Learning to Stand up Straight, Living with Regret, and Hope in a Time of Turmoil: Sermons for Advent and Christmas 2018

December 2nd: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, and Luke 21:26-36

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth...
— Luke 3:4-5
Photo Credit: Iain Beveridge, Carrizo Plain, December 2018

Photo Credit: Iain Beveridge, Carrizo Plain, December 2018

December 9th: Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79 and Luke 3:1-6

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
— Malachi 3:1-2a
Photo Credit: Iain Beveridge, Carrizo Plain December 2018

Photo Credit: Iain Beveridge, Carrizo Plain December 2018

December 24th: Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20

When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
— Luke 2:17-19
Thank you HumanKind SLO for more fair trade treasures.

Thank you HumanKind SLO for more fair trade treasures.

Sermon for 12/3/17: Waking Up to Youth in the Church

Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37

Liturgical calendar constructed by middle school youth

Liturgical calendar constructed by middle school youth

Upon Further Reflection

The crisis of young people in the church -- That’s what I addressed on Sunday – a crisis that has been dogging us for a couple generations: why don’t they stay?  This is question for the whole ELCA, not just little ole Bethel.

I want to leave here some of the powerful quotes from Sunday.  They are ones that informed my sermon or spoke to me while I was leading worship.  This is one of the most important sermons I have preached about ministry at Bethel.  If you are someone who feels attached to an idea of what church is or has to be in order for worship to feel like worship, then I encourage you to let the words of scripture and sermon dwell in you for a while.  They were hard words no doubt for some of you, but very hopeful ones too.  And that’s what we are called to cling with our hearts – to hope.

By Michael Warren

“[Confirmation] efforts that are failing are those that reduce young people to the status of consumers, accepting doctrinal ‘capital’ on a ‘handout’ basis and putting it to good use.”

“The stumbling block to full participation of the young in the church is that they are invited to participate in the reproduction of religious meaning but not the true, original production of that meaning.”

From the Bible

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come….”  Mark 13:35

From Marty Haugen

“Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night,                                                                                  though dark the winter and cheerless,                                                                                          the rising sun shall crown you with light,                                                                                        be strong and loving and fearless.                                                                                                Love be our song and love our prayer                                                                                         and love our endless story;                                                                                                            may God fill every day we share                                                                                                      and bring us at last into glory.”

      In Awake, Awake and Greet the New Morn

Sermon Notes

Quotes on confirmation come from Warren, Michael (1991). "Youth, Cultural Agency, and the Confirming of the Church's Commitment." Word and World (Volume XL) 4, pg.396-403.

Sermon for 7/24/16: Ask the Pastor -- The Glorified Body

Psalm 126, Revelation 1:9-19; 19:11-16; 21:1-8; 22:16-21, Matthew 28:16-20

Naked Ladies of Cambria, 2016

Naked Ladies of Cambria, 2016

Suggested scripture readings are drawn from the alternative lectionary outlined in Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking (reference and public library).  The Matthew text is an addition.

In the sermon, I land on the idea of "change of position" as a bodily discipline of justice and healthy disruption to our spiritual and public lives.  While that's the point of the incarnation, that phrase is rooted in the work of Rev. William Barbour. The following video is his sermon at Wild Goose, 2014 where I first encountered him and his amazing liberation theology.  Please watch...totally life changing experience.  Nothing I say even approaches his power:

This Week's Sermon: When the Stars Begin to Fall

Daniel 7:9-28 and Luke 1:67-79

Suggested Scripture Readings from We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren

Boston   1999

Boston   1999

Sermon Notes
Here's a link to a poem by Jane Kenyon.  I read her beautiful words to begin Advent worship.

I did a fair amount of research preparing for this sermon, mostly because talking about apocalyptic literature in the Bible is so complicated especially given recent world events in the Middle East and Europe. Click titles to links. Here's a good introduction to the Book of Daniel in the New American Bible from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Graham Beynon has some useful material as well in his article The Message of Daniel -- thoughtful reflection on the questions the biblical author pushes us toward like our relationships as people of faith and as Americans to foreign nations.  Although, I should say I do not fall into his camp dating the Book of Daniel to the 6th Century BCE.  I'm with the historical-critical school on this one.  And of course, can't leave out the Lutherans.  Although written in the 1990s, this article by Wendell W. Frerichs titled "How Many Weeks until the End?" has helpful language you will hear infusing the sermon.  He very helpfully says that the visibility of violent regimes signals their impending decay, a major talking point near the close of my sermon. Such a great thought for our times! 

Here's a link to the referenced David Brooks op-ed on resilience and storytelling:

I read a passage aloud on the difference between hoping and wishing from We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren to close worship.  It's in Chapter 14.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of resources.  Hope some of it is helpful to you along the way.