As we prepare for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
As we prepare for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

What do you need when the world makes no sense?  What do you need when your world has been destroyed?
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. ”
That seems like a good start.

Our passage this week comes from Isaiah of the Exile, 2nd Isaiah, the first 11 verses of chapter 40.  You can read the passage here.

You can find resources at the Text This Week site or the Working Preacher Commentary or the Working Preacher Podcast.

 

To a people in exile YHWH sends a word of comfort and hope and promise.  Your time of trouble (and punishment) is coming to an end.  I actually preached this passage on Advent 1 this year.  I began the sermon by asking folks to list the things in the world that lead to despair.  It wasn’t a hard question for them to answer.  There are ALWAYS reasons to despair.  But that is the world into which the Christ Child is born. In a world of despair, in a world which all to often makes no sense, in a world of pain we receive the Word of peace and hope and comfort.

Which really means that the work is just getting started.

In the rest of the passage we are told to do two things.  Build a highway and proclaim the good news.  A coin toss (or your personal preference) may be needed to determine which one of these is the easier task.

 

Highway building is hard work.  There are tons of earth to be moved around, swamps to be filled in or bridged, obstacles to be blown up or gone around.  It isn’t as simple as drawing a trail in the dirt. What is the route of the highway we need to help build this Advent?  What is the path that will lead us to the manger where the glory of the Lord will be revealed? Call in the bulldozers and excavators!

 

As for the second task. (Does that mean we do it after the highway is built or can we start sooner than that?) What Good News do we proclaim into this broken, aching, weeping world in Advent of 2015? We tell them that God is here, we tell them that God will feed the flock like a shepherd, we tell them that God is in charge (despite all the evidence to the contrary).  As people who expect the birth of the Prince of Peace, can we do any other?

 

Proclaiming the Good News and building a highway await.  Let the work begin (continue?)

 

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12 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary Leanings — Road Construction Edition (Isaiah 40:1-11)

    1. Interesting thought…can you say more?
      I have asked more than one congregation “if you disappeared tomorrow what would the community notice?” as a way of challenging their vision/mission. IT was a helpful discussion (not that it necessarily led to actual changes in how they were the church but a good discussion). Is that yor direction? OR something different?

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      1. The answer to that question would be pretty depressing in this case. I’m thinking more along the lines of “We hear this particular prophecy with regularity in Advent, and we attach it to some vague image of God making the world right, but what if we liked the views from that mountain? What if we don’t want that valley filled in? What if our church were not next to the highway but bulldozed to make way for it?” This church is in a valley surrounded by a ring of mount-lets, and was literally built next to a highway, in a neighborhood built purposefully next to the planned highway. If this valley were exalted, if these mount-lets were laid low, if God’s new highway took a different route than the urban planners chose, where would we be? Would we as individuals still make worship a priority? Would we as a church re-form elsewhere? Would our admittedly small contributions to God’s work in the community be continued by individuals? Something like that. I am locked into a title, darn it, because I got fancy with my Advent planning, so that’s bugging me this morning.

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    2. Are you thinking something along the lines of “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Intriguing. And dangerous. What would it say to a congregations if they could not think of how the world would be different if they weren’t in it? And as I type this, thinking of my congregation, perhaps it’s a much needed look. We don’t move mountians in our little corner of the world, but there are myriad of tiny, unnoticed ways we touch our community and the world.

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  1. Gord – great intro! I may borrow your questions as the outline for my sermon. We’re pretty worried in our 99% white rural community about all the violence and terror (read: perceived at the hands of non-whites) and that it might come to us. I might be able to use your questions to not only allow those fears to be spoken, but to springboard to looking at others for whom this destruction is actually happening and what might be a godly way of highway building and proclaiming the good news.

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    1. I have learned that the church is great on talking about building the Kingdom, but not so great on accepting that something we love might have to be destroyed, or at least changed for that building to happen. I often wonder if that is part of the fear we read in the stories of the dangerous (POC, refugees, “illegal” immigrants, Muslims, socialists…). TO embrace who they are might change us. And of course this is not a new thing.

      If I were preaching that direction this week I might find myself veering into the idea of Eminent Domain/expropriation (which is often a part of highway building).

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  2. I’m pretty much rebooting my thinking process this morning. I’m still locked into a title, “The Promise of Peace.” The promise of peace is that the things we can see will be changed; it’s a radical vision, not a Kum-ba-yah dreamscape.
    Yesterday I told kathrynzj it seems like our choices in the US are to be armed ourselves or to be prepared to die, because no one in authority is going to fix it for us. But maybe the other option is to care enough about something to organize ourselves. One of the problems for liberal/progressive Christians is we don’t have a financial stake in the guns. What will it take to make us band together again gun violence? Can we band together with other progressives who are not religious? Vague, rambling. I’m not there.

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  3. I have a starting point, I think.

    Our Advent theme this week is “The road *back* to Bethlehem.” Last week’s Advent candle vignette was from the point of view of a resident of Bethlehem living in exile in Babylon. This week we’ll hear from her grandchild, thinking about the news they’ll soon be allowed to return home–but it’s a home they have never known, except from Grandma’s reminiscences.

    I’ve been reading this week about the Lachish letters–correspondence found in the excavation of that city, between a military official in a neighboring city and his commanding officer in Lachish, during the last year or two before the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. I’m especially haunted by a statement at the end of one of those letters: “…we are watching for the fire-signals of Lachish…because we cannot see Azeqah.” Presumably they cannot see Azeqah’s signal fires because Azeqah has been destroyed. Darkness is gathering, and falls completely as the last (puppet) king of Judah is taken from his throne, forced to watch as his sons are slaughtered, then blinded and carried into exile. Then there is a long, twilight struggle to exist in exile; and then the words of a new prophet shine a light into that darkness.

    The question I put to myself in my sermon planning was, “Where is home, and how do we get there?” I might connect it to what Jesus says in the Farewell Discourse about he and the Father making their home with those who love him and keep his commandments. My understanding of what happened in that time of exile was that the people began to derive their identity from their relationship with God and from the Book that began to be put together there, rather than from a nationality. That meant that wherever they were, they could be home, because God was with them…and not all the exiles returned to Judah.

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