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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Rejoice In the Lord Always Edition

Icon of John from Tim at God Has a Sense of Humour.
Here we are in the third Sunday of Lent and in our community (and perhaps in yours) we will be lighting the pink Advent Candle of Joy on Sunday.

You can find links to this week's lectionary texts here.

At first glance, the gospel text doesn't offer much reason for joy. But John C Morris invites a deeper look when he writes that "underneath the holy fire is holy joy. If the Baptizer can be described as a killjoy, it is because the joy that he kills is the false joy of manufactured sentimentality and superficial jolliness. Underneath John's stern message is the good news that a better world is possible by the grace and power of God."

So, maybe like Isaiah you will "joyfully draw water from the well of salvation" or "rejoice in the Lord always," as exhorted by Paul.

Of course, you might be aware of some in your congregation who have a hard time accessing any joy - holy or otherwise - at this time of year. For those who are stressed, ill, lonely or grieving, these last few weeks before Christmas can heighten rather than diminish those difficult emotions. As preachers, how do we make our worship spaces into safe places for those who just cannot find any joyful space in their heart?

Perhaps then we could turn to Zephaniah (Zephaniah! Have you ever preached on Zephaniah? I know I never have.). God's promise to the outcast "I will bring you home," might provide a glimmer a joy for one who feels cast out by the emotional expectations of the season.

These are my thoughts so far. What direction are headed? Maybe you are wrapping up a three week mini-series on John this week and it's a week for tying it all together. Maybe the Baptist's strong words will help you speak a hard truth that you have been needing to share with your congregation. Or maybe the hearts and minds of your community are turned already to the Christ child coming, and this is a week for a pageant or cantata.

And, as always, your ideas for the rest of the liturgy - prayers, childrens times and hymn suggestions are always welcome, too. Check in in the comments, or post a link to your musings at your own blog.


  1. I am working on Zephaniah (my first time too!), with the theme "The Promise of Joy." the rabbit trail I'm currently on is the language about halfway down that says "I will rejoice over you" and other such things that we generally read to sound like victory language...but assuming this is not about God getting victory-over, what does "rejoice over" look like? perhaps the way new parents rejoice over a newborn. perhaps the way we rejoice over an accomplishment....who knows. I'm not sure yet where this will all go. I do know my sermon title:
    "More than a feeling."
    Oh yeah. I'm clever. ;-)

  2. Struggling a bit with the idea of "joy" here. For the past two weeks I have hit hard on Advent themes of waiting, of lifting up our hearts, of repentance. I am ready for a little "joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart to stay" But I do want to acknowledge (again) that Christmas joy isn't for everyone, to make that safe place you talk about Juniper. Next week we will have our Longest Night service. I know all about trying to be "happy" when I am not. Seems as though three years ago I preached on "happiness" versus "joy" - perhaps I will dig that one out and see if I can take anything from it.

    In the meanwhile, thanks for the new take on JtB! I'll go read that article and ponder.

  3. Love the icon. The "brood of vipers" totally makes it!.

  4. teri, I'll be so curious to hear about how it goes with Zephaniah. I'm pretty sure that whole passage was new to me (not just as a preacher but even as a reader) and it really struck me.

    mumpastor - for someone like me, whose favorite service of the year practically is longest night, sometimes I have to work to go the other way - to acknowledge that for many people this really IS a joyful time :) To each our own struggles, I guess.

  5. I also am doing the Zephaniah/Phillippians texts- even as I am planning a Longest Night service- I read somewhere that joy is peace in action, and peace is joy sitting down and resting....what grabs me in the Zeph text is that God is rejoicing over/upon/on us! I am also trying to tie it in with the Shepherds (our Children & worship theme this week....)

  6. Am preaching Mary & Elizabeth & the Magnificat in the AM. Luckily, it's children's Christmas pageant so aiming for a shorter, kid friendly message is actually ENCOURAGED. Will focus on how many of us wanted to be Mary in the Christmas play b/c we think of her as better than ourselves. But Mary was a human agent used by God, like we may all be.

    In the evening, I'm preaching off the Nicene Creed. What difference does it make that Jesus is fully God and fully human? Am planning to start with the prayer to Baby Jesus from Talledegah Nights.

    Not a bad plan for a Tuesday AM!

  7. We're going for Mary and angels this week as the following week is our Nativity extravaganza... er, play! :)
    And we felt John the B pretty much got covered this last week.
    Have posted a poem on Madonna and Child over at my place.
    If it's of any use, please feel free to use!
    Enjoy ruminating and cogitating this week folks...

  8. I am skipping the lectionary for this week in favor of the

  9. Hello, RevGal friends--

    I've been wrestling with John the Baptist while pondering the gospel lection this week. Mostly I'm really fond of him, but have struggled with the "brood of vipers" attitude. It got me thinking about...horror movies, naturally... Here's a reflection on what I found in the wrestling: The Advent Door.

    Many blessings to everyone in these Advent days!

  10. Opps.
    I posted too early.
    Anyhow i am doing luke for next week as I do not get to preach next week and I really wanted to do that text. So there ya go.
    Sesion dinner tonight.
    Pics on Spacehook for those who "are friends."

  11. I am actually not preaching this Sunday - a congregation member is sharing their JOYOUS mission project: he is organizing a trip to Tanzania to build a hospital wing!

    I actually find a lot of joy in what John the Baptist calls us to. My reflections are here!

  12. Pageant Sunday this week so no sermon (of course since I wrote the pageant that just means I wrote the sermon a while back).

    ANd that is good since I spend all day Fri and Sat working on a community Christmas party being held at the church (but led by a variety of community groups).

  13. Thanks for the good ideas. I'm using Zephaniah and Philippians but don't quite know where I"m going yet. Something about authentic joy within the reality of really harsh circumstance (Zeph's prophecy). Joy that only God can bring but in which we are invited to participate.

  14. Meg--I totally want to go to both of your services! Sounds great!

    I know I'm going with John again but I have been distracted because a few months back I read the best poem from the point of view of a father who is on the recieving end of other people's charity. I really wanted to use in in the service but the book it was in (which i do not remember the title) disappeared! ugh!

    the poem is about the indignity of being poor and having to show gratitude when others give you their used junk that is broken or used up. sound familiar to anybody?

    peace be with you

  15. I like that bit about joy being peace in action and peace being joy sitting down to rest...might see where I can go with that. We have the pageant this Sunday and combine our 2nd and 3rd services; I'm preaching at the early one.

    With help from some of you (thanks!) we are planning a Blue Christmas service for the first time this year; I am quite excited about it.

  16. I'm doing both the Gospel and Zephaniah, talking about hitting the Master Reset button...a continuation of the housecleaning I talked about last week. John is pushing a Master Reset on the old ways and the bad teachings of the religious leadership - it starts off harsh but then shows the great promise to come as a result of resetting our behavior. Then and only then can we truly rejoice and welcome the one who is to come. That's where I'm at right now, but it will morph over the next day or so - it always does!

  17. I love all these "joy in the midst of sorrow/struggle" themes I"m hearing.

    If you have not gone over to Jan's page to read her Advent Door meditation, I can highly recommend it. Good stuff on fear and love. I like that idea that one gets our attention, but it's the other that sustains.

    Turns out, we were thinking along the same lines (although Jan more thoughtfully and beautifully than I) as i'm going with the middle of the gospel passage where The Baptist talks to, and gives specific instruction to, individuals. Thent eh question: hat specific messages is God giving you?

    RE Christmas, got a great letter today from a parishioner - one of those email chain things I usually delete but read this one. It's from "God" and is about how we can truly honor Christ's coming at this time o year, instead of being distracted by things like whether our city has a nativity scene in the square or not.

    I like this part:

    "I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate my birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER...Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree...."

    It's long, so I wont post it all here, but let me know if you want me to email it to you.

  18. oh, Betsy, I forgot to say - blessings on the Longest Night - I look forward to hearing how it goes!

  19. ok i heard this years ago... why do we have a pink candle on the third sunday of advent.
    we are hoping for a girl...


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