Sermon Notes- November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent- Year B

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37


Advent is one of my favorite times of the Church Year to preach. First, it is a compact season with lots of depth.  Four weeks and you are done, yet the themes and scriptures of the four weeks are some of the richest in the entire lectionary. Second, if we use the scriptures faithfully, they offer the Church an alternative to the consumptive orgy that is  going on around us in the USA.  Most church people don’t like to hear the question, but it is an important question posed by the Advent season–“Whose birthday is it anyway?”

  • The scriptures for Advent 1 are a bridge between Christ the King Sunday and the anticipation of Jesus’ coming, the first and the second time. They are apocalyptic in nature–“end times.”  These are the kinds of readings that make good Methodists squirm in the pews because many of us gravitated toward the denomination because it usually doesn’t sound like a street preacher harping on the Second Coming.  Well, you can’t get away from it on the First Sunday of Advent, so embrace the theme and let the scriptures speak.
  • The lesson from Isaiah is full of great verses–“O  that you would tear open the heavens and come down,so that the mountains would quake at your presence”–‘From ages past no one has heard,no ear has perceived,no eye has seen any God besides you–“We have all become like one who is unclean,and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.”–” O LORD, you are our Father;we are the clay, and you are our potter;we are all the work of your hand.”  The prophet who is offering a word to God’s people who have been taken away to Babylonia and who are about to return home.  He  speaks a word of warning as well as a word of praise to God. Words of confession and repentance, and a word of transformation.  Like a potter molds the clay, so God is transforming God’s people into something useful.
  • The Psalm repeats some of the same themes found in the OT.  “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people?”–“Restore us, O God of hosts;show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”  This is a Psalm that has God’s people calling on God to forgive and restore.  Powerful words for folks in any generation.
  • The Epistle is a short reading that compliments the other three readings.  Personally, I could not see focusing on this lesson for the entire sermon, but I can certainly see Paul’s words as assuring to a 1st and 21st century Church: ” He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • The Gospel Lesson from mark is full of images–the darkened sun and moon, falling stars and the heavens shaken–this is end times thinking.  Jesus says, “When you see these things, you know my time is coming…”  The problem with lots of preachers is that they spend way too much time on the signs of the times than on the Good News that Jesus proclaims:  `the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
  • Jesus uses the image of the fig tree to speak of the end times again–From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near–again, when you see the signs, know that Jesus is coming…
  • The last part of the Gospel is key–No one knows the timing of all of this except for God the Father.  If anyone tells you they have deciphered the exact place and time, you can bet that they haven’t heeded the words of Jesus. (And of course, even recent history is full of misguided folks who just didn’t get it.)   Since there is no way for us to know when that time will be, we are told to “Keep Awake!”–“Be Ready!”–“Be Prepared!”   It is a clear word for these uncertain and maddening days that we live.  Be ready for all that God is doing in our midst. Keep awake, you wouldn’t want to be caught sleeping through the glory that is in our future.
  • Sermon from Ken Carter from 2008–Our Hope, God’s Faithfulness
  • “Awesome things that we did not expect” (from Journey with Jesus)
  • Good notes at

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