Go and see

A sermon for Christmas: Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14(15-20), Psalm 96

As I was pondering the readings for tonight’s Christmas celebration, three of my favorite quotations from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy kept recurring. It turns out it is really just two; as I remembered the first and last half of one as two. The first is set deep under a mountain, where the Fellowship is trapped, and likely lost. The little hope they had, is fading into the darkness. Frodo tells Gandalf

I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

 Gandalf answers:

 So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought (IMBD; Tolkien).

 In troubled times it is good to be reminded “All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

The other is specific to the shepherds whose decision to go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place has captured my imagination. Sam and Frodo are off on Gandalf’s journey. They are in the middle of a corn field when Sam stops. He says:

This is it.
Frodo:           This is what?
Sam:              If I take one more step it’ll be the farthest away from home
I’ve ever been.
Frodo:          Come on Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say
‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road,                        and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept                          off to.’ (tk421; Tolkien).

In twenty-two years of preaching Christmas, I have been inspired by the donkey; I have preached from the popular song Mary Did You Know. I have explored the thoughts of the Inn Keeper; that was the year we had a house fire December 23rd and the desk clerk could not let us bring our pets in the room; you could see the anxiety in her face. I preached about the setting, how a stable after a childbirth is not the most inviting place; and Mary and Joseph after their long journey and Jesus’ birth are quite exhausted, may be questionable host. I think I’ve preached about everything except for the shepherds, and for whatever her reason the divine muse has lead me to their decision to go and see.

Unlike Frodo and his friends, in the darkness under a mountain, the shepherds are in the darkness of the night sky, far away from the safety of any city or village. Shepherds are at the very bottom of the social ranking of respectability generally thought of as lazy, devious, and dangerous people  (Harrelson). They are charged with looking after animals who are not smart enough to look after themselves. Suddenly an Angel in all its glory and might appears; I think I would cower. But the angel has a surprising message, to you a child is born, the Messiah! And then a whole host of angles singing ~ don’t worry I’ll just say it

 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.

I wonder if I would have fainted! But these hardy fellows decide to go and see for themselves. Have you ever wondered what they are feeling?

It is possible that they are just plain curious. I mean angles popping about in the night isn’t every night occurrence, so, something is up. Perhaps they just want to see what’s up.

It is likely these shepherds cannot read or write, but so few people could that it is not an indication of what they might know of their religious heritage. It is conceivable they recognized bits and pieces of Isaiah’s prophecy in the angle’s message. That implies that perhaps they set off with a sense of expectation.

Some of the least educated and unresected people in the world have an amazing sense of what is. Karoline Lewis writes we realize the incarnation is a revelation of who God is and who we are and that means that who we are matters. Jesus’s birth means that the world has fundamentally changed (Lewis). With the angle’s message, fresh in their ears, and the promise of Isaiah’s prophecy plucked from their memories a growing sense of anticipation could bring a lively bounce to the shepherds’ step as they set out on their journey.

Years ago, Angie and I gave Eats Shoots and Leaves to our daughters because grammar matters. One of the challenges in translation is to capture what meaning comes from grammar, and sometimes it is hard because there are not comparable grammatical structures. This is one of those times. The angle says born to you a Savior. The trick is, that in English, you cannot tell, except sometimes by context, if ‘you’ is single or plural; here it is plural. There is a more complex piece. In some languages, but not in English, the case indicates that what is spoken is directed directly to the hearer (Hoezee). So, the angle is speaking about a savior born specifically to the shepherds, making the message intensely personal. Such a personal message could be a powerful source of inspiration to take off on a journey to go and see.

The splendor of an angle messenger, the glory of a heavenly host singing praises, the possibility that Isaiah’s prophecy of the messiah has come true, and to hear about it in a way that is oh so very personal, born to you! It all comes together such that I can see the shepherds, enchanted by the possibilities, go and see (Hoezee).

As intensely personal as the angle’s message is, the shepherds will also know the message is for all Israel. They may very well have had a sort of Three Musketeer sense of solidarity: Jesus for all and all for Jesus.

It is interesting that the angel does not tell the shepherds to do anything, all the angle does is make the announcement. Which brings us back to the shepherds being terrified. It doesn’t make sense to go see something when the messenger terrifies you. So, it is important to know ‘terrified.’ which comes from ‘fear.’ also, means ‘reverence’ (Barfield). Meaning the shepherds could well have set off full of respect to go and see what has been told to them.

The angle’s message being delivered to the shepherds out in the wilderness makes that hilltop and a stable the center of divine and human meeting. There is a sense that the shepherds get it, so, they begin their journey to go and see divinely empowered  (Harrelson).

 I do not know what emotion curiosity, expectation, anticipation, inspiration, enchanted, solidarity, reverence, empowerment or something else brings you to tonight’s celebration of the messiah’s birth, in a stable, behind an inn on some out of the way street, in a place of no import. But, by whatever road you came we welcome you to Bethlehem, we invite you to see how everything changes as you see your Christ (Johnson), your Messiah, your savior, your Jesus; we invite you to

Come to Bethlehem and see
him whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord the newborn King (Tate)

we invite you to come and see just how much God loves you.
Amen.

 

References

Barfield, Ginger. Commentary on Luke 2:114. 24 12 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Culpepper, R. Alan. New Interpreter’s Bible Luke. Vol. 8. Abbington, 2015. 12 vols. Olive Tree App.

Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scripture Notes. 16 24 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 24 12 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Christmas | Luke 2:1-20. 24 12 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

IMBD. The Lord of the Rings; Fellowship of the Ring. n.d. 24 12 2016. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2488496/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ql_1&gt;.

Johnson, Deon. “Nothing Changes Except Everything.” 24 12 2016. Sermons that Work.

Lewis, Karoline. The Meaning of Christmas. 24 12 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. The Divine Exchange. 24 12 2016.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

tk421. 24 12 2016. <http://www.tk421.net/lotr/film/fotr/08.html&gt;.

Tolkien, J.R.R. “Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring.” n.d. Web .

 

 

 

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As the Lord Commanded Him

A sermon for Advent 4; Isaiah 7:10-16, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25, Psalm 80:17, 16-18

Boyfriend: “What would you say if I asked you to marry me?”
Girlfriend: “I’d say ‘DUCK’!”
Boyfriend: “Duck? Why?!”
Girlfriend: “Because my father will want to shoot you.” (not always romantic.com).

This just goes to show that some things haven’t changed a whole lot in 2,000 years. Mary is engaged to Joseph. That means a lot more than engagements mean today. It is a legal contract with stiff penalties for breaking the engagement. According to Deuteronomy (22:23-27)

23 If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, 24 you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

This morning’s Gospel story opens after Joseph has already decided what to do (Boring). Its opening is full of heartache (Lose). Joseph is a righteous man, which means he keeps the law but it also means he is a just man (Boring). Joseph is engaged to Mary who is unexpectedly pregnant. He decides to keep the law, but by quietly sending her home. In the face of a disgraceful situation, with all its heartbreak, Joseph’s makes a rational, gently ethical decision (Epperly). Though distasteful, his troubles will soon be over. Joseph heads off for a good night sleep.

We are always encouraged to get a good night’s sleep. I expect that was exactly what Joseph was hoping for. Only the dreams that come with a deep sleep can be so disruptive, they can change your world (Epperly). Ask Joseph. He falls asleep, deeply asleep. And then ~ then he dreams.

In his dream, he is spoken to by an angel, a divine messenger from God. The message turns his world over. Joseph is told Mary’s child is of the Spirit. He is not to be afraid He is to go ahead with his marriage to Marry, as socially unconventional and shameful as it is (Harrelson). The child will be named Jesus, and he will save God’s people from their sins. Perhaps Joseph in his dream remembers Isaiah: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7: 14) Whether it be the angel or the citing from Isaiah there was some credence or importance to the message because Joseph … did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. (Matt 1:24)

It is Joseph’s actions that captured me this morning. He displays the obedience Paul refers to in Romans when he writes as part of being set apart for the Gospel … to bring about obedience of faith (Romans 1:1, 5) (Ellingsen). We already know Joseph is righteous because he follows the law. But, righteousness is more a quality of one’s relationship with God (Pankey). One measure of Joseph’s relationship is that he is also open to the divine mystical, this time a divine message in a dream (Epperly). We learn that he is righteous by his actions, that are counter-intuitive, and difficult; it is a near certainty that some of his neighbors whispered over fence lines. We have to learn from Joseph’s actions because Joseph never speaks; not in this story never ~ in all the Gospels does Joseph say a word (Hoezee).

Joseph’s actions reveal his mysticism. Part of being open to the mystical is to be open to divine power that is at work within us that is able to accomplish more than all we can ask or imagine, (Ephesians 3:20) (Epperly). I doubt that Joseph ever imagined that he would be the pseudo father of God’s son on earth. Being open to the mystical is to accept the unexpected. Jesus himself is unexpected. That God did not choose an accomplished priest, a Pharisee, a Sadducee or an accomplished politician is unexpected. But he chose a rather ordinary man with his own doubts and questions who wanted to do the right thing but needs angelic guidance to accomplish it is all the more startling to us (Lose). Think of how startling it is to Joseph. Joseph’s righteous mysticism allows him to be part of the apocalypse, the revelation of the divine secret for the future of the world known in Jesus’ birth. (Sakenfeld) (Allen).

Joseph’s face to face with the unlikely manifestation of the presence of God in the here and now is a model for all of us who encounter a divine message through an Angle, the Spirit, Jesus or God’s divine self (Allen). His acceptance and actions make him a part of the message that the birth of Jesus signals that the final transformation of humanity and the cosmos is underway and that the community, we, can remain faithful even in the face of conflict and chaos because they can believe that the transformation is already in process (Allen). Joseph’s story reminds us that it can be safer to keep God at a distance; because when we are in God’s presence, someone is going to tell us a truth whether we want to hear it or not. One the other hand it is Advent; and Advent is a time to see divine light, to reorient our lives to that light and to share the light, the light, of the truth of God’s presence (Lewis). This story also reminds us to be wary of those who speak of Christmas, or Jesus’s birth, without trembling at the mere thought of divine incarnation that God would come to us, in human form (Whitley). Mary was troubled. Joseph was troubled. To speak so lightly of Jesus’ birth as to not be troubled may demonstrate a shallowness of soil in which roots, cannot take hold.

Joseph’s story reminds us that God really is with you and there is a messenger with a special message, just for you. What are your dreams? what divine message is there? How is God communicating with you? what is your divine message? what is your calling? In the face of significant disappointment or heartache, how do you respond? With rational – ethical – gentleness; or some other way? Do you remain open to the mystical; open to more than we can ask or imagine? Joseph sets an ethical example for all of us. His behavior reminds us that ethics is acting in ways that follow God’s calling not social customs; even those we have long attributed to God.

Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent. In six short days, we will step into Joseph’s story. It will be our turn to receive and hear an angelic messenger. It will be our choice to fully live into the message, or not. It will be another opportunity to test God, to accept divine restoration, to be set aside for the Gospel, and share our faith in the divine mystery that has and continues to form our lives so that in all we do we bring grace and peace to all from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen


References

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25. 18 12 2016 <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Boring, M. Eugene. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. VII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. X!! vols. App Olivetree.

Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scripture Notes. 18 12 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 18 12 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Advent 4A | Matthew. 18 12 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. The Good News of God With Us. 18 12 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Advent 4 A: God Really With Us. 18 12 2016.

not always romantic.com. shotgun-wedding. n.d. 16 12 2016. <https://notalwaysromantic.com/shotgun-wedding/21546&gt;.

Pankey, Steve. “Jesus’ other name.” 18 12 2016. Draughting Theology.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Whitley, Katerina. “God is With Us! Advent 4(A).” 18 12 2016. Sermons that Work.

 

Advent Crockpot

A sermon for Advent 3: Isaiah 35:1-10, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11, Psalm 146:4-9 and Canticle 15

Williams Concrete was the largest concrete company at home. They poured most of the concrete for the interstate system. The owner built a home on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River. The driveway was far too steep for trucks to get up, so, they built conveyor system to get all the concrete to the building site that was powered by a truck. They burned up 3 trucks to get all the concrete to the building site. Itconcreteficent home. You can see if from the river, a marvelous sight. You can also see it from a narrow road on the other side of the river; at least the passenger can, the driver has to pay attention to the road’s narrow curves.

Herod, King of the Jews, and the Roman Empire’s officials had similar magnificent villas along the Jordan River. Jesus asks crowd who overhears his exchange with John’s disciples “Who did they really go to see? The grandeur of Herod and Rome?” perhaps pointing to the magnificent villas; before he continues “Nope you went to see the prophet!” Saying that the crowd is more interested John’s baptism than Rome’s opulence is  a way Jesus supports John (Allen) (Harrelson).

John could use some support. His situation has dramatically changed. The last we heard he was down by the riverside baptizing people and challenging Pharisees and Sadducees who were more than interested, more than curious to see what he was up to that drew all those people to him. Now John is alone in a dark prison cell ~ perhaps ~ waiting for death (Lose).

A change of place and or circumstance like that can cause a change in one’s perspective; which leads to different questions (Lewis). When we learn that not all Jewish communities were focused on the return of a messiah or even how God is active in the world or what God might be up to John’s new question is all the more understandable. (Allen). Questions that arise from a change in circumstances, or anything else, are not necessarily bad. They do represent that the asker has a clear-eyed understanding of the world around them. So yes, John’s question indicates he has preconceived ideas about who the messiah should be and how the messiah should be acting (Nagata). And yes, John may express some doubt; but, his doubt just may be his seeking the path from uncertainty to confidence; from disappointment to anticipation (Lose). It is important to hear that Jesus understands John’s question as an expression of faith (Lewis). And we know this because Jesus’ reply is not full of fiery judgment but it is full of compassion (Boring) and the hopeful vision of Isaiah 35 (Epperly).

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters, shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.

And so yes, Jesus is indeed the “coming one,” but he has reversed all the expectations; and questions should arise. And yes, John faith does waver, but such wavering is the nature of discipleship and faith, which must constantly be renewed (Boring).

I’ve always found it just a bit curious that Jesus tells John’s disciples to go tell him what they see, and then he tells them what they see. For a while, I wondered if he was just preempting the foolishness he has come to expect from his disciples. But not so any more, I think Jesus was/is seeking to reassure John, and anyone else who might be wondering what he is up to. He is seeking to reassure folks that healing the sick, feeding the hungry, bringing sight to the blind, really are grounded in the prophetic vision of God’s redeeming work.

So, we have answered John the doubter’s questions about the Jesus’ authority. However, there is more to explore. John’s imprisonment and change of circumstance led to his questions.

What imprisons you?

-What so changes your circumstances, or which of your preconceptions have been so badly shaken that they are limiting your imagination of God’s redeeming work, and raising new questions (Lewis) (Nagata)?

-What events in your life, or of your community or of the world, are raising fundamental questions:

• Is there really a God who knows and cares?
• Is there a divine purpose for the world?
• Is there a purpose for me?
• Is Jesus the definitive revelation of that God,
• or should we look elsewhere for answers to ultimate questions (Boring) (Nagata)?

–  What new idea has you all stirred-up (Pankey, Stir Up!)?

Can you place all those emotions in an Advent crock pot? Will you use this Advent time, while we are waiting for Jesus, to slow down, to reflect, and to pray ~ lifting all that has you off kilter to God in Jesus through the Spirit? Will you allow your questions and doubts to actually bring you closer to God (Nagata) (Boring)? Will you allow God’s reply, to your Advent waiting question, to inspire you to action?

Waiting for Jesus’ Second Coming is not a passive venture. God is already coming to us and wants us to use divine answers to get us all stirred up with new ideas to act with grace and persistence for the well-being of the planet and for all its peoples (Epperly) (Pankey, Stir Up!). And yes, new ideas are ugly, messy, and frightening, they threaten what we know, they scare us, and they are fragile. But when we nurture them with God’s light they bring beautiful transformation into the world (GE).

ideas

New Ideas can reveal how we can participate with God in restoration; they can help us identify other communities that share similar hopes and seek common purpose (Allen).

This morning’s collect asks God to stir up divine power and come among us. It is a great, though dangerous, idea. In it, we are asking God to turn lose power and light that we would much rather keep under a basket. In it, we are inviting the Spirit to work in our lives for the restoration of not only our souls ~ but the whole world (Pankey, Stir Up!) . We are unleashing God to help us be the prophets pointing to The Kingdom’s presence right here – right now, not only in what we say but most importantly in how we love all our neighbors. We are asking for directions and inspiration and power to follow Mary as

[Her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
[and her] spirit rejoices in God our Savior.

 

References

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Matthew 11:211. 11 12 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Boring, M. Eugene. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. VII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. X!! vols. App Olivetree.

Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scriture Notes. 11 12 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 11 12 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

  1. “Ideas Are Scary.” 2016. web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmQvc6tB1o&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Advent 3 A Matthew 11:2-11 . 11 12 2016.

Lewis, Karoline. Are You The One? 11 12 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Advent 3 A: John’s Blue Christmas. 11 12 2016.

Nagata, Ada Wong. “Can You See and Hear God’s Presence in Your Life? Advent 3(A).” 11 12 2016. Sermons that Work.

Pankey, Steve. How are we judged? 11 12 2016.

—. “Stir Up!” 11 12 2016. Draughting Theology.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Sacrament

A sermon for Advent 2: Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12, Psalm 72:17, 18-19

I grew up in metro Atlanta GA which, a score and more years ago, as I started seminary, was some 200 times the size of Blytheville. I have served churches in communities of 28,000, 15,000, 7,100, 2,400 and 743. In all these communities, people would ask the same question: “Where are you from?” What they really wanted to know is “Who are your people?” If anyone actually asks you who your people are, you are either in a lot of trouble or standing on the verge of being accepted wholeheartedly into their community family.

In this week’s commentary Karoline Lewis suggest that we are way too quick to skip past the opening phrase of the Gospel, especially the last half “appeared in the wilderness.” Her point is well made. To do so is to skip knowing where a prophet is from; and who a prophet’s people are (Lewis). Prophets are not soothsayers who by various means can see into the future. No ~ prophets are relentless truth tellers; pulling back the carefully woven curtain of our view of the present exposing deliberate ignorance and willful blindness to the sufferings of others; exposing the clever forms of evasion we use to deny pollution, climate change, food insecurity, the lack of clean water, burgeoning prisons, a failing cultural understanding of marriage, the plethora of single parent homes, that a quarter of our kids are living in poverty, acts of violence, our fragile access to healthcare, and exposing the illusions, we use to hide injustice and just plain ole meanness (Lewis; Lose). It is their clear vision of the truth of today that allows prophets to see the ill fortunes of the future that we do not want to hear. Prophets know where they are, they know the people they speak to. Prophets know where we are from; they know our people.

We all know that Advent is a season to cast aside the distractions of this world to make room for divinely inspired imagination. It is a season to imagine a Festival of the Incarnation. Not just the birth of Jesus, but a mystical divine fusion of God with all humanity. It is a season also to imagine Christ’s arrival – 2 (Lose). Only we allow ourselves to be distracted by illusions of a Christmas that are as false as the illusions of grandeur of the Kings of Israel. And we know this because John the Baptist is nowhere to be found in Advent unless you happen to be in a church that reads one the gospel stories like we heard this morning. I have never heard a Christmas Carol that features John the Baptist (Allen). It is a small wonder; can you begin to imagine caroling “You brood of vipers!”

Lewis’ insight leads us to examine John’s use of Isaiah’s prophecy:

 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: [pause] ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

Only in the original books there is no punctuation so it can also read

The voice of one crying: [pause] ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Allen).

The first way tells of someone crying in the wilderness and it is certainly John the Baptist. The second way tells of someone crying “go into the wilderness;” and this, I believe, is the subtle call to a fruitful Advent imagination. And it is all comes from our understanding of wilderness.

When we hear wilderness, I expect we see a wild, unsettled, inhospitable place. If it is in a bible setting it is vast dry landscape, with barren hills, some with scrub brushes and the occasional lost sheep. It is a dangerous, chaotic place to be. The wilderness is likely inhabited by equally inhospitable, dangerous people. But, when we think carefully about the story the bible tells us we may remember that the wilderness is a thin place; a place where we discover the edges of space and time. It is in the wilderness that God forms Abraham’s people. It is in the wilderness where the Hebrew people are tested and further formed. The wilderness is a place of chaos, but it is also a place of formation, a place of testing, and a place of purification (Sakenfeld). It is only in the heartfelt wilderness of our existence or our imagination that we experience the sacrament of Advent.

And yes, I know there is no such sacrament in the Book of Common Prayer. But, as you know, a sacrament is a visible and outward sign of an invisible and inward grace. And here both the visible and the invisible are repentance, which you remember, is about changing the orientation of your life.

Your Advent sacrament is invisible because you recognize and accept that you have a problem that is bigger you are (Benoit). It is invisible as you daydream about God’s vision for you as you face your problem, or your life, as a whole. It is invisible as you commit to start making one change. It is invisible as you commit to how that change is becoming a part of your relationships in your community (Lose).

Your Advent sacrament is visible as your commitments are witnessed in how you live life (Benoit). It is visible as people witness your continual discernment gradually transforming your spirit, your emotional well-being, your physical wellbeing, and your social wellbeing. It is visible as others witness you turn from “I” toward “us” and towards God. It is visible as your transformation mystically inspires all of us to turn towards each other and towards God.

It is Advent. It is the season for us, individually and as a community, to confront our inner viper, the quiet hissing voice that whispers “You too can be like God.” It is the season for us, individually and as a community, to see and be the prophet. It is the season for us, individually and as a community, to speak and hear the truth that pulls back our carefully woven curtain exposing the reality we would just as soon ignore. It is the season for us, individually and as a community, to trust the God, who came to us, lo those centuries ago as a mother’s child, will walk with us through this transforming wilderness, and will come again welcoming all into God’s eternal grace.


 

References

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Matthew 3:112. 4 12 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Beck, Norman. Lectionary Scriture Notes. 4 12 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Benoit, Arlette. “Bear Fruit Worthy of the Gift of Repentance Advent 2(A).” 4 12 2016. Sermons that Work.

Boring, M. Eugene. The Gospel of Matthew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. App Olivetree.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 4 12 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Advent 1 A | Matthew. 4 12 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 4 12 2016.

Lewis, Karoline. In the Wilderness. 4 12 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Advent 2 A: Reclaiming Repentance. 4 12 2016.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.