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The Commons

A preaching blog with ideas and for interactive story sermon writing and image exegesis by Len Sweet.

Here, you can comment on any post to discuss its meaning and share your thoughts.

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Stars in My Crown

Preachers don’t usually fare well in Hollywood. Think Burt Lancaster in “Elmer Gantry” (1960) or Gerald Butler in “Machine Gun Preacher” (2011) or Stuart Devenine in “Dead Alive” (1993), or Robert Mitchum in “Night of the Hunter” (1955). You have to go back in time to find preachers in leading…
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Aaron’s Rod

Henri Nouwen was a force of nature. For many decades, when you thought of writers on Christian spirituality, whether Protestant or Catholic, the first name to come to mind was his. Then the mind went blank. When Nouwen died in 1996, that blank began to be blanketed by two names:…
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Michelangelo

There is a story told about Michelangelo that I have not been able to document–although the quotes that go with it are authentic. When a little boy, this tradition goes, Michelangelo was given a small Greek sculpture of a human form, half chiseled from the marble. For the rest of…
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Jesus’ Humor

I collect everything I can on Jesus’ humor. During Lent he is remembered as a “man of sorrows acquainted with grief,” but we also need to remember that most of the time he was a man of joy, immersed in laughter and food and conviviality. Of course, Jewish humor is…
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The Rabbi’s Debate

There is an old tale about the time, many, many centuries ago, when the pope decided that a synagogue the Jews were using in Rome really belonged to the Vatican. So he told them to move. Rightly, there was uproar from the members of the synagogue. So the pope made…
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What Kind of Life?

Almost two centuries ago Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) , the New England novelist and short-story writer, wrote a haunting story “The Christmas Banquet” about a rich man who died and left a strange bequest. He left money to be set in trust. The income was to be used to pay for…
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How Silently

The Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, is the source of the parable about a man who broke into a department store one night before Christmas. Instead of stealing items, he simply rearranged the price tags on them. When the shopkeeper and the customers came in the next day, they were totally…
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God With Us

When prisoner in a Nazi internment camp in December 1940, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a nativity play for a group of fellow internees, who were trying to make Christmas come alive for the prisoners. The least known of all Sartre’s works, “Bariona” includes this projection from a blind artist of what…
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The Itch

A woman complained to her psychiatrist that she as constantly itching. Curiously, the itching seemed to be especially bothersome when she was in church. “Why do I itch all the time?” she asked. IN due course, the psychiatrist became aware of the woman’s deep-rooted hatred of her sister. She was…
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On Baptism

When Walter Brueggemann taught at Columbia Theological Seminary (1986-2003), he once gave his first year students an assignment. They were instructed to read the writings of British theologian and missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, and to write a essay where the student had an imaginary conversation with him on the subject of…
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