Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Best Christmas story you have never read

Every year just a few more people find their way to this little Christmas storybook, but it awaits discovery by a much larger readership. You are most welcome to spread the word any way you can: buy it in bulk, give it as a gift or an upscale "card," mention it in lists and slideshows featuring best Christmas stories or books, adapt it for your pageant, etc. It's one little way to remind people "what Christmas is all about," to coin a phrase. God bless you, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Errata Corrected

This is to document the recent correction of several errata in the first pressings of Johannes Oecolampadius (1482—1531), Sermons on the First Epistle of John (A Handbook for the Christian Life). In addition to a number of spelling corrections, two dates on p. 5 were off by a factor of ten: JO matriculated in Tübingen in 1513, not 1523, and he left Tübingen in the summer of 1514, not 1524. [Apologies to Jeff Fisher for introducing this error into a quotation taken from his fine work.] Also, on p. 9, I have changed "John Chrysostom" to "the Greek Fathers", and after "the sermons of Chrysostom," inserted the phrase, "begun in Mainz," which is more accurate. The influence of Chrysostom on JO is undoubtedly the most decisive, but as Staehelin's reconstruction makes clear at several points, it is only in Mainz that JO's work on this particular Greek Father begins. Any copies of this translation ordered after November 16, 2018 will reflect these most recent corrections. Anyone with earlier copies may wish to pencil in these corrections.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Intergenerational Sermons

A speaker I heard last evening, a representative of my denomination, seems to think sermons should be jettisoned in order to make worship more conducive to intergenerational experience. This was not an offhand comment, but is apparently a regular feature of this talk which he takes on the road. According to his reasoning, since the sermon is the element that children cannot endure and often becomes the reason for their dismissal, we should get rid of the sermon. No thought given to what might make the sermon more intergenerational. No thought given to what God might have at stake or be doing in the sermon. No thought given to what the Bible has to say about preaching. No reference that I can recall even to the presence of God in worship. While I am all for keeping children in worship and fostering intergenerational church, I find this attack on the sermon (which included a direct attack on the children's sermon), let us say, weighed and found wanting, to put it as mildly as possible.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of humble attempts at intergenerational sermons (both in the narrative mode) that, after being shopped to numerous publishers, were finally self-published, since envisioning an intergenerational audience fails every acquisitions editor's first test, which is that the author has clearly defined a very specific audience and written everything directly for that level of cognitive development and that particular context.


Also, here is a recently reprinted denominational publication from the late 19th c., which advocates for the children's sermon and includes sixteen such sermons from the period that should challenge any notion that we are able to clearly define or sector discrete levels of cognitive development. In short, just as adults can read, enjoy, and be formed by children's literature, these sermons too can be read with formational value by an intergenerational readership.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Farewell to FaceBook

Readers of this blog may wish to note that all related FB pages have been deleted in recent weeks, with my main personal FB page finally deactivated today.  

The Children's Sermon

This simple, classic treatment of The Children's Sermon, by the Rev. John C. Hill, was published in 1882 just before he and his wife left their parish in NY and embarked on a four-year missionary journey to Guatemala. Here it is, newly reissued with just the briefest explanation from the author and sixteen short, but substantial, sermons—substantial in that they actually "preach" in a way that children's sermons today frequently fail to do. This fresh reprint of a historical denominational publication comes with a short introduction for preachers from yours truly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Another 5-star review

This one is for the Year B volume in Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship. When Heaven Stands Open was the first of the four volumes to appear. If you don't have it yet, there is still half a year's worth of the current liturgical year to go. And the lectionary, being what it is, will come around again, sooner than you think!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adult Bible Study material for Lent

In Year D, I suggested the six Sundays of Lent afford a good opportunity for a lectio continua series focusing on a shorter epistle, that is, if one follows the old Westminster Directory rule of thumb: one chapter per week. That is a lot of text to treat in a 20-minute sermon, but it is doable if you keep the illustrative material (and personal stories) to a minimum.

Sermons, of course, can and do make for good discussion starters for Bible studies, and the more they conform to classical exposition, the more they can serve as Bible studies in and of themselves.

Here are two six-week "studies" worth considering for your adult Sunday school class: one on Galatians and one on the six petitions of The Lord's Prayer.


Or for a shorter, but evocative study for exploring the themes of repentance and suffering, endurance and healing, consider The Secret of Salix Babylonicus.

As mentioned in an earlier post, there are some good discussion questions for this Parable of the Weeping Willow over at Story Path. To which one might add some consideration of the redemptive role of music in the story. It sure seems to me those with an interest in music therapy should find rich fodder here.

Friday, January 26, 2018

A review of Salix Babylonicus at Story Path

It was nice to see Beth Lyon-Suhring's review of The Secret of Salix Babylonicus, which includes discussion questions, over at Union Seminary's Story Path website. It's a lovely website and a helpful service they provide there, linking the Christian story with the world of children's literature.