143: Advent 1C (Nov. 29, 2015)


143 for Sunday November 29, Advent 1C

Featured Musician - “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

image by Albert Chavarria

Episode 143 Advent 1C (Nov. 29, 2015)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 143 for Sunday November 29, Advent 1C.

Introduction and Check-in  

Quick-Fire Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

  • Catching the glimpse of a letter, it is difficult to see how this fits with the rest of the texts. Whereas Jeremiah and Luke are words of encouragement in midst of difficult time, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a pleasant greeting between old friends.
  • Context of the letter however, reveals that this letter of Paul comes off the heels of difficult times in other places. “We learn that Paul, after leaving Thessalonica, becomes anxious for the struggling Christian communities because of persecutions they are having to endure and grieves that he cannot come to see them… This letter, then, is written in light of Timothy’s report, a report which was basically positive and encouraging.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching: Year C, p. 6)
  • Knowing this reveals the letter to work as a sort of microscope into the larger pictures that Luke and Jeremiah describe.
  • While Jesus’ Apocalypse paints with a broad brush of persecution and catastrophe, Paul’s letter focuses on one community and their struggle. And finds… hope.
  • The hope is found in the Christian community, that holds together in the midst of persecution.
  • Paul’s hope for the community is rooted in their love. Which is in turn rooted in the love of Christ.

Featured Musician - “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

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Gospel Reading: Luke 21:25-36
Initial Thoughts

  • Theme of Hope is not an easy one to connect to this passage. That is why I lifted up the Jeremiah text as the Primary Reading for the Restore Hope series.
  • Apocalyptic Literature, the hope is there, but is hidden behind what appears to be catastrophe.

    • “The focus is on eschatology, the end of the world as we now experience it and the beginning of a new world. Usually the transition is described in terms of transformations cosmic in scope and nature, along with judgment of failed persons  and institutions and the vindication of God’s saints… Major historical crises triggered apocalyptic thinking. (Fred Craddock, Interpretation: Luke, p. 243)
    • “The immediate problem of interpreting the connection between First and Second Advents is complicated, of course, by the difficulties many modern readers have with apocalyptic language. Those who cannot anticipate a literal fulfillment of passages such as this one find themselves skipping over them entirely or muttering vague phrases that never quite satisfy anyone” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: Year C, p. 8)

Bible Study

  • Many parallels between this and Mark’s little apocalypse, which we covered two weeks ago.

    • Mark: Conflict with legal experts, widow’s contribution, Temple’s fate, Apocalypse - “Keep Watch,” fig tree.
    • Luke: Conflict with legal experts, widow’s offering, Temple’s fate, Apocalypse - “Stay Alert,” fig tree.
  • Signs:

    • In the sun, moon, stars.
    • On earth, dismay among the nations over the surging seas.
    • Planets shaken.
    • Fainting and foreboding.
    • Signs will not have to be predicted or debated. So big no one could mistake them.
    • THEN:   

      • The coming of the Human One with a cloud and great splendor
    • What to do in face of signs: “Stand up and raise your heads, because redemption is near.”

      • Words of comfort to a people devastated by a failed revolt.
      • Words of comfort to a people in midst of devastation - these things shall pass.
  • Problematic to call tragedy a sign of God’s favor.

    • Can creates a voyeuristic lust for destruction.
    • Can be terribly callous for those mourning loss in the very real present.
  • Fig Tree

    • Devastation comes before the redemption just as buds sprout on a fig tree just before winter ends.
    • “Rock Bottom” in recovery ministries.
  • Jesus’ Action Plan: Stay Alert

    • Don’t let this surprise you like a trap.
    • “I assure you that this generation will not pass away until everything has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words certainly will not pass away.”

      • Was Jesus wrong?

        • What of what he said did come true? Revolution in 66 brought about a second destruction of the Temple, and a second diaspora. Is this what he was referring to?
      • Every generation since Jesus has had those who thought they were the last. They have all been wrong.
    • “Waiting and watching are not easy, precisely because other things do interfere. Even if we are not overcome by ‘dissipation drunkenness,’ most do find themselves threatened by, ‘the worries of this life.’” (Gaventa, p. 9).
    • “After such a discourse as this, how are the hearers to leave the presence of Jesus? Overwhelmed? Terrified? Despairing? Shall they shake off its effects in order to return to the routine they knew before? No; eschatological thinking is vital to faithful conduct and to hope which resists cynicism. There will be an end to life as it now is, an end that comes as both judgment and redemption… Such thinking should chase away the demons of dulling dissipation and cheer us with the news not only that today is a gift of God but also that tomorrow we stand in the presence of the Son of Man,” (Craddock, p. 248).

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Can you find hope in the midst of devastation. When all the signs seem to be pointing to catastrophe, is it possible to see the hope? As we begin the time of Advent, the preparation for the celebration of Christmas, can we start to see the world through Advent eyes? The signs of disaster are easy to see. Can we see the signs of hope? When there is death and destruction, can we “Stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”
  • What is a sign from God that could be so big no one could mistake it? Is there anything that could happen in this world that people would have to stop and say, “That was God”? Does it take the suspension of physical law? Or does it take redemption, reconciliation, and grace that no one could fathom? Given what we know about Jesus Christ, do you think the signs of the Kingdom of God would come as suspension of Physical law, or as suspension of the selfishness within the human heart?
  • “One way of summarizing this passage might be to say, ‘things are not necessarily what they appear to be.’ to look only at things that seem to be close at hand is to miss the larger picture….Normalcy and predictability have disappeared forever. The pregnancy of one mere teenager is no longer an ordinary matter; indeed, the pregnancy of this particular teenager provides the overture to a cosmic event. In the birth of a helpless baby all the powers of the universe find that the days of their own power are numbered. Nothing will ever be the same. Watch!” (Gventa, pl 9).
  • “The life of a disciple, after all, is not one of speculation or of observation, but of behavior and relationships.” (Craddock, p. 248)

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 25 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

The Pulpit Fiction Podcast is brought to you in part by audible. For listeners of Pulpit Fiction, Audible is offering a free 30-day trial and get a free audio book simply by going to audibletrial.com/pulpitfiction. There are a ton of books, 150,000 titles to choose from, including some great works by friends of the show Peter Rollins, Adam Hamilton and Nadia Bolz-Weber. We recommend Rachel Held Evans’ new book Searching for Sundays which is available on audible right now! Get it for free at audibleTRIAL.com/PulpitFiction. Again, support the show by going to audibletrial.com/PulpitFiction to start your free 30-Day trial and get a free audio book download.

Second Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Initial Thoughts

  • A much needed word of hope in the midst of despair- light in the darkness and a reminder that no matter what the dark tidings the news may bear- God Is With Us.
  • Hope is about waiting

Bible Study

  • Written in the midst of exile.

    • The people were warned and remained unfaithful: they now have “reaped what they sowed”, yet their suffering and despair is real and cannot be ignored.
    • The judgement of God- Exile- is deserved, yet is still so awful that even God joins the people’s lament and dreams of restoration
    • Known as “The Little Book of Comfort” Jer 30-33
  • Waiting

    • People are waiting for their promise to be fulfilled
    • God always keeps God’s promises, but not always on our timetable
    • The challenge is not how do we endure the waiting, but how do we participate in what God is doing?
    • Hope inspires imagination- how can we embody God’s creative image of restoration and reconciliation
    • Despair limits our creative processes- Hope inspires us
  • Working with and through

    • Despite the judgement of God that Israel and Judah have brought upon themselves through exile, God still chooses to work through and with Israel and Judah to restore justice and righteousness
    • God chooses us to bring about reconciliation and restoration
  • Justice and righteousness

    • Righteousness needs to be unpacked- it is a “church” word that hold very little meaning for most people
    • Righteousness = acting according to God’s purpose

      • What is God’s purpose: love, forgiveness, reconciliation over self-preservation - RADICAL
    • What does it mean to declare “The LORD is our righteousness”!

      • God is our plumbline- not sustainable, not profitability, but God.
      • God, who declares equal rights for all people- citizens and aliens
      • God, who would rather die on a cross than resort to violent retribution
      • God, who tells us to love our enemies and those who revile, persecute and hate us
      • God, who tells us that to be rich, we must first become poor, to be first we must become last and to inherit eternal life we must be willing to die

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • We are called to have compassion for all people who suffer, even those who suffer due to their own actions (or inactions). Will we be a light in the midst of their darkness or will se smugly sit back and say “I told you so”?
  • Advent is not about what God will do in spite of us or about waiting to be saved, but about what God will do through us and within us to save the world.
  • This passage gives us a chance to reimagine the world as one of justice and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, love and grace. What a perfect way to start the year as one of unlimited hope and possibility and asking ourselves- how can we participate in God’s restorative actions?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners!:
Comment about Diana Butler Bass Interview

  • Hope Griffin: “Really enjoyed this interview. Thank you! Love the comment to just show up as fellow travelers and to learn from each other....we are in a moment of extraordinary questioning... and God is there. I believe this is something we are all struggling with. Thank you for your book. It's been added to my Christmas wish list :-)”

Comment on the Blog

  • Jim Kempton:  Rob and Eric, I have been enjoying your show for the past 6 months ever since my wife told me about it. It helps me to be better prepared for the lessons on Sunday and also to gain a new perspective. We had a guest preacher on Sunday, Nov. 8. She brought up two points regarding the giving of the two coins by the woman. The first was that Jesus was doing some people watching and that he was calling out to his disciples the woman giving her last two coins and possibly inferring that the disciples, and us, need to act in these instances. The second point our guest preacher made was that we, including the woman, give out of our abundance; her abundance was trust that she would be provided with sufficient resources to continue to live. Both points continue to stick with me. Thanks again for continuing to shine light upon God's Word. God's Blessings to you, Jim-



Featured Musician -  “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).