Thank you and the Second Coming
2008-11-28 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to guest blogger Kristin Johnston Largen (from my alma mater Gettysburg Seminary) and to Stephen Schuette for his contributions. Please scroll down to read their posts.

I have posted my sermon for this Sunday at the Sermon Feedback Cafe. A great challenge with preaching about the Second Coming is helping people not to see it as terrifying while also not watering down that great event. Largen and Schuette provide assistance for preachers regarding this goal, and I pray my sermon succeeds along these lines, as well. Let me know what you think, for I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Rooms at Emory for the Festival of Homiletics
2008-11-26 by CJ Teets

We just set up a block of dorm rooms at Emory University for the Festival of Homiletics.

The program will begin on Monday at the fabulous Fox Theatre.


Revolutionary Patience
2008-11-25 by Stephen Schuette

The challenge of preaching on this text from Mark is to stay on edge without falling off one way or another.  There are a couple of polar-tensions evident in it, but the one that draws my attention is waiting--expectation, or a kind of active-waiting.

Or how about Ched Myers phrase “Revolutionary Patience” (See Binding the Strong Man)?  Normally we think of a revolutionary as impatient, anxious to bring about change.  And we typically think of patience as nurtured by a sense of contentment or at least an accommodation to things as they are.  But what if we blew open these assumptions and put them together?

Could it be that amid cosmic (or economic?) changes that shake heaven and earth (if Chicken Little is right) there is a possibility of remaining spiritually calm?  Could it be that in waiting which goes on and on there can remain an edge to it that anticipates already that which is yet to arrive?

I do feel a judgment about ministry here.  Have I backed away from offering a word that would invite a reconsideration of life/priorities in favor of the calm, reassuring, safe response?  Have I been unsettled by questions and issues in the church that in the end don’t amount to a hill of beans?  If Advent is a time for confession then I confess.  I’m often exercised without an inner calmness with the result of being unfocused in my calling and I’m often calm because I’ve let go of any sense of expectation and fallen asleep at the helm.

Part of Mark’s message seems to me to be an invitation to wholeness both in ourselves spiritually and in relationship to God.

The Visitor might be a suitable movie reference…a man going through the motions who wakes up to life and relationships anew.

Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-11-23 by CJ Teets

The Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PA.  She is the author of the forthcoming book, What Christians can Learn from Buddhism:  Rethinking Salvation, (Fortress Press, Spring 2009), and she is the editor of Dialog, a Lutheran journal of theology.  Her areas of specialization are soteriology, comparative theology, and liberation theologies; and she is committed to the relevance of theological reflection for all aspects of parish ministry. Be sure to read her first blog post below!

Cute little baby Jesus? I don't think so!
2008-11-23 by Kristin Largen

There is something very awe-inspiring about Sunday's text from Isaiah—I would say “awesome,” but the meaning of this wonderful theological word has been totally corrupted in today’s context [“Dude, awesome!”]—and it is this tremendous awe that I find so powerful, especially as we begin this season of Advent.  In so many ways, I think, Advent is a very hard sell in 21st century America.  As a culture, we move immediately from Thanksgiving to Christmas—and when I say immediately, that is exactly what I mean—some stores open up at midnight for their annual Black Friday Christmas sales.  The only “waiting” that most of us do this season is the impatient, counting-down-the-days kind:  the eager anticipation that comes with a longing for Christmas break, Christmas presents, or Christmas travel.  We just want to get through Advent to what really matters, Christmas!  What’s more, the only “repentance” that most of us do this season is the embarrassed regret & remorse kind:  we sigh and charge more presents we can’t afford, on credit cards already carrying a high balance; and we wake up after holiday parties feeling bloated and hung-over, wishing we hadn’t eaten and drunk quite as much as we did.  There is simply no getting around the fact that we have, to a large degree, secularized this Christian holiday almost beyond the point of recognition.

It is no wonder, then, that we also have, to a large degree, secularized and domesticated Jesus as well.  When we think about the incarnation, we think about a sweet little baby with chubby cheeks, playing innocently with his mother, gazing around at the animals in the stable with loving eyes.  This is the Jesus we see lit up on countless front yards, immortalized on countless Christmas cards, and hailed in countless Christmas carols.  I suppose there isn’t really anything wrong with this, except that we never seem to get beyond this image during Christmas—and if this cherubic vision encapsulates our whole understanding of the incarnate Lord of creation who has come to earth to break the bonds of sin and death, and face down all the powers of evil and destruction; well, surely, we aren’t getting the whole picture.

That’s why I love this text from Isaiah, and why I think it is a great place to start to help orient our hearts and our minds as we begin this Advent season.  Look what Isaiah says about the One who has chosen to become Immanuel, God-with-us:  “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil….”  Not quite the picture we have, say, in Luke, of our Lord coming down—Isaiah speaks of no chorus of heavenly angels singing in harmony, and no rag-tag shepherds milling about and smiling to themselves.  No—Isaiah, who has had his lips burned with a live coal from the altar of the Lord, knows the awe-inspiring power of God, the “mysterium tremendum” before whom no one can stand and live; and so Isaiah knows to fear the Lord, and bow down before God, even as Isaiah beseeches the Lord for mercy and grace.


Isaiah reminds us, then, that we, too, are called to bow down before the Lord in fear and trembling—confident, surely, in God’s love and forgiveness (indeed, Jesus’ birth is a sign to the whole world of God’s compassion, and God’s desire to reconcile creation to Godself), and yet knowing full well that we do not deserve God’s grace, and we sin daily against God and against one another.  Should we then not fear, just a little bit, the coming of the Lord?  Should we then not repent from our sin—our greed, our selfishness, our neglect of our neighbor—and prepare our hearts for the advent of the Messiah?  Isaiah reminds us that a central part of our Advent watching and waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ is cultivating a sense of awe and wonder at the God who, in spite of God’s self-revelation remains forever a mystery to us, and cannot ever be fully grasped or fully understood.  Somewhere in between the shopping, the baking, the wrapping, the driving, the eating, we need to find some time to sit before God in awe and in wonder; and remind ourselves of exactly who it is we are waiting for—given the chance, God may well surprise us.

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