Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent; 9 December 2012

You can just preach this one.
Preaching a published sermon, rather than doing the work of exegesis and writing a new one, is often a temptation to harried pastors stuck for time, especially when they are new to the work. Usually it is a practice to be assiduously avoided for reasons both ethical and theological. However, if you find yourself in a corner this week, I urge you to click on the link at the bottom of the page. This is a sermon that practically preaches itself.
In 2009, Daphne Burt took note of the compelling way in which Luke locates the ministry of John the Baptist squarely within the existing political and social context.  "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John..."

This concrete location of God's action in a particular time and place must have been incredibly evocative to the first readers of Luke's gospel, embedded as they were in a culture which had an essentially cyclic and fatalistic view of the relationship between humanity and the universe. The idea that in this particular time and in this particular place God would essay something completely new and different would have been shocking to non-Jewish readers. 

Burt's sermon takes that idea and runs with it, smack-dab into confrontation with the fatalism which so often plagues Christians. She begins by telling two different stories of two different prophets in the wilderness, to whom the Word of the Lord came: Martin, son of Martin in the fifth year of the reign of LBJ, and Teresa, daughter of Nikola, in the second year of the reign of Jawaharlal Nehru. She tells the story of their ministries, and the effect that each had, and then invites the congregation to write themselves into the story.
In the first or second or maybe even fifth year of the presidency of Barack Obama, when Name is governor of State, and Name is mayor of city, the Word of the Lord will come to you, child of your parents, beloved of God, in your wilderness. And you will go into the region of your work-place, or your home, or your schoolyard, or your Facebook account, and you will proclaim the love of God for all people. You will say something that matters; you will do something that makes a difference; you will heal a heart that is wounded; you will bring joy to a soul that is weary. When you do this, you will prepare the way for the love of Christ for all people.

Maybe someone will notice and maybe not. People might even say, “What does it matter?” …And you can answer: “One person heard. One person knows that God loves them, because I have loved them. …And perhaps one person will decide to have hope because someone actually took the time to take them seriously”

When one voice cries out – when you cry out in the wilderness, people will see the salvation of the Lord.
Seriously - I'm sure that you write a fantastic sermon, but just on the off-chance that you're having a terrible week and are worried about what to preach come Sunday, just click below and print. Remember to give Daphne credit though.

Daphne Burt (2009). "6 December 2009; Advent 2," Homily Service 43:1, 21.

Daphne Burt is pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Hamden, CT.

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