Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent 3B Sermon: Don't Quench the Spirit!

This is still a work in progress but tell me what you think... not preaching it until Thursday:

I want to do something a little atypical and begin with a song that helps illustrate today’s texts in this season of watching and hopeful waiting. It’s called “The Rebel Jesus,” by Jackson Browne:

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My sisters and brothers, much like Jackson Browne, I have no wish to come between this day and your enjoyment. Rather, I intend to talk today about that which truly frees us.

Today’s texts are all about prophetic witness… they’re all about believers preaching the gospel through word and action. In our first lesson from Isaiah we hear of God’s children building up ancient ruins, repairing ruined cities and the devastations of many generations. We hear John the Baptizer crying out in the wilderness “make straight the way of the Lord!” We hear from Paul that despite whatever wilderness we may find ourselves in we can “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And Paul adds, “Do not quench the Spirit!” DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT!

Despite the examples of Paul, John the Baptizer and countless others throughout our history, we often fail to be prophetic witnesses… we often fail to be a voice calling out in the wilderness of injustice in ours troubled, broken world. Despite being the body of Christ in this world, through both our action and inaction, we quench the Spirit. Moreover, we all know this, at least deep down, and we feel guilty. We feel guilty and doubting ourselves, we feel alone in our guilt… again and again we here a quiet voice telling us do not quench the Spirit.

The good and bad news about our situation my sisters and brothers is that while we may feel like we’re alone in our guilt, we are not. As a human institution, the church is broken and sinful too. As a community of faith we all too often fail to raise a collective voice of prophetic witness. In fact, the church frequently stands against the prophetic voice of others. I first heard of the song “The Rebel Jesus” when a close friend of mine told me about his father playing it in church during the holiday season. Instead of embracing the song as a thought provoking look at Christian religion, the congregation simply shrugged off the song and raised their eyebrows at my friend’s father.

Isn’t this why it is so difficult to be a prophetic witness? Turned in on ourselves, we worry too much about not being accepted by others… as a church we worship the approval of our community rather than following God’s call.  We don’t want to cause trouble and instead stick to what’s safe.  We worry more about the color of the carpet in our sanctuaries than the injustice and violent oppression happening all around us.  As a church we frequently fail to bind up the brokenhearted by speaking out against bullying in our schools.  We fail to advocate for programs that could liberate our neighbors from the captivity of underwater mortgages.  We fail to help release those imprisoned by unemployment or marriage inequality or a broken immigration system.  All too often, we quench the Spirit.

Of course it isn’t always possible to speak with a prophetic voice. We all do some of the time though… many of us are very active in our communities, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity or serving in soup kitchens. Some of us even write letters to our congressmen or the editor our local newspaper advocating for programs that help the most vulnerable in our society.  The good news my sisters and brothers is that while we can always do better, we can’t be perfect and God doesn’t expect us to be.  God loves us and we couldn’t earn God’s favor even if we wanted to… Christ has already done that for us. In this season of Advent we wait and hope and joyfully celebrate the coming of our Savior. We wait and hope for our Savior who has called each of us by name… Christ our Savior who called YOU and YOU and YOU… we watch in great expectation for God to come as a humble child, born to love and redeem all of us.

In fact it is because of Christ’s sacrifice that we’re all freed… freed from the need to justify ourselves, to make up for past mistakes or to clamor for power and glory.  We’re freed from all those things to be a prophetic voice and serve our neighbor solely out of love for God. There are a lot of folks who aren’t big fans of the church, and some for good reason. Much like Jackson Browne though, many of those “heathens” and “pagans,” are on the side of the Rebel Jesus. Folks might not support the church, but they probably support the idea of a community selflessly serving others as one voice, crying out in the wilderness. Don’t quench the Spirit… Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances and support each other in being a prophetic voice against the unjust world around us. In doing so may we live out our call to spread the gospel, solely out of love for God.

2 comments:

  1. Looks good D!

    I think your good news comes out of nowhere, and then preempts your key message, "Christ frees us".

    I think you could bring us down to a place where we NEED to hear that whisper of gospel, "Christ frees us". Take a moment to show us the bars and shackles that we live with, and then blow it all up with the good news!

    After that, you could talk about Isaiah's vision of justice, and then a pondering of what justice could be like today.

    Mention joy. Advent 3 is about Joy!

    Finish up where you began.

    Best of luck,
    -m

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  2. Thanks Moose... Just updated it an made most of the changes you suggested... You really helped a lot!

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