Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living: A New Collection of Sermons


With his characteristic eloquence and compassion, Peter J. Gomes offers a new collection of his most important sermons, which draw on the wisdom of the Bible to guide us through the year and enrich our daily lives.

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With his characteristic eloquence and compassion, Peter J. Gomes offers a new collection of his most important sermons, which draw on the wisdom of the Bible to guide us through the year and enrich our daily lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
You have only to read this collection of stirring sermons by the Reverend Peter J. Gomes to understand why this distinguished Baptist minister and Harvard professor has been called one of the most inspiring preachers in America.
Nathan Marsh Pusey
“One of the most dedicated, knowledgeable, articulate, and persuasive spokesmen for the Christian religion in the present secular age.”
James O. Freedman
“With great learning and wit, Reverend Peter J. Gomes stirs our souls and stimulates our minds ...”
Christian Century
“This book might be your best bet for gaining a heart of wisdom, à la Peter Gomes.”
Christian Century
“This book might be your best bet for gaining a heart of wisdom, à la Peter Gomes.”
Library Journal
For some time, the publication of a work by the Reverend Gomes has been an event; any university preacher whose books reach the best sellers lists is noteworthy. (Gomes serves at Harvard's Memorial Church.) This work will not disappoint Gomes's readers: his topical and liturgical sermons deal in the same tart and sensible yet devout terms as his previous books. Gomes's manner revives and revalidates the word avuncular: he is, for the Christian or nearly Christian reader, the good and well-spoken uncle whose advice is always worth hearing. For all collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060000783
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/25/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,393,240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter J. Gomes has been minister of Harvard University's Memorial Church since 1974, when he was appointed Pusey Minister of the church, and serves as Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. An American Baptist minister, he was named one of America's top preachers by Time magazine. He is the recipient of thirty-three honorary degrees and an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College, the University of Cambridge, England, where the Gomes Lectureship is established in his name.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Servant of the Word
Abundance: Surplus and Substance 3
Blessings: Blessing: Can You Take It? 13
Commitment: Freedom, Choices, and Commitment 22
Conformity: When They Think You're Crazy 29
Death: The Quick and the Dead 35
Desire: Desire 41
Faith: Does It Work For You? 47
Goodness: Beyond Excellence and Fairness 53
Happiness: Elementary Glimpses of the Obvious 63
Holiness: The Consideration of Holy Things 73
Identity: Who Do You Think You Are? 81
Idolatry: Ignorant Worship 90
Innocence: Innocence and Experience 99
Life: Profit and Loss 105
Originality: Secondhand Religion 111
Patriotism: Patriotism Is Not Enough 116
Respectability: A Good Word for Harlots 126
Reputation: How to Ruin Your Reputation 131
Strength: Outer Turmoil, Inner Strength 139
Struggle: Some Things Worth Fighting For 150
Thanksgiving: What Have You Done for Me Lately? 160
Weakness: Sin and Sympathy 166
Advent I: Facing the Future 175
Advent II: The Courage to Hope 179
Advent III: Impatience Is a Virtue 187
Christmas: Gifts 193
New Year: So Far, So Good; So What? 199
Epiphany: The Real Presence 211
Epiphany II: Plenty Good Room 218
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Unfinished Business 227
Lent I: It's About the Father: The Prodigal Son 235
Lent II: What You Hear Is What You Get: Lazarus and Dives 240
Lent III: When the Gospel Is Unfair: The Parable of the Talents 246
Palm Sunday: How to Change Your Life: Communion 251
Easter: Starting Over 257
Eastertide I: Easter Christians? 266
Eastertide II: Arguments That Fail 274
Ascension: Growing Up 282
Pentecost: Remembrance and Imagination 292
Trinity: Things You Should Know About: Endurance 298
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First Chapter

Strength for the Journey
Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living


Surplus and Substance

For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

--Luke 21:4

My text is the fourth verse of the twenty-first chapter of the gospel according to St. Luke, where our Lord makes a comparative statement and an absolute judgment.

Those of you who were here last Sunday know that I spoke of that nameless, infamous woman in the gospel who anointed Jesus' feet and washed them with her tears, and if you wanted to, you could say that that sermon was about sex. Next Sunday, on All Saints' and All Souls' day, we will speak of the faithful departed, and you might think that that sermon will be about death. Today, in the account of the widow's mite from which our text is taken, it is obvious that we are speaking about money, or so it would seem. If we had Madison Avenue values here, or even the sensibilities of talk radio, we could advertise this as a series entitled "All You Need to Know About Sex, Money, and Death"; but then, there is more to each of these sermons than any of those.

We have heard many times this story of our Lord in the Gospel of Luke:

He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins, and he said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had." (Luke 21:1–4)

Or, as the King James version puts it:

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, "Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had." (Luke 21:1–4)

Most of us have grown up with the story of the widow's mite, and we know that it means a small denomination of ancient money, but as children we hear before we read or spell, and so as a child I thought that the story was about the widow's might -- a modest but useful preaching point. Our Lord said, "This poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had." Now, the context for this, in the preceding chapter of Luke, is Jesus' criticism of the rich and visible believers, the Pharisees -- the rich, the powerful, who liked to wear long robes and stand in public places, and made much of their piety and of their philanthropy and good works. In one sense this is just more of the same: criticizing the establishment -- those people for whom doing good works and giving good gifts doesn't cut anywhere into the substance of their being. People give who can afford to give. Here, the story contrasts them with one who in Jesus' eyes cannot afford to give, and therefore gives everything that she has.

There are times, I think, and this may be one of them, when we wish that the text were less clear and more ambiguous. It would be helpful in this text, for example, to discover that there are several nuanced hidden levels of meaning whereby it does not say what we think it says. It was Mark Twain, more cynical than devout, who said, "It is not what I don't understand in the Bible that troubles me, it is what I do understand."This is one of those texts: we get it. We can and we do understand the text about the widow's mite, and that is the trouble. It troubles us, I suggest, on two counts, with the first in the context of a much larger anxiety that we Christians have, which is that we are troubled when we talk about money.

There! I caught you. I can see you already frowning and freezing up, already grabbing for that part of you that is most important to you, holding on, thinking, "Here we go again. "We don't like to discuss money in relationship to our church or to our faith or to our religion, although we will talk about it as far as the national debt is concerned, we will talk about it as far as taxes are concerned, we will talk about it as far public expenditure is concerned. We don't want to talk about it in terms of our religion or our church or our faith, however, because somehow, somewhere, somebody has told us one of the few religious principles that we remember, which is that religion is "spiritual" and money is "material," and that never the twain should meet -- especially in church. Hence ministers, particularly those of the more respectable "mainline" churches, those churches from whom most of you have fled for the time being in order to come here on Sunday morning, are usually embarrassed to speak of money; and at best devote a few minutes on one Sunday a year, supported by a phalanx of sympathetic laypeople, to little homilies on "stewardship." Very subtle, artfully produced letters and cards are given that, if you are lucky, will not mention money or need or giving at all, and most congregations are equally embarrassed and annoyed by even these little subtleties ...

Strength for the Journey
Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living
. Copyright © by Peter Gomes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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