197: Advent 3A (Dec. 11, 2016)


197: Advent 3A (Dec. 11, 2016)

Voice in the Wilderness: James 5:7-10 with Sean Andreas

Featured Musician - Christopher Grundy “Drawing Nearer”

Episode 197 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A - (December 11, 2016)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 197 Sunday December 11, 2016, the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A.

Introduction and Check-in  m

  • The problem with Santa

Voice in the Wilderness: James 5:7-10 with Sean Andreas

Featured Musician - Christopher Grundy “Drawing Nearer”

DONATE: www.pulpitfiction.us/donate

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 11:2-11 John’s question from prison
Initial Thoughts

  • All of these readings crank up the theme of “coming Messiah”
  • James is about patiently waiting
  • Isaiah is about the road prepared.
  • This passage helps define the expectations of the Messiah.
  • “These readings have a vivid sense that God’s coming, or the coming of the Messiah, will be profoundly transformative. The Bible is relentless in its conviction that nothing that is skewed and distorted and deathly need remain as it is. God’s power and God’s passion converge to make total newness possible. The promises of messianic possibility work against our exhaustion, our despair, and our sense of being subject to fate” (Texts for Preaching, Year A. p. 19).

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Chapter 10 includes the calling and sending out of the 12. This includes warning about how things are not always going to go well. Jesus includes instructions on how to deal with harassment and cities that do not accept their teaching.
    • After the calling, he reminds them that “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth…”, but then also reminds them of the rewards of following.
    • “When he was finished teaching the twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the cities.” It is here that John, now in prison, gets word of what Jesus has been doing.
    • In Matthew, John gets arrested in chapter 4, immediately after Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
    • In 14:1-12 we learn why John is in prison, and how he is killed by Herod.

      • Arrested for speaking against Herod’s marriage.
      • Killed at request of his step-daughter.
    • This is the second time disciples of John come to Jesus with a question. Other is 9:14 “At that time, John’s disciples came and asked Jesus, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees frequently fast, but your disciples never fast?’”

      • Jesus’ response was “The wedding guests can’t mourn when the groom is still with them…”
  • Why John’s change in heart?

    • Last time we saw John he was speaking boldly of Jesus’ power. Now he is questioning.
    • Situation certainly would have an affect on him. It is hard to be positive about the future from jail.
    • “John seems uncertain, not because of his own plight but because of what Jesus is reputed to be doing. He is not turning out to be the kind of Messiah John expected.” (Texts for Preaching, Year A, p 26).

      • Jesus is not axing enough trees
    • Jesus redirects John and reminds him of what a Messiah is really supposed to be doing.
    • Jesus then comments on how great John is. Jesus is not making “a rebuke of John, but an acknowledgment of the surpassing character of the new age dawning in the person of Jesus.
    • Jesus understands that he might not have been what they were expecting, and has a blessing for those who follow anyway.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Is this Christmas going to be “profoundly transformative”? What may be transformed? Your heart, your spending, relationships, your church, your community, your work? All of these things may or may not be in need of transformation, but the coming of the Messiah is meant to be a wake up call. This is actually something that Christmas culture gets. Nearly every movie about Christmas involves some kind of transformation. Scrooge, Buddy’s Dad, the Grinch, George Bailey, Santa (stops being a jerk to Rudolph). If there is not evidence of profound transformation - not just superficial charity and niceties - then what is the point?.
  • Do you want to keep Christ in Christmas? Then Be Christ in Christmas. Be Christ by doing the work that he names - heal the sick, bring the excluded and marginalized back into community, help people see goodness in the world, make known the sound of joy, breathe life into that which is thought to be dead, be good news to the poor.

    • “In embracing hope, Christians are distinguished from both the despairing, who believe nothing can change, and from the self-sufficient, who believe they themselves will work the newness” (Texts for Preaching, Year A. p. 19).
  • Disappointed with God at Christmastime. Feeling disappointed with God is not such a strange feeling, perhaps especially at Christmastime.

    • “If we don’t speak to people's disappointments as well as to their dreams, we fail to take their lives seriously. Maybe that’s why the beloved Christmas carol sings that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in him tonight.” (David Lose, Working Preacher)
    • “At those moments, we know that whatever our misgivings, whatever our disappointments, God is not disappointed in us and comes to us anyway, eager to join us in our weakness, to hold onto us in our insecurity, and to comfort us in our fear. For God in Jesus came not for the strong and the proud but the weak and vulnerable. God in Jesus, in other words, came for us.”(David Lose, Working Preacher)

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 146:5-10 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Second Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10 The Holy Highway
Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Context

    • Actually from 2nd Isaiah (displaced along with the preceding chapter)
    • Written from exile
  • You better watch out- God is coming to town!

    • Good News for the oppressed and downtrodden
    • Hope and new life are given the the lifeless deserts
    • The weak are made strong, the feeble are made firm and the fearful are encouraged by the presence of God
    • “God has not given up on God's original purpose for creation; the intrusions and breaks that are caused by sin are met with God's judgment as the way is prepared for salvation.” Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.
  • Wilderness

    • Not forested wilderness- desert wilderness: lifeless, barren, empty
    • Place of testing- of learning who God is and who we are as God’s people
    • Place where we often do not see or hear: Isaiah 6 (deaf ears and blind eyes)
  • Healing

    • Be attentive to how your congregation will hear these words:

      • The person who accept their differences not as disabilities but as a unique characteristic
      • The person struggling with macular degeneration
      • The person with a severe spinal cord injury
    • Foretells good news to those of limited ability but also of spiritual ability

      • We will finally be able to see and hear what it means to be a faithful people
      • We will walk in the light of God on the highway of God
      • We will no longer be blinded, deafened and crippled by sin
    • What are we held captive by that we need to be liberated from?

      • Politically, economically, socially, relationally, etc.
  • Holy Way

    • What about the unclean?
    • No more unclean- the unclean: blind, deaf, lame, weak, mute, fearful have been made clean
    • Broken people have been made whole
    • All people are God’s people and all people are invited to walk on God’s Holy Way- but it is up to us whether we choose to walk with God
  • Fool’s journey

    • What does it mean that fool’s cannot go astray? Does this mean we are all on the Holy Way and have no choice?
    • I think it refers to God’s grace- no one is outside it, or perhaps looks forward to a time when all are on the road together - either way it is a message of hope for those of us who often feel foolish and go astray

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • God is coming! Unlike Santa God is not bringing presents to the good boys and girls, but to all people and the present is new life, liberation from sin and oppression, and the freedom to live as God intended: in loving relationship with all creation. How might our Christmas season look different if we prepared for God to come to town?
  • One of the problems with God’s way is that we do not get to decide who is welcome and who isn’t. We do not get to choose our travel companions. Perhaps this is why we so often choose roads other than Gods to walk.
  • Isaiah reclaims the old promises and tells a story of future hope. How might we this Advent and Christmas season reclaim some Good News of old to inspire hope for tomorrow?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners

Featured Musician - Christopher Grundy “Drawing Nearer”

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”).