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.


 

 


Beyond Dobbs: How “Pro Life” and “Pro Choice” Christians Can (and Should!) Work Together to Reduce Abortion in the USA

Yes, the title is right.  While the issue of abortion seems to be yet another point of division, there is a way forward.  We can have Christian unity regarding abortion, and we can lead the way toward American unity about the same. Of course, we will need to invest some effort. Working together means listening to each other, empathizing with each other, and often surrendering personal preferences and “gut feelings” in pursuit of obeying the call of Christ. But whenever we can work together to defeat evil, God requires us to work together – even at the cost of some personal convictions. John 17:20–23, Ephesians 4:1–6, and Philippians 2:1–4 are among the many, many passages that stress this Christian obligation. Acts 15:1–26 (often titled “The Jerusalem Council”) gives us a great example of how to become unified. In this passage Christians from Antioch and greater Judea meet with the apostles ...
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Christians and Gun Violence by John Herbst

The sermon I preached today about the recent shootings in Buffalo, Laguna Beach, and Uvalde was well received, so I’m posting an edited version.  I will continue my series on Revelation next week. Usually I begin sermons with a fun story to orient our thinking in a particular way. This does not seem appropriate today when we are already preoccupied with the horrific news of mass gun violence. We cannot avoid talking about the shootings, so I will do so in light of today’s scripture passages – Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21; Acts 16:16–24; and John 17:20–26.  (For those of you who are wondering about this choice of texts, they come from the Revised Common Lectionary, which certain churches ask me to follow when I preach for them.) Over the past few weeks the lectionary has featured readings from the final chapters of Revelation. Revelation 21–22 tells us the goal, how ...
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Critical Race Theory and the Prayer of Ezra (Ezra 9)

Over the past two years, there has been much in the news about Critical Race Theory and similar ideas. While Critical Race Theory itself is not used in education below college level, the term has become the associated with education about systemic racism, the idea that many aspects of American society put black folks at a disadvantage with respect to whites. Many whites are uncomfortable with the teaching and promotion of systemic racism because when we establish that society itself promotes racism against blacks, it becomes the responsibility of the white majority to do the hard, uncomfortable work of seeking out and correcting or removing society’s racist elements. Of course, many whites, including many Christians, think that there is little or no systemic racism in the United States today. While I believe that that the evidence (like this) for the reality of systemic racism and its serious effects on Black ...
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Love in the Time of COVID-19 (Christian Style)

If there is a “prime directive” for Christians, surely it is given in Matthew 22:36–40, 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'1 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'1 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." One fascinating feature of this passage is Jesus’s statement in verse 39, “and the second is like it.” At first glance, the two commandments do not seem to be alike: one talks about loving God, while the other talks about loving other human beings. The two commandments come from different parts of the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:34 (see Lev 19:18 also). But when we carefully read passages like ...
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Revelation 8:2–13: Natural Disaster

I had taken a break from my series on Revelation in the age of COVID-19, but I am back at it. I plan to write a post about every other week on Revelation, alternating with posts on other issues in the area of Christian thought (Bible, theology, history). This week we focus on Revelation 8, which describes events heralded by the first four trumpets. As with the first four seals of chapter six, Revelation presents the first four trumpets as a single unit (see my post on the four horses and riders). While the first four seals describe a storyline that recurs throughout history, the disasters of the first four trumpets look like the effects of a volcanic eruption. John’s readers most likely recalled the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which had occurred in 79 AD, just a few years before Revelation was written.  This disaster immediately destroyed the nearby city ...
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