Preaching Connection: Worship

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Movies for Preaching

John Adams (2008)

John Adams (2008).  HBO Mini-series.  Episode VII: “Peacefield.” Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti.  71 mins.  Rated TV-14. Sometimes preaching choices are easy.  In this instance, skip the sermon to play the following three times.  Or maybe four. Old John Adams (Paul Giamatti) is pushing 90.  Despite his distinguished career from…

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Reading for Preaching

A Diary of Private Prayer in Devotional Classics

“O God my Creator and Redeemer, I may not go forth today except You accompany me with Your blessing.  Let not the vigor and freshness of the morning, or the glow of good health, or the present prosperity of my undertakings, deceive me into a false reliance upon my own strength.  All these good gifts...
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

In chapter 3 of this American classic, Huck Finn tells us that Miss Watson had taught him to pray, promising that whatever he asked for, he would get it  “’But it warn’t so,’ says Huck.  “’I tried it.  Once I got a fish line but no hooks.  It warn’t any good to me without hooks. ...
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Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

“Those who have not learned to ask God for childish things will have less readiness to ask Him for great ones.  We must not be too high-minded.  I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than of God’s.”
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Confessions

Augustine is a vastly learned scholar and a deep-souled Christian man, utterly devoted to the God he sometimes calls “my sweetness.”  Few published Christian prayers to God can address God with the same power and beauty as Augustine could.  So this, very early in the Confessions, as Augustine lets us overhear what he thinks of...
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“Memorial Minute for W. J. Beeners”

Beeners was for “good American speech.” He wanted, above all, integrity, “traction,” intelligibility–and he wanted it in every part of the service, including the public reading of Scripture, public leading in prayer, and preaching. He argued that important texts have more than one good reading. There isn’t just one right reading of a text. He...
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God’s Name in Vain: The Rights and Wrongs of Religion in Politics

Tells of Hannah Arendt’s book on thinking (The Life of the Mind), and of her observation that in Plato’s dialogues, e.g., in the Crito and in the Republic, Socrates sometimes would simply stop and think. And that’s what Plato writes. “Here Socrates paused to think.” This is not what contemporary culture encourages. On TV it...
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Pray and Vote

Even before the invasion of Iraq had begun, the cry went forth through and from the churches: Pray! Pray for the soldiers, pray for the civilians, pray for peace. So I preached, and so I did. I wonder, though, if God didn’t answer our petitions with one of his own: Vote! Polls indicate that something...
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Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC

We do a lot of measured praise: Good job! Big boy! Nice work! “The way the 148th Psalm describes it, praising God is another kettle of fish altogether. It is about as measured as a volcanic eruption, and there is no implication that under any conceivable circumstances it could be anything other than what it...
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A Dresser of Sycamore Trees

(Keizer is writing of himself and a friend): “The last words my journal records Jeffrey’s having said to me were ‘Pray for me, a sinner.’ I did not remember until later that these are also the last words an Episcopal priest says to a penitent after pronouncing him or her absolved.”
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The Diary of a Country Priest

“The usual notion of prayer is so absurd. How can those who know nothing about it, who pray little or not at all, dare speak so frivolously of prayer? A Carthusian, a Trappist, will work for years to make of himself a man of prayer, and then any fool who comes along sets himself up...
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The Screwtape Letters

Prayers offered in the state of dryness may please God best. “When a human, though not desiring is still intending to do God’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of God seems to have vanished, and who asks why he has been forsaken, but still obeys” then God triumphs uniquely.
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“A Labor Not in Vain”

Fred Craddock, retired professor of preaching at Emory, tells a story about an incident that occurred when he was pastor of a small Christian church in east Tennessee and was visiting his hospitalized church members. As he happened to be passing the room of a patient, she called to him, “’Uh, sir, are you a...
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Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Where liturgy is concerned, laymen “should take what we are given and make the best of it.” Trouble is that the clergy want to change things all the time with “incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service.” But the majority of people just want things left alone. With good reason. “Novelty,...
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Additional content related to Worship

Psalm 97

A few years ago the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship produced a new hymnal based on the Psalms.  Its title is “Psalms for All Seasons.”  The title is apt because as most of us know, the Hebrew Psalter is a collection of varied prayers that matches life’s many and varied seasons.  As C.S. Lewis and…

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Psalm 150

Whether it’s a Broadway play like Les Miserables or a classic movie like The Sound of Music, most people enjoy a good musical. But have you ever wondered what it is about such productions that appeals to us? After all, musicals are decidedly unlike real life. In The Sound of Music people burst into song…

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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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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 an outsider to Israel who was looking in.  After all, in poems like this one, the psalmist…

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Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)

It was the year King Uzziah died. Or, it was the year President Kennedy died. Or it was the year 9/11 rattled the world to its core. Or it was the year the COVID pandemic began. It was the year when things fell apart, when foundations were shaken, when the markets crumbled, when all that…

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Psalm 148

When I was a pastor, I liked every sixth year when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday.  First, it eliminated the need for an extra service and second, it eliminated conversations with leadership as to whether to hold any extra services in case . . .  well, in case Christmas Day fell on a Saturday. …

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Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to mitigate it have changed the way at least some Christians have met or are currently “meeting together” (25). Restrictions have forced at least some of us to meet together remotely rather than in the same building.  Restrictions have also forced some Christians to worship somewhat differently even when they…

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul certainly had lofty ideals for the Christian Church. At the beginning of his first letter to Thessalonica’s Christians, he describes the Church as a community loved and chosen by God. That community, the apostle adds, draws its life from God and lives that life with faith, love and hope. When Paul concludes this letter…

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Psalm 84:1-7

In the Calvin Seminary Chapel above and behind the pulpit area is a large clear-glass window with a cross in the center.  A few years ago during a May Term preaching class in the chapel, we all noticed that a large Horned Owl had made a nest in the uppermost window pane near the top…

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Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

How can we understand Christ’s promise to come “soon” that he makes not once but twice in just this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s seven verses?  After all, few of our definitions of “soon” would include the two thousand years that have elapsed since he made first it. In Revelation 22 John’s dazzling visions of that coming…

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Luke 19:28-40

In one of the earlier episodes of the TV series M*A*S*H the doctor known as “Trapper” gets diagnosed with a stomach ulcer.  Although initially upset about having to deal with a hole in his gut, Trapper soon beams with joy when his bunkmate Hawkeye reminds him that according to Army regulations, Trapper was going home!…

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Philippians 3:17-4:1

We generally think of citizenship as, for instance, American, Canadian or whichever geographic country we call “home”.  That citizenship not only identifies us but also shapes at least some of our attitudes and behavior. The Epistolary Lesson the RCL appoints for this Sunday, however, is not about national, but heavenly citizenship.  That citizenship too, writes…

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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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Nehemiah 8:1-10

This passage will deeply move every preacher who reads it, either to joy or to sorrow, to gratitude or to envy.  I mean, what happens here is a preacher’s dream.  The whole congregation– men, women (not typical in a Temple service), and children old enough to understand what was going on—spontaneously gathered for worship.  They…

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Psalm 127

Digging into the Text: Just offhand, I thought that the title of a sermon on Psalm 127 might be “The Cure for insomnia,” inspired by that delightful line: “the Lord gives his beloved sleep.” Of course, that’s a gross reduction of the breadth of the Psalm, but it does point to its multi-level meaning. One…

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Psalm 81

I’ve chosen to write on the alternative Psalm reading for today, since I have written on Psalm 139 twice in the last year (see January 14, 2018 and July 23, 2017 in the Sermon Commentary Archives on this website).  Rather than repeating what I’ve said before, I want to suggest that you take a different…

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Psalm 99

Psalm 99 is the last of the Enthronement Psalms that proclaim that Yahweh reigns not only over little Israel, but also over the entire world.  It is a particularly exquisite declaration of Yahweh’s reign because of its symbolic use of numbers, notably the numbers seven and three.  The former is the number of perfection throughout…

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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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Psalm 99

On this Transfiguration Sunday, Psalm 99 provides us with a tantalizingly different way to preach on that brilliant Epiphany of Christ’s glory on the mountain. In our Transfiguration Day sermon we could do what the disciples wanted to do in Luke 9; we could build shelters/booths/museums to preserve the moment. We could keep retelling the…

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