the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sunday 12/4/05 Year B - Advent 2

This Week's Texts

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8


Last Sunday we lit the first candle in our Advent Wreath, the candle of hope. We light it again as we remember that Christ will come again to fulfil all of God's promises to us.

The second candle of Advent is the Candle of Peace. It is sometimes called the Bethlehem Candle to remind us of the place in which preparations were made to receive and cradle the Christ child.

Peace is a gift that we must be prepared for. God gives us the gift of peace when we turn to him in faith.

The prophet Isaiah calls Christ "the Prince of Peace." Through John the Baptist and all the other prophets, God asks us to prepare our hearts so that he may come in.

Our hope is in God, and in his son Jesus Christ. Our peace is found in him. We light this candle today to remind us that he brings peace to all who trust in him.

LET US PRAY - Loving God, thank you for the peace you give us through Jesus. Help us prepare our hearts to receive Him. Bless our worship. Guide us in all that we say and do. We ask it in the name of the one born in Bethlehem. Amen.
© Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1993, 1996, 1999

Preaching Peace Among an Angry People

In the sixth century BC, there occurred a deep and irreversable disruption in the life of ancient Israel. This fissure became decisive for the faith of Israel as it is voiced in the Old Testament. That disruption is indeed a concrete, describable sociopolitical event, and it cannot be understood without attention to the specificities of political history. That event, however, became decisive and definitive for Israel's Faith, not simply because of the its enescapable concreteness but also because Israel found in this event the workings of the inscrutable sovereign God upon whom it had staked its life.

The Rev. Dr. J. Barry Vaughn says: Advent reminds us that we, too, are exiles. The exiles in Babylon looked back to the days when they lived peacefully in their own lands and looked forward to their return. Like the exiles in Babylon, we live between the times, looking back to God’s coming among us in the babe of Bethlehem and to his coming again “in power and great glory”.

Israel's longing for Freedom and Return can be and has been compared with our anticipation of the Advent of God-in-Christ

When God is about to Act in history he sends his messenger. Isaiah writes in chapter 40:

A voice cries out:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
     make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
     and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
     and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
     and all people shall see it together,
     for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

And in today's Gospel passage Mark writes:

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
     who will prepare your way;

(the actual reference for this verse is Malachi 3:1)

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
     'Prepare the way of the Lord,
     make his paths straight,'"

It is this same preparation that we make every year during the season of Advent. Symbolically we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord in our lives. We break down the mountains, the obstacles to faith and hope, and we even out the rough places in our hope, by dispelling our doubts with a dose of faith. And it is then, as with the coming of Cyrus and the coming of Jesus, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed" in us.

In Psalm 137 we read of Israel's despair and their anger:
First hear the despair:

By the rivers of Babylon—
     there we sat down and there we wept
     when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
     we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
     asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
     "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

How could we sing the LORD's song
     in a foreign land?

Then hear how quickly the despair turns to Anger!

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
     let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
     if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
     above my highest joy.

And hear how ruthless their anger is:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
     the day of Jerusalem's fall,
how they said, "Tear it down! Tear it down!
     Down to its foundations!"
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!

And then the revenge:

     Happy shall they be who pay you back
     what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
     and dash them against the rock!

The Message of Peace is an un-popular message. In our own times, there is little talk of peace or forgiveness. There is a lot of talk that is angry talk. A lot of talk about retribution and revenge. The whole campaign and election of 2004 turned on whether one was a Hawk or a Dove. The Hawks put up signs that read simply "REMEMBER." It is an angry, vengeful rememberance born out of deep fear and terror. What they want remembered and not forgotten was the day the United States was attacked in a horrifying and devasting way by an invisible and seemingly untouchable enemy. And the Doves seemed to spout the most angry messages of all. When the election was over the Red side had won the Blue side began to talk of secession or mass exodus to Canada or France. But now, a year later, that talk has changed from exodus to political activism, anger and revenge.

The preaching of Peace is an unpopular message in our land. The cries of restraint and love and forgiveness do not resonate in the ears of the angry or vengeful. A church in California has been under investigation by the IRS and may lose it's tax exempt status because on the eve of the election, a visiting minister preached a message of Peace that was interpreted by the current Administration as a message of political activism. Even within our churches the preaching of Peace is very unpopular. A young minister wrote to me this week, he said, "I don't know about you, but many in my congregation really don't like it when I talk about peace and peacemaking; it rubs against their current politics and flesh."

But the message of Peace is the message of God-in-Christ. Peace, whether it be global, regional or personal, is exactly the message the Church must preach, not only today, but in every day. The message of Peace is the message that Jesus preached during his ministry. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus enters a synagogue in his home town of Nazareth. He stands up to read and is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He turns to Isaiah 61 and reads these words from the great prophet:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
     because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
     to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
     and release to the prisoners;

Is this not a messasge of peace? Did not Jesus abdicate the roll of a Warrior Messiah? Jesus' message was one of peaceful activism against the societal ills of his day and the sins of the world of any day. When he was in the desert and the devil came to him, and Jesus was faced with the possibility of world domination, he shunned that role. When facing his accusers on the morning of Good Friday, he would not defend himself, but accepted the inevitibality of the outcome of the mock trial. When he hung on the Cross, suspended between Heaven and Earth, and his tormentors cried out "Save yourself, 'King of the Jews'," he only prayed to his Father, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The message of Peace as a companion to Hope. Last week, we spoke about Hope. God-in-Christ is the Hope of the World. But that Hope is not in a world dominated by the power of the nation with the largest military arsenal and the greater will to use it on its neighbors. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. And it is the message of Peace on Earth, Good will toward men that we echo in our great Christmas Carols. Our Hope is not built on the spoils of War but on the Prince of Peace.


Blogger Christopher said...

"Peace on earth," timely in our context. McLaren noted what a famous pacifist said, "If you knew what a mean son of a gun I am, you'd realize why I need to be a pacifist." I don't know about you, but many in my congregation really don't like it when I talk about peace and peacemaking; it rubs against their current politics and flesh.

12/01/2005 11:58 AM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

Okay, Tentman, I need an explanation please! What is with the "Year B" that I keep seeing whenever someone is talking about the church year and Advent? If you could give me a brief idea of what that means I'd be so grateful!

12/01/2005 8:36 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

Many churches follow the yearly calendar found in the Revised Common Lectionary. The Lectionary is divided into three sections: Year A, B & C. Each Sunday there is a prescribed set of scriptures, one from the Old Testament, one from the Psalms, one epistle and one Gospel passage. The lectionary observes various seasons, or themes througout the year, e.g. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. For more information see The Text This Week or the blog by Jenee Woodard which is "Textweek" on the RevGalBlogPals list of members.

For those of us who follow the Lectionary, last year was Year A in the cycle and this year is Year B. The cycle, or church year, begins with Advent which is the four Sundays preceding Christmas.

12/03/2005 12:42 AM  

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