November 27, 2016 – Make ready a people prepared for the Lord

Advent 1 November 27, 2016    Psalm 62, Isaiah 40:1-5, Matthew 1:1-11, Luke 1:5-25          Make ready a people prepared for the Lord ******************************************************* Getting a cough last Sunday actually turned out to be a good thing. It pushed me to get  home after church and take a long nap… Then get a really good long night of sleep. Then continue resting, several more days… catching-up on my reading and quiet time…Staying off-line much more than usual… And with all this slowing down, resting, and regenerating… I felt almost reborn by the time we got to Thanksgiving Day… And as a side-effect of this extra rest, I’ve been reflecting on the state of my life… Realizing, to oversimplify in the interests of time, how, when I was younger I used to thrive on adventure… Now I find more satisfaction chilling out with family, church, and community…Trying to help God help people… I still love some kinds of adventure – especially adventures in nature (going to the outer cape to spend times with seals and seabirds comes to mind)… I still love fishing adventures… Though my fishing adventures are shorter and less frequent than they used to be… My family’s a much higher priority now than before I was married and Rohi was born… And I shouldn’t be surprised, but yes, I have changed quite a bit over the years… Which must be why I sympathize more now with Zechariah the priest who is getting on in years. When I was younger and less patient, I was often critical of my elders if they seemed afraid to take a risk or try something new. I might even make fun of Zechariah for not being ready when angel Gabriel comes calling in the inner temple, bringing good news of answered prayers. “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! Good news! That boy child you’ve been asking for is on the way…” I might have thought it was funny once upon a time that poor Zechariah, who as a priest of Israel knows the stories of Abraham and Sarah and other childless couples who have children later in life… Yet he isn’t quite able to believe when the angel says “now it’s your turn.”  “How can this be?” Zechariah says… “I’m an old man and my wife’s no spring chicken.” And the angel Gabriel replies “I stand in the presence of God. I’m here bringing you the good news you’ve been asking for. And then some! But you can’t believe it… So, my good man, it’s going to be a long and very quiet time-out for you. You’ll be struck dumb, mute, unable to murmur a syllable…Till all I’ve said comes true… But be very sure – all I’ve told you about your child will come true… And when Zechariah comes out from the inner sanctuary of the temple people can tell he’s had a vision… He’s utterly unable to speak… obviously thoroughly destabilized… and… We’d probably be a little shaky too, if we spoke face-to-face with a mighty angel…(Remembering–) Biblical angels seldom bear much resemblance to the angels of popular imagination and Hallmark greeting cards. Real angels tend to generate genuine fear. The first thing biblical angels usually say (the angel equivalent of reading a suspect their rights –)  is “Don’t be afraid…” Which seldom seems...

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November 29, 2015 – Be ready

Advent 1   November 29, 2015   Psalm 25:1-10, Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 1:5-25          Be ready **************************************************************** Early in the week I settled on ‘Be ready’ for a sermon title. But by mid week, as Black Friday and the seasonally-affective-disordered side of the season began seriously encroaching on my soul’s consciousness, soon I was thinking the sermon title probably should be ‘Ready for what?’ Ready for Advent and Christmas of course. But how does one actually get ready for Christmas in such times as these? And somewhere (actually on a Christian website), I saw the words of theologian Jon Stewart jumping out at me saying, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas – until someone gets pepper sprayed at Target.” Be ready for whatever. And do not forget your oxygen mask, if you heading for the mall. This is not exactly the kind of readiness the angel Gabriel expects of Zechariah, the elderly priest serving in the inner sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple. Priests are supposed to always be ready for the presence of God. Zechariah (as he himself reminds the angel) is no spring chicken. He’s served his priestly calling for many a year. He knows what to do to be ready. Yet still he isn’t ready – when Angel Gabriel appears with good news of a long-hoped-and-prayed-for child for him and his wife, Elizabeth. I can relate. I’m seldom well prepared for the Christmas season. I try to prepare, reading again the stories of Christ’s coming to birth; singing again the songs of Advent and Christmas. I start early, sketching outlines of Advent and Christmas worship, filling in details, day by day. I know how to do the technical parts of being ready for the season. But it still always takes awhile for me to actually get in the right spirit and frame-of-mind for Advent and Christmas. It’s a struggle for me, mostly because I rebel a lot against so much of what comes in this season, that seems so out of harmony with the original story… And even though I’m not at all sure how much difference my resistance makes…I still work at trying to make the season simpler…slower… and much more focused on God. And my main struggle now is just to keep these goals in focus… And remember always – Who it is I’m trying to be ready for. Over the years I’ve come to believe… the simplest, oldest ways are often best. Not that all traditions are good. Traditions are good or bad or some of both, depending on how we do them. Like the song from Fiddler on the roof – Tradition! Tradition! There are some traditions that we do for reasons no one seems to remember. Yet there are also traditions, thanks be to God, that remind us of how the story actually goes… And help us to remember to be thankful… to God and for those who have kept the faith alive… in times before us, in times at least as difficult as these…(and…) I still don’t know any better way to prepare for the coming of the Lord than the ancient traditional spiritual practices of prayer…Reading the scriptures… Visiting the sick, the lonely, the shut-ins. Feeding the hungry. Striving to show God’s love to deserving and undeserving alike. (Remembering I myself...

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November 30, 2014 – Prepare the way

Isaiah 40:1-5 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Luke 1:5-25 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife...

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December 1, 2013 – First Sunday of Advent

Advent 1   Dec 1, 2013  Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 1:1-17*, Luke 1:5-25   Ready or Not * this reading below ********************************** Luke 1:5-25 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” *** Most editors really don’t recommend starting your book with a forty-something-generations-long-genealogy. But here’s St Matthew, best-selling author, starting the first book of the New Testament with a long list of fathers – from Abraham to King David to Joseph, husband of Mary, mother of Jesus, the Messiah. Why this long list of fathers of fathers of fathers...

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