The Power of Blessing
2008-12-09 by Dee Dee Haines

After a month’s bible study, looking at the birth narratives in their historical context, we are seeking to better understand the Advent texts with a sensory perception beyond hearing, or seeing.  Each week during Advent, we are hearing three texts; two from the lectionary, and one imaginative reading.  The imaginative reading is heard directly before the gospel, allowing for the two texts to rub against each other, showing the friction that was most likely present in the first century context.  Here are the ending lines of week one: “I wondered to myself about what that meant for so many.  Would the world never change?  How could it? Rome’s idea of peace came with a price.  Peace by violence.  Peace through victory.  Peace with fear and domination.  Peace by occupation.  What kind of peace is that?” 

 

Sally asks, “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?” Author John O’Donohue speaks about the power of a blessing: “Each blessing is intended to present a minimal psychic portrait of the geography of change it names.  Without warning, thresholds can open directly before our feet.  These thresholds are also the shorelines of new worlds,” (O’Donohue, John.  To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, New York: Random House, 2008, p. xiv). 

 

What if we were bold and brave, deciding to use the words of Isaiah 61 as a blessing for the congregation?  How might these power- filled words serve to creatively speak into being, a future for the community that is called to be a collective witness? O’Donohue also mentions how blessings attempt to offer a brief geography of the new experience and some pathways of presence through it.  Those are the elements present in the prophet’s words.  There is acknowledgement of blessing, calling and challenge.  The directions are set before the blessed.  Here is what you do, and how you do it.  The Spirit will accompany you. 

 

Perhaps we do not see ourselves as gifted with the anointing of the Spirit.  Our memories can be short.  It seems that when we are most busy, we pay the least attention to spiritual matters and spiritual realities.  A meaning- filled reminder, offered in the form of blessing, can be followed by words of calling and challenge: our prayerful response to blessing.   I’ll be thinking more about Sally’s point about revolution.  In light of the imaginative reading for this week (still a work in process), John bearing witness to the Light takes on a whole new meaning.

 

 

Dee Dee Haines, Isle of Man





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) -- 

Preaching partners,

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?

Your thoughts--?





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

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

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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





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