Sometime in the next 3-4 weeks you are likely to have “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in your head or even belting out of your mouth in song! The sounds of the season are full of a Christian/Christmas cast of characters from the sacred to the secular. And some have blended together. There really was a Saint Nicolas in the Fourth Century who has become Santa Claus.
One doesn’t always think of Santa Claus and John the Baptist in the same story but they merge in our cultural practices during Advent. Our story is truly big enough to include all types of personalities and expressions of the faith.
Our Mark text highlights the coming of the wild looking, loud prophet John. Sunday is also the day many churches remember and honor St. Nicolas of Myra a very kind and generous Bishop especially to children.
It takes all kinds is a true enough statement even if overused. True enough for all to see in any church, denomination, or nation. It takes forthright loud prophets as much as it does quiet, caring Bishops! They all in their unique ways herald the coming of one greater than ANY in church, denomination, or nation!
This is the One we are reminded each December came first to all of us as a Child. It takes all kinds to remind us that God is determined to work with and through people. God comes to us through “the human touch” with a cast of thousands (well actually billions when you consider all humans ever created!).
And in turn, we learn the faith from others by word and deed. Who has not at times brought the Word as John the Baptist? Who has not brought the Deed as St Nicolas?? When have you found both of these two different Christ followers in your own thoughts, words, and deeds?
An Advent question to ask ourselves as we celebrate the Second Sunday in Advent!
Isaiah 64:1-9, I Corinthians 1:3-9 and Mark 13:24-37
As I write this, there is no doubt the holiday season is upon us. Christmas decorations are up! Trees are lit up in windows! And the catalogues come in stacks!
Poor Advent is often overlooked. But as worshippers we will hear and live out of the scriptures for the next four Sundays which speak of preparation, watchfulness, hope. We will be somewhat like a child seeing a Christmas package under the tree, and wistfully waiting for the day to arrive to open it!
Much of life is waiting and preparing. And an attitude develops for both living life to the fullest in that waiting time while believing the arrival of the future will be even better than now. How true is the expression, “the best is yet to be?” That is always answered by a lived out faith. Some of the waiting time is quite rough at times and we can only trust that it will be better. And the trust is always in the character of God: loving, merciful, steadfast, beyond words, Spirit and Truth.
So, Advent is as wondrous as Christmas in its own way. We just need to “stay alert” as Mark 13 of insists, and realize we have the means (gifts) to go forward based on I Corinthians 1:3-9, and that Isaiah 64:1-9 declares “God WORKS for those who wait for God.”
So, Christmas is there in Advent for sure! Hidden perhaps but still as real as the day of Christmas, as real as anytime the Kingdom of God shows up in our present life.
Blessings in the weeks ahead! Stay well, stay safe, pay attention to God’s calling upon your life in this most wondrous season!
Genesis 9:7-19, Revelation 7:9, 15:2-4 and Philippians 2:5-11
As different as Thanksgiving family gatherings may be this year, they will still take place in memory, in the “adjusted” present, and in hope for many more to come in years ahead.
For those in worship this November 22, we will be reminded through scripture how God promises to be at work to bring about bounty and blessings. For the Christian our blessings come through Christ the King who is benevolent, merciful, and wants only the “abundant life” for God’s people in the Kingdom also known as The “Kindom,” where all the kin are gathered in. All get to sit at the Thanksgiving table of Jesus. This is demonstrated generation after generation and in nation upon nation. Our faith circles the globe and includes the diversity of every culture and historical era. Enter the Native American.
From earliest elementary school we remember the story of the first Thanksgiving involving the Pilgrims and the indigenous people of America. Christians interacting with many yet to be Christians. It is a fascinating era of bearing witness to Native Americans and the resultant growth of churches within “every tribe and language.” All together under the Great Spirit now revealed fully as Christ the King.
As we give thanks this coming week we do so with an awareness of the contributions made by Native Americans and hundreds of other “tribes” other than our own. Let us give thanks for unity in diversity and be forthright in seeing Christ in every one we meet!
Judges 4:1-7, I Thessalonians 5:1-11 and Matthew 25:14-30
Each person is unique and has both potential and limitations. What potential says is that each has been given “talent” of some kind. What we are given in IQ, physical strength, will, and drive is most often a combination of genes, geography, family, and community. No one is self-made! God is always about calling forth that talent/gift in specific ways throughout the life time we are granted.
Our scripture for worship gives us an example in Deborah the judge and Jesus’ parable of the talents. Deborah is a prophetess in the time of Israel being led by judges not kings. She finds her gifts and talents, so to speak, being called forth in a time of national threat. Jesus tells of different servants who are given “resources” to use while the Master is away. And what happens when they are put to good use or…..not. There is no one who is not given something in some way that can be used to benefit others and to glorify God!
“You’ve Got Talent!” Let’s look this Sunday to see both a good example and a not-so-good example of the use of talent. Along the way we will hear about judge Deborah, Jael the Kenite woman assassin, Queen Elizabeth I and a few other leaders who used their talents for God and others.
Amos 5:18-24, I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Matthew 25:13
Our national election count should be over by worship time this Sunday but the requirements of citizenship are ongoing. For those elected and for all within our republic.
The same within the life of the church. Both church and society are to heed the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” We cannot have the question addressed only to the individual, but to the whole of the Church and to all the nations.
We are also approaching Veterans Day November 11. We remember and honor the service Veterans have offered to our nation. They too have had requirements placed upon them as they act for the safety and benefit of a free people. One aspect of military duty is reconnaissance “the observation of a region to locate an enemy or determine strategic features.”
Requirements and reconnaissance go hand in hand in both service to country and to God. Amos spells out some basic requirements from God, “justice and righteousness,” while I Thessalonians and Matthew 25 speak to our staying alert through “reconnaissance.”
Sunday we will recognize both veterans and the church faithful who have answered to call to serve.
Revelation 7:9-17, I John 3:1-3 and Matthew 5:1-12
All Hallowed Eve, Reformation Day, All Saints Day, The Day of the Dead, they all are recognized October 31-November 2. We would be hard pressed to find a stretch of days which celebrates life and death and eternal life so vividly. Holy Week with Good Friday and Easter are the ultimate expressions of our faith, but these Fall days are perhaps the most vivid in celebrations, dress, and an element of festivity!
Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door and Protestantism and ceaseless church reform was being born on October 31, 1517. Halloween developed alongside Christian emphasis on celebrating the saints in heaven. All Saints Day says the Church is finally triumphant in spite of death. And the traditional, Mexican Day of the Dead arrives on November 2. A colorful, indigenous way of acknowledging death and local customs that accompany remembrance of those gone before us.
For most of us in worship it will be a time of remembrance of those in our church family as well as loved ones and friends from previous times and other churches. We trust them all to be in the eternal embrace of a loving and forgiving God. A time for us, still the Church at Work, to be both sad with grief yet joyful in hope! The playfulness of Halloween helps all ages “indirectly” address mortality and our fears while moving on to Sunday’s celebration of those Saints who are one step beyond us in the fullness of the Kingdom of God!
So, with these 3 days so closely connected with faithfulness, come to worship on Sunday expecting to experience the “hope that is within us” and to stay “in communion” with our loved ones both here and forever.
This Sunday’s texts will try to address one of the suggested sermon topics that came up when we did the “You asked for a sermon” survey back in July/August: what about the Seven Churches in Revelation 1-3?
Such a demanding subject with many verses cries out for a good and lengthy Bible study over several weeks. A twenty minute sermon will barely touch upon it, but the effort is worth it. And another sermon, later, might be forthcoming on the subject as I work with the multiple Revelation verses this week!
At the very least we will hear of matters (that John the Revelator received in a vision) that needed to be addressed to seven congregations in a portion of Asia in the first century. What can we today, 2000 years out, receive for our edification and spiritual growth? Christ invites every community of believers to reflect and consider what a word might be for them in the here and now.
We will hear both encouragement and warnings, hope and caution, peace and calls to action for churches to take seriously but also with reassurance from the Lord of every church. We will hear about a suffering church, a dead church, a weak but obedient church. And more! Finally we will hear the knock at the door: “If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” Revelation 3:20.
My next of kin, LeNoir, has graciously responded to my request to fill the pulpit and lead Kedron in worship this coming Sunday. I will be over at Locks Memorial for their Homecoming.
I will eagerly wait to hear the sermon and worship service later on-line, but I can say from reading the texts that there is restoration for spiritual Israel then and now. And pointedly directed to most of us in this troublesome year 2020 is a word about worrying: DON’T! Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is relevant in any time or place.
Easier said than done, but to at least lessen our worries or “take the edge off our worries” seems like a good word from God. Concern for multiple matters is one thing, but to constantly worry is a depletion of personal energy and a distrust in God’s present/future offering for your wellbeing.
LeNoir will hold forth on Sunday, so prepare in anticipation of a Good Word for all as we enter half way into October!
Blessings in this both awesome, beautiful season of the year as well as for whatever your struggles are in the moment! Remember this as you close out the time of worship by singing “God Will Take Care Of You!”
Exodus 32:1-14, Timothy 6:3-16 and Matthew 22:1-14
We are looking at perhaps a wordy sermon title! But there is so much going on in these three Bible passages it took some effort to keep it THAT short!
To try and keep it “manageable” though, let’s say all three scriptures deal with easily distracted people of God. In spite of Moses’ faithful leadership, Jesus’ description of the Kingdom as a wedding feast, and Paul’s reminder of the Eternal Life we are called to, we, the people, easily (it seems) get distracted to idols, arguments, laziness, and riches!
There are all too often too many competing “voices” on our faith walk. We can’t give them all equal attention and successfully find our way Home. We need to listen up and learn, choose, and be willing to stand firm as needed or…change as needed. At least that’s what Moses has to say to the Golden Calf revelers, what Jesus says about the lazy Wedding guests and what Paul reminds Timothy to not lose sight of.
It’s a lot to unpack but we have the Spirit to guide us in our hearing and in our doing during and after worship! And….God is patient and merciful. Let us be about finding our way through the Wilderness, into the Wedding Feast, and toward Eternal Life!
Pay attention, stay focused, enjoy the company of your fellow strugglers along the Way!
As you get older I think many come to value The Ten Commandments more and more. Or at least 3-4 of them! I’ll leave that to you to say which commandments have meant the most to you! And I will say the one about “not coveting” is very hard to enforce in a legal, ecclesiastical, or public way!
And Christians, whose two most central teachings we celebrate around a table, have to hold in tension the requirements of The Law upon us as well the unmerited favor of God in Christ upon us. Perhaps celebrating World Communion (as we will this Sunday) will remind us once and for all our faith is about “Christ and him crucified.” Our Philippians text has Paul with a single-minded focus on Christ although he reminds us he (Paul) was “faultless in obeying the Law” v.6.
As in most meal gatherings we don’t remember how well we kept table manners or how well we kept everything in order during the meal. But, we remember the people present, the shared stories, and the high moments of joyous fellowship with deep appreciation for the Host who opened up the house for all of us to be together.
So, yes to The Ten Commandments but even more yes to the One who lived them out completely for our sake.