Friday, December 09, 2011

Sermon Ideas for Advent 3B

Friends,

First of all, I want to thank you all so much for reading lately... this blog has really taken off in recent weeks (I hit over one hundred readers for the first time today!) and for that I'm so grateful.  

In an attempt to begin practicing what I intend to do in the parish, I'm putting up some initial sermon ideas and questions for preaching the lectionary texts for this Sunday, December 11th, 2011.  I have the luxury of not actually giving a sermon until this coming Thursday for my Homiletics course, so I would greatly appreciate some feedback in the comments section of my blog.  This and most of my other posts either directly have to do with coursework or something I'm writing for my field internship with Lutheran Advocacy Ministries of PA, so your feedback is a critical part of my education process.  For example, when looking at lectionary texts I often come at them from a social justice perspective (see below) and often worry I'm missing other messages that scripture may be telling me.  Thanks again for helping me fill in the complete picture.

To begin, here are links for the Advent 3, Year B texts in the NRSV: Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11 | Psalm 126 | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | John: 6-8, 19-28.  There's three main ideas I see in this Sunday's texts: social justice, release and Christian freedom.  Let's try to treat all of these seperately:

Social Justice
A social justice theme is definitely running through all these texts.  For instance, "the year of the Lord's favor" in verse of two the Isaiah text is probably referring to the concept of a jubilee year.  Basically, jubilee happened every fifty years in Israel in order to maintain a well ordered society.  Debtors would be forgiven of all their debts and indentured servants would be set free.  The jubilee was also a sabbatical year for society: fields would be left to lie follow, giving both people and the land a well-deserved break.  In this age of extreme income disparity when our society's most vulnerable are asked to shoulder ever greater burdens by cuts to government programs, what would declaring something like a jubilee look like?  Isn't forgiving others of their debts (and other things) something the Creator always asks of us?

One line that could provide an organizing idea for this Sunday's sermon is the "Do not quench the Spirit" in 1 Thessalonians.  In response to God's love, don't quench the Spirit.  Don't quench the Spirit and pray without ceasing about how people of faith can best care for their neighbor.  Like John the Baptist, never quench the Spirit, bear prophetic witness to the sins of our society but recognize that it is God doing the work, not you... Don't quench the Spirit, and "raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations" (Isaiah 61: 4).  That sort of stuff could be great right?  What do you think?

Also, for those that are interested in more emerging/ emergent styles of worship, I keep thinking of one of my favorite Jackson Browne songs:


It definitely is all about prophetic witness.  I don't know the exact story around, but I heard from a friend once that his father played "The Rebel Jesus" at church during Advent and was asked to leave... now that's definitely being a prophetic witness.

Release
In this season of hopeful waiting, what exactly are waiting for?  Jesus of course, but what does Christ coming mean for each of us?  What sins do we need to be assured Christ will release us from?  What else troubles our souls?  Parishioners could be asked to take a meditative moment to think about what they need to be released from.  Going back to the jubilee year concept, what can they release others from?  The "may those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy" in Psalm 126:5 could be a central theme of this sermon.

Christian Freedom
Is Advent a good time to get a little doctrinal?  Maybe.  And through talking about Christian freedom could allow you to roll both themes of social justice and release into one sermon.  Verse ten in the Isaiah text could be especially great for talking about Christian freedom:

"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

How does this state of Christian freedom compel us to serve our neighbor as Christ?  Christian freedom is what allows us to do God's work in the world, to be the body of Christ in the world until the eschaton.  Definitely something you could talk about.  Well that's about it folks.  As Paul says, don't quench the Spirit and may God rock your congregation this Sunday with a good dose of Word.  And please, I'm sure I missed a lot here... leave me some comments.

God's peace,
Dustin

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