December 11, 2016 – A little child shall lead them

Advent 3   December 11, 2016   Luke 1:68-79 (Canticle of Zechariah), Isaiah 11:1-9, Matthew1:18-23, Luke 1:39-55   A little child shall lead them ******************************************************* God has overthrown the world order – without a shot fired or any public display of force. So Mary’s song, known as the Magnificat, declares. God’s quiet revolution, almost unseen and unheard… is first made known in a quiet household of women bearing babes in their wombs – welcoming each other with joy in God’s beloved community. I like to imagine Mary and Elizabeth having tea and muffins together every day, during that time they had together… Sitting in a small, cozy kitchen like a womb, a warm, nurturing place. Simple humble hospitable space where it’s safe to sing outrageous love songs to God… Or sit quietly without saying a word. The only man around, far as we know, is Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah. Who has been mute, unable to speak, for six months by the time Mary arrives, because of not believing the angel Gabriel’s promise of a son… A promise Elizabeth did believe. And Mary, of course, believed an even-harder-to-believe promise from the same angel a little later… (and…) Zechariah will get his voice back when baby John the Baptist is born – and give a great shout-out then to God, in the words we’ve read this morning in the Canticle of Zechariah. Which, like Mary’s song, is a New Testament Psalm… A re-telling of the prophet’s word – “A little child shall lead them.” *** A little child shall lead them… So the prophet Isaiah declares more than 700 years before the births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah… And many parents can attest – a little child, especially our firstborn child – will surely lead us – even from the womb. Lead us in decisions we make – places we go, things we do – words we speak and don’t speak… (and–) The children Mary and Elizabeth carry in their wombs are for sure the lead topic of  conversation, as these women, young and old together, greet each other… Baby John the Baptist leaping for joy in the womb of Elizabeth at the sound of the voice of Mary… Mother-to-be of Jesus… The child who now leads us all… *** All children come as a gift from God… equipped with holy imagination and holy power from God to influence their parents and others… And it is right for us to let children lead us… because… Children can imagine God’s kingdom better than most of us… Children can imagine animals that act like humans…Imagine kingdoms beyond the familiar world we know… Without bogging down in whether the vision is literal or parable or both… Children may have many, many questions, but – children can enjoy the Narnia Chronicles of CS Lewis, in which intelligent animals act like humans at their best… Some better, even, than the best humans… (Thinking mostly of Aslan the lion, the Christ figure in the Narnia tales. But there’s also times when even a slightly-above-average dog, cat, or horse acts better than a lot of humans…And…) We need to let our little children lead us… because… Children can imagine the peaceable kingdom Isaiah sees and sketches out for us today. A vision from God in which “the wolf shall...

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December 13, 2015 – A Message from Kathy Parsons, BUMC

Advent 3, December 13, 2015   Psalm 85, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 1:39-56 ********************************* My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices! So sings Mary. Today in Luke’s gospel, we hear the first joyous Christmas carol, and on this third Sunday of Advent, we light the pink candle, the candle of joy. Throughout Luke’s gospel the messages of inclusion, expectation and blessing are woven. Luke, a Gentile bridging the Jewish and early Christian cultures in the first century, stresses the universal scope of God’s work. He traces Jesus’ genealogy back beyond Abraham to Adam—the father of all humanity. Luke wrote passionately about God’s plan of salvation for all God’s children through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God—God’s presence and power, active and effective among the people; the source of life and blessing. People are empowered by the Holy Spirit and their lives are transformed to know and act upon this blessing. This is the good news message from Luke’s gospel. And so the blessedness of faith—shown so powerfully in Mary’s song—is a blessing for all. The Holy Spirit speaks to us all. When I was a youngster, 10 or so, I had a first-time experience of what I have come to know as the Holy Spirit grabbing my soul by the shoulders and giving me a shake. A wake-up, look-at-me moment—a whole-body experience. I was outside, happened to gaze up at the blue sky overhead and was transfixed—the sky, the puffy clouds were in motion—not flitting across the sky but rocking in and out of focus—it was as if I were wearing three-d glasses and continually adjusting them. And the height of the sky was vast. It seems funny to say that because of course the sky seems vast and high to some degree. But the sky is so familiar; you feel the familiar blueness or grayness as a comforting blanket almost, day after day. On this day and at times since, the sky seemed planets away from earth—vaulted to an impossible height. Seeing the blue and white, vaulted mirage is one thing, but what is equally memorable is the exhilaration that instantaneously came over me as I gazed over head. Happiness, infinite possibility, joy—poof—these feelings overcame me with a gripping intensity. In the many years since then, these wonderful moments have returned more frequently in some years, less so during other seasons of my life. Sometimes when I am out of doors, but many times literally out of the blue—sudden feelings of blessedness, moments of intense almost wrenching gratitude, and sometimes of profound world grief. This is what I experience and it is mysterious, but I am sure that these spiritual moments come to me as surprise visits from the Holy Spirit. There is strength and connectedness that can come only from God. The theologian Marcus Borg says that the heart–a metaphor for the self at its deepest level– can be turned toward God or away from God, open to God or closed to God. He writes that the typical condition, the human condition, is for our hearts to be turned away from God, to be closed. The Bible urges us: “Return to the Lord with all your heart” from 1st Samuel “Create in me a clean heart” says the psalmist And...

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December 14, 2014 – He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant

Isaiah 61:1-4 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Luke 1:39-45 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:46-56 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. *** Advent 3   December 14, 2014   Psalm 85, Isaiah 61:1-4, Luke 1:39-56 He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant ************************** The Spirit of the Lord God has anointed the prophet Isaiah to proclaim good news for the lowly, the brokenhearted, oppressed, and imprisoned. The year of the Lord’s favor for all. The year of the Lord’s favor is a reference to the biblical year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25), in which debts are canceled, slaves are freed, land lost due to debt is returned… And the world starts all over again for God’s people. A clean start, by the power of God’s word… Later Jesus quotes these same words from Isaiah – saying he is the living embodiment of these words – making the prophet’s message now his own mission...

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December 15, 2013- Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who are in awe of him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” *** Advent 3  (Psalm 80, Isaiah 35, Luke 1:57-66)  Luke 1:46-55    What child is this? ******************************** What child is this? Who, from within her womb, causes his mother to sing – My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… Mary sings – and the story of our salvation begins to unfold, with a song, breaking forth, interrupting the flow of time… revealing the nature of God our Savior…. in Christ the Son of God, son of Mary… What child is this? Whose song is sung by his mother before his birth… A young-not-yet-married-mother-to-be who has accepted an angel’s word in faith – now, sings her song of praise, early in pregnancy – telling of God’s promises already fulfilled…. Singing “he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant… “ “He has done great things for me and holy is his name…” “He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, he has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty, he has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy…” Singing of what God has already done… long before its revealed to the rest of us… Somewhere in the home of her relative, Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah the priest,  where Mary’s come to visit – she sings this song we now call the Magnificat – named after it’s beginning phrase, ‘my soul magnifies the Lord…’ Singing a foretaste of the message the child in her womb will preach as a grown man. A song rooted and grounded in the scriptures of Israel… recalling the psalms, all of which were sung, and the songs of Moses and Miriam in Exodus, the songs of Judith and Deborah, and most of all Hannah’s song in the book of Samuel… Biblical songs and psalms of old… Songs that tell what can’t be said sufficiently… with words alone… What child is this – whose birth song speaks of radically-upside-down-changes – the powerful brought down from their thrones,  the lowly lifted-up – the hungry filled with good things, the rich sent away empty? A song of revolutionary changes in the world as we know it – starting with fervent praise of God – framed by recollections of God’s generous mercies – with God’s steadfast love and faithful...

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