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.