195: Advent 1A (Nov. 27, 2016)


195: Advent 1A (Nov. 27, 2016)

Voice in the Wilderness: Romans 13:11-14 Chris Strickland

  • Chris Strickland a pastor’s kid and school teacher and UMC lay servant at St. Paul UMC Gainesville, Georgia.

Featured Musician - Bryan Odeen “How Do We”

Episode 195 Proper 1, Advent 1, Year A - (November 27, 2016)

Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 195 Sunday November 27, 2016, Proper 1, First Sunday of Advent, Year A.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Happy New Year!!
  • Advent

Voice in the Wilderness: Romans 13:11-14 Chris Strickland

  • Chris Strickland a pastor’s kid and school teacher and UMC lay servant at St. Paul UMC Gainesville, Georgia.
  • Twitter @chrisstrickla
  • Notes:
    • Salvation here could be in reference to 1 John 3:2- already and not yet. We are under the rule and love of God and yet we still have a final transformation to come when we are absent this body. The day of the Lord is present in the active Kingdom and coming in the transformation of all souls.

      However, there is also the argument that this is may simply be a physical deliverance from persecution. The word in Greek is soteria. In Greek mythology, Soteria was the goddess or spirit of safety and salvation, deliverance, and preservation from harm. Soteria's male counterpart was the spirit or daimon Soter.

      Of course you could use both explanations. Either way Paul gives us the remedy in the previous verses in saying that we must continue to show love. If that seems like a simple answer, it is. Because it works. Hard to continue to persecute those that show love for friends and enemies.

      Since we are reading this for Advent, then we must deal with preparation. Paul gives us a recipe for preparation by telling us to ignore the worldly things. These worldly immoral acts can distract us from seeing God. That is the true definition of sin, things that separate us from God. If we can eliminate those distractions, then we are truly ready for Advent.

Featured Musician - Bryan Odeen “How Do We”

Gospel Reading: Matthew 24:36-44 The unexpected hour
Initial Thoughts

  • Honest initial reaction: bleh.
  • Left Below
  • So was David Lose’s reaction: “Here’s what strikes me. I’m tired – actually bone-weary tired – of apocalyptic texts. There is typically so much to explain – why they are a part of the gospel traditions, what occasioned them, their relationship to a delayed parousia, etc. – that they soon seem nearly irrelevant to Christians living two thousand years later.”
  • Thoughtful initial reaction: Let’s review some of the stuff we talked about two weeks ago when we read some of Luke’ apocalypse.

    • Apocalypse Review. Insert Cubs/Indians World Series Champion joke here.  (From Fred Craddock,Interpretation: A Bible commentary  for preaching and teaching, Luke)
    • Means “revealed,” as in the source of writing is otherworldly.
    • Focus on eschatology - the end of the world as we now experience it.
    • Discloses the supernatural world bond the world of historical events.
    • Triggered by major historical crises.

Bible Study

  • David Lose: Two themes are Promise and Unexpectedness

    • Promise of coming of the Son of Man includes the gathering of the people. Just a few verses ago Jesus wept over Jerusalem, lamenting “How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under wings” (23:37) Also, “They will see the Human One coming in the heavenly clouds with power and great splendor. He will send his angels with the sound of a great trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from the four corners of the earth.” (24:31)
    • Promise is that the gathering he wished to do on earth will be fulfilled one day. There will be struggle and suffering in the midst, but these things are not the goal. The goal is the gathering of the people under God’s name and rule.
    • Being caught off guard is an important part of life. So much so that we spend billions to avoid that, but  “what if this week, Working Preacher, we invited people to take stock of their lives, asking what it is that they most fear about an uncertain future, and then reminding them of the promise that whether or not their immediate fears are realized, we were created for more than fear because Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God whose coming birth we anticipate, has promised to come always to be both with us and for us”
  • Noah and the Householder (from Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year A)

    • Noah - set in striking contrast to the surrounding society. Everyone else was going about their business, but he was building a boat.
    • Their only sin was going about with business as usual, and they were swept away.
    • Householder lacks vigilance by failing to keep watch.
    • Lacked the knowledge of when the thief was coming.
    • “Unaware of any impending crisis, they were lulled into a false sense of security by savoring the present, to the detriment of a future-oriented existence. They failed to watch.”
    • Listeners to Jesus (and readers of Matthew) are given the precious gift of knowledge. They have now been warned, and can live accordingly - not in utter fear and despair, clutching to what they have or pouring over codes to figure out when the time is coming - but in the sure and certain hope of a promise of God.
  • Role reversal. The one left behind is the lucky one. Mark Davis in Left Behind and Loving It:

“So, for verses 40 and 41, the interpretive question is what to do with the couplet of παραλαμβάνω and ἀφίημι. The words themselves are so multivalent that there is no simple “x in Greek means y in English” formula. People in the “Left Behind Theology” camp have argued that παραλαμβάνω means “swept away’” and ἀφίημι means “left behind.” At the level of possible word choices, that would be possible. (The further conjecture that “swept away” means the “rapture” and “left behind” means “facing the tribulation” is a move that goes well beyond this text.) But, also at that level of possible word choices, it is equally warranted to translate παραλαμβάνω as “taken away as a prisoner” and ἀφίημι as “forgiven.”

  • The one who is “left behind” is left for forgiveness, and for preparing for the great gathering. Remember that in Revelation, the culmination of all things is the new city that has no gates, and the Lamb inside beckoning all to “come.”

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • One of the rare times that Jesus explains himself. He tells us the lesson of this story: Be prepared! But what does it mean to be prepared? It seems as if the preparations we are to make are the preparations of compassion, grace, and welcome. As the Advent season begins, this is where we should start - at preparing for the future. “The task is to listen carefully to the texts and allow the symbols to evoke the sense of urgency and expectancy at God’s future.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 7)
  • Like Dickens’s beloved character Scrooge, the future is never set, but it is always coming. We are left to prepare for the future. Lighting candles in the midst of growing darkness is the Christian way. Not giving into the darkness is the epitome of discipleship. We know not the details of the future. We know not just how dark it may get, but we know that the light of a single candle can hold it off.


Second Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5 Swords into plows
Initial Thoughts

  • The importance of vision- where are we headed?
  • Hope Sunday, but we are talking peace- there is no peace without hope

    • Miroslav Volf on Exclusion and Embrace

Bible Study

  • Ch 2 is one considered an add-on by a later redactor.  

    • It contains the second of three introductions to the work.
    • “Chapters 2-4 are a collection of sayings from the prophet’s first period, but were probably put in this position by a later redactor.”Alberto Soggin Introduction to the Old Testament

      • This passage has close parallel to Micah 4:1-4.  Not known which was first.  Micah’s promise of salvation is to Israel.  Isaiah’s is more universal in nature.
    • Pre-exilic Jerusalem - In a precarious political situation, wedged between the world powers of Assyria and Egypt.

      • Blame for Jerusalem’s position is placed on the people, who are sinful
      • Failure of the people in Isaiah “For Isaiah, too, human sin consists in a refusal to recognize divine sovereignty in the whole of life.  Dishonesty, corruption, immorality, the thirst for riches and luxury, irresponsibility or downright oppression in the social sphere, syncretistic worship are all aspects of a basic attitude of human rebellion against the divine will.” Alberto Soggin Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 312.
    • Acts as introduction to Isaiah’s theme of promise in the midst of despair.
    • Immediately precedes oracle of great devastation and despair.
    • Back and forth between promised redemption and judgment.
  • In the days to come

    • Not necessarily apocalyptic
    • “Indefinite and vague. It refers neither to the end of time nor beyond time, but within it” (Gene M Tucker, NIB)
    • Anticipates a radical transformation of this, tangible reality
  • Universal desire to follow God and God’s ways

    • Our journey of faith has a destination
    • God’s eschatological vision is for ALL people
  • Isaiah is the most quoted book of Old Testament in the New Testament.  Connection between promise as found in Isaiah and Kingdom of God in the gospels is easy to see.

    • Reinhold Niebuhr makes the connection:

      • “The prophet Isaiah dreamed of the day when the lion and lamb would lie down together, when , in other words, the law of nature which prompts the strong to devour the weak would be abrogated… Sometimes the contrast between the real and the ideal is drawn so sharply that the religious man despairs of the achievement of the ideal in mundane history.  He transfers his hope to another world… It is the peculiar genius of Jewish religious thought, that it conceived the millennium in this-worldly terms.  The gospel conception of the kingdom of God represents a highly spiritualised version of this Jewish millennial hope… Wherever religion concerns itself with the problems of society, it always gives birth to some kind of millennial hope, from the perspective of which present social realities are convicted of inadequacy, and courage is maintained to continue in the effort to redeem society of injustice.”  Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, p. 61.
    • Walter Brueggemann makes the connection in Texts for Preaching: A lectionary commentary based on the NRSV - Year A

      • The vision of Isaiah is “an act of imagination that looks beyond present dismay through the eyes of God, to see what will be that is not yet.  That is the function of promise (and therefore of Advent) in the life of faith.  Under promise, in Advent, faith sees what will be that is not yet.”
      • “Sharp contrast between what is and what will be.”
  • Centrality of Torah

    • Justice and peace come from “The Instruction… from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.”
    • When the nations learn the Torah, then war is no longer needed as the arbiter.  Instead, God’s will can be the judge.

      • What does God’s justice look like? Hesed and peace, not national interest or triumphalism
  • Live and walk into this vision- don’t just sit around and wait for it

    • The passage ends with an invitation to walk or mirror or reflect the light of God (God’s vision)
    • This is not only a proclamation but a vision - how ill you accept this invitation? How will you extend it to others?

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • Many times we talk about the journey of faith without adequately describing (as Isaiah does) what the destination looks like. What is the Kingdom of God? What does the Kingdom of God look like for your community? How does that vision guide your ministry as an individual and a church?
  • God’s vision is universal and rejects nationalistic triumphalism or the victory of any one political ideology. War does not lead to peace, division does not lead to peace, only relying on God’s love, forgiveness and grace leads to peace. Is this good or bad news?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners

Featured Musician - Bryan Odeen “How Do We”

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 (“Sunday Morning”, "Real Ride" and “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”).