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

Psalm 22:25-31

No, it’s not your imagination: the Year B Revised Common Lectionary has put Psalm 22 in front of us now three times in calendar year 2024.  Almost this exact same lection was the reading for the Second Sunday in Lent and the entire Psalm was assigned for Good Friday.  Now here it is again as…

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Psalm 114

The Lectionary assigned parts of Psalm 118 for both Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter and since the March 24 sermon commentary here on the CEP website was on Psalm 118, I will direct you to look that up in our Sermon Commentary Library.  But for this commentary we will take the psalm for Year B Easter…

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Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

By the end of Psalm 118 it is easy to see why the Lectionary would connect these words with Palm Sunday.  The imagery of a festal throng of people going up to the Temple waving tree branches exuberantly in the air makes this fit the traditional ways we picture the events of Jesus’s entrance into…

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Numbers 21:4-9

The people of Israel have been wandering around in that desert for quite awhile. You know how this goes: slaves in Egypt, they are freed by God’s mighty hand, some plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. They make it to the border of the Promised Land, send in some spies who — with…

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Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Psalm 107:2 invites people to tell their stories.  Ironically no sooner does that begin to happen in this poem and the Lectionary has us stop reading to jump over a lot of the stories that get told!  Truth is, Psalm 107 is semi-repetitive but it is structured that way to make a point about the…

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Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

A pastor friend of mine who is very dapper and proper in all things, including his attire, once observed another pastor show up for a summertime seminar dinner wearing a pair of shorts.  My friend saw this and I noticed the muscles in his jaw tighten slightly before he wryly said, “I believe it is…

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10

A common exercise for aspiring creative writers is to write a 6 word story.  With the platform of social media, these short stories have taken off on sites like Reddit and Tumbler.  Here are a couple examples: “Axe falling, the rooster crows, ‘Wait!’” “Only child, but never the favorite.” “They lived happily ever after, separately.”…

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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 80:1-7, 17-19

The Lectionary directed us to Psalm 80 not long ago during Year A on October 3 and now here it is again at the head of Advent for Year B.  If you want to see the commentary on this from just two months ago, you can click here.  For this commentary we will look at…

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

A Shepherd In the US context, the day after Thanksgiving begins the Christmas season.  But this is one of those years where a fluke of the calendar means the church won’t be celebrating Advent (let alone Christmas) yet. We have one last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Liturgically, the first Sunday of Advent begins a brand…

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Psalm 70

At Calvin Seminary for the past two academic years we have been holding a once-weekly Public Reading of Scripture where we gather for 30 minutes to read aloud a couple chapters each of an Old Testament passage, a Gospel passage, and a Psalm.  Not long ago Psalm 70 was read by a student and you…

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Psalm 80:7-15

Carving out only the middle section of Psalm 80 (as the Lectionary does) has several drawbacks, not least that if you only read those 9 verses, you miss the framing refrain of this poem as it occurs word-for-word in verses 3, 7, and 19: Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us,…

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Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus’s literal declaration, “I am” (translated as “it is I”) is the very center of this story. Literally: in his commentary on the miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Birger Gerhardsson counted the Greek words and noted that these two, egō eimi, are the exact middle of this story. Because Jesus is the…

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Psalm 86:11-17

In one of her novels Anne Tyler shows a woman named Maggie attending a funeral.  In the course of the service the pastor reads a psalm, and Maggie found it to be a lovely poem full of warmth and hope.  This was a relief to her since ordinarily she thought of the psalms as often…

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Psalm 145:8-14

The Lectionary carves out for us the middle third of this psalm and so although there are multiple (albeit overall related) themes in this poem, we will focus on verse 8 and how it sets the tone for the verses before us.  “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” …

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Psalm 50:7-15

In an episode of the original Star Trek series titled “The Apple,” the crew of the USS Enterprise visits a planet that is ruled by a god by the name of Vaal.  One inhabitant of this planet named Akuta has what looks like a small antenna attached to his neck and it is through this…

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Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Sometimes the Revised Common Lectionary gives us the same Psalm somewhat frequently but each time it is chopped up in different ways.  As it is, selecting some verses, skipping over others, and then including a few more is not always a great way to preach on a given Hebrew poem in that they were written…

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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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Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Across these past few highly unsettled and unsettling years around the world, Psalm 116 has provided thoughts that are at once inspirational and aspirational.  It is inspirational in its witness to God’s faithfulness in hearing our cries of distress from places of disorientation and even death.  It is aspirational in that—as in all times of…

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Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Garry Wills once wrote a fine book titled, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America.  Wills claims that in the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln—in the span of a scant 272 words that took him all of three minutes to deliver—forever altered our understanding of the Declaration of Independence.  Lincoln was not even the main…

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Acts 10:34-43

“He was not seen by all the people.” I’ll say. This is what Peter tells Cornelius in Acts 10 as he sums up the story arc of Jesus’ life, including the world-altering fact of his having been raised from the dead.   Jesus was raised again!  He arose!!   But . . . by way of a…

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Psalm 130

This poem is labeled a “Psalm of Ascent” but it starts as a Psalm of Descent.  It is called De Profundis in older Bibles—the Latin for “from the depths.”   When last this came up for the Lectionary Year A Fifth Sunday in Lent in 2020, the initial COVID lockdown was in its second week.  Some…

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Psalm 95

Growing up in a tradition that had once upon a time been founded on Psalm singing only in church, I sang lots of psalms in my boyhood church even long, long after my Reformed tradition had added also hymns to our standard Psalter Hymnal songbook.  Even as a young boy, though, I was struck by…

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Isaiah 9:1-4

The Common Lectionary’s choice to cut off this reading at verse 4 feels artificial.  It’s like asking someone to break off singing midway through verse 2 of “Joy to the World.”  It doesn’t work.  You both want to finish the song and anyway you hear the song finish up in your head even if you…

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Isaiah 49:1-7

In the Servant Songs in this part of Isaiah the Lord God alternates speaking with the Servant himself also making remarks or comments.  In this passage we hear from both the God who pre-ordained the Servant long before he was born and from the Servant himself.  From God’s side we get high-flying confidence.  From the…

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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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Luke 18:9-14

In our passage this week, the great reversals continue in the Gospel of Luke. One of the challenges we have as modern readers is that we know what to expect. For instance, those of us who have encountered these stories many times know that it is likely that the Pharisee is going to be revealed…

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2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Our lectionary reading for this 22nd Sunday of The Growing Season (more commonly known as Ordinary Time) reminds us of one of the deepest darkest secrets of spiritual growth.  As we’ve followed the readings for Year C, we’ve been reminded of the importance of getting the basic gospel straight (Galatians), of staying Christ centered (Colossians),…

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Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

A real estate deal seldom had it so good.  All through the Bible you can find a recurrent theme related to real estate, to land, to who owns what.  It all began with a promise of land to Abram (who for some reason had to leave behind the land he already owned to set out…

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Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

“This hurts me more than it hurts you” our parents assured us as they doled out some form of punishment or another.  Timeouts, groundings, restrictions: our parents wanted to claim the greater pain was theirs in the issuing of the punishments than ours in the receiving of them.  We, none of us, believe this when…

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1 Timothy 2:1-7

Paul packs this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson with “all’s.” In fact, he uses a form of the Greek word panta no less than five times in its seven verses. But while the apostle loads this text with “all,” nearly every use of the word carries with it both some mystery and the seed of controversy. So…

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Jeremiah 18:1-11

The image of a potter at a wheel molding a wet lump of clay into various shapes is both a vivid image and one that most people can picture easily in their minds—it even cuts across multiple cultures seeing as the art of pottery making is quite ancient.   Skilled potters are downright amazing in their…

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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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Hosea 11:1-11

When trying to teach seminary students some techniques for effective Bible reading, Hosea 11 is a chapter I often assign.  I ask students to ponder the text and to then make a recording for me of what they would deem to be an effective interpretive reading.  I am often floored by how bloodless some such…

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Hosea 1:2-10

We teach a certain rule-of-thumb to our seminary students.  We talk about it as colleagues in ministry.  And deep down we intuitively know this truth anyway.  We preachers know that it’s at best dicey to use our spouse and children as sermon illustrations, exemplars of behavior good or bad, or just generally as the starting…

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Psalm 66:1-9

A bit cheeky.  A goodly dose of chutzpah.  A tad forward.  You have to admire the psalmists who on many occasions are not the least bit adverse to ordering the whole world to praise the God of Israel.  Make no mistake: all those “Praise the Lord” lines in so many of the psalms are in…

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Psalm 22:19-28

Ordinary Time is just beginning yet the Lectionary directs us to a sometimes difficult psalm.  Yes, we are being asked to consider only the hope-filled, praise-filled conclusion to this poem but it’s not as though we can forget its terrible opening set of verses.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” brings us…

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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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Acts 10:34-43

Comments, Observations, and Questions When you are a devout person who wants nothing more than to serve God, then there are few shocks to the system quite as great as spiritual shocks.  Just ask the apostle Peter.  He knows all about this kind of thing.  Because unlike some of our religious customs and taboos today—the…

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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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Mark 8:27-38

This is a story of being on the way but not there yet. The lectionary skipped over the story of the blind man in Bethsaida having his sight restored in stages, but we have a symbolic outworking of it here in our personal stand-in, Peter. As Jesus and his disciples head to Caesarea, Jesus strikes…

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Mark 6:14-29

How sordid.  How tawdry.  How stupid.  How tragic.  It’s all here in Mark 6 where we learn to our shock and sadness that the last great Old Testament prophet and the first great New Testament gospel herald, John the Baptist himself, was done in because of a boozy promise made by an oversexed older man…

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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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Romans 8:12-17

It should be no mystery why the Lectionary chose this passage as a Trinity Sunday text.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all nicely on display in these half-dozen verses.  Of course, if you also chose the Romans 8 Lectionary text option for Pentecost last week, then you realize that for some reason the Lectionary…

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Acts 4:5-12

Until now, the story of early Christianity has been all good, very good, in fact. Pentecost has filled the infant church with the Holy Spirit.  Peter has preached the first Christian sermon with the crucified and risen Christ at the very center, and the result was spectacular—3000 converts in one day!  Then came the first…

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Psalm 133

Would it be sacrilegious if we added a couple words to the first verse of Psalm 133?  “How good and pleasant (and rare) it is when God’s people live together in unity.”  Maybe I have been a pastor too long or maybe it’s being 13 months on the other side of the start of a…

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Psalm 114

[Note: The Year B Lectionary assigned Psalm 118 for both Passion Sunday and Easter.  I chose to post on that for Passion/Palm Sunday last week and the Easter evening Psalm for this week.  If you want to see last week’s post on Psalm 118, click here.] Psalm 114 is a curious choice for Easter Evening…

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