Russell Pregeant

Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 12, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 16:16-34
Reading 2: 
Psalm 97
Reading 3: 
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Reading 4: 
John 17:20-26
By Russell Pregeant

Jesus’ long farewell to his disciples in John begins at 13:31-35, with his declaration of the mutual glorification that obtains between himself and God and his statement of the “new commandment” to “love one another.” It ends with 17:20-26, which reiterates both themes, so that the discourse is framed by these motifs, identifying them as the dominant thread in the entire section.[1] Although part of the farewell, these verses are spoken to God in prayer, rather than to the disciples. The prayer begins at 17:1 and ends with v.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 16:9-15
Reading 2: 
Psalm 67
Reading 3: 
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
Reading 4: 
John 14:23-29
By Russell Pregeant

Despite the strong emphasis on women in the gospel of Luke, in the book of Acts stories about women are few and far between. We can speculate that this anomaly is largely the result of the lack of such stories in the author’s sources, however, since at a few points the inclusion of women re-emerges as a theme. One of these points is the story of the conversion of Lydia—a woman described as “a worshipper of God,” which suggests that she was a “God-fearer”, that is, a Gentile attached to a synagogue.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 11:1-18
Reading 2: 
Psalm 148
Reading 3: 
Revelation 21:1-6
Reading 4: 
John 13:31-35
By Russell Pregeant

The book of Acts tells the story of the early church, and it is a story of transformations. Characters, most particularly Peter and Paul, undergo transformation; and so does the church itself. Paul’s change is the most dramatic—a complete turnaround from a bitter opponent of the gospel to a courageous bearer of the word into the Gentile world. Peter’s is equally significant, however; and both characters’ faith journeys are central to the plot of Luke-Acts.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 21, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 9:36-43
Reading 2: 
Psalm 23
Reading 3: 
Revelation 7:9-17
Reading 4: 
John 10:22-30
By Russell Pregeant

The gospel lesson illustrates a distinctive aspect of Johannine theology, which Bultmann has called a “dualism of decision.” [1] On the one hand, dualistic language pervades John’s gospel. There are sharp contrasts between light and darkness, flesh and spirit, and above and below. Indeed, one could get the impression from some passages that these contrasts reflect an actual cosmic dualism than would negate human freedom, since whether a person is “from above” or “from below” seems to determine whether or not one has faith in Jesus.

Third Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)
Reading 2: 
Psalm 30
Reading 3: 
Revelation 5:11-14
Reading 4: 
John 21:1-19
By Russell Pregeant

The account of Paul’s life-changing vision in Acts 9:1-6 is a powerful sequence in itself, but it is greatly enhanced by the optional verses 7-20. The initial description of Paul as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” and obtaining authorization from the high priest to have members of “the Way” bound and brought to Jerusalem establishes him as an archenemy of the gospel. His “conversion” experience is thus a dramatic turnaround, a point that his blindness and subsequent healing by Ananias serves to highlight. Sight v.

Second Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 5:27-32
Reading 2: 
Psalm 118:14-29
Reading 3: 
Revelation 1:4-8
Reading 4: 
John 20:19-31
By Russell Pregeant

Resurrection; mandate to witness; the faith-doubt dichotomy; courage in the faith of persecution; repentance/forgiveness of sins—who could ever complain about a lack of thematic substance in this array of texts? No one, I expect, other than the long-term pastor who has had to work with the same materials year in and year out in a lectionary that abandons rotation in this season. I have to wonder how many preachers have in fact acknowledged the difficulty with the words, “poor Thomas,” having grown just a little weary of having to deal with the famous doubter yet again.

Proper 29

November 25, 2012
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18)
Reading 3: 
Revelation 1:4b-8
Reading 4: 
John 18:33-37
By Russell Pregeant

“What is truth?” (John 18:38) By ending the gospel reading at 18:37, the lectionary deprives a potent scene of its climax in this enticing question. To end with a question might seem to leave the interchange between Jesus and Pilate hanging, but to do so is perfectly in line with the Johannine device of contrasting speech that is “from below” (that is, based upon defective, worldly understanding) with speech that is “from above” (that is, based upon knowledge of the truth, which is grounded in heavenly reality). In v.

Proper 28

November 18, 2012
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Daniel 12:1-3
Reading 2: 
Psalm 16
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25
Reading 4: 
Mark 13:1-8
By Russell Pregeant

Mark 13:1-8

Proper 27

November 11, 2012
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Reading 2: 
Mark 12:38-44
By Russell Pregeant

One of the gifts of a process-relational approach to scripture is permission to re-read stories. By re-reading, I do not mean simply replacing one story with another, so that the entire meaning-structure of the original is destroyed. I mean approaching the story from a different perspective than we usually read it from, so that we are able to find new meaning in it.

Proper 26

November 4, 2012
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 146
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 9:11-14
Reading 4: 
Mark 12:28-34
By Russell Pregeant

I choose the alternative First Reading but stay with Psalm 146 in order to emphasize the anti-idolatry theme in the gospel text. What Jesus identifies as the “first” commandment—love of God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength—is a slightly modified version of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, traditionally known as the Shema (= Hebrew for “hear,” the first word of the passage). (The Markan version adds “mind” to the list and uses a different Greek term for “strength” than is found in the Septuagint.) The Shema prohibits idolatry in two ways.

Proper 29/Christ the King (Reign of Christ)

November 25, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Reading 3: 
Colossians 1:11-20
Reading 4: 
Luke 23:33-43
By Russell Pregeant

The readings from Jeremiah, Colossians, and Luke provide material for an interesting take on the theme of the Reign of Christ. Colossians 1:11-20 includes a hymn (vv. 15-20) that embraces a number of themes: Christ’s pre-existence and status as the one in whom all things cohere; the resurrection and exaltation; Christ’s role as the head of the church; and Christ’s work of universal reconciliation through his death on the cross.

Proper 28

November 18, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 65:17-25
Reading 4: 
Luke 21:5-19
By Russell Pregeant

Luke 21:5-19 and Isaiah 65:17-25 complement each other in important ways, and both cry out for creative transformation in light of our contemporary experience. The apocalyptic framework of the Lucan passage can easily be enlisted in the cause of an other-worldly theology that inures us to the sufferings of life in this world, and the hyperbolic promises of the passage from Isaiah can not only feed unrealistic expectations for this life (a world without sorrow, v.

Proper 27

November 11, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21
Reading 3: 
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Reading 4: 
Luke 20:27-38
By Russell Pregeant

Although process theologians disagree on the issue of subjective immortality (the survival of the individual person after death as an experiencing subject), they are firmly united in the affirmation of objective immortality (the retention of all experience in the everlasting life of God). And the function of such an affirmation is to insure the meaningfulness of life.

Proper 26

November 4, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Reading 2: 
Psalm 119:137-144
Reading 3: 
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Reading 4: 
Luke 19:1-10
By Russell Pregeant

The story of Zachhaeus in the Gospel of Luke is certainly one of the best-loved passages in the New Testament. It is also a virtual goldmine of central Lucan themes: repentance for the forgiveness of sins (together with the hard-heartedness of those who sit in judgment of others), inclusion of outcasts, concern for the poor, and the presence of salvation in the here and now (despite the emphasis in other parts of Luke-Acts on God’s Rule as future).

Easter Sunday

April 12, 2009
See Also: 

Lenten Candle Liturgy
Lenten Benedictions/Commissioning/Blessings

Preaching Lent/Easter I
Preaching Lent/Easter II
Preaching Lent/Easter III

John Cobb on atonement
John Cobb on redemption
John Cobb on Jesus
Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus (Cobb)

Reading 1: 
Isaiah 25:6-9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
Reading 4: 
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8
By Russell Pregeant

Mark’s version of the empty tomb story might seem a poor choice, as an alternative to the elaborate Johannine text, for Easter Sunday. After all, there isn’t much of a resurrection story there. The women who come to the tomb find it empty, and they hear an announcement of Jesus’ resurrection by the young man in a white robe. But Mark gives no accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and the women fail to tell the others that he has been raised and simply flee in terror. End of story.

Good Friday

April 10, 2009
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Reading 2: 
Psalm 22
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Reading 4: 
John 18:1-19:42
By Russell Pregeant

The alternative epistle reading, Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9, provides an interesting and potentially fruitful counterpoint to John’s passion narrative. Hebrews and the Gospel of John were both major sources of the eventual development of the doctrine of the two natures of Christ. There is, however, little indication of Jesus’ humanity in John’s account of his arrest and trial. There is no hint of the agony in Gethsemane portrayed in the synoptics, and throughout the story Jesus seems to be the one in control of the unfolding events.

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

March 28, 2010
See Also: 

Lenten Candle Liturgy
John Cobb on redemption
Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus (Cobb)

Preaching Lent/Easter I
Preaching Lent/Easter II
Preaching Lent/Easter III

Reading 2: 
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Reading 4: 
Luke 19:28-40
By Russell Pregeant

Palm Sunday gets its name from the Gospel of John’s version of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13), which is the only account that mentions palm branches. In Matthew (21:8) and Mark (11:8), the people in the crowds spread branches on the road before him, but they are not specified as palm. What is distinctive about Luke in this regard is that no branches are mentioned at all. Luke preserves Mark’s notation about people spreading their cloaks and even repeats it, but the reference to branches is missing altogether. How do we account for this?

5th Sunday in Lent

March 21, 2010
See Also: 

Lenten Candle Liturgy

Preaching Lent/Easter I
Preaching Lent/Easter II
Preaching Lent/Easter III

John Cobb on atonement
John Cobb on redemption
John Cobb on Jesus
Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus (Cobb)

Reading 1: 
Isaiah 43:16-21
Reading 2: 
Psalm 126
Reading 3: 
Philippians 3:4b-14
Reading 4: 
John 12:1-8
By Russell Pregeant

The readings from the Hebrew Scriptures and Philippians have in common a theme dear to the heart of process thinkers—transformation. In describing his transition from his former faith to his new life in Christ in Philippians 3, Paul is able to look upon his past accomplishments and see them as “rubbish” (v. 8)—the NRSV’s polite translation of the Greek skubalon, a strong term that embraces such meanings as human excrement, filth, or dirt. The danger for preachers in stressing this point is that it might foster anti-Judaism.

4th Sunday in Lent

March 14, 2010
See Also: 

Lenten Candle Liturgy

Preaching Lent/Easter I
Preaching Lent/Easter II
Preaching Lent/Easter III

John Cobb on atonement
John Cobb on redemption
John Cobb on Jesus
Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus (Cobb)



Reading 1: 
Joshua 5:9-12
Reading 2: 
Psalm 32
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Reading 4: 
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
By Russell Pregeant

The readings for this Sunday are a virtual goldmine of texts expressing the related themes of the grace of God, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The passage from 2 Corinthians celebrates the new creation in which those in Christ participate and proclaims the divine-human reconciliation effected through Christ. Psalm 32 celebrates the joy of one whose sins are forgiven (vv. 1-2, 7, 11), contrasting the spiritual uplift that genuine confession brings (v.5) with the burdensome weight of sin (v.

3rd Sunday in Lent

March 7, 2010
See Also: 

Lenten Candle Liturgy

Preaching Lent/Easter I
Preaching Lent/Easter II
Preaching Lent/Easter III

John Cobb on atonement
John Cobb on redemption
John Cobb on Jesus
Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus (Cobb)



Reading 1: 
Isaiah 55:1-9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 63:1-8
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 13:1-9
By Russell Pregeant

The passage from Luke begins with people telling Jesus about Pilate’s murder of a group of Galileans who were offering sacrifices. One might expect Jesus to have condemned Pilate’s action, but instead he uses the incident as a teaching opportunity to make his own point. The rhetorical question in v.

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