Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

Image via Wikimedia Commons

On our journey toward Advent, our sermon series, "What to Expect When You're Expecting," is linked to a portion of the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1:1-6. While names like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob come as no surprise, there are surely other names that are unexpected. Last week we considered Ruth and Rahab. This week we take a look at Tamar and Bathsheba.

Take time to read their stories found in Genesis 38:1-30 and 1 Kings 1:15-31. Then consider the following:
  1. What new information did you encounter?
  2. What surprises you about these stories?
  3. What does it mean that people like Tamar and Bathsheba are named in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ?
I pray that your journey through Advent has been one of peace and joy. As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

On our journey toward Advent, the sermon series, "What to Expect When You're Expecting," is linked to a portion of the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1:1-6. Take time to read this passage. Then consider who makes the list? Would you expect to find all these people on the roll call of Jesus' family? Likely, you will find a few names that are a bit unexpected. For example, who would imagine that Ruth and Rahab would be named, especially since they were both foreigners. Yet by God's grace they, too, are part of the family of God.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Before Sunday, take time to read Ruth 1:22-2:12 and consider the following:
  1. To what city does Naomi and Ruth travel? How does this relate to the Nativity?
  2. Who is Boaz?
  3. What sort of person does Boaz seem to be?
  4. How concerned is Boaz about Ruth being a foreigner?
Now, let's turn our attention to Rahab.

Via Wikimedia Commons

You may read about her in Joshua 2:15-24, (to get a fuller picture of the events, you may wish to read the entire chapter), then reflect on the following:
  1. What do you already know about Rahab?
  2. What is her profession?
  3. Although Scripture doesn't tell us, have you ever wondered why a woman might have "chosen" such a career in ancient biblical times?
  4. What does Rahab do for the spies sent by Joshua? 
As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday. I pray that you are having a blessed Advent.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

This week I have been enjoying our Advent Calender 2012 devotional. Although the readings are short, they seem to pack quite a punch. Today's title, for example, is "Party Time," with the following comment: "The Giver of Life invites you to a banquet in honor of his Son's birth. Please respond." (Immediately I had an image of an RSVP in response to party invitation.)

The suggested biblical text is Isaiah 25:6-9:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation (NRSV).
Herein we see the promise of God's ultimate defeat over death. Walter Brueggemann says of this text, "The imagery here of death is not simply the fact of mortality. Rather, "death" is understood as a great devastating monster who stalks the earth and seeks to undo all of the structures of life. In the imagery [of verse 8], it is argued that God is an even stronger power who, with great force and brutality, will simply swallow death, chew it up, and spit it out in complete nullification. (The Life with God Bible, from the commentary on Isaiah, pg.1014)

It's no surprise that this Scripture passage is often used in the Church to celebrate the wondrous accomplishment of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, an accomplishment that began at the Savior's birth.

During the Season of Advent, we are invited to be a part of the most wonderful story ever told. We are invited to sit with God, consider the wonder of it all, mark time together and seek out ways to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Although the world would entice us to turn our focus elsewhere, we will surely be better for choosing to turn toward the Light of the World on our journey toward Bethlehem.We will surely be better if we RSVP "Yes!" to the greatest invitation of all.

Sunday we will gather to listen to "Light and Life ," a Christmas Cantata performed by our Colonial Heights Presbyterian Choir. Hope to see you here!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

Photo by Joel Bez ( via Wikimedia Commons

This Sunday, December 2, we will celebrate the beginning of Advent with the Hanging of the Greens. If you have not already picked up your devotional "Advent Calendar 2012: Daily Scripture and Reflections in Preparation for Christmas," please pick one up. The first reading from Psalms gets us moving in the right direction, on the path toward salvation. I hope you are able to meditate on these readings all along our Advent journey.

The Scripture texts for Sunday's worship service include Matthew 1:1-6 and Luke 1:26-35. Read the genealogy of Jesus through the eyes of the writer of Matthew. Note who makes it in this family roll call. Are there any surprises? If so, who are they? Now turn your attention to the reading from Luke. What surprises can be found here? Who is surprised? By whom?

During the Sundays of Advent, we will focus on biblical figures who might be surprised to find their own name in the roll call of Jesus' ancestors. Likely, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah) would never expect such a thing. Certainly, Mary never expected to be chosen to be the Mother of our Lord. And thus the name of our Advent Sermon series: "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

The Season of Advent is a time of waiting. As we wait, let us reflect on a poem written by Joseph T. Nolan, entitled "The whole earth's a waiting room."

            We wait—all day long,
            for planes and buses,
            for dates and appointments,
            for five o’clock and Friday.

            Some of us wait for a Second Coming.
            For God in a whirlwind.
            Paratrooper Jesus.

            All around us people are waiting:
            a child, for attention;
            a spouse, for conversation;
            a parent, for a letter or call.

            The prisoner waits for freedom;
            and the exile, to come home.
            The hungry, for food;
            and the lonely, for a friend.

            The whole earth’s a waiting room!
            “The Savior will see you now”
            is what we expect to hear at the end.

            Maybe we should raise our expectations.
            The Savior might see us now
            if we know how to find him.
            Could it be that Jesus, too, is waiting
            for us to know he is around?[i]



[i] Joseph T. Nolan, Let the Earth Rejoice! Scripture, Prayers, and Poems for the Abundant Life (Allen, Tex.: Thomas More Publishing, 2000), pp.32-33.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

On Sunday we will celebrate Christ the King Sunday. The Scripture readings for our time of worship are 2 Samuel 23:1-7 and John 18:33-37. First, read the passage from 2nd Samuel which is regarded as the last words of King David.Then consider the following:
  1. In verse one, how is David described / named?
  2. To whom does he give credit for success?
  3. What other things does David say about the God of Israel?
Now, turn to the New Testament reading, which places us in the middle of the story of Jesus standing before Pilate. Note the first question Pilate poses: "Are you the King of the Jews?" This is what Pilate most wants to know. Another way we might imagine this question asked in our day and time is: "Are you a threat to national security?" Pilate wants to know if Jesus is planning an uprising. What is Jesus' response?

Jesus says that his kingdom is not from here. So if Jesus is a king, it's not at all the kind of king that Pilate has in mind. So what kind of King is Jesus? In your own spiritual life, how does he reign in your heart and mind? With this in mind, I offer you the following poem written by Ian M. Fraser:

No place

No place to lay your head
O Christ whom we call King of Kings;
you came to share the painful lot
of all the homeless, life’s foundlings.
                You had no home to call your own
                though earth’s your footstool, heaven your throne.

At last, through wood and nails, you found
a home, spread-eagled on a cross,
where all could see the face of God
made one with human pain and loss:
                and hear God’s call, and find God grants
                to each a niche of relevance.

Lord, make us restless till we rest
in your good will for humankind
that, while the birds have each a nest
and foxes holes, we learn your mind
                that all your cherished human race
                may claim a sheltered dwelling place.[i]

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

[i] Ian M. Fraser in Worship Life no. 24, (London: Stainer & Bell, Autumn 2002) pg.15.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

By A. Davey; The Virgin Mary; via Wikimedia Commons
The gospel reading for Sunday comes from Mark 13:1-8. In this text the disciples show amazement at the grandeur of the Temple. Jesus, however, is less impressed. In fact, Jesus forecasts its destruction and, in the same breath, instructs them not to worry when things go from bad to worse. In essence, Jesus says, "New life is on the way." So even though this seems like discouraging news, it's far from it.

"Good news" is certainly the theme for the story of Hannah, which is found in 1 Samuel. Hannah is unable to have children. In distress, she enters the Temple to take her request for a child to Yahweh. You can read about this in 1 Samuel 1:4-20. But the sermon focus for Sunday will deal more with what happens afterward when Hannah offers a prayer of thanksgiving because God has heard her prayer. In 1 Samuel 2:1-10 we find what is known as "The Song of Hannah." 
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Next week we celebrate Thanksgiving. What a wonderful text to ponder as we consider our own reasons for offering thanks to the Lord.

Soon, Advent will be upon us and we will be journeying toward the birth of our Lord. In keeping with the upcoming season, let's look at another song in scripture sung by another godly woman. Luke 1:46-55 gives us the Song of Mary, or the Magnificat, as it is traditionally known. It, too, is an offering of praise and thanksgiving.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
On your journey toward Sunday, spend some time with these two songs. Notice the similarities. What common themes do you see? Then, with these songs of thanksgiving ringing in your heart, offer up your own prayer of praise to God. After all, it is the Season of Thanksgiving!

I pray that you are having a blessed week and I look forward to worshiping with you Sunday.