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408: Advent 3B (12/13/2020)

by Eric Fistler
December 4th 2020
you are listening to the pulpit fiction podcast for those who looked up Ezekiel, 25 17, and we're sorely disappointed. Hello and welcome to the pulpit fiction podcast Election Eri Podcast For Preacher Seekers and Bible geeks, this is Episode 408 for Sunday, December 13th. It's the third Sunday of Advent in year B. We're gonna kick off with Isaiah 61 versus one through four and eight through 11. The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Then we will jump to the gospel of John because John just loves to insert himself where Every hand on the high holy day. So it's John 16 through 8 to 19 through 28. Then we're gonna jump. Thio, have a nugget from Richard Brooks for Culligan on Psalm 1 26 will close out with first Thessalonians, Chapter 5 16 through 24. I'm Eric Fessler, UCC pastor from the shining shores of Crystal Lake, Illinois. With Me is always

the marvelous Methodist Rob McCoy, from Rock Island, Illinois, and with us as well. Longtime friend of the show supporter Voice in the wilderness special guest Diane Bailey, um, from Suffield, Conn. Diane, so great to have you here. How you guys doing today? Doing great to be here, doing well doing well. It's great to have Diane with us. And Yeah, it's fun. Cool. Well, it's great to have you there. And, uh, Diane, congratulations on being called is the senior pastor of First Church of Christ in Southfield, Connecticut. That's really exciting. So and folks have been listening to show for a while Know that for a while you've been the acting senior, but now you are the full senior, and, uh, did they give you, Ah, giant Golden Chasse able and a crown. And, you know, I feel like, Oh, the red pumps. That would be great. That's that would be, but exactly exactly remember, I was I was touring in Sweden once, and they somebody like we were in a church and they were talking about and they said, Oh, this used to be It was probably Uppsala, and

they were like, Does anybody wanna wear? They said This is the chassis bill that the Bishop used to wear. Does anybody wanna wear it? That was like giant golden chassis Bill And yeah, and they were like it's been interlaced with gold thread and they put it on and I was like, Oh, God, it was so heavy. It was, like, £80 on. They were like, Can you feel the weight of responsibility? And I was like, Well, I feel the way to this golden this. How do you preach in this thing? Like, No wonder they're railings. Toe. Hold yourself up. Good. Good gracious. Anyway, Hey, real quick. Sorry about last week. Toe all of our listeners A zay said on, uh, you know, it was Advent to be. And it was apparently not to be, because I put in Advent one B instead. So, uh, it's fixed now for all of you who missed it last week. Apologies on that. We're recording on Thursday. So if you didn't know that you're watching this on Facebook, then you could go catch the new one. But yeah, I was just a It was a bit of a mix up in my mind was in too many places and Thanksgiving and Advent Prep and all that. So anyway, but thanks to Deb Washer, who sent us a note, um, early Tuesday morning

and was like this is not right and thank God because otherwise I know would never would have known. So thanks for that. All right, well, let's jump in. Uh, it's Isaiah 61. We got a whole lot to talk about here, Isaiah. 61 versus one through four and eight through 11. I'm going to read that. Actually, you know what? I'm going to read, uh, the whole thing because we're gonna talk about five through seven, and I think that's important. So let's do that. Alright. This common English Bible, the Lord God spirit is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for the captives and liberation for prisoners to proclaim the Year, The Lord's favor and a day of vindication for our God to comfort all who mourn to provide for God's Warner's to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy. In place of mourning, a mantle of praise In place of discouragement, they will be called oaks of righteousness, planted by the Lord to glorify himself, they will rebuild the ancient ruins. They will restore formally deserted places. They will renew

, Renew ruined cities. Place is deserted in generations past. Foreigners will stay and shepherd your sheep and strangers will be your farmers and vine dressers. You shall be called the priests of the Lord Ministers of our God. They will say about you. You will feed on the wealth of the nations and fattened yourselves and their riches instead of shame. Their portion will be double Instead of disgrace, they will rejoice over their share. They will possess a double portion in their land. The everlasting joy will be theirs. I, the Lord, love justice. Ah, hate robbery and dishonesty. I will faithfully give them their wage and will make with them and enduring covenant. Their offspring will be known among the nations and their descendants among the peoples. All who see them will recognize that they are a people blessed by the Lord. I surely rejoice in the Lord. My heart is joyful because of my God. Because he has clothed me with clothes of victory wrapped me in a robe of righteousness like a bride groom in a priestly crown and like a bride adorned in jewelry as the Earth puts out its growth as a garden grows

its seeds. So the Lord God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations. Yeah, so it's an interesting piece and and like we said, right at the top, you know, the the election Eri wants to cut it up. You know, give us the first few verses and then the last few verses and, you know, whatever that happens, I think that's like a red light. Let's look at this. Let's look, it makes me really want to look at what 537 have to say, Um and I think it is important. I'm glad we read the whole thing because I think the whole piece is important and this is one of those stories to where the context is. So the historical context eyes so really, incredibly important. Yeah, I think that's absolutely the case. So I mean, just let's just see where we're at both historically and literary. So this is I like that are who's that sockets cause this tryto Isaiah

Uh, why Why do that? Anyway, it's third Isaiah. So what does that mean? We've got first Isaiah first ideas. Pre exile second Isaiah, Midst of exile, Third, Isaiah After the exile Isaiah didn't live an extraordinarily long time. This is most likely different writers, and things like that is most of our listeners are probably aware. But here we are in Third. Isaiah, this is this is post exile And I think it's interesting because we from second Isaiah we we envision and we hear a lot of second Isaiah, Um and honestly, first Isaiah during Advent andan this vision of what things were gonna be like when we get back when we return to the land. Well, now we've returned to the land, and it's not as great as we once thought that it was going to be. And so what does that mean? What does that look like? Um, and that vision of what this is going to look like. I think that's where we find ourselves today. But we have to know that this is this isn't looking ahead necessary. I mean, it's partially looking ahead, but it's not looking ahead to when we return to the land, it's more

Well, now we're here. Were there. Now what? Mhm. Yeah, Yeah, I was. When I was looking at this, it made me. And when I was preaching on last week. Also, it was, um it feels like we're in exile now with with the, you know, being in pandemic and quarantining ourselves and looking at, um the fact that our cream of the crop So when they went into exile, it was all the leaders and the important people that were brought into exile to Babylon and a lot of the labors were left behind. And so now we have, like, the essential workers who are the oppressed, and then you've got all the the the the important people are sitting back at home, working from home, not exposed to anything, and looking at how when we come back out of quarantine, like when we can actually start coming back

into normal, how is that gonna look on? What does that that look like? Um, and are we still going to value our essential workers? Who now, you know, we need them more than ever, and when we go backwards. And so I read this more from like, a contemporary covert perspective. Um, and you know that life when we go back is, um, not going to look the same. And, you know, people say, Oh, well, it'll be a new normal. It's not to be a new normal. It's gonna be something we've never even imagined before. And whose Paul Romer who's a Stanford, Um, economists And, um, you know, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This is where you in, which sounds awful, but this is where you have the land of opportunity. Like my church has never had a virtual presence ever. Now we've got brand new recording equipment where we're leaps and bounds of where we would ever be in 10 years from now if we didn't have be forced into it. So

kind of reading into all this. That's where I went with it. Um, in my reading. Yeah, that's interesting. I wanna lift up the fact that, you know, if your if you want to focus on this text, uh, go check out our narrative election Eri podcast. We just recorded about a 30 minute discussion just on this passage s I'm trying not to rehash that too much, but I think I'd really appreciate Diane What? You lifted up the reversal of the exile right, because the economic impact of this pandemic is obviously great and the economic impact of the exile was huge too, right? I mean, Isaiah is talking about economics about paying a just wage and and restoring hoped toe all those and he talks about, you know, in the versus 537 it talks about the farmers and and the shepherds and those people who have been neglected and yet are still going to come together in this community. And I love the idea of thinking about, you know. Okay, so So they're essential. So we love teachers. They're essential. We love nurses. Their essential

. We love grocery store workers because they're essential. Well, hopefully that means we treat them differently than saying, Oh, you're so essential. Uh, here's a pat on the back, right. Are we gonna pay them? Is there an economic component of being essential? Is there an economic component of, uh, you know of how this is happening? And when you think also about the vast wage disparity and the wealth gap that has just been horribly exasperated by this thing, right, who's getting hurt the most and whose profiting from it. Um, and it's like you said, you know, where is the exile was? You know that they kind of lifted off lifted, you know, took away the top, but the top, you know, the one percenters, or maybe a little bit more than that. Um, in this exile, it is the the the the quote unquote essential that are getting hurt the most. And it's the, uh you know that the reversal, the economic reversal here is just it's overwhelming. And

like you said, this is not about getting back to normal, because what this is revealed is how just how just dysfunctional normal has always been right. One thing that stood out as I was re reading this was in verse four. You know, they'll rebuild the ancient ruins. They will restore formally deserted places. They were the new ruined cities. Place is deserted in generations past and then thinking about that, that new normal, right? I mean, part of it is like we can't wait to get back, Um, and and it reminds me of that, you know, make America great again in those times when, when, like, let's look at the past with clear eyes and see that it wasn't that great in the midst of Jim Crow and segregation for a lot of people, it wasn't that great. And to be honest, Israel wasn't that great, right? If it had been, then, um, at least in the theological interpretation of the exile God wouldn't have vomited them from the land into the exile right, but that but that happened because they didn't care for the least of these. And so it's interesting. You know, this idea off of restoring formally deserted places

. It gives us an opportunity to look at Well, what are the things that we weren't doing before? What what are the as opposed to just lamenting? And there is lamentation and grief for what was lost and and that needs to be acknowledged. But there's also opportunity, and I feel like that's what this passage, you know. It's got a taste Sunday. It's joy. Sunday we end this passage talking about joy. What do we envision? What is what is the new thing? I mean, one of the things we are outreach to homebound persons, with the exception of visiting them in person, which was doing other than that for people who are for various reasons, unable to physically come to the church, they've moved away because of health issues for whatever reasons they're working on Sunday morning, that outreach has never been better than it's been these last bunch of months because we've had toe to expand that. So what are the ways in which we can, Um, we can bring that in, in which we can go to those places which we have deserted before and kind of bring that into this new normal and recognize that

even if we could return to the past, which we can't, that's not What's that? That's that wasn't good. That's what got us in this situation. Let's do it better. And I think that we can talk about that in terms of pandemics, in terms of social justice, in terms of economic justice like you guys were talking about, which is there's so many ways that put us in this place. What are the ways in which we can move forward to ensure that, um, you know, those who have been hurt hardest are those living paycheck to paycheck? Okay, so what can we do to provide a living wage so that people aren't living paycheck to paycheck like and so we don't slinky backwards either? That's the other part. Is that it can't just have that imagination that Oh, when we go back and just, for example, in worship, everything will be like it was when we were in worship last time in February. It's never gonna look like that again eso and the same thing. But, you know, economically and hierarchically, will we, you know, in two years from now, who will be the essential workers? Probably the ones that we call essential workers right now. Yeah. Yeah

, absolutely. It's interesting. Now when we're talking about vaccines, right? And they're they're discussing vaccines, and they're saying, Well, health care workers and, uh, in people in long term care facilities Gonna get him first. And I was like And what about the grocery store workers? What about all everybody else, right? I mean, that we were praising in the spring and now have fallen off. Like Like what about the folks who cannot do their job without being in? You know who will get it first? Will it be the grocery store workers of the stockbrokers, right? I mean, it's gonna be very interesting to see how this piece rolls out and and what those essential workers look like baseball players you know, because we got Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, remember when the Utah Jazz were the first ones to get some of the first to get tested? Because, I mean, there was some concern there when other people couldn't get tested. But MBA sure did. Um, I want to talk about versus five through seven. Because this was an important piece, Rob, that you brought up in the narrative cast and I think needs to be reiterated five through seven. I feel like it cut because they sound yucky and retributive. You know, there there seems to be some revenge here

of now We're back, and we will subjugate the foreigners and and there will be this reversal. And rob, you pointed out in the narrative, cast a bit of a different way of looking at that. And I Can you share that a little bit more? Because that was, I think, a really helpful reframing and and an argument for including this in this passage. Yeah, and you know, as I'm looking at it, I'm not sure if it was, um, faithful or not. I think it is right this idea that, you know, verse five foreigners will stay right. They'll stay and shepherd your sheep That strangers will be farmers and vine dressers. Right? This idea that this is you know, And I think you pointed out the first time they occupied the land. They killed everybody and some subjugated them right and enslaved them. And and But this time we're going to come back and the forgers will stay and shepherd and they'll be strangers. And they'll be the farmers and the vine dressers. And so this idea of you know this thing this time let's do it differently. This time we're gonna we're gonna build community

. And this is good news for everybody. It's not about coming in and replacing those who were gone because again, just like when they when they took the land the first time there were people there. Well, they're coming back. Um, And there there are people there. It's not like it's been empty and desolate this entire time. And so seeing that this time, it's going to be different. I think I think that's the piece, that it is important. And that's what we've been talking about, that that we're going to be called, uh, you know that the wealth of the nations that the riches it's going to be shared. This is going to be something that everybody takes a part of everyone's. Your portion will be doubled. Um, you're you're going to rejoice over your share. It's not about removing and disposing and deposing. It's about coming in, building something new, and everyone will prosper because of it. Mhm, yeah, And that that idea of feeding on the wealth of nations and fattening yourself on their riches is a zoo we talked about, you know, is not a

death to the rich. But it is an acknowledgement that the wealth of the nation's isn't just for that top 1.1% which, of course, in this exile in this pandemic time, um, that top 0.1% has never gotten richer in the history of our nation. I mean, they're they're accumulated. Wealth has grown by nearly a trillion dollars. I mean, it's been unbelievable or or now equals about a trillion dollars s. So it's It's quite extraordinary in in that and in how much the wealth of those billionaires is. And it's not that well, that's all. Grab pitchforks and burned down. Jeff Bezos, house, but rather, um, this was what got us into this situation in the first place in the terms of exile was was the corruption of the kings and the wealthy classes at the expense of the widow, the orphan and the alien, the foreigner, the stranger in the land. And so this will be a place where the alien and the stranger, the immigrant, the foreigner is welcome in the land. And where the widow and the orphan will be able to feast on the riches of those who are above doesn't mean that those above will starve

. But it is there. There is an equitable balance again repeatedly in Scripture. It's not that wealth is bad. It's that wealth at the expense, off the most vulnerable wealth, which is created at the subjugation and the oppression of the most vulnerable. That is, that is, ah problem. And so and so I think that we see that it's it's not this reversal, but it's this opportunity where all can go and and you know, that piece that we will be called priests of the Lord of Ministers of God. What that means is that when we come into the land. And as we live into this, we will embody who God is Well, who is God. God is a God who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and righteousness. Right. That's who God is. That's who we need to be. Okay. All right. We could say a lot more on this, and we did in the narrative cast. Let's move on. Because we've got three other passages that are all going to kind of connect to this in different, uh, in different ways. Um, so we're gonna move on here in just a moment to our gospel reading. Very

few comparatively know What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? Good news, everyone. Well, the good news this week comes from John 16 through eight and 19 through 28. And I'm just springing this on her now. But, Diane, would you be willing to read that for us? Absolutely. I have it from, uh, new revised standard version and artists. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and lay bites from Jerusalem to ask, Who are you? He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed. I am not the Messiah. And they asked him. What then are you Elijah? He said, I am not. Are you the prophet? He answered

. No. Then they said to him, Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? And he said, I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord. As the Prophet Isaiah said. Now they have been sent from the Pharisees, and they asked him, Why then, are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah nor Elijah nor the Prophet and John answered them. I baptized with water among you stands, one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal. This took place and Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. Alright, So enter John the Baptist, the great hero of Advent right. I mean, this is you've got to do some John the Baptist every advent because he's the one that prepares the way. And this is this is it. And it's a great little piece, you know, This is one of those moments, I think, where the I understand. You know, the legendary

does some editing and it makes sense. Um, because one it dips into the The Prelude, the intro, the great poem of creation A to beginning of the Gospel of John and then skips ahead a little bit to get into a little bit more of John's narrative. And this is an an important piece because John is really important. I mean, and this is what this is, right? John is really important, but he's not too important. Alright, this is, you know, this is John. He's he is the prophet. He is the one who points the way he's leading the way. We need to tell his story. Um, he's his story is told in, uh in all of the Gospels and in different, uh, in some sort of in varying degrees of detail. Um, but he's not the one and that that's what this is definitely setting up. And, you know, it's interesting to I've always thought it was, you know, we call him John the Baptist. Um, and

even in this, um, you know, the subheading is John the, you know, the my Bible. At least, uh, says the testimony of John the Baptist. Um, and he talks about being baptized, talks about baptizing, but he never actually baptizes Jesus in the gospel of John that that moment of John baptizing Jesus just isn't there. And I think, you know, we've talked about this before and the the confusion and the the you might say, um, controversy over John having been the one who baptized Jesus. And you can see how that controversy build throughout the Gospels because each, you know, in each successive gospel it's becomes less and less explicit. And that John did baptize Jesus and Mawr explicit that John like his his level of objecting to this idea like increases as the Gospels go on. And

there's this increased need to say John was important, but he's not the one. And here in Gospel of John, the last one written, it's like full on, like he needs to be absolutely explicit have this huge piece where he's absolutely saying that. And I think it's just interesting when you think about the you know because, you know, here we are so long later, none of us would confuse John the Baptist in Jesus, right that it's so clear that they're different. It's so clear this function. But I think what we see in the Gospels is a very riel confusion in the ancient church among the first followers. And I just think it's the evidence of it is right there in how the Gospels themselves form. And I think it's really fascinating. Yeah, absolutely. I think it's one of those pieces that this is a helpful historical context because we wouldn't think of it as a difference. And we also there's two pieces here. One is this is a time long before the media, right, so we don't have there weren't newspapers, much

less photographs, much less anything else. And there's so many things that air. They both talked about repentance. They both talked about the Kingdom of God. They were both killed by the state, Right? Um, there's so many different pieces that connected. They're both Jews that that were roughly the same age, and they were ministering in the same area and and all of these different pieces. But it's one of the things I want to talk because I feel like John often just gets pushed into this corner. And and I do think it's important that not only is there a separation, right, this is John. There was the light. It wasn't him. But you know, when there's a big movement, I don't know if it's still his big toe. What would W W J D? What would Jesus do? Movement right? And and to some extent I feel like we're called Farm or to be John's than to be Jesus is because, to be honest, there are things were you know, where are the light of the world? But we're still not Jesus. And there's also a piece of, you know, if you're hanging out with a bunch of people, I don't know, let's say about 15,000, and you realize that there's not enough food, right? Well, what would Jesus dio? He

would just make more food, right? I can't do that like I haven't quite figured that piece out right. And so and it is amazing. The miracles are done by Jesus. While their teachings are so similar, John doesn't do any miracles. Jesus does that. What John is constantly doing is pointing to Jesus. God is constantly doing. Is is revealing where where the spirit is present. And this is the piece I love about this because of exactly what John says, which is John does not say Jesus is coming, right? He what? Instead, What he says is, um is this piece where he says Jesus is already among you, right? Jesus is already with you. And and I love that, um, that phrasing that John says there, you know, when they asked him, you know, who are you and what are you doing? Um and he says among you, right, this is 26. I baptized with water among you stands one whom you do not know the one who was coming after me. And I love

this idea that John is pointing out. It's not that. Well, you gotta wait until Jesus comes and does that. But there's this now. Not yet. It's already among you. And so and it reminds me and other people you know, I've talked about this on the podcast. I always envisioned that Renaissance paintings of of John the Baptist because in almost all of those paintings, he's always even as a baby. He's got like, a finger, and he's always pointing. And when Jesus is in the picture, he's always pointing to Jesus. And if Jesus is in the picture, he's always pointing up, which is also to Jesus. And it's this piece of that's what we're called to do to point those pieces out. Yeah, well, I also you know, John wasn't the only one that was out preaching in the desert, that there were a whole lot of others, just like him of the same vintage, with all with different messages. And I've always found it interesting that John was the one that survived. We don't hear about all the others. We don't know about all the others. But John we hear about because of Jesus, not because of what he was doing, pointing out to

himself. It was the humility of always pointing to Jesus on, so the fact that he survived the story where others like him did not to me says that there's something else going on here with him And it's interesting, too, because the next piece of this story is, you know, John's followers basically leaving him and going to Jesus and and, you know, he sees him walking down the road. And so there is There is the lamb of God. Uh, take it the way the sins of the world, right? And they're like, Okay, well, we'll go follow him instead. But what What also is interesting is John continue to have his own disciples, although in the gospel of John, I believe he pretty much exit stage off that that point. Um, there is a little bit more. I guess there is. Yeah, I know I'm wrong after this. I'm sorry. I'm just looking at There is still John. Some of John's disciples leave and go follow Jesus, but John continues his career. He continues toe, have disciples and this which

is interesting in and of itself, right? So how do you and I think that's partly why there was this growing confusion as to who John was, what his role was. But ultimately in in Oliver canonical scriptures, he's his job is still always the point, even when he's in jail, right, and now I think we're mixing. I'm mixing gospel. But even while in jail, he's asking, Is this the one he's still sending his disciples to go talk to Jesus and and see what's going on? You know, I just The relationship between John and Jesus, I think, is is a fascinating one, and here it's and part of what this is about is just making sure that everyone is totally clear that it's not about downgrading, John. It's not a polemic against John's followers, and this is Beverly. Event is quote, She said. Plumbing against John's followers of John the Baptist is not the function of these passages. They also served to emphasize the importance of the one

about whom John gives his testimony. Indeed, John's authority appears to consist of his honest denial of exalted titles for himself in favor of pointing the way to Jesus. And it reminds me of what you just said Diane, because there were others right. But what separated them is Jesus and John somehow had this connection to Jesus, and that's why he remained because he was the one that was pointing the way, not claiming it to himself. And I think there's a lot of implications there for clergy. Uh, in this day of the celebrity pastor, um, in the day of the mega church on this isn't just a polemic against mega churches, but I think this is a good word of caution about those, um, who set up clergy in the sort of new Messianic position. And clearly this a scene in and in both in both clergy and And let's

say, let's just say it in our politics, right? And and how we treat the savior of the world, who is coming dressed in red or dressed in blue and and it's going to save the world through their through their victory on disses Ah, reminder that that's not what what we should be doing. Yeah, I want to point out a discrepancy just because I was just doing a Bible study on Luke and the fact John directly contradicts Luke here. Just a funny thing. So I I never noticed that before, but in the way in which John in this passage is like, I am not a prophet, I am not Elijah. I I am not these things. And if we go all the way back, Thio Luke one when the Angel Gabriel comes to Zechariah and kind of talks about that and and that's, um I think you know, I think we talked about that last year and things like that. But when that when the angel Zechariah comes and talks about it, he he

literally says he will go forth equipped with the power and spirit of Elijah, right? And and he talks about the fact that he's going to be like he's going to be filled with the spirit, um, off the profits. And and so I thought it was just kind of Ah, funny thing to be like Luke is like, This is the new Elijah. He's gonna four tell the coming of the Prophet and John's like, No, he's not Elijah. But either way, I think it just gets at some of that ambiguity and what those theological pieces are. Um, but just if your folks are jumping into because we're in Mark, right? So because we're in Mark, we have to go other places for our Christmas story. If if you're dipping your toes into those other places and someone's like, Wait, so is he Elijah or not? Elijah. You know, I think it's just kind of a helpful little side note on Matthew. Jesus called him Elijah, right? Jesus, John the Baptist was Elijah. I mean, it's almost a direct quote, so I mean, there's it's obviously when you start mixing the Gospels, you gettinto, you run into some trouble

. But I think again what you see is reflected. This the trouble that they had in separating them And, you know, calling him Elijah wasn't enough for John. He wanted to make sure that John And it's also different for John to say I'm Elijah than for Jesus to say or for the Angel to say. It's one thing for others to say you are this then to claim it for yourself, and I think that's that might be an important difference. Um, you know, claiming those titles for yourself is very much different than other people saying, You know, look how look look at him because of you know, let's let's use these titles to describe Well, it is an interesting thing, right? In what ways are we always in what ways are we pointing toward Christ? In what ways are we pointing toward a greater ministry in what ways are we doing that? Um, and I think that that's that's a difficult thing. I think for a lot of churches of any size. T do that Teoh be pointing and saying, What is our? What is our mission

? Right? Uh, the most churches, they think that their their mission is to get more members. Um, that wasn't Jesus's mission. And it's not our mission right on dso. So I think that that's a helpful thing to say. Okay, so in this time of pandemic in this time of exile, how do we point toward Jesus? What are the ways in which we continue to point toward Christ and in comforting and challenging ways, you know, to steal from the old neighbor? Quote right, to afflict the comfort and comfort the afflicted? Yeah, and there's thieves here that get played up in the next passage. When we start talking about that's alone, Ian's delight that that Jesus is the light. But John is the one that's pointing to the light and and then reflecting on, what does that mean? You know, what does it mean to to allow the divinity of Christ to transform us and all around us, right What does it mean? To prepare the way of the Lord, um to testify And how God has transformed us, how God has transformed

our churches, God has transformed our communities. Can we proclaim the presence of the divine and one another right and see that, you know, and again borrowing from that sermon on the Mount? Okay, so Jesus is the light, but so are we. And so what does that mean To reflect that light and one another And witness to transformation Witness not just thio growing numbers and and saving souls and growing churches and ministries and budgets, but actual transformation of hearts and minds and communities. Um, that's a deeper question. And that's what John is pointing us Thio. Um, so that sort of look and see you know what God is doing, Andi, That's exactly what John is doing here is Look at sea. It's among us. Look and see what God is already doing among us. Because Christ is in our midst, right? And when it is working and you actually are living into that, it doesn't come back to the pastor

, right? You know? Yeah. I mean, you know, so like whether a church succeeds or fails, that always usually comes down to, Well, the pastor either degrade or the pastor did poorly. And and so when it. Either way, it's not about the pastor, you know, same thing with, you know, Church youth group. Every church wants more youth. They want a bigger youth group, and so do it. It's like That's not a zonas That's the mission of the church. But it's not gonna work in the long run, Um, S O to make sure that when you are preaching that it's pointing toward the transformation is Christ work, not the pastor's work. Yeah, and it's about community and John doing this within community. He's not in the wilderness, but he's not alone in the wilderness. Beloved. There's a lot more in the show notes. You can find all that a pulpit fiction dot com. Right now we're going to turn to our soul most in the field. Richard Brekford Culligan, who has a nugget for us in Psalm 126. You can find more of Richard's great work Solomon version dot com, tweet him at almost almost

and support his great work at patryan dot com slash Richard B. C. Like those who dream someone 26 is a delicious little psalm for a world in danger of losing its imagination. I'm Richard Brooks, Fort Colligan from psalm immersion dot com You're so almost in the field with a word about someone 26 for the second Sunday of Advent year. See, Does Santa know that you left the workshop? What you need to know about someone 26 before we hear it is it seems to refer to the exiled people returning from Babylon cause for happiness for sure. Also, someone 26 is one of the songs for us Cents A S C E N T s. So we might think of it as a traveling song for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Deep breath now and hear someone 26 from my own translation. Psalm

126. A psalm of a sense When our covenant God restored the captives of Zion we were like those who dream our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with loud, joyous song. Then it was said among the nations, The God of Israel has done great things for them. Our God has done great things for us and we were filled with joy. Uh huh. Restore us again. Oh, holy one. Like streams in the southern deserts. May those who so with tears harvest with loud, joyous song. Those who go out weeping with their bags of seed. We'll return with songs of joy carrying their sheaves with them. Here

ends the reading. This is the story of God's covenant people. Thanks be to God E o out Hope is grounded on the in God hidden in a way, our dawn is breaking on. Li, Like those who dream, I sometimes think our spiritual lives lose energy not from lack of compassion or desire, but from lack of imagination, probably our imaginations. Air stunted from being trained as good consumers, eager to eat up what we're told is popular and good for

us. We're told to categorize things in people and forget the nuance and personal rancor reflected in that remark. I don't intend to dignify with comment, but I would like to address your general attitude of hopeless negativism. Consider the lilies of the goddamn field. Another thing you kids get off my lawn. There's disagreements among scholars how to translate the verb tenses in this text is the psalm singing about something in the past or something in the future or some of each. My personal take is that someone 26 begins with the past, our remembrance of God's restoration of the captives and moves to a plea for the future. The Psalm tags this orienting story of God's faithful rescue from one mess in order to pivot and ask God to get us out of another. I think it starts with remembering and then prays in hope for a beatitude, a little like Jesus sermon on the Mount or the

plane. Blessed are the ones weeping. Now there is joyful singing on its way. The heart of the Psalm is what Professor Robert Alter calls reversal, the image of everything changing reoriented in God's time. That's a powerful metaphor. It's as big as a scattered population returning home, the mystery of a seed buried in funeral dirt, becoming a thriving crop of grain or a desert that's awaiting it's rainy season, when the dry channels will be full to the brim again. As we move through the stories and prayers of Advent. Maybe what we long for most is an imagination for what's possible. We could become like dreamers, not sleepy people, but active and vision er's of God's way unfolding. We could become people preparing the way like John, people longing for

restoration like Simeone and people funding this endeavor of God's great reversal with our very lives like Mary. But imagination is difficulty. Sometimes when there are stories of violence, disconnection and exile about us, it's hard to even picture piece or loud, joyous song or water gushing through the deserts. Maybe someone 26 invites us to pray for the unknown and be in solidarity with all who have an uncertain future. No way, only is a plant only plant only is hard. Only our life is rising

. Onley in God way. That's a song for someone 26 called Rivers in the Desert. I'm Richard Brooks for college in thanks for today. Back to you, Rob and Eric thank our donors and all of those who helps support our podcast. Um, you could go to pulpit fiction dot com slash donate to help support the work of pulp Fiction. And when you support pulpit fiction, you're not just supporting this podcast. You're also, uh, supporting

the hundreds literally hundreds of pastors, seminarians and faith communities that rely on pulpit fiction each and every week. Some for sermon preparation for Bible study preparation. Uh, just for their own spiritual development. We want to thank our newest donors this week. Craig Morton, Sam McGregor, Jesse Rukh and Todd Gutzler, all off who went to pulpit fiction dot com slash donate and help support the podcast. We'll want us also send out a special thank you to all of those donors who give each and every month supporting the ministry here at Pulpit Fiction again. You could be just like them by going to pulpit fiction dot com slash donate to support this show. Thanks so much for your support. Previously on the Bible e Smell. Heaven's Bakery Cooking Up Something Good for You, Sister A. Well, Heaven's Bakery has a little bit of Thessalonians Chapter five versus six through 24

I'll read the common English Bible. Rejoice. Always pray continually give thanks in every situation because this is God's will for you in Christ. Jesus. Don't suppress the spirit. Don't brush off spirit inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him. And may your spirit, soul and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ's coming. The one who is calling you is faithful, and we'll do this. Okay, so this is This is the go to tape passage. This is rejoice. This is the passage of joy. Got a being joy Sunday. This is the third Sunday of Advent, A big disconnect for most folks. This is not going to feel like a joyous Sunday as we, um, are preparing to not be with family and friends over the Christmas holiday. As the cove

in numbers get worse as the death count rises, we're recording on the third, uh, yesterday the second was the highest death toll. Um, yet, uh, here in the United States, almost over 2800 people died, and one day we're we're reaching an average right now of one person in the United States just in the United States. Not even worldwide dying, Um, every minute. And so, um, the the breath of that, um, is staggering and almost overwhelming, as well as many of us know people who have gotten sick. Andi either are dealing with what is called long co vid the long term effects of this disease or have died from that, and many in our congregations and and more are getting sick and dying from that. So it's a disconnect in the midst of that to talk about joy Sunday. The importance of that is that this passage, what Paul is writing is being written to the Thessalonians, who are living also through their own exiled, uh

, period of Hellas Well and awfulness, right? So So the church in, uh, Thessaloniki It was not was not a happy go. Lucky everything is going fine. No, this was this was a church. That was, um the Salonika was a very, um, Greco Roman heavy. There was a lot of persecution, um, from because of the cultural foundation in that Greco Roman world as well as religious foundation. So there was a lot of persecution and that persecution was staved off by the hope that Jesus was coming and Jesus was coming and Jesus was coming. Well, by the time the Paul is writing this ah, lot of time has begun to pass, and Jesus hasn't come back right away. And so now people are wondering, in the midst of persecution in the midst of watching, uh, members of their community not only just be persecuted, enslaved or killed, Um, but Jesus isn't coming back. And so it's a it's a this. This call to rejoice is in the midst of fear. It's in the midst of despair

. It's in the midst of oppression. It's in the midst of persecution and in riel persecution. Not You went to Starbucks and they give you a Happy Holidays mug like this is an actual persecution, Um, and so that's where this command to be. Rejoice. It's It's not ignoring that pain. It is moving through that pain that they're called into that. And that's why I think there's a great passage for for, uh, for this week, and in our context, it's very similar. Has a lot of those same as Philippians four of you know of, um no one. It is Tab little notice to have a lot and rejoice and all things so that this passage actually comes speaks of that. Yeah, Yeah. I mean, this is the first. This is the first. You know, arguably, I think it's pretty well documented that this is the first piece of the New Testament written that we've got. This is the oldest piece of writing that we claim in our in our Christian scriptures. And it came

in a time of crisis, right? I mean, and really, all of the writings of the Bible are written because of this. You know, even the Gospels you could argue are written down because the first generation was dying and they realized we'd better write this stuff down. All right, These stories that we've been holding onto, we need we need thio, do something else with them. And I feel like this this letter of Thessalonians that's written around 51 you know, like I said, it's one of the earliest pieces only, you know, two decades, 20 years, You know, a lot of us, remember, 20 years ago, um, you know, 20 years ago was 2000, right? That that's that's really early, Like that was That wasn't that long ago. I could tell you exactly what I was doing, you know, 20 years ago. And to think that how how much times have changed and yet they're still the same. And that historical context of it being again, These aren't just Polly Annick words of rejoice because everything is going great. Yeah, this isn't rejoice because, you know, the church is booming and growing, and

we're we've just dedicated to new space. And, you know, we're we've got a great building campaign and we've baptized all these kids. You know, that's not why we're rejoicing. Were rejoicing in the midst of of riel struggle of really heartache, of riel, hardships and and and again, persecution, riel persecution. Not this manufactured persecution of Well, the governor is not letting us gather and endanger the lives of our entire congregation. Right? Because that's the other. That's the other fake martyrdom that lots of people want to say we're dealing with now. So this isn't a church in this is a church that existed before the buildings in the begin to begin with, right? And so this was a church at home. This is a church that was scattered in place, uh, to start with and and and recognizing all of that and then saying, Rejoice, pray continually give thanks in every situation because that's God's will

for you in Christ, Jesus Lifting up that that context and where they were then and where we are now it speaks volumes. Mhm well, and it's it's a different It's not a It's a proactive joy, not a reactive joy, right? We often think of Joy is reactive. Good things happen. I'm joyful, right? I'm happy those things. This is a proactive joy. This is, uh you know, this this is a joy, that is, that is, uh that is happening in the midst of lament. It is a joy that has captured in, um so beautifully and in the spirituals. Right. Um, one of things we're doing is focusing on the good news and talking about one of those spirituals. Ain't that good news. Um, and so maney. But so many of those spirituals that talk about talk about joy talk about the second coming right, Which, which first Thessalonians is a lot about the second coming and that this isn't but the whole point of that that envisioning the second coming and this this call

toe to joy is captured in a lot of those spirituals of this idea of This isn't the end. This doesn't define who I am. I refuse to be defined by my current circumstance. Um, and and so this is the opportunity, um, to reframe the way in which I live within the circumstance. That doesn't mean denying the pain. It doesn't mean ignoring the lamentation in the grief, but rather not choosing not to be defined by that lamentation. Um, and and by that grief, But instead, to kind of move into this this spirit of of joy, off prayer and, uh, end of gratitude. There's an interesting turn here in the middle. I want to talk about, though, which is don't quench the spirit, right. And I actually like the new revised Better than the common English common English says Don't brush, don't suppress the spirit. And I like this idea. Don't

quench the spirit cause we think of the spirit is a fire right on. We don't want to quench it. We don't wanna put it out. And I don't know what you think, but there's part of me when I read that. And I'm like, Is that even possible? Can we quench the spirit, right? Isn't that part of why? Why, why? We struggle with the spirit, especially in like mainline Protestantism because we're like it must be controlled and quantified in our books of orders and in our minutes and things like that and the fact it doesn't work that way. No, but we do. We can stifle it and you can tamper it down. You can't ignore it. So I like the quench better, though, because it's also there's a part of when you're open to it. You're really thirsty for the spirit. And when you're really thirsting for the spirit that that's where remarkable things happen, there's remarkable transfer, transformation. Um, but I also you know, the 20 and 21 of Don't do not despise the words of profits and but test everything and hold fast What is good. It's just

I mean, you should just put that on your refrigerator all before above your TV or your Internet. You know, like wherever you're getting your news sources these days of just being faithful to finding truth in all all of life. Um, and I think that's a really good good piece there, too. Yeah, and again, you know that there's a difference here in the common English and and I can't on this one. I kind of like that. Don't brush off spirit inspired messages, right? Don't ignore those things. Don't scroll past those things that might make you uncomfortable, but their spirit inspired. There's hard truths and and the hard truth of, you know, systemic oppression and systemic racism and histories that we need to examine and and the hard truth of what's going on here. Examine everything carefully. You know, Eric, you're talking about, you know, embrace that lamentation. Don't pretend like everything's good. Examine everything but the differences. But hang on to what is good

, right? Don't become cynical, Don't see the world as you know. Everything is broken and and so now I'm just gonna hate everything. It's examined everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid that evil. But hang on to what is good. And I think that that Verse 21 especially, is like you said. This is a award for our time because it's easy to examine everything and then be cynical and hate the world right. It's easy to not examine everything carefully and just believe what you want to believe and live in your silo and don't get challenged by anything Um, but this is It's neither of those things. It's examine everything and then hang on to what is good. I just love that as a Zaha, it's a prescription of how we need to get through this. I think in a lot of ways, right, we've gotta hang on to those moments of goodness, hang onto those moments of hope and joy and peace because they happen. We've got a lot of depression, a lot

of anxiety, a lot of fear. Absolutely. And we should examine all those things and speak to them and be honest about them. But I think we also are called to hang on to the good, too. There are moments of growth. There are moments of truth telling. There are moments of beauty that we can all hang hang onto because for a lot of us, that's all we've got. We're hanging on by a thread. And that little piece of good might be all we've got. Yeah, yeah. It reminds me of Krawczynski is some good news, and I'm like, that was great. But it ended far too soon, buddy. Far too soon. Like we still need that way. Yeah, yeah, you know there's an important piece of that to which is like which we lose in this path. It would almost be worth while starting with verse 12, right, that we're jumping in the middle here in verse 16. Because verse 16, this starts this passage sounds very individual. Rejoice, Always pray continually do these things. But we have to remember this is the second half. In the beginning

of this his brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you leading you instruct, instructing you think of them highly with love because of their work. Live in peace with each other brothers and sisters. We urge you to warn those who are disorderly. Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone. Make sure no one repays a wrong for wrong. But always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. Right? So that that phrase, right, pursue the good. And I think that's gonna be important as we test things. The question is, is this good? Not just for me, but is this good for my neighbor? And is this good for everyone? What is What is the the test? What is the plum line by which we test everything. Because that's a tricky thing, right? We test everything. Well, test everything. By what? By what makes me feel good by what comforts me by what brings me relief from my my awfulness in the moment? Or is it about, um, you know, for me, it's those great commandments, right? Love, God love. Others love yourself. That those

pieces and and also in this verse 15, you know, is this good? It is this working for a greater good, Um, and that's what we need to constantly be asking ourselves. And and what do we do it in a way which includes everybody, including those who seem to be working against that greater good right there also included and and repaying evil for evil? In the midst of this time of political transition and all of that, that is some of the hardest stuff to do. And we're when we're so as divided as we are. Um, and those are the hard words. How do we do it? How do we How do we work for the good? You know, it's that Wesley peace do all the good you can and all the ways you can. What is it? Rob your Wesley, man, That's that I don't know. And all the ways you can in all the places you can at all the times you can it's literally right here in front of me. I just saw its like, little Yeah, you all the good you can by all the means you can in all the ways you can in all the places you can at all the times you can do all the people you can As long as you ever can like

that, That's really what it comes down, Thio. And when we do that, it moves us into joy. It moves us beyond happiness. It moves us beyond distraction and insulation from what's happening in the world. It calls us deeper into the world into a communal joy that involves all people. Yeah, yeah, if you haven't heard yesterday the Gabriel Starlings, um, press conference. He's the secretary of office of in Georgia for the voting and he came out with righteous and I mean talk about righteous anger. He I have never heard somebody so off script so eloquently basically do all these things. Just call out the mixed troops and the untruth, but in a loving your neighbor kind of way without any mudslinging. And I mean, I listened to it like three or four times, almost like a cheerleader, because this is the way we need to be able to have civility. And in the midst of all that bad nous where you can rejoice, love

it. There's a lot more again in the show notes. You can find all of those at pulpit fiction dot com. We wanna thank all of you for joining us for this episode of the pulpit fiction podcast. All of those who joined us online on Facebook. Remember, those live shows are on Thursdays with the holidays. Just you can always check in with us. If we're gonna take a week off, we'll put that on the website. We'd love to hear from you the Home and Web page pulp fiction dot com. As we said, we're on Instagram and Facebook at Pulpit Fiction. We're on Twitter at Paul pdf podcast. You can find us wherever you listen to podcast podcast, including Google Play Soundcloud Spotify apple podcast. Wherever you do, leave us, sort of you. You could email the show at show at pulpit fiction dot us Support the show by going to pulp fiction dot com slash donate Diane, it's been awesome toe have you with us? Thank you so much for joining us here. And, uh, I know I speak for all of our listeners who are tired of just listening to Robin. I So it's been great to have you. Thanks for having me. It's always fun. We want to thank our sponsors. Sanctified art. Keep your eye out. I'm sure there Let's stuff is coming soon. I know it just did

. It's out. Just just got an email. Yeah, it's called E Can't remember, but it's a good one. Go check it out. E no, you're saying Lent already. Are you crazy? But no, this this is what it takes Thanks to our Psalms. Correspondent Richard breaks for collagen in the hall of his amazing work, supported by going to patryan dot com slash richard B. C. Thanks to Scott Puncher for the voice bumpers Dick Dale and the Del Tones for the theme music Nikola Hide list for our transition music in front of the show Brian Odeen for our closing song, Please have a Joyful Week way Hate to say it's time to go but it happens every time you know So now you're free to go About your day We've heard the word invoice and song You wondered And we've laughed along to go and preach the good news on your way This is the pulpit fiction podcast for creatures and seekers and Bible

geeks. This is the pulpit fiction podcast. We'll see you back next week. E mhm, yeah.

408: Advent 3B (12/13/2020)
408: Advent 3B (12/13/2020)
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