2009-11-24 by Jacqueline King
Winola Green submitted a question regarding how we deal with the end of time (see Pastor Talk To Me: Comfort Amid Tension Nov 29).
Advent is always a time where we look to the past and to the future simultaneously. We remember the birth of Jesus and prepare our hearts once again to receive the Christ child AND at the same time we look to the future and wait for Christ’s final return where all of humanity will be fully restored. Many television programs are speculating the “end of time.” The 5,125 year Mayan Long Count Calendar concludes during the Winter Solstice of 2012 and many people are wondering what life will look like following that day. Will we be around to see another day? Some speculators believe it will mark the beginning of the end, others think it will be a rebirth. I now reside in the Bible Belt and experience many Christians who see the end of the world as coming very soon. I wish I had a nickel every time my sweet neighbor said, ‘Pastor, it is just the signs of the times…Jesus is coming” My neighbor was so convinced that Jesus is coming any moment that if she heard anything unusual, she ran out the door and expected to see Jesus Christ descending gloriously from heaven. Most people heard a jumbo jet flying overhead, but she heard the apocalypse.
I appreciated my neighbor’s faith and enthusiasm, but I also witnessed her tendency to become complacent and uninvolved with the everyday. That is why I am passionate about approaching the tension with a both/and worldview. Yes, God is in control. Yes, Jesus Christ is coming. Yes, all of humanity will be restored at the appointed time AND we eagerly wait with serving hands, not twiddling thumbs. Our faith and action should resemble waiting for a houseguest to arrive. When we anticipate company, we don’t just sit around the house waiting. We clean up house! We get the towels ready! We wash the bedclothes! We dust and organize and throw out the trash! What if we lived everyday making the world a better place for our eternal house dweller to arrive? We would feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, care for the sick, and help the poor. The scriptures of Advent invites us to connect to the past, future, and especially the here and now.
Rev. Jacqueline King
Happy Liturgical New Year!
2009-11-23 by Jacqueline King
As I drink my morning cup of tea, I am reflective of the season. Recently we celebrated Christ the King Sunday. In the church world, Christ the King Sunday is our sacred version of New Year’s Eve. We celebrate the liturgical season concluding and prepare for a new liturgical season to embark upon us. We will once again walk through the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles but with a slight different focus and hear the scriptures from different voices.
Usually I find myself dwelling in the Gospels over the Advent season, but I feel called to spend serious time unpacking the prophets. The prophets were able to harmoniously unite God’s eternal victorious dwelling with the present day-to-day existence.
November 29th (First Sunday of Advent or what I like to call our Liturgical New Year’s Day) hears the voice of the prophet Jeremiah (33:14-16). Jeremiah could almost be called a book of Lamentations. Of all the prophets of the Bible, Jeremiah is perhaps the whiniest prophet (though Jonah does come close). However, Jeremiah has reason for despair, frustration, and complaint. As a prophet, he speaks on behalf of God in bleak and dire circumstances. The people are in economic and violent turmoil. All that is familiar to the people are under great threat. Human creation looks more like a human slaughterhouse.
Jeremiah pushes the people to not dwell in the past but to look forward to a new hope by a New King. It was understood back in the biblical days that the righteousness and justice of the King had the power of being an effective mediator between God and the people. An irresponsible king systemically caused havoc and turmoil on society. (In Jonah, we see the people, animals and king all repenting in sackcloth and ashes; as if we are seeing a reordering of creation from bottom to top).
In Jeremiah’s day, much of the people have lost their roots and identity. They are integrated into the corrupt Babylonian Empire and the people have to make a choice to join the political and religious benefits of the Babylonians or to regain their identity as a people of YHWH. The religious identity of the Israelites is threatened to dissolve in this Babylonian melting pot.
I believe we tend to lose ourselves when life gets the best of us. We may hear the loudspeakers play “Tis the season to be jolly….” But in this time, it seems that these words are more hauntingly ironic than an invite to be jolly. We ourselves have experienced dwindling pension plans, unemployment, sickness, and the fear of the unknown.
It is that time of the season when we are invited to prayer, to reflect, to look towards God’s victory though the battle wages on. At this point in Advent we reflect on our brokenness and our need to be restored by the grace of God. Our symbol of hope for this passage in Jeremiah comes in the form of a branch. I imagine the Branch stands quietly but courageously tall as all of life seems to fall down. We Christians interpret this Branch to refer to Jesus Christ the King who will strengthen and renew the House of David. This King we await for is filled with righteousness. The Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint) the word to describe God’s mercy, justice, and righteousness are all interchangeable.
In Advent we dwell in the Right Now and the Not Yet. Advent looks toward the past (when the baby Jesus is born) and looks toward the future when Christ will come again. Advent recognizes our internal longing for order and peace to be restored. May this Liturgical New Year truly renew our souls!
2009-11-22 by David von Schlichten
Today I reflected on the shock and sadness of JFK's assassination and then went on to proclaim that the death of Jesus, the greatest leader, is sad and a cause for thanksgiving. Next, I invited parishioners to contemplate how we can respond to Christ's saving death with a higher thanksgiving-level. Finally, I assured people that, all the time, Christ the King is with us to care for us.
I ended the sermon by inviting people to pretend that, instead of Pilate, they stand before Jesus. Jesus says to you, "I am the king who dies for his subjects. How will you respond with thanksgiving?"
Parishioners often like the open ending. Several have indicated happily over the years that the open ending makes them think.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2009-11-20 by David Howell
James Howell is sharing with us how he prepares for Advent preaching. Wonderful ideas!
You can even send him a question.
"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight; JFK
2009-11-20 by David von Schlichten
Jean-Pierre Ruiz provides interesting background information on John 18:33-37. He describes P52, the papyrus fragment that contains this text, which is the oldest extant New Testament fragment. Ruiz also reminds us that the historical Pilate was not very accommodating of the Jews' religion.
Further, Ruiz stresses that Pilate is failing to comprehend the nature of Jesus' rule. Like so many figures in John, Pilate is thinking level one, while Jesus is talking upstairs, on level two.
We have some fine posts below. Please scroll down to read.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Sunday is the anniversary of his assassination. It might be useful to talk about JFK as a leader and tie that somehow to Jesus as a leader.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten
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