Sermon notes for Sunday, December 10, 2017 on the 2nd Sunday of Advent – Prepare the Way of the Lord.
(more will be said, but this is what is in the bulletin)
What would it take for you to be ready?
Inspired by Becky Dvorak, author of Dare to Believe
Advent is about preparing ourselves for the return of Jesus Christ, not just at the end of time, but even now, to be born in our hearts and into our world once again. How our world NEEDS the presence of the Prince of Peace, who challenges us to live differently, expect new things to happen, and bring about justice for all.
What specific things can we do to prepare the way?
1. Open our hearts up to the Spirit of the Living God, the One who spoke through the prophets. We profess each week in Advent (in the words of the Nicene Creed) that God spoke for centuries through the prophets to goad God’s people into being faithful to God – especially by the way they treated those who were powerless, voiceless, strangers in the land.
How is God calling us through God’s Spirit today to advocate for these persons in our midst?
2. Forgiven by God, we are called to be those who forgive. This is the heart of the Christian message for us, that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, forgiveness is ours! Each week, in fact EVERY TIME we pray the very prayer the Jesus taught us to pray we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Do we believe this? Do we act in this way? Certainly forgiveness is not always easy and it takes time. But remember, when we are unable to forgive, even if the person has not asked to be forgiven, we continue to allow the person who wronged us to have power over us. (In our present and immediate culture where women – and men – are being empowered to speak up where they have been harassed or abused, advocating for forgiveness does not mean excusing the inappropriate behavior.)
In a world that is so fractured politically, if we each practiced a bit of forgiveness, we might find ourselves in a better place. How do each of us practice forgiveness in our lives?
3. Be about the work of God, of Jesus. The tag line for our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is: God’s Work. Our Hands. Trinity leader, Steven Baker, in advocating that we need to DO SOMETHING (as Pastor Paul says, “Get our hands dirty.”) spoke to Pastor Paul this week that we at Trinity are good about giving money and praying for various causes here in NYC and around the world. We miss out on the “our hands” part of this.
What is God calling us, in this day and time, to DO in our personal lives and as the Trinity Family together?
4. The Holy Spirit empowers us for our work. The challenge can seem daunting, even overwhelming. What can I do? I’m only one person. Remember, when we talk about God, we are talking about the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Luther’s sacristy prayer, speaking of the work of the pastor, states:
Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon Your Word. Use me as Your instrument — but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.
We aren’t in this work alone. God has given his Spirit to EACH of us for the tasks that God calls us to do.
5. Be in the Word! Pastor Paul’s friend, Pastor Mack Smith, who refers to himself as a “Luthercostal” – theologically Lutheran but Pentecostal in style – always encouraged those who were near him to be wrapped up in God’s Word. One of Pastor Mack’s favorite songs proclaims: “I woke up this morning with my mind STAYED ON JESUS!” When we are centered in God’s Word, Old and New Testament, we Lutheran Christians believe we are in the presence of the Living God. As Luther said, “the bible is the manger and swaddling clothes that contain the Infant Jesus.” Bible study, personal reading of the bible, devotional reading, and yes, regular worship attendance to hear God’s Word and the sermons, hymns, anthems, and prayers will keep us connected to Jesus. As Pastor Mack’s song states: “the devil can’t catch you if your mind is STAYED ON JESUS!”
How can you be more intentional to Be in the Word in your own life?
6. Live like you believe! Believing is trusting that God is true to God’s Word. Hear the word of God from the prophet Isaiah in our Old Testament lesson today:
6A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
9Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10See, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
The Word of God says to us, that no matter what is going on in our personal lives, God’s Word will stand forever. Trusting, betting your life on it, living as one who is loved completely by the One who created you can bring peace in your heart, when you find no peace from any other source.
What would it look like to trust in God’s promises to you, today, right now?