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Advent4 Romans 16:25-27 “Mystery Revealed in Doing”

Tis the Season to be Trusting and love God and not the as the World.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen. [NRSA: Romans 16:25-27]

Who knew the conclusion to a letter could be so powerful! Paul’s letter to the church at Rome,

The purpose of Jesus being born and revealing God’s heart, mind, word, and will is for us to clearly see that we would completely trust and obey.

Compare with the introduction to Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome [NRSA: Romans 1:1-5]

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,

Paul’s opening is basically a repeat of the conclusion. Bookends to hold up a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that have to do with our Advent journey?

What are the bookend in our lives?

I was recently reminded of a Peyton Manning who had shared his perspective about the occasion an athlete retires. Typically on an announcer show, a most recognizable photo of a player during their career and the years of play are shown under their name. Joe Namath, 1965-1985, Hershel Walker, 1985-1997; Peyton Manning, 1988-2015. Peyton’s comment was about the dash between the numbers. The Dash represents the career of success and failures between the two numbers. The bookends are important, but the dash is more important.

Part of Advent has been establishing the bookends, the context, the itinerary of our spiritual journey. This fourth week we best focus on the main thing.

We have reminded one another to praise, to prepare, and to practice maturing our spiritual self. The last leg of this trek is to pause.

Traditionally Advent is the time

  • we hear about John the Baptiser and his call to prepare the way for the Lord,
  • we hear God’s call upon Marry, who is both humble and faithful, to carry and deliver the Son of God.
  • We hear about Joseph and his uncertainty about the unfolding events,
  • And maybe we hear about the shepherds who are both frightened, comforted and compelled by the host of angels.

But this year, I invite you to place those stories in the position of the bookend that help define and refocus us as Christmas is now less than a week away.

Hear Paul’s words to the church as we reflect on 2020 and look forward to the power of God with us in 2021.

  • God who is able — Who is ABLE to overcome pandemics? political strife? fears and even death?
    • to strengthen you — Where will you and I find the strength to overcome these things and more?
      • according to my gospel and — Did we know this promise is in God’s word? Rethem? studied them? shared them?
        • the proclamation of Jesus Christ, — Have we told others about Jesus, his strength? grace?
      • according to the revelation of the mystery — Do we trust what’s been shown to us? experience?
        • that was kept secret for long ages — Can we look back and see God patiently at work?
        • but is now disclosed, and — Can we find God being revealed now?
      • through the prophetic writings is — Have we looked for the pieces and fitting them together?
      • made known to all the Gentiles, — God loves us who love Him but also those who do not.
    • according to the command of the eternal God, — is it an idea, a suggestion, a nudge, or a command?
      • to bring about the obedience of faith — This is the heart of it all — God is seeks our response.
      • to the only wise God, — God who knows what is best for us
    • through Jesus Christ, — Who makes clear, knowing our sin, failures, faults, & weaknesses..died for us.
      • to whom be the glory forever! — God desires an eternal relationship, love, faith, trust, obediance.

The history of God’s work with the world is revealed in the bookends of Paul’s letter:

The heart of the story is fleshed out with us, throughout human history.

We have God’s strength, guidance, word/teaching, grace, hope and life — when we give obedience.

Oh it was going so well until we get to the Trust and Obey part.

God desire good and blessing for all, but we are living in a

  • playground,
  • workplace,
  • homestead,
  • political agreement
  • neighborhood

..where not everyone Trusts and Obey and we wrestle with whom to trust.

What does it mean to Trust and Obey God? Look at the bookends we have discussed the past three weeks.

  1. We are not the potter, we are the clay.
  2. We need to repent of our sins and be made new through Christ
  3. We need to be maturing and growing in spirit.
  4. The Dash – “Dashing through the snow” Calling one another to live like
    1. We are being shaped by God and not the world
    2. Loving our enemies and the lost because it serves Christ and not ourselves
    3. Wake up and get to work growing and sharing Christ with others.

Trusting and Obeying is the DOING these.

This fourth week we gather to invest this next week…

Before any traveling, cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, or celebrating: Is what I’m focused on right now something that is drawing me toward God, keeping me stuck where I am, of moving me away from the heart of God.

  1. Actively do, say, and think what draws us to God and not to the world
  2. Intentionally seek out those we need to forgive and seek their forgiveness
  3. Wake up each day with this prayer: “Good Morning God! What do you want me to do today?”

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Advent2 Mark 1:1-8 “Tying Laces”

closeup photo of brown lace up boot
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 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,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” [NRSA: Mark 1:1-8]

  • It is interesting that Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus and John the Baptist.
  • The starting point is baptism. John’s invitation was a call for people to repent.

REPENTANCE

Moving spiritually closer toward God requires that we acknowledge our separation from God.

  • Some of the spiritual distance comes from our moving away from God by wilfully choosing what we know to be harmful to others, ourselves, and/or the opposite of God’s best for us.
  • Some come as we allow other relationships and responsibilities to come before God. It is not that the relationship and responsibilities are bad, it is that we look for strength, judgment, discernment from ourselves, or others ahead of God.
  • In this year we have particularly been asked to trust the science, trust the scientists. We appreciate those who devote themselves to using the mind, research, calculations, measurements, and follow the methods and practice of science. But even science is the discovering, understanding, and use of God’s creation. There are those who want science to be void of God and stand as an authority that needs no idea of God, this is not why God has given us the ability to reason, to be self-aware, and to imagine new solutions. If we study at the marvel of God’s creation and not honor that God is greater than our greatest minds, then we create our own God. (commandment #2)
  • Some the gap is created when we choose little, by little, our will over God’s: The fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden was just one piece of fruit. What difference does one tangerine, one apple, one pomegranate make in a garden of plenty?
  • God is gracious to forgive, but our failures to follow God’s direction and call in our daily lives in whatever form reveals the chasm we are from God. (Lazarus and the Rich Man)

John drew crowds of people from all around who came to hear him help them see their weakness and make changes. The sign of this fresh start was given through baptism in the Jordon.

  • Think about a good athletics coach, their job is not to only talk about the good things that the team accomplished, but they spend more time pointing out the problem, potential problems, studying tapes of past problems, assistant coaches to look out for offense and defense, all to make changes to improve each player and the team.
  • Even the very best teams, in every sport and league, are made of players that have mistakes, misjudgments, poor choices, grow weary, break the rules, miss opportunities, don’t score, and lose games and seasons.
  • Repentance is looking at the tapes and seeing where we failed and grace is knowing there are another game and other opponents the next day or week.

SANDALS and SERVANTS

John’s illustration is about a simple task that most everyone in this room and stream has done throughout their lives… tying shoes and sandals.

Do you remember learning to tie shoes? We have a different experience with our footwear. The task of washing feet was the task of the least person of status to prepare people for leaving the dirt of the world in the street and washing the feet to be clean in the house.

There are strong images of baptism in foot washing. Recall how Jesus surprised everyone when he washes the disciple’s feet.

There are several example of sandals, feet, and laces in the old testament:

  1. Gn 14 Abram tells the King of Sodom that he would take even a thread from his sandals so he would be faithful that the Lord’s work provides and not the wealth of other nations.
  2. Dt 25. If a woman’s husband died, her husband’s brother was to take her in and provide a family for her. If he would not, the woman would take offer her sandal and spit in his face.
  3. Ruth 4. If someone took off their shoe and give it to his neighbor, he was disowning their friendship and not welcome them as part of the community.

These three examples cover, tithing, marriage, and care of one’s neighbor, and now baptism. Key themes we weave together through laces.

John’s connection is that the Messiah was so much more qualified, able, AND worthy to look for, follow and trust, that John, himself, was not even worthy to carry his shoes or untie his laces.

The baptism John is offering is a helpful sign of washing away the past to start fresh, but it was only symbolic, and all the ‘work’ and the need to ‘wash’ happens as often in daily life. BUT, Jesus is coming to wash our spirit!

LACES and BETTER FIT

  • When we tie our laces we are drawing together the wide open gaps to a snug fit.
  • When we untie our laces we are making room and setting free our feet for rest and welcome.
  • What can set our spirit free to be fulling God’s People?

John the Baptist:

  • I’m famous, but I am not worthy to set you free,
  • I’m a good coach, but I am not worthy to hold your faith together;
  • I can draw a crowd, but I am not worthy to keep your family safe;
  • I can offer you a valuable message, but I am not worth enough to make you wealthy,
  • I am not able to hold the community together, BUT the Messiah can do all that and more…

Here John Proclaims the coming Good News: Jesus both holds’s us snug in this world and free’s our spirit and makes us both physically and spiritually whole.

  • You and I help each other see our sins and Jesus is the one who saves us
  • You and I care for those who hunger, and Jesus makes our spirit new and full.
  • You and I can do great things, but if we think they are possible without God, we steal the glory
  • You and I cannot do all things, but Christ can.
    • This is who we seek,
    • this is who we trust,
    • this is who we praise.

In this second week we review the tapes from this year’s season and see what we need to repair, renew, and restore… Through this we repent and make ourselves ready to meet Jesus who is our salvation, hope and joy.

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Psalm 80 “Restore Us”

Restoration

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved [NRSA]

Let the congregation say it again: “O God of heaven, let your face shine, that we may be saved, amen!”

The Psalm is a song of lament and a confession of sin, as well as a prayer for salvation.

how long we have we babe know sorry, fear, separation, defeat, calamity, trouble and loss. We have cried so among tears, they are our drink.

how long have we been seen as less than enough, how long have we been taken advantage, how long have we been the butt of the joke and ‘that’ ring or on our road or street?

how long have our enemies had more than we have had, how long have we been defeated, belittle and bullied? How long have we lived by our enemies standards and expectations?

now is the time to call upon the lord. Now the day for us to remember who’s family we belong. Now is the season for us to turn to Gods power, as we have found ourselves broken and powerless.

These are the word of lament.
These are the words of confession.
What is left to be done?

The Congregation calls for God to show up.
the congregation calls for God to shine upon their darkness and brokenness.

Come Lord with your mighty presences.
We need to see you face.
We need you to be with us, here and now

The call in this act of worship is for God to shine his presence, his might and his light on our darkness, fear, shame and selfishness…

we could never have done enough, know enough, worshipped enough, we are not enough, without you or God…come Show up and restore us.

This is the congregation crying out for what we already know and find in Jesus Christ.

The worshipers would gather in the temple cry out to God. “ O God of Heaven, Let your face shine, and save us.
People were ask for the tangible, physical, powerful presence of God to be present and to restore them from their sin.

Jesus, as Messiah, was not a surprise nor and afterthought of God, even way back then people knew from life’s of emptiness and brokenness that only God could show up to save us…

this is the good news of Christmas!

God is showing us Gods glory, power and life for us to be saved, restored, redeemed and made wholle.

“I don’t need anything for Christmas” not true!
I need Jesus to shadiness his face upon us and make us new and that becomes our peace, joy, love and faith.

another way to say, Lord of Heaven, give me your mighty power that I might be renewed, save, rekindled, for you and your glory, not mine but your.

This is the Christmas gift we seek, and share.. Merry Christmas and may Christ save and restore you today!

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Isaiah 2:1-5 Walking in Light

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! [NRSA]

Walking in the Light

Just last night I stubbed my little toe for the third time this week. OOOh. OWwww. UMph! I was not looking where I was stepping. I was thinking of my destination and didn’t pay attention to the path. I suppose I am as stubborn and my toe pays the price.

This first Sunday of Advent is a call to walk the path of light.  We will see the path in the words of prophets from long ago, in the brilliance of angel songs, in the order of distant stars and throughout the witness of God’s word for us and for the world.

If the world is to be transformed by the AWESOME work and news we find at Christmas it will not be through packages, decorations and jolly traditions of giving. We find Christ when we follow the path Christ’s light leads us, and then, only then, other traditions may follow.

The Advent Tradition Reveals our Journey

We will light candles of Hope Peace Joy and Love

These are our milestone markers along the way

Week One

Start Walking – Walking in the Light

Start disciplines of singing, reading, preparing for Christ.

The Characters

With Luke’s Gospel, start reading and studying the core story in Chapter 1 and the start of 2. You will surely know the stories but read them with an intention to retell them, teach them, and find your presence in the stories. 

  • Are you the parent? 
  • A child?
  • a messenger? 
  • an unbeliever? 
  • a doubter? 
  • a late-night employee? 
  • The aunt or uncle? 
  • a bystander? 
  • one blessed ready to serve? 
  • one who was scared? 

We can find ourselves in many if not most of these throughout our lives.. These are the perspectives 

The prophet Amos had a son, Isaiah, one of the most prolific prophets of God’s people, has a word for all of God’s people, those of the North and the South; those of the Left and the Right; a word for those Then and for us Now!

Listen Up!

 Advent is our Journey toward Christmas

  • It is an upward climb up the highest mountain, with a the greatest view
  • The path is a process with purpose and faithfulness.
  • Instructions are for the world and not the reverse
  • The Word of the Lord is from Jerusalem for the world to hear, see, believe and trust
  • We have a judge among the nations
  • The judgment will be working toward peace and not war
  • The work will be transformational
  • Everyone in the house, listen up and be ready for the journey
  • It is time to walk in the light.

I have enjoyed many hikes in my life. The memorable ones were not easily accomplished. The same will be true for our spiritual journey this month. We are tempted to take the ride up to the top or look at someone else’s photos taken at the summit but we are cheating ourselves from the hike.

Isaiah’s call is to follow the path.

There are times that the adventure is off the beaten path, but the spiritual path toward finding Christ born afresh and anew in outlives is found following God’s path.

God’s path follows

  • the wisdom of prophets
  • the messages of angels
  • the call of faithfulness, and 
  • the steadiness of trusting God to be revealed in the process.

There is not a shortcut in spiritual growth.

Our Task is to make Peace

We know Jesus is the Prince of Peace and if we are following Christ’s path, it will be a journey of peacemaking.

It is worth great note that Isaiah is addressing a divided kingdom.

The answer is not for the northern or southern kingdom to yield to one or the other, RATHER

BOTH are to yield toward God’s heart

     The witness of doing God’s Work revealed in Christ is to TRANSFORM the elements of the

     battle into implements of building, feeding, clothing and healing the nations.

We have witnessed a great day of rivalries in the college football world this weekend.

  • It is easy to take sides
  • maintain traditions
  • cheer for our team
  • and boo the enemies
  • It’s a fun legacy of honoring alma mater and celebrating traditions

But it is just the opposite of the work we have ahead of us as those looking for Christ.

We begin in the HOPE of peace.

Before HOPE is fulfilled for us in CHRIST, begin our work of TRANSFORMING the things that divide us so that we are less apt to resume a battle if we are not preparing for battle.

We have friends whose child just got accepted to UT, the mother is an alumnus of Vanderbilt, she was lamenting the wearing of Orange. We reminded her that she could wear White and Smokey Grey and still show her support as a loving mother.

In the weightier matters of our lives, we see the division of politics and the best place to transform the weapons might be social media. Avoid the public responses that brand and shame, and find ways to communicate one-to-one in ways bridge rather than promote the fight.

There are times that we are scared, threatened, challenged, inconvenienced, tested and even attacked and out self-preservation is to return the attack or withdraw. Nations become divided when people stop treating one another with respect and trust. Instead of working toward the same goal, selfishness wins.

The church is divided over selfishness in the name of God. That is actually blasphemy

The nation is divided over power in the name of Good. That is delusion

When families or friends are divided over agendas. That is polarization

Blasphemy – Delusions – Polarizations have NOTHING to do with the path of God’s Kingdom.

The Road to Christ

is shedding the tools of fear and brokenness 

Transforming these talents for those that build 

Trust in God, A quest for God’s Heart and the unity that ONLY God can provide.

We celebrate these being made clearest and nearest through Jesus Christ.

What’s Next

First, Start climbing, spend the time, words, relationships, and tools we have on God’s path and not our own.

         Confess our sins, fear, brokenness, selfishness, shame, and journey together

May the first week of December/ Advent be transforming ourselves to become God’s implements, God’s people

  • God’s prophets, 
  • healers, 
  • teachers, 
  • builders, and 
  • all those who know to stay on God’s path of Light.

This is our HOPE to start the climb.

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Isaiah 9:2-7  Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Eve—Arrive

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For Christians, Christmas Eve is a moment of open arms— as a midwife who extends her arms to receive the newly born child. As the church, we also extend our arms to receive Jesus once again, with all that he has to offer: an incomparable love, a huge smile, the smile of God over humanity and directed individually at every human being.

My left-handed catcher’s mitt is a bit of an oddity to most. Being left-handed in baseball, except in rare cases, means exclusion from the position of catcher. This is due in large part to the game’s counterclockwise flow. There have only been 30 left-handed throwing players who caught in at least 1 defensive inning. If you exclude the seven men who only caught in a single game, then you’re talking about just 23 players. If you count only those guys who caught 100 or more games in a career, you’re down to exactly five left-handed throwing catchers. However, if you’re only counting career catchers (minimum of 800 games caught), then you have exactly one and that is Jack Clements. To have a youth sized left handed catchers mitt is an invitation for someone to take on something miraculous.

Christmas Eve is a time of wonder, anticipation and glowing hopeful faces. Unfortunately, even on the night of Christmas Eve, there are thousands of people who cannot or will not smile back. In the first place, they don’t seem to see Jesus in all the festivities.

  • Maybe what they truly capture is Jesus crying, as any other baby does throughout the world.
  • In pain and in sorrow, throughout the world, there are precious little babies, precious elderly men, and woman, young people who are lacking food, shelter, jobs, loved ones; therefore, they are not smiling on Christmas Eve.
  • Some carry the full emptiness of loss and grief that allow for now room in the inn.
  • Still, in many of those places, because of deep faith, they also extend their arms to the arriving Jesus.

Both Scriptures for this day have the element of receiving. A baby has been born, and it has made an extraordinary difference. A variety of activities take place at church and home: Christmas plays, concerts, family dinners—all celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

43 The text from Isaiah 9:2-7 is a short poem full of hope, in spite of whatever days of suffering may have preceded. Christians see this promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (Lk. 2:1-20). The Israelites themselves went through harsh divisions between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. There are many other historical events behind this text that the preacher will most likely not have to time to address. Perhaps the most important aspect that needs to be underlined on Christmas Eve is the inauguration of a new day that is the centerpiece of the occasion. The Israelites heard from Isaiah of a new day after experiences of war, division, and captivity. Christians will hear a message of the birth of a baby that makes a difference in the world. Paradoxically, we still hear about wars; a great segment of humanity experiences hunger, strife, squalor, and poverty. But still, the message of Christ’s birth has resulted in schools, hospitals, orphanages, agricultural work, public demonstrations against injustice, corruption, and discrimination. Baby Jesus has been in the hearts of the innocent, the elderly, the terminally ill, and those who have just his followers.

There is much to celebrate on Christmas Eve. I can still savor the special foods shared by family and friends. I can picture a night of worship that included the choir and the drama team. Afterward, people went home to meet with more family members. In certain places, gifts will be opened on Christmas Day; but in others, right at midnight or before, while the children are still awake.

What an extraordinary event. And what a formidable opportunity for evangelization, the sharing of the good news. In both Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20, we are given the foundation for a message of hope through the coming of a very special baby. With the arrival of Jesus, there is the promise of freedom for those in bondage, justice on behalf of those who have been wronged, light in a world of darkness, deliverance from the rod of the oppressor. No one could stop God’s sovereign will, “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child” (v. 6).

God is in charge of history; no one can stop God from bringing redemption to the world. Galatians 4:4-5 has the same tone of an unstoppable moment, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”

That we are adopted and made part of God’s covenant people, that we have become sisters and brothers of Jesus, that we have the blessing to open our arms to the One who has arrived, is a fascinating message. Amid the powers that be to proclaim that the One who has come is at the same time, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting

44 Father, Prince of Peace, with an ever-increasing authority, with the promise of peace, and an agenda of justice and righteousness is at the same time good news and bad news —good news for those who long for deliverance; bad news for those who have placed the chains of oppression and violence on others.

In the gospel text, the newborn child disrupted— in a good way —the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and even the angels. The whole universe is engaged in offering praises to the One who is God’s best gift to the world. The angels sing, “glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (v.14).

For the Sports fans: What has been a favorite play to watch? A quarterback has the game-winning ball and passes or throws it into someone else’s hands, they receive it and run with it. That is where Christmas Eve begins.

For those who run to mailbox: and find the long-awaited check, acceptance or notice of the final zero balance, that news confirms the efforts of the past and pave the way for a new beginning.

For those who have heard Good News this year: The beginning of

For those have received God’s Word in their hearts:

For those who feel that they have seen nothing God, or lost the hope, or were somehow left on the island of misfit toys: Christmas Eve is where the Good News Begins for us all!

God the Lord of all Creation has come to be born into our history, into our hearts, into our futures. Tonight we stand ready to receive Christ:

Now is the time to receive the package, receive the gift, Receive new life, renewed hope, new healing, new possibilities, renewed promises, renews covenants.

In Receiving Christ we take on the responsibility of caring for Christ throughout our lives and the places we go.

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Adv3: Do Zephaniah 3:14-20 Luke 3:7-18

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Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. [NRSV:OT]

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV:NT]

Actions have consequences

  • When we do what God asks of us to do God is revealed and order and justice follows.
  • When we do not do what God asks of us we make God look bad, and chaos follows.
  • And inaction neither reflects God nor ourselves.
  • Key words: repentance, rejoice, festivity 

JOY Interrupts!

This week in the Advent season is known as the Sunday of joy. The Pink candle is the interruption of “Joy” to remind us of why we prepare for Christmas.  

Don’t rush ahead to the end of the story though, the Joy begins with God’s desire to love us, bless us, and to restore us from the chaos.  Rather than only finding meaning at the end of the journey, it is important for us to cherish the joy found along the way.

Did you ever know someone named, Zephaniah? The prophet’s text promises that the people’s fortune and future have been changed from judgment to hope, from destruction to restoration, from oppression to liberation and from dread to praise (Zeph. 3:14-20). 

This message comes in the process. Too often we are discontent and give up hope when the struggle is long, chronic and weary. Advent is our intentional infusion of joy into the journey toward Christ.

As those who know this hope in a 21st century world who is rushing toward winning, success and ‘profit’, little if any attention is give to the prophetic words of hope and joy before we arrive.

In the gospel text, John the Baptizer opens the curtains before those who seek to stop and thwart goodness and godliness of the coming of the One, the Messiah, who will bring a new act of salvation, (Lk. 3:7-18). 

The festivity right now center on the “Doing.” God has promised to change the people’s plight from a world of corruption, misplaced faith, failed authority, captivity under an oppressive powers, and inequities and injustices severely affecting the whole community. 

In the Old Testament passage we see the trouble when the spiritual folks, those concerned for holiness, worship, love for the poor, respect for God’s laws were all abandoned, and the prophet was sent to call the covenant people on it!

Eventually, God’s mercy is granted, and the promise expressed in the final chapter of Zephaniah’s divine oracle brings a new beginning. There is a song of joy in the air and a call to Do! This tiny word has a message of assurance and comfort.

“Do” implies that some action can help turn things around. In 3:16-17, we hear the prophet’s message: “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: DO NOT FEAR, O ZION; DO NOT LET YOUR HANDS GROW WEAK. THE LORD, YOUR GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST.” 

The DO is to a call to worship, to praise, to celebrate, to recall the words of promise, the remember God is for us, to remind one another we are called to love even though we have not always been loving. The results: “Loud singing, a day of festival, disaster removed, renewal in God’s love and much more” (Zeph. vv. 17-18). 

In the gospel, What is the good news? 

  1. God loves us even though some consequences we bring upon ourselves, and some are the ripe or rotten fruit of others. (My bee hive) (National politics) (trusting others to ‘do’ for us – user/consumer mentality) God still loves us, longs for our trust,
  2. The “DO” that we are beginning is in our 2Mile Ministry. [INTRO TO PREPARE FOR 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS] the work we “DO” now is in anticipation of the joy we will share.
  3. We need Folks to share gifts to our neighbors through 2mile to show love without cost, hospitality of grace and the welcome of Christian community.

SIGN UPS: 2mile and 12 Days of Christmas for our neighbors…. anticipation of the hope to share!

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Advent 1 Stand Jer. 33:14-16 Luke 21:25-36

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Key words: hope, redemption, alert

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” [NRSV: Jr 33.14-16]

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.  [NRSV Lk 21:25-36]

Today we begin the four-week journey toward meeting Jesus, born anew in our lives, at Christmas. We call this time of preparing our ADVENT of Christmas. This is not Christmas, it is the anticipation and journey toward Christmas.

Advice: Don’t be in a hurry for Christmas, we might miss Christ when Christmas Day arrives.

Our first call is to Seek God’s Righteousness/Goodness

The Prophet Jeremiah pronounces that there is a coming of the Lord’s Righteousness and the world will see Justice and God’s understanding of what is Right and Wrong.

Frances has a wonderful opportunity through school to be an exchange student. She will be living in South Africa this summer and her new friend Amy will come to live with us this fall.  So as any family would, we have been learning a great deal about that country. For all the faults that every nation has, 80% of the country is Christian and of that significant portion, 80% attend church regularly. Why is church more popular in that part of the world? They have issues of justice that the nation continues to struggle through. I am interested to learn how God is showing up to help bring peace and safety, which we all seek.

The prophetic work in our weeks prior to Christmas come as an opportunity to study and practice what it means to live in AND show the world God’s righteous way of thinking, behaving and believing.

Jeremiah speaks of the work of a singular, tender branch keeping the family tree’s promise alive. God is not measuring us by volume, rather by faithfulness. POINT: Have Hope that God will use us, even in our weakest moments, by directing ourselves toward God.

Turn and Stand Up

Jeremiah invites us to TURN our minds to God in Advent. The Gospel reading from Luke challenges us to STAND UP.  Don’t be a “pew potato”. Don’t think it is someone else’s responsibility. Don’t wait for wind to blow your sails, move yourself into the blowing of the Holy Spirit.

This season is a time to begin the journey by Standing Up. The work of witnessing Righteousness and caring out Justice are the journey.

The first action of every journey is to get up and prepare to move, prepare to take action, prepare to face the apparent overwhelming odds that nothing will change for God if we sit here and wait until we die. Stand up! is the call.

It is in Luke’s gospel that we hear Jesus tender sprouts of the fig tree that will bear fruit even though it has been dormant and lifeless. This is much like the prophet Ezekiel call to preach and prophesy to the valley of dry bones calling for them to prepare to form and army, prepare to have the breath of God in your lungs and hearts.

Jesus tells the disciples that terrible signs and calamities will surround us, but this will be the best time to see Jesus showing up. When you know Jesus is near, STAND UP, life up your heads and follow.

The crisis times in our lives and in the life of the church are the very times that we prepare to TAKE A STAND, prepare to lift up our heads and affirm JESUS’s presence and hope for the world.

In a world divided by fear and ideologies, take action, and take action in the strength of Christ.

Thank goodness Advent is a time of preparing because we are not collectively ready to advance. But we are at the moment of standing up.

The opportunity of showing up! C. S. Lewis is quoted saying:

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis

  • TURN TOWARD GOD
  • PREPARE TO STAND UP
  • LIFT UP YOUR HEADS

Third: starting this Advent Journey requires HOPE.

The challenge given to us by the world, by our denomination, by our community is to be the presence of God’s HOPE for those who are in our circles of influence.

SIDE NOTE: Our circle of influence is not only those that we come in contact in our daily living, but also those whom we could be in contact with in each day. 

Simply summaries,

We begin Advent as a quest to find Christ in our own lives, but committing/recommitting our attention toward God, Begin my taking the first step toward God, and carrying the flag of Hope for a world that is looking to ideological approval, material feed happiness and lost in raging waters of despair, grief, doubt and fear. Yuck!

Pray with me:

Lord Turn my heart and mind and soul toward you.

Give me your strength to move from this stationary place into living that is fueled by your power.

Keep your hope in me that I might shine that life and light for someone else.

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