Texts for December 14, 2008
2008-12-08 by Sally Brown
From Sally A. Brown, Assoc Prof of Preaching and Worship, Princeton Theological Seminary (guest blog participants for Advent III) --
At a recent alumni gathering at my husband's alma mater, Moravian College president Christopher Thomforde noted that some economic and political pundits are calling the times through which we are now living "profoundly transitionary." Yet, said Thomforde, it may be that we are living not merely in transitionary times, but in "not less than revolutionary times."
Revolutionary dynamics on the political and economic front have profoundly spiritual dimensions; and if the texts for this Third Sunday of Advent are any indication, spiritual revolution means political and economic revolution: structures shaken, taken-for-granted hierarchies overturned. Mary exults over the poor raised up, the wealthy humbled. The day of God's favor is also the day of vengeance, according to Isaiah---a message we may only be able to really "get" when we have been drawn out deep into the wilderness.
In a time when the Jewish nation was restless for a new act of God, John the Baptist is clear about who he is and isn't: he is not the light, but he has no doubt that he is sent to bear witness to the Light.
So my initial thoughts are taking this turn: What does it mean to be a preacher who tells the truth in revolutionary times? What does it take to preach the Church---the Spirit-empowered community---into action, so that it becomes a collective witness to the dawning Light in revolutionary times?
Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-12-08 by CJ Teets
Sally A. Brown, Princeton Seminary’s Elizabeth M. Engle Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship. She has an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. An ordained Presbyterian minister with more than 20 years of parish and nonparish pastoral experience prior to beginning her academic career, she continues to teach and preach in local congregations. Her academic interests include the theology and rhetoric of the cross in contemporary preaching, with attention to issues raised by feminist theology and postmodern theories of discourse; exploring the history, theology, and rhetoric of women’s preaching in a range of cultural contexts; identifying trajectories of continuity and change in worship today, with attention to the what and why of Christian worship, theologically, as well as the difference context makes in worship practices; and hermeneutical theory and constructive practical theology. She teaches preaching and worship as well as a Ph.D. seminar in theories of interpretation and constructive practical theology. (from the Princeton Seminary website)
Third Sunday in Advent
2008-12-07 by CJ Teets
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Carmen and King
2008-12-02 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to Carmen Nanko-Fernandez for her compelling contributions. She points out that the shift from Isaiah to the quote of Isaiah in Mark is a shift from an emphasis on place (the wilderness) to an emphasis on person (the voice crying out).
Carmen also describes the Mexican Advent custom of Las Posadas. Scroll down to read about this fascinating tradition.
I find myself gravitating toward Isaiah 40:4 and 5, which Martin Luther King, Jr. uses in his famous speech. He was addressing a diaspora of a different sort and provided a vision of people being united in accord with God's will. I'll keep thinking on this.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Buscando una posada with a God-in-Motion
2008-12-01 by Carmen Nanko-Fernández
Having spent years as a teacher in contexts ranging from high school classrooms to graduate seminars, I have acquired that extra sensory perception that evolves from grading batches of student papers in marathon sessions. So it comes as no surprise that my antennae were activated by the readings from this Second Sunday of Advent. To the untrained ear or eye, Mark 1:3 appears to parrot Isaiah 40:3, “in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,” so much so that too often generations of Christian interpreters succumbed to super-successionist theologies that subjugated Judaism to the status of a “replaced” faith tradition. It is still too easy to fall prey to this temptation particularly during the Advent season.
A more careful read or accurate proclamation of our texts from Second Isaiah and Mark reveal that each author has a distinctive agenda and that punctuation really does matter. In Isaiah the lectionary passage reads,
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (40:3).
The focus is on place, not on the voice or on the one who cries out. Second Isaiah reflects the imminent possibility of repatriation for a people who have been in exile for seventy years in an alien land. Though for the children who were born in exile, Babylon may well be the only home they have ever known.
Preparation is required for a return home, and the poetic call to construct the highway is a reminder of that God who accompanies a people on the move, especially through those desolate places where survival depends upon God’s presence. This is not their first wilderness experience, the reference to Exodus is implicit; and this diaspora like those before it, including the passage to Babylon, bears the marks of divine accompaniment, in other words, of a God-in-motion with a people on the move.
In the lectionary passage from Mark, as underscored by the punctuation changes, the focus shifts from place to person. Combining Malachi 3:1 with Isaiah 40:3 the evangelist draws attention to the voice, to the herald.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…'" (Mark 1:2-3)
This messenger is identified in v. 4 as John the baptizer who appeared in the wilderness proclaiming the preparation necessary to receive the one who is to come after him. In other words receiving the one who signifies God’s reign among us begins with repentance for sins. Heralds point away from themselves, as does Mark’s Baptizer, and ultimately they direct our attention to the message sender, in this case, the God who accompanies, especially in the wilderness.
Situating these texts in the Advent season invites contemporary communities to reflect on the preparation necessary to receive the God who makes lodging with us, the Incarnate Word we encounter each day in our neighbors, in those to whom we are kin and in those to whom we are stranger. These texts, as well as this liturgical season, also challenge us to consider this preparation from the perspective of a people on the move.
Diaspora theologies, in particular as they have been developed over the last couple of decades by US Latino and Latina biblical scholars and theologians, offer helpful insights. These theologies arise from daily lived experience and popular expressions of faith and among their sources for reflection are experiences of dislocation and migration.
Poised at the intersection of these migratory experiences and popular religious practice is the centuries old Advent tradition of Las Posadas. Primarily celebrated in Mexican cultural contexts, Las Posadas occur over nine days from 16 -24 December. Each night the journey of the pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph are re-enacted as participants knock upon their neighbors’ doors in search of lodging (una posada) for the family. After a series of rejections, the final stop of the nightly pilgrimage concludes with an invitation to the holy pilgrims to enter and receive modest shelter not only in the home but in the heart: “Entren, Santos Peregrinos, reciban este rincón, que aunque es pobre la morada,os la doy de corazón.” This acceptance is celebrated with a nightly fiesta at the final home where the Word made Flesh finds lodging.
In this embodied theological reflection, our texts are interpreted and re-interpreted, during the last days of Advent, within the concrete lives of communities preparing themselves anew for the ongoing responsibility of recognizing God in the encounters of our daily relationships. This ritualized migration points to the presence of God, throughout the journey to find a place to lodge, in the company of the neighbor/participants who herald the Holy Family’s arrival in a song of petition at each door, and in the home the Incarnate Word makes among us. In the search for lodging, a people on the move reaffirms that the God-in-motion is already with us.
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