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.


 

 


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 ...
Read More
/ Preaching the Word

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 ...
Read More
/ Preaching the Word

Godly Governing

Last November, after the Presidential election results were in, I had hoped that we American Christians, perhaps led by my fellow Baptists, would start to rededicate ourselves to prioritize elements of our enduring faith ahead of today’s politics. I see some progress, but we have a way to go: too many of us talk and behave as if we are really Republican or Democrat first, Christian second. Ideas like “I will never again vote Republican” or “Democrats are anti-God in every way” are sinful: both political parties have many, many serious Christian members who conscientiously try their best to do God’s will.  It is immoral to be unswervingly loyal to temporal human organizations that, like both the Democrat and Republican parties, welcome leaders who have no interest in serving Jesus Christ. It’s fine to register as a member of a political party and be involved in political processes, but it ...
Read More
/ Preaching the Word

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 ...
Read More
/ 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 ...
Read More