2007-11-30 by Tom Steagald
Like everyone else, I am struggling with the two dimensions of the season--call them eschatological and cultural, prophetic and priestly, declarative and demanding (The King is coming, the church said to the world; to heaven the church said, Would you please COME ON?!).
Liturgically, the church is split between joy and penance, anticipation and dread, the Good News of the Day of the Lord and the very bad news of the Day of the Lord (see especially the three clusters of judgment following the Isaiah lesson for Sunday).
My sermon title (a meditation, as we will celebrate Communion) is "With a Bright Purple and Blue." Get it? Think it would make a good lyric or song title, too?
Hustle and Wait with a Baptist's Will
2007-11-29 by David von Schlichten
I posted my sermon at the cafe. Go back to Homepage, then Share It!, then Sermon Feedback Cafe to order a cranberry muffin and give me feedback. Will you, please?
Thank you to Bishop Willimon for your statement about preaching on John the Baptist to which many of us can relate. I've only been a pastor for ten years and am finding it hard to get excited about preaching on John the Baptist again. I'd rather preach on Joseph.
John often strikes me as a guy who has wandered into the wrong testament. Then again, the testaments, in some ways, really are not so different. Besides, the Gospels are at the beginning of the New Testament, right at the border, Malachi visible from Matthew's genealogy, and we know how God is about crossing borders and sending people across them.
Maybe here in the hot tub, amid all this warm, bubbly water, we can come up with a new-old word about John.
Some help may bubble up (sorry; I am a hopeless paranomasiac) from Scott Bryte's entry below about the conjoined-twin-nature of Advent. Please scroll down to read.
Enjoying the tub's masaging jets, I am
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
The Baptist? Again?
2007-11-28 by Will Willimon
One of the pitfalls of being at this for over thirty years is that I've been through the Lectionary about 9 times over. So that means that I've had at least about 20 opportunities to say everything and anything I had to say about John the Baptist on the First Sunday in Advent.
So it's only natural for me to sigh, "John the Baptist? Again?"
Maybe it's back to topical preaching for me? Or perhaps that's one of the good things about this communal "sermon hot tub" where preachers like me who have been at this for a long time can get challenged, stimulated, and fired up through the insights of others.
I just don't see how preaching can be done over the long haul without friends and colleagues who can help you presist with the Word and keep at it in preaching.
Good Things Come
2007-11-27 by Scott Bryte
It’s almost as if Advent has two personalities; two main points, as it were, that don’t seem to go together all that well. There’s the Advent that preachers see, all about the eschaton and eagerly pacing back and forth ‘til the parousia, and then there’s the Advent that just about everyone else sees, where it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Two very different personalities to be sure. Yet they’re not like the two parts of a fractured mind, where it’s one and then the other - alternating, at odds, never there at the same time and never working together. Advent’s two personalities are more like twins joined at the hip. They might well have different views on the world, but they always end up going to the same place.
Whether we’re anticipating the second coming (which we do in Advent), or preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord (which we do in, say, Advent), what it all boils down to is that we’re waiting for the coming of Jesus. Waiting. The word ‘advent’ slid sideways into the church from Latin and means something like “He’s headed this way”. Jesus is coming and so we wait. But Advent’s waiting doesn’t have us sitting in a lumpy vinyl chair, flipping through back issues of ‘People” magazine. Advent is the kid of waiting that franticly straightens the couch cushions and runs the vacuum right up until there’s a knock at the door. Thomas Edison has said “good things come to him who hustles while he waits”.
In a way, it’s all Advent. All of Christian history fits between the long awaited birth and the still awaited return of the Messiah. Waiting is what the church does. Christ has come. Christ will come. We hope and pray and preach and teach and help and feed. And we hustle. And we wait.
The Gospel lesson for this first Sunday of Advent has gotten beat up quite a bit, especially since the idea of the ‘rapture’ was invented about 140 years ago. It gets beat up the way it does because waiting is hard work. It’s hard to hold out hope for generation after generation, especially when the details of what you’re waiting for are so vague. Golden streets and pearly gates are metaphors, of course, but what are we really getting? It’d be nice to know. We think it would make the waiting easier. We also imagine that we could hold on better if we knew exactly how long the wait was going to be. [ Which is ridiculous, of course. If we knew for certain that Jesus was coming back in the year 3552 a.D., or if people in ancient times were certain that our Lord would return in, say, 2012a.D., then we might be lured into the illusion that his far future return wouldn’t have anything to do with us.] And so we invent details and perform silly calculations using numbers we pry out of context.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mt 24:36) “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Mt 24:42). That day, says Jesus, will come like a burglar, or like sudden death that claims one field hand and leaves the other standing. You know it’s coming, but it’ll still surprise you.If Jesus doesn’t even know when his return will be, what make us think we can figure it out? So be ready. Jesus is coming. Hustle. Wait.
Why stop there?
2007-11-27 by Tom Steagald
At our study group today we got into a discussion as to why the lectionary committee stopped the Isaiah lesson at verse 5. In fact, vs. 5 begins a new paragraph in the translation and makes better sense in the context of the verses that follow. The vision of vss. 1-5 is a kind of light against the darkness of the balance of chapters 2 and 3, an "in spite of" vision--do not think that what we see now is all there is; a new world is coming.
Perhaps the stopping place can be read in light of the desire we all of us have to receive the blessing while ignoring the judgment, to hear the comfort absent any challenge. We want the victory without battle, the prize without cost. And so Advent long-since ceased to be a penitential season in any measure--we move from purple to blue--and though Paul counsels that we make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires, we have to confess that this time of year that is about ALL we do. Fasting? NOW? Used to, I guess, but not anymore.
We found ourselves reading passages from Bonhoeffer again, The Cost of Discipleship, where he says if grace is a general truth, that allows us to live by the standards of the rest of the world. It is an old word that seems shockingly current.
I reminded us of Barbara Brown Taylor's word that if we lose the language (and, I would say, conviction) of sin, we also lose the language (and, I would say, experience or joy) of salvation. It is the bad news that makes the good news GOOD. We may hear the good news first, but we must also hear the bad news in order for it to be all the news that is news. if you see what I mean.
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