One of the things I love most about being a pastor is reading scripture and preparing each week for the sermon. It’s a humble privilege to be trusted to share a message of hope, challenge, or comfort (sometimes not always all together I admit!) from God’s word to us; from the family story that is the Bible.
One of the best analogies for sermon preparation I heard came from a colleague many years ago. He compared the process of studying the text like a realtor taking someone through a tour of a home. Depending on the person and their interests, plus other factors like time of day and time allotted for the appointment, while the whole house would be viewed, you might really only focus attention on a few high priority areas: the kitchen, or the backyard, or the master bedroom, for example. You might not spend as much time in the hallway, the basement, or the bonus room.
So too in a sermon my friend said. The scriptures are often so thick with meaning, so full of possible themes and threads to follow, no one sermon can capture each “room” with the same attention. Something always gets left out even though we do our best to see the house in full.
Such is the case with Matthew 11: 2-15 and Isaiah 35:1-10, which were our readings yesterday in worship. In Matthew, Jesus is responding to John the Baptist, and in so doing, he shares the vision of renewal Isaiah lays out in chapter 35—a note I did my best to make clear. But there’s a room we didn’t go in with these texts, namely what Jesus leaves out of Isaiah’s vision when he speaks with John.
In Isaiah 35:4, the prophet declares that God’s coming will be accompanied by “vengeance and “terrible recompense.” An odd contrast to the abundant fullness that God’s restoration will bring. Interesting though Jesus leaves this out in sharing that other parts of Isaiah’s vision are coming true through his work (the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf hearing, the poor receiving good news, death no longer a final word).
Why? Well, what strikes me and other pastors I saw commenting on these passages as most likely is that Jesus was offering a correction to Isiah. He was pointing out that while vengeance and recompense is appealing (God coming back to restore us and also to strike down all who mocked us in our weakness), that is not Jesus’ way. Jesus points to a reign of God where vengeance is put away and where relationships are built on foundations of trust and mutual care.
So much of what we hear of the church and Christianity in the news, on social media, and in experience strikes me as needing this corrective Jesus provides. One of the best gifts we can give to the world, to our neighbors, even those we might consider enemies of a sort, is to put away the temptation for vengeance and instead offer humble mercy, confessing hearts, and genuine friendship to all those who, like us, have at times felt broken, vulnerable, hurt. May we do so this Advent season as we continue to follow the way of the lord into every nook and cranny of our lives, our homes, our hearts.
The Lord Bless and Keep You,
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In-Person/Livestream Worship: Yesterday we celebrated the Third Sunday of Advent with “Joy!” Joy begins in the wilderness and often startles, surprises, interrupts! May we be bold in sharing the true joy that is deep within.
See and share a recorded version of the service
*Masks are welcome but optional during in-person worship as we continue to contend with COVID and an emerging flu season. We also ask everyone to be still mindful of social distancing and respectful of the personal space of others even as we give thanks for being together.*
*Advent Activities Our calendar is full with Advent Activities! Please see our Facebook page, Newsletter, Church posters/flyers, and other media for what’s upcoming! From this past week, special thanks to our Tuesday carolers and those who prepared and attended the Workshop on mental wellness, particularly members of our choir and Deacons Wellness Activities Ministry team. Thanks also to all our Angel tree shoppers and deliverers!
*Cantata is December 18 at 3pm in the sanctuary! Our cantata returns this year with bright and beautiful music from the choir and congregation! Make plans to attend and to also bring a finger food snack to share for the reception that follows!
*Christmas Card Project: Please stop by the narthex during the week or n Sunday not only to drop off Christmas Cards but to pick them up! Our boxes were very full which means that there are message’s of care and joy waiting for you!
*REMINDER…FPCoG our 5th Saturday commitment for H.O.P.E is Saturday, December 31, 2022. Let us end 2022 by providing a “day of dignity” for the guests at H.O.P.E., a bountiful, nutritious meal to quell their hunger and the embrace of our compassion to give them the strength to face the day and the beginning of a new year. Another year where maybe it may not be status quo, but the courage to make changes in their lives. A New Year, renewed spirit, and hope for possibilities/opportunities yet to come.
*“Living Generously” Thanks be to God for the call to share Christ’s love and create deeper relationships through the giving of time, energy, and money. As of this writing, we have received over $187,000 in pledges, more than $8,00 than last year and we anticipate at least a few more pledges are yet to come in. Thanks to those who have already sent in pledge cards and those still discerning that possibility! If you would still like to offer a pledge, please send in a pledge card to the church office.
*Newsletter articles for the January edition of The Spire are due December 21st to the church office.
*Wellness Walking Group meets at Cadence Senior Living, 200 Minglewood Drive at 6:00pm every Tuesday. If you have any questions, contact the church office (919-772-0727). In the event there is inclement weather, we’ll just gather the following week
*Boy Scout Troop 392 is having a Krispy Kreme fundraiser. Please contact the church office to get your certificate for a dozen glazed donuts. The cost is $15 for each certificate which can be used at any Krispy Kreme location across the United States. (Not valid for in grocery store purchases.)
*Prayers for Peace: Our world continues to need prayers of word and deed for peace. As we in NC are especially aware, it is hurricane season. So our prayers for the world at this time are most notably with those impacted by Hurricane Fiona (particularly in Puerto Rico) as well as Hurricane Ian. Please continue to keep law enforcement and first responders in your prayers as well as those struggling with gun violence in too many places in our nation (including Raleigh, NC). Pray, too, for those for whom the holiday season can be heavy as they deal with loss in what is known as a “joyful” season.
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