry lover’s delight.  From the images of mountains and military in Isaiah 2 to the plants and animals and a little child in Isaiah 11, we now come to the images of a trackless desert transformed into a verdant paradise with a superhighway…

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Luke 19:1-10

Maybe it was that sycamore tree that did it. Maybe even before Jesus wandered by, Zacchaeus looked at where he was and wondered how it had come to this.  What was it that had quite literally chased him clean up a tree?  His nice Armani tunic had a chlorophyll stain or two on it from…

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Acts 16:16-34

Our reading for today serves as the exclamation point on Dr. Luke’s history of the Gospel’s spread to the ends of the earth.  No, we haven’t gotten to that far horizon yet, but Luke has introduced all the major themes and players that will get us there.  This story contains all those elements that will…

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Revelation 7:9-17

“Is this heaven?” isn’t just a question an Iowa farmer poses in the movie, Field of Dreams.  Readers, preachers and teachers of Revelation 7:9-17 might ask the same question of it.  Does its John describe the heavenly realm as God currently configures it?  Or is he describing the new earth and heaven that Jesus will…

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Isaiah 43:16-21

All four of the Lectionary readings for this Fifth Sunday of Lent share a “past and future” theme.  Psalm 126 talks about the restoration of Israel’s fortune in the past and calls on God to restore Israel’s fortunes in the future, so that those who “sow in tears can reap with shouts of joy.”  In…

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Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Go ahead, try to be creative.  Mess with this story if you must.  Others have.  Texts that are super-familiar to many people always tempt one to do something different.  “Goodness, people have heard this story SOOOO many times” we think. Thus when it comes to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, folks have tried to…

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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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2 Corinthians 5:16-21

“From now on,” Paul insists to the Corinthians in this Sunday’s RCL Epistolary Lesson, “we regard no one from a worldly point of view (16)”.  Yet whenever I hear him say that, I want to ask, “Really?!  Do we really no longer view people from a worldly point of view? After all, how quick aren’t…

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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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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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Psalm 99

All these millennia later it is easy to read the Psalms, especially one like Psalm 99, and forget how at once scandalous and vaguely ridiculous they might appear to be.  Or at least how they could appear to some outsider to Israel who was looking in.  After all, in poems like this one, the psalmist…

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Luke 4:21-30

I don’t quite understand this passage.  Or at least I don’t understand how it turns out.  It’s not so much what is contained in this Lectionary snippet of verses 21-30 as how this call follows on what we saw last week in the first part of this story.  After all, Luke 4:15 assures us that…

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11

God’s adopted sons and daughters generally like being related to Christ.  Through him, after all, we receive not only the gift of salvation, but also eternal life.  On top of that, we don’t have to deal with our brother Christ face to face.  So he doesn’t get on our nerves by doing things like hanging…

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Isaiah 60:1-6

On this Epiphany Sunday, most preachers will choose the Gospel reading for their preaching text.  Matthew 2 shows us the very first Epiphany of Christ to the world.  Born in a barn in a far-off corner of the world, Jesus is worshipped and treasured by his parents and those shepherds and, if some carols are…

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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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Isaiah 12:2-6

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Note: During Advent the Lectionary occasionally appoints other readings in place of a Psalm. More than we realize, the Bible is a trove of images, similes, metaphors, and visual depictions.  Throughout Scripture God describes himself through a battery of metaphors that inevitably lead you to form a picture in…

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Galatians 2:15-21

“I have been crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live but Christ in me.” What a soaring declaration. It’s one of the most famous lines in the New Testament. In fact, it’s so well known that it’s one of those verses that became context-less somewhere along the line. It’s a…

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Psalm 30

Easter and Eastertide have now passed this calendar year and yet in the Sundays after Pentecost the Lectionary provides us with some wonderful poetry to help us continue living into and celebrating Easter. With its imagery of death and resurrection, Psalm 30 is a perfect post-Easter Psalm. Its purpose is to keep the memory of…

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Galatians 1:11-24

It’s not easy to preach on a text that in some ways resembles a person’s resume. Most of the verses in this Year C Lectionary reading are taken up with a brief autobiographical sketch of what happened to Paul and where he traveled in the period after Jesus confronted him on the Damascus Road. Let’s…

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Acts 16:16-34

TANSTAAFL is an acronym for the old adage, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” reportedly coined by Robert Heinlein. Quite simply, it means even if something appears to be free, there’s always some kind of catch. So your friendly neighborhood lobbyist (or pastor) may buy you lunch or dinner. However, she’s probably…

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Philippians 2:5-11

The story is told that one evening a man in a Dearborn, Michigan, restaurant bumped into no less than the famous Chrysler chairman, Lee Iacocca. “Oh, Mr. Iacocca,” the man exclaimed, “what an honor to meet you! Say, my name is Jack and I’m having a business dinner with some colleagues over there at that…

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Psalm 126

We’ve come a long way on our Lenten journey, but we’re not there yet. We’re still on pilgrimage, so Psalm 126 is a perfect Psalm for this stage of our lives. It is the seventh of fifteen Psalms of Ascent sung by ancient Israel as they journeyed from the various parts of the Promised Land…

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Isaiah 43:16-21

At first glance, Isaiah’s invitation to “Forget the former things” seems right up 21st century North Americans’ “alley.” After all, we’re not even very interested in last week’s “former things.” If it’s not on our homepage, the 6 o’clock news or local media website, we’re hardly interested in what happened even yesterday. Today’s news quickly…

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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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Psalm 27

While this Psalm has been the source of inspiration and consolation for many believers, there’s a sense in which it is a troubling Psalm. There is a great tension in it. Perhaps dichotomy is a better word. It is composed of two entirely different parts. The one is a magnificent confession of unshakeable trust in…

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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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Jeremiah 31:7-14

You can’t accuse the Old Testament prophets of not being specific enough when it came to describing the blessings of God’s salvation! Sometimes believers today content themselves with generic or generalized descriptions of felicity in “heaven,” sometimes not advancing in their views of the New Creation much beyond the wispy, cloudy, ethereal realm that New…

Explore

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Two Temples. Two Boys. One boy apparently lost. One boy apparently given away. But, of course, the 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 the focus…

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Isaiah 12:2-6

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Note: During Advent the Lectionary occasionally appoints other readings in place of a Psalm. This is Isaiah’s song of praise to the Lord for being his salvation.  It lies at what J. Ross Wagner calls a “crucial juncture in the book of Isaiah.”  Our text, after all, ends the…

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