“Looking for Light in the Shadow of Death” A Sermon on Matthew 4:12-23

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

The “Shadow of Death.” That doesn’t sound very good, does it?

I asked Rabbi Josh Breindel of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield about the phrase and he said it is quite literally “shadow of death” in Hebrew. He said it is a colloquial saying and means something like “mortal peril.” We are all acquainted with that image from the 23rd Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Two of the traditional themes for the Epiphany season are “light shining in the darkness” and the “calling to Christian discipleship,” and I hope to combine them today. Continue reading

“Known knowns, known unknowns,” and the New Testament

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The good folks over at the Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical site, posted a gem of a fake article today called “Historical-Critical Scholar Doubts Authorship Of Paper He Wrote,” which comically captures some of the dubious certainties that sometimes come out of the New Testament studies combine.

The article quotes the fictitious Dr. Gunther Burg of Yale questioning the authenticity of an article he himself had written. Continue reading

“And in a supporting role . . .” Hulda the Prophet

Hulda 2“Hilkiah (the high priest) and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe.” —2 Chronicles 34:22

The prophet Hulda gets a scant 9 lines in the Bible, and in them we learn more about her husband than we do about her.

Nonetheless, she must have been impressive, for when King Josiah needed a prophet to authenticate the Word of God, it was to Hulda that he turned. Continue reading

Coming Soon: A New Bible Study on Romans

RomansP1I am pleased to announce that the Bible study on Romans that Mike Bennett and I have been working on for so long can now be ordered through UCC Resources and will ship on March 1.

Romans, Part 1, Romans 1-8 and Romans, Part 2, Romans 9-16 are titles in the United Church of Christ’s LISTEN UP! Bible Study series.

Romans, Parts 1 and 2 are not ground-breaking new works of original Biblical scholarship, but rather teaching tools to be used by small groups in Bible studies. A leader’s guide is included in every workbook.

Mike and I together bring over a half-century of experience as pastors leading Bible studies in local congregations. Romans Part 1 and 2 brings our knowledge of how to make Bible study come alive.

Behind these studies we bring our own understanding of Romans from a lifetime of engagement with this important book. Mike has been influenced by two important commentaries on Romans by Professors at his alma mater Yale Divinity School, Leander Keck and David Bartlett. Mike is also a contributor to the Feasting on the Word series. Continue reading

“Are you choking?” A reflection on worry.

Thorns“As for the seed that was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.” – Matthew 13:22

“I’ve never been particularly susceptible to the lure of wealth, but I am an expert on “the cares of the world.” It may be in my genes. My grandmother, Irma Grace, was what the family called a “worrywart,” a word you don’t hear much anymore, but one that means “a person who worries too much or who worries about things that are not important.”

My grandmother was the Babe Ruth of worrying. She had long lists of things to worry about, and if one worry got resolved the next one would quickly move to the top of the list. (From my Daily Devotional for today. See more here)

 

“Words to Live By” The King James Bible and its Legacy to the English Language

JamesThe story I want to tell is the story of the creation of the King James Bible, and its enormous influence on the English language. For over 400 years this was the Bible for the English-speaking world, the best selling book of all time, and still the most frequently purchased translation.

It lasting legacy to English is incalculable. It is the Bible that Abraham Lincoln learned to read with, and its sounds and rhythms can be heard in his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address, as it can in Melville’s Moby Dick, the poetry of Walt Whitman, and the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

How did we get this extraordinary work of literary art that has made such a place in the story of English? It was published in 1611, but there is considerable backstory that needs to be shared before we get there, and so we need to go way back. The English still refer to it as the Authorised Version (AV), but I will use the more popular American title, the King James Version and its abbreviation (KJV.)  Continue reading