(Lectionary for February 25, 2018) When I was in graduate school a hundred years ago or so, we were taught those famous letters, J,E,D,P, who were described to us as the four “authors” of the Pentateuch. Because these abbreviations were delivered in Germany, primarily by the pioneer Old Testament researcher, Julius Wellhausen in his formative book, Prolegomena to the History of Israel (1878), those four letters were the first letters of the names given to the supposed authors who contributed… Read more

(Lectionary for February 18, 2018) Here is an ancient text from the Hebrew Bible that all are likely to know, because it involves a common weather phenomenon that practically everyone has seen many times in her life. I refer, of course, to a rainbow, that wonderfully colorful arc of beauty that regularly accompanies rain showers. Rainbows are caused by reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light in water droplets, when the water becomes in effect a prism, dividing the light into… Read more

I have taken several short-term mission trips over the years, trips in which I have been involved mainly in building something or the other. On two occasions in Guatemala I found myself building cinder block houses. Well, to be more accurate I was the one mixing the mortar for the “maestro” who was the one doing the actual work of building. Or I was the one trying to dig the trenches into the packed earth into which some skilled person… Read more

(Lectionary for February 18, 2018) I am always glad when this wonderful text streams into view; fortunately it does so quite regularly in the Common Lectionary. It is simply chock full of great preaching bits that can energize any proclaimer to a deeper reflection. In this essay, I wish to concentrate on the very first two verses of the pericope (Is.43:18-19). Do not remember the former things, nor reflect on old things. Watch! I am doing something new! It springs… Read more

50 years ago this summer, I went to Yellowstone National Park to fulfill my first preaching assignment. Mind you, I had not yet been to seminary, though I was admitted and ready to start in the fall of 1968. And since I had not been raised in the church, having attended only a few times in my Phoenix growing up years, though nearly every Sunday during my college days (if you wanted to sing in choir, you HAD to attend… Read more

( Lectionary for February 11, 2018) Today offers to the preacher one of the Bible’s great narratives, the stunning story of the healing of the Syrian general, Naaman, by the prophet, Elisha. A preacher would do well merely to tell this marvelous tale, focusing, of course, squarely on just what the story is about. But what it is in fact about needs some careful thought, since it could be said to be about more than one thing like all great… Read more

In July of 2011, my wife and I went to Norway, a place both of us had long wanted to see. We had seen many pictures of the place, but were frankly not prepared for the astonishing beauty we were about to experience. Norway is nothing less than a postcard around every turn in its roads, north to south and east to west. In 2017, Norway was named home to the happiest people on earth, displacing Denmark in that enviable… Read more

(Lectionary for February 4, 2018) This very familiar and much beloved passage should raise in us far more than warm feelings of the pleasurable presence of God when we are feeling particularly low about one modern thing or another. Maybe our energy is not up to snuff, making our workout less than satisfactory. Or maybe our too-boisterous toddlers have sapped us so much that we can hardly carry the laundry basket to our pristine laundry room, causing us a delay… Read more

In 1999 I was asked to offer some lectures in Australia by a former colleague at Perkins School of Theology, an offer I eagerly accepted. My wife and I had never been to Australia, nor had we visited New Zealand, its relatively near neighbor “down under.” I did not know what to expect in either country, but pictures I had seen, especially of New Zealand, whetted my appetite for the trip. Because I had no reason to go to New… Read more

(Lectionary for January 28, 2018) I admit that this passage has long been a source of fun for many who have read it. At first, it appears to be a very serious attempt to answer an extremely important question: how can one tell if words uttered by someone claiming to be a prophet are to be taken seriously? After all, every age is rife with persons who announce that they have assumed the prophetic mantle from God, who are literal… Read more

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