196: Advent 2A (Dec. 4, 2016)


196: Advent 2A (Dec. 4, 2016)

Image: By Neptuul - Own work, CC BY 3.0, 
Voice in the Wilderness: Romans 15:4-13 Nelson Pierce

Featured Musician - Ethan Keller “Emmanuel” from his album, One Way

Episode 196 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A - (December 4, 2016)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 196 Sunday December 4, 2016, the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Warren Carter - fixed podcast- thanks Kyle Hunter
  • Sarah Renfro- new website: m-bodied.com

Voice in the Wilderness: Romans 15:4-13 Nelson Pierce

Featured Musician - Ethan Keller “Emmanuel” from his album, One Way

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:1-12 John the Baptist Part I
Initial Thoughts

  • Why must John the Baptist ruin my Christmas?!

    • Only 2 Gospel tell the story of Jesus’ birth - ALL the Gospels have John the Baptist...all four of them.
  • Issues with Baptism

    • Forgiveness of sin and acceptance of God’s grace

      1. Not needed - traditionally: Jesus was sinless
      2. John baptized Jesus - who is greater?
  • Gospel differences

    • Mark - John Baptizes Jesus, but Jesus is greater than John (Mark 1:7)
    • Luke - unclear, assumes John baptizes Jesus but simply says “When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized” (Luke 3:21, CEB)

Bible Study

  • Wilderness

    • John meets us out in the wilderness
    • Wilderness - after we have already been saved, before we are where God wants us to be
    • Wilderness - where we learn who God is and who we are in relation to God
    • Wilderness - when we are our most rebellious (a brood of vipers, if you will)
  • Repent - metanoia, literally, “Change your whole self”

    • Preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven
    • Not about guilt or acknowledging your depravity, but aligning yourself to God and Christ
    • This strange man in the wilderness puts an end to our romanticized, emotional look to the coming of an infant.
    • “We must not speak of God’s love coming down at Christmas without remembering that the divine love is fierce in its judgment upon those who resist love’s demand” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew).
    • John warns against “resting on your laurels.”  It is not enough to just claim Abraham as your Father.  A changed heart has to follow.
    • “The Christian equivalent of ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ Is ‘We have Christ as our savior.’  While trust in Christ’s salvation is a first requirement, it is not the last” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew).
    • Radical message that being a descendant of Abraham was not enough.  One had to have faith and action like Abraham as well.
    • “Bearing fruit” is the key to John’s message.  The only way to know if there has been repentance, is with fruit.
  • Kingdom of Heaven

    • “Heaven” used instead of “God,” probably because of Jewish reluctance to use the word “God.”
    • While there are elements of Matthew that tend to “spiritualize” the good news, this is more about respect to culture than a shift in premise.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not about where you go after death.  It reflects the power and ‘Kingship’ of God in the here and now.
    • Eschatological message of John is unavoidable.  Symbolism of wilderness, clothes, diet, and chopping the tree, all signify that John is operating outside of the current era.  He is speaking to an end, and a new beginning.
    • “John sees the judgment as already on the horizon and the basis for his urgent call for repentance.  An appeal to belong to the elect group… will not save one in the fiery judgment” (Eugene Boring, New Interpreter's Bible: Matthew).
  • Judgement and hope

    • Cannot rely on history and nostalgia, repentance must be seen in fruits
    • Change is both painful and liberating- fire is used in both

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Christmastime is a time of preparation for gift-giving, parties, Christmas Eve bulletins. John also brings a message of preparation: “Change your heart and lives, for the Kingdom of God is near!” Not a message of guilt, but of seizing opportunity. How will you prepare for the Kingdom of Heaven?
  • Repentance is an invitation to a new way of life which is demonstrated by its fruits. Being a son of Abraham or being born again isn’t enough- your life must change and your actions must bear out that reorientation. Are you willing to be changed by the good news?

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

  • Nugget is from January 6, 2016 on Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Second Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10 Shoot from Jesse’s stump
Initial Thoughts

  • Stump in our back yard that kept growing back. Stubborn - eventually had to dig it out.

Bible Study

  • Stump vs Spirit (W. Brueggemann in Texts for Preaching, Year A)

    • Current state of Israel (line of Jesse) is a stump. It is a tree that has been cut off (as opposed to the tree planted by the water, like Psalm 1).
    • A stump is a symbol of death - there once was life, but no more. Nothing new.
    • But a stump has roots. From the roots will come something new.
    • The Spirit will give life to the new thing.

      • Justice, Righteousness, Fear of the Lord.
  • Transformation

    • Powerful treat the powerless as if they matter.
    • The weapon yielded will come from the mouth and lips - words, not swords..
    • Instead of wearing sword and spear, he will wear righteousness and faithfulness (armor of God)
    • Relationships marked by violence will instead be marked by peace

      • Wolf and lamb.
      • Leopard and young goat.
      • Calf and lion.
      • Cow and Bear.
      • Children and serpents.
      • Leadership by child
      • Earth filled with knowledge of the Lord.
      • Creates a world people are attracted to, not kept out of.
  • All creation transformed.

    • “In our own time, we are learning… that human acts of injustice wreak havoc on the created order. Conversely, acts of human justice permit creation to function in a healthy, fruitful way. Thus the newness envisioned for creation follows properly from the newness of human justice.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, p. 12)
    • Restoration of vision in Genesis 1:29-30. Human action has derailed the created order.
    • Leadership by a child - perhaps speaking of a particular person. More likely describing “the birth of a new innocence in which trust, gentleness, and friendship are possible and appropriate. The world will be ordered, so that the fragile and vulnerable can have their say and live their lives.” (Brueggemann, p. 12)
  • What leads to this transformation? What is the nature of the Spirit of the Lord?

    • Wisdom and understanding
    • Planning and strength
    • Knowledge and fear of the Lord
    • Sound leadership leads to good results.
    • Sound leadership is marked by faithfulness and awe of God.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • “Advent is our decision to trust the new wind against the hopeless stump of what has failed,” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, p. 12). The wind is the turning point of this passage. The Spirit gives life and opens up new possibilities. Advent is a chance to be opened to the Spirit, and allow new things grow - from the roots that are already there.
  • The vision that Isaiah presents is a nation that acts as a beacon to people. People will seek out this new reality and be drawn to it. How are people drawn to God now? For what are people yearning? Is it more division and enemies, or can we create something that unites? To be frank, in this season I have not wanted to preach wisdom and understanding. I have wanted to be angry and scream and blame and name names and call out injustice. That would make me feel better, but is that going to create something new?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners

Hi Guys
Love the show.
You have ‘saved my bacon’ so many times when I have been staring at the blank sheet of sermon paper!
Just a thought.  How about having a small section on ideas for talks to children?
I guess this in big US churches this taken care of by someone else on the team but for most UK Ministers and Pastors they do this as well.
I increasingly find this a challenge – tying something that is relevant to the lectionary theme, helpful to kids but that is not patronising.
You can’t keep expanding the show I know but as I say, just an idea.
Keep up the good work. I don’t know how you find the time to fit Pulpit Fiction into your work schedule but I’m glad you do.
Best regards
Steve Hoggar (Revd)

Featured Musician - Ethan Keller “Emmanuel” from his album, One Way

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”).