PREACHING THE WORD with Dr. John Herbst

John Herbst, our Scholar-in Residence, offers pastors and other church leaders insights into the scriptures. These blog posts focused on books of the Bible, and biblical themes are designed to help those preparing messages and Bible studies.


 

 


Talking and Preaching About Racism

This post is different from usual in two ways.  First, while this blog is devoted to Christian thought (usually the Bible, but sometimes theology or history), the focus here is on improving race relations.  Second, I’m writing about two books that I’ve read recently, both by Dr. Carolyn Helsel, a preaching professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I recently published a review of Preaching About Racism for the online magazine The Living Pulpit, which you can read here.  My wife Anne (the rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church) and I are also writing a joint review of Anxious to Talk About It, which will be published in a Baptist print journal next year. Helsel wrote these books specifically to help White Christians address racism openly and honestly. (If you’re not White or Christian, there’s still a lot here that you might find helpful.) She approaches racial issues from several different ...
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/ Preaching the Word, privilege, racism

Deuteronomy 34: What is not needed for success!

This week’s post is an edited form of a sermon I preached last month at St. Andrews, on Deuteronomy 34. Its application is very pertinent for Baptists (and other Christians) today. (I’ll be back to Revelation in a couple weeks.) In 1998 the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was Slobodan Milosevic, a tyrant who violated numerous provisions of the Geneva Convention during the Bosnian war, and who was almost certainly involved with political assassinations, suppression of press freedom and fostering police brutality.  Not a nice guy. That year, a group of young adults established the political movement Otpor! to push Yugoslavia toward justice and true democracy. From the start, Otpor! was organized to carry out its mission without recognized leaders.  Otpor! members signed a document known as “Declaration of the Future of Serbia,” then worked to organize non-violent protests calling for government reforms and for Milosevic’s removal. Two ...
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God’s Message to Troubled Saints

Revelation 6:9–8:1 Seals 5, 6, 7: God’s Message to Troubled Saints In this series I’ve been explaining how Revelation speaks to Christian communities that are going through hard times. As I began, I had the coronavirus and its effects in mind. But Revelation also has a lot to say about Christians and politics, and Revelation 6–7 is important for Christians who are looking for the best way to respond to the recent election and its aftermath. God wants Christ’s followers to be involved in government, but we need to be involved in the right way. Revelation 6–7 offers insight into how we should be involved. My previous post was on the first four of the seven seals, which reveal the famed “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” I explained there that the author of Revelation wants us to take these four together, as they represent a recurring cycle: the appearance of ...
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/ Preaching the Word

Revelation 6:1–8: Four Horses and Riders, Subject to God’s Four Creatures

For many readers of Revelation, this is where things start getting exciting: we’re now ready to tackle Revelation’s tantalizing description of future events. Yet as we work through these images, we must connect them to what we’ve seen in chs 1–5. Like most books of the Bible, Revelation is meant to be read all at once (easily done in a couple hours, tops). So, if we do not pay attention to the earlier chapters, we will miss much of the message of the rest of the book. This post addresses the first four of the seven seals, containing the famed “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” Many commentaries and books scrutinize each verse in this section, even dwelling on fractions of a verse. While we will address each verse here, we must not miss the forest for the trees by dwelling on details and ignoring the larger narrative.  Like the seven ...
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Revelation 4-5: Jesus in the Throne Room of God  

God rules. Period. No matter how difficult things get for us, our faith teaches us that God is in charge right now. While we are preoccupied with events on earth, the universe’s center of power rests in heaven. Nothing can happen here without God’s knowledge and willingness to permit it. This connection between heaven and earth is a major theme of Revelation, and is the main topic of chs 4–5. We need these chapters to understand how God will address the challenges we will soon face. One of the fascinating things about Rev 4­–5 is the way that it adds New Testament ideas to a broadly conceived Old Testament foundation. In this post I can only briefly point to some of the allusions and references. But I hope that you will take some time to read and think about the deep biblical theology evident in these chapters. The scene of ...
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/ Preaching the Word