GoodPreacher Awards
2008-12-12 by David Howell

For Pastors

 

For Seminarians



Sally, Dee Dee, and Sermon at the Cafe
2008-12-11 by David von Schlichten

The Spirit has been stirring up the waters of the hot tub in especially exciting ways through the blogging this week. Thank you to guest blogger Sally Brown for full, thoughtful posts. Also, it is pleasant to see Dee Dee Haines blogging this week. She always provides useful and well-worded insights.

I find especially valuable Sally Brown's talk of the relationship between counter-culturalism and the Holy Spirit. Please scroll down to read more.

I want to preach on "rejoicing" this Sunday. Paul tells us to rejoice always. What does that mean? Does John the Baptist rejoice always?

Please go to the Sermon Feedback Cafe to read Pastor J. Wallace's sermon on Mark 1:1-8.

Thanks again to everyone for this bubbling tub of contributions. Grateful, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





On Knowing Who You Aren't
2008-12-11 by Sally Brown

I'm thinking today more specifically about the John text.  First, the insistent language about the identity and role of John can seem overwrought unless we keep in mind that this is in all likelihood discourse prompted by the continuing presence of a robust John-the-Baptist centered community at the time of the gospel's writing.

At a first level of interpretation, the concerns of the text are theological. The issue is the identity of the Word-made-flesh. Evidently, there were a good number in this gospel's audience who still regard John as a candidate.  But John himself sets the record straight:  "I am not the Messiah. . . I am not Elijah . . . I am not the prophet . ."

Knowing who we are not is essential to knowing who we are. Knowing who we are not is freeing.  I tell my students when they're writing a paper that figuring out what their paper is not about is crucial to addressing the work at hand.

I pointed out in yesterday's entry that it is the descent of the Spirit (verses 32-33) that will clue John in to the presence of the Coming One among the crowd.

What is it that we, the church, are called to be and to do amid troubled, and troubling, social and economic currents?  Certainly prayerful attention to the Spirit is crucial.  We cannot be witnesses to the work of God unless we are poised to recognize the divine Spirit. 

A sermon on what it means to be a community that works for the reign of God and at the same time prays to discern it may well be the kind of basic and timely return in preaching to core practices of faith that is especially apt in Advent.





Free Samples for Third Sunday in Advent
2008-12-11 by David Howell

See all the resources for this coming Sunday at Third Sunday in Advent.





En-Spirited Witness
2008-12-10 by Sally Brown

It strikes me that the unknown speaker of Isaiah 61, as well as Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, bear witness in the power of the Spirit.  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," begins the Isaiah reading.  Jesus, initiating his own ministry in the power of the Spirit, will claim this mission as his own in Luke 4.

Mary, whose Magnificat we read this week, is "overshadowed" by the Spirit according to Luke 1:35; so it is in the power of the Spirit that she speaks, and in the power of the Spirit that Elizabeth bears witness to the One Mary will bear (Lk 1:41). I suspect that for Luke these two women together stand as a microcosm of the Church. Women come together at the beginning of the gospel to recognize and proclaim the presence of the Saviour, and they will be the first at the Gospel's close to proclaim the Lord's resurrection. 

John, too, is enabled by the Spirit to fulfill his task: in a verse that lies beyond the bounds of this week's text (Jn 1:32), he will testify that it is the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus that reveals him for who he is.

Carrying forward my train of thought from earlier this week--the breaking forth of en-Spirited witness and announcements of socio-economic reversal seem to happen together in these testimonies. Can all unsettling social upheavals be "read" as movements of the Spirit?  Worth pondering---but we've all heard the too-glib pronouncements of self-appointed prophets that declare that every disaster is divine judgment. 

At the same time, we kow that socio-economic upheavals, natural disasters, or sudden health crises do  raise spiritual issues for human beings, if for no other reason than that such events confront us with the fragility of our human planning and expose to the light our continuing vulnerability to chance and change. Faced with the disruption of our plans, we free-fall either into despair or into the hands of God.

A temptation in times of economic uncertainty is to shore up shaky portfolios, not only by spending more cautiously, but by giving more cautiously. Many churches are trimming their budgets, yet know that those who are losing jobs and homes will in greater numbers to the church. This week's texts deliver an implicit challenge to believers to act in counter-intuitive ways in the power of the Spirit, being generous when it seems we can least afford to. The work of protecting society's most vulnerable is Spirit-driven.

 





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