img005Welcome to the second Sunday in the season of Advent! Today’s Gospel lesson brings us the story of John the Baptist, baptizing believers as they confessed their sins, shouting accusations at the Pharisees and Sadducees, and prophesying the coming of the Messiah. With whom do you relate most closely this week – John, Jesus, Pharisees and Sadducees, or those confessing their sins? With whom can your people most closely relate? There are so many angles to take when addressing John’s ministry – preparing the way of the Lord, baptism for repentance, accusation of the authorities, prediction of judgment to come. Which perspective will you take this Sunday?

The Revised Common Lectionary also offers Isaiah 11:1-10 – a shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, righteousness will be around his waist, the lion and lamb shall live together and a little child will lead them. Beautiful imagery. How can it be applied to the world today? Perhaps each one of us could take on the role of the shoot from Jesse’s tree, guided by the values of righteousness and equity. Psalm 72 follows the same theme with a king who judges in righteousness.

Romans 15 encourages us to live in harmony with one another, and to welcome one another, including (or especially) the Gentiles. Most of us are preaching to congregations filled with Gentiles. As those who have been warmly welcomed in to our faith tradition by others, what is our obligation to people who are on the margins of society today?

Additional discussion on the RCL readings can be found on this page. You might also check out Karolyn Lewis’ reflection on the place of John’s prophesy on Working Preacher, or the call to prophetic preaching at ON Scripture.

In the Narrative Lectionary, the prophet Joel calls us to return to the Lord, to rend your hearts and not your clothing, so that God’s spirit might be poured out upon all people. Traditionally reserved for Pentecost, this passage can bring new meaning to the season of Advent. How do you interpret Mary’s song, knowing that God’s spirit may be poured out upon her? Does the meaning of the incarnation change if you consider the possibility of God’s presence within all people? Additional NL discussion can be found here.

During Advent, some churches are working on a Christmas program with the Sunday School kids, or following a topical preaching series. Your worship order may have changed to accommodate the lighting of the Advent wreath or a new Communion liturgy. Following an idea that I stole from an online colleague last year, my congregation will be collecting baby items throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, to be blessed on Epiphany and then donated to the local domestic violence shelter. What is important in your community at this time of year?

Wherever you are in your preparation, welcome to the party! Pull up a chair, settle in for some writing, and share the virtual snacks. Blessings in your worship preparations!

canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a certified canoeing instructor, occasional hospital chaplain, aunt to the best kids in the world, and a devout Star Wars fan. Katya is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and blogs periodically at Provocative Proclamation.

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

53 thoughts on “Preacher Party: Wilderness of Judea Edition

  1. Good morning! Up early today to put the finishing touches to sermon. Preaching and celebrating communion with a congregation that’s just become vacant – hoping to preach some hope and vision from Joel. But it seems as though this service is squeezed in among a whole load of other Christmas things – playing in an orchestra Saturday and Sunday nights, so rehearsals and performances in there too. But the rest of Advent is looking quieter. Hoping to find some time for waiting….


    1. Always a struggle to honor the waiting theme of Advent when there is so much to be done! Blessings on your weekend. Sounds like the congregation you’ll be with tomorrow will appreciate the words of hope and vision, and the Advent theme of waiting. Hope it goes well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Turn back to God
    looks like a long morning tomorrow, 2 services, both with communion, then a congregation meeting after the second service. We should be electing a new chairperson, but currently no nominations, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

    there “was” left over rocky road from last night’s edible Christmas story 🙂 but I can offer some gingerbread angels and shortbread stars..

    Time for me to call it a night.


    1. Thanks for sharing your message and your treats! I’ll read later in the day when I have more time, but hopefully it will be helpful to someone else’s prep before then 🙂


  3. This is my first Sunday preaching since the Sunday after the election in the USA when I preached a sermon that had my heart on my sleeve and the words were bleeding out. (To my great surprise, the congregation applauded when I finished, so clearly I hit the right nerve)….I’ve had two Sundays off and want to go back this week with a meditation that picks up where I left off, but not as emotional. I’m thinking about describing what I feel inside, a kind of “thrumming” – like a car engine idling slightly high, not revved, but higher than normal. My interior self is not calm, but neither am I feeling reactive. I am thrumming inside and I don’t want it to stop. I don’t want to become complacent with these times and normalize them, I want to feel the thrumming and know that it means I have to stay alert and stay involved and work for the change I want to see in the world. This thrumming is an Advent time reality, waiting but on high alert. There is no peace. OR rather, the peace I feel is not passive, it is an active peace. Anyway, some sort of sermon out of this energy….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stay awake! For you do not know the day or the hour, or the election cycle…. hoping you find the right words to bring that message to your folks, and praying that they are still in a place to hear it and have it resonate with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning! I am recycling a sermon about the invitation into the wilderness. We have a baptism tomorrow, a young man in our confirmation class. And there is excitement in the air, as the congregation is having a meet ‘n greet with the candidate for pastor after the second worship service. This morning I am off to a discussion with other Lutheran church folks about race and privilege — these have been happening for several months, but today’s is the first one for me.

    I find that I am very tired after my father’s death a few weeks ago. Normal grief reaction, and not remotely like after my son’s death, when I mostly didn’t bother to get out of bed for three months, but still: tired, and sad.


    1. An invitation into the wilderness. That sounds like an appropriate theme for the congregation in the search process, for our society as a whole right now, and for you in particular at this time. Blessings and peace to you. Hoping that the race & privilege discussion is going well this morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sermon has been “sitting” since late Thursday and today will be “tweak” day. The dead non-life giving stump sprouting a new a vulnerable shoot…called peace…became to framework.

    This summer I read “Anatomy of Peace” and their premise is that we cannot attain peace (wherever we are seeking it) until our hearts are hearts of peace instead of hearts of war.

    Today’s task is to include some example where peace has been achieved by two opposite sides coming together. Or stories of an individual becoming at peace in their heart. Any contributions would be great.

    I am trying to remember a story which was shared in our Theology class. It was originally printed in The Sun magazine. A man had been imprisoned for years and I think wrongly…anyway…he was being released and he realized that if he did not change his anger, resentment, etc he would soon be back in trouble. Anyone recognize and/or remember the name of the man. I am thinking his first name was Reuben…

    I found a french bakery yesterday…delightful cinnamon rolls to share.


    1. I don’t have a story to share at the moment, but I’ll mull it over and let you know if I come up with anything. In the meantime, thanks for the cinnamon rolls! Blessings on your writing (or tweaking) 🙂


    2. Elaine,
      I am not sure of the story you are talking about, but is sure is reminiscent of Nelson Mandela’s mindset when he was released from prison in South Africa after 27 years of incarceration.

      Ed Scott


      1. Thanks Ed…the man’s name was Rubin Carter also known as Hurricane Carter, a famous boxer. His words mirror Mandela’s very closely.

        Funny thing about sermon writing…sometimes the best laid plans get changed. I ended up not using the story!


    3. the thing from Anatomy of Peace reminds me of the communion prayer from the iona community that has the line about “the world at war…or if not at war, preparing for it” close on the heels of the confession that our hearts are often “full of wrong things.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have some not-fully formed thoughts. I’ve heard several stories recently (firsthand and on the news) about children parroting the racism of the adults–things like telling classmates “go back to Mexico.” I was struck by the difference between those stories and the image in Isaiah of “a little child shall lead them.”

    I guess I want to say something about how every one of us wants a better, safer world for our children…but in our quest for that, what kind of world is being made by our words/what kind of world are we helping our children to envision? Maybe we are making our children into non-peaceful lions.

    And then something about how no human can make the world resemble the one described in this text–we trust in God for that. But it has to be an active trust where we practice living in the world God describes (haven’t really worked that part out yet).


    1. Sounds like a good direction to focus on the leadership of children. While the discrimination that some parents are passing on to their children is disturbing indeed, I’m sure you could also find stories of children practicing radical hospitality (as Isaiah implies). I hope that your thoughts become more fully formed quickly!


  7. Ugh. that’s my word for the day. I was tossing and turning all night last night trying to figure out what to say at the funeral of a 40 year old mom who died of breast cancer. Her parents lost their only other child, a son, when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq 11 years ago. It has brought back the multiple pregnancy losses/stillbirth I had in the late 1990s and how after a while all the words seem hollow, trite, and just never enough. I have chosen Psalm 69:1-3 as my opening text and will close with Isaiah 43:1-7. In between, I have no idea. Also am preaching tomorrow which I don’t often enough do, and that sermon on Reorientation and John the Baptizer needs work. Right now I am taking leave from our Advent Festival to go watch my daughter dive in a regional meet, then back to somehow put words to paper. There are TONS of treats here at the festival including homemade doughnuts and a cookie walk for missions and homemade soups for sale, so please join me! Prayers for all of you.


    1. Wow, what a difficult funeral. Prayers for you as you care for the family while also processing your own grief. Blessings in your sermon for tomorrow too! Follow the example of your daughter and just dive right in 😉


  8. Slow start this week. I’ve got a blank page. Just busy-ness keeping me from the quiet time for preparation – the ever present Advent struggle. Thinking something about John the Baptist announcing Jesus’ arrival from outside on the margins, forshadowing a ministry that would challenge established ideas about righteousness and push people outward rather than inward. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten – mostly just passing thoughts that refuse to be grabbed up and written on the page. I’m also at our parish’s “HelpPortrait” event where the area photography club is taking portraits for free for community. I have a feeling it’s going to be a late Saturday night sermon writing.


    1. Important news coming from the margins – so many parallels in today’s world. Hoping that the photography event is good percolating time for your ideas. Blessings to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Stayed up till 2, thanks to the coffee I drank at 4, but got the sermon finished. (Knowing it will go through a couple more edits.) I have only a little left on the worship itself. Now I need to go grab a stump out of the woods that my hubby ID’d for me to add to the growing worship center. Plus a fountain, but that’s already in my office. #ourlife right?
    This week I’m combining the Isaiah and Matthew but leaning more toward John the Baptist than Isaiah. Opposite of last week. Someone actually asked why I didn’t mentioned the Mt apocalypse after having it read. I just rolled my eyes, “not this year!” (we have enough of the real thing threatening in the news!)


    1. Congrats on a completed sermon! Hoping that today’s editing and worship prep are coming along well. Indeed – there is only so much apocalypse that a person can take…


  10. I’m a full time chaplain in Hospice. I’m supply preaching at my Reservation church tomorrow. Today there is a recall election for some tribal council members; add in my heart breaking for the water protectors; desire for peace in my own life and work; not to mention my concern for our nation and I’m in a bit of a quandary. Too much to choose from and what and then how to weave together.

    A friend’s pastor is using the hymn below, Wonderful Peace. Wondering if that might be a starting point.

    Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight

    Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;

    In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls

    O’er my soul like an infinite calm.


    Peace, peace, wonderful peace,

    Coming down from the Father above!

    Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray

    In fathomless billows of love!

    What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,

    Buried deep in the heart of my soul,

    So secure that no power can mine it away,

    While the years of eternity roll!


    I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,

    Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;

    For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,

    And His glory is flooding my soul!


    And I think when I rise to that city of peace,

    Where the anchor of peace I shall see,

    That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing

    In that heavenly kingdom will be:


    Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest,

    Marching down the rough pathway of time?

    Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;

    O accept this sweet peace so sublime!



  11. Hello, all. I’ve frittered away the morning working on other ministry tasks, and the sermon still lies ahead of me other than the two hundred words I wrote on Thursday. I have a concept, but I’m a long way from a finished product, and this is the day we are going to get a tree, and there is an Advent dinner at the church I serve starting at 5:30. It’s fairly depressing at church, as we go through the motions and the congregation waits to hear a timeline later in the month from the Consistory about their movement toward closure. My attempt is to make a change of heart as part of turning toward God go along with peace, John the Baptist, and our movement to the Communion table. My idea is that peace of heart and mind is always available to us in God, if we will turn toward it, using some familiar holiday stories as illustrations of the human tendency to be shaped by negative emotions instead of the positive Advent themes we hold out to each other. I’ve got George Bailey, Ebenezer Scrooge, and the Grinch in mind, and they should all be accessible to my middle-to-senior-aged congregation. I just need to write it. …


    1. Any time you can incorporate both Jimmy Stewart and Dr Seuss, you’re doing something right! 🙂 Hoping that your message will meet the congregation’s place of need in this difficult time for them. Blessings to you in your preparations. Oh, and happy tree hunting!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sermon procrastination time: This came to me as I reflect on the differences(?) between locusts and grasshoppers.

    As a child, I attended the wedding of my mother’s cousin in Central Texas. It was a big year for grasshoppers and specimens of the local variety had reached a good 3″ in size. The wedding was followed by a reception in the church fellowship hall and with so many people coming and going the bugs took the opportunity to attend as well. My 10-year-old self thought it hysterical (and a little creepy) that the grasshoppers were constantly jumping under the bride’s dress.

    Several years ago as I visited with the bride’s brother, he described the parting gift he and his brother gave the newly married couple. They had loosed their collection of grasshoppers in the groom’s pickup, the get-away vehicle!

    Now a question, Will that preach do you think?


    1. That story could certainly preach! Though it would depend on what you’re trying to relate it to. To me, the image of grasshoppers “taking the opportunity to attend” the wedding reception is even more interesting than letting grasshoppers loose in the truck… but maybe I’ve just been at too many weddings that seemed to be bug-infested (literally or figuratively), so it resonates 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. 3pm here, and I’m heading out to our annual White Elephant Christmas Party with friends. Last year my husband came home with a Superman sweatshirt, which has since made its way into his regular wardrobe. Hoping this year is equally successful!

    Blessings to all who are writing, reading, reflecting, and working on worship plans. I’ll check back here in a few hours for those later partiers 🙂


      1. I should thank Deb Vaughn for the Augustine quote….:-) At least I think I read it on her FB page…? someone…


  14. I finally gave up trying to salvage any element from a previously written sermon and just started over. Focusing on repentance as turning toward God’s redeeming love (instead of hammering the turning-away-from-sin angle that is all I’ve ever heard about repentance). I keep coming back to verse 8 “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” It suddenly struck me that this can mean living a life that is so rich, full, and compelling, others might see following Jesus as something worth repenting for! Maybe that will preach…
    The cupboard is pretty bare, but I found an unopened package of dark chocolate covered almonds hiding behind the cereal, so please help yourself!


    1. Thanks for the chocolate almonds! Your topic reminds me of my grandmother… when asked why she didn’t wear a cross necklace or other external signs of her deep Christian faith, she said that people should be able to see her faith by the way she lived. If they couldn’t see Jesus in her living, then she had no business wearing Christian symbols. Hoping that your sermon is coming together well.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. OK, I’m back. I used a personal story for the funeral which I almost never do, and I wonder still if it was the right move. But all in all, it went well and I am glad there were so many people there for the parents.
    Pastorsings, I went with repentance not just as turning around (metanoia) but the Hebrew word shub, meaning a complete re-orientation. That one verse about bearing fruit was really confusing to me, and I like your take on it! My UU friend in our Bible study this week put it this way “Do your gardening in such a way as to promote a bountiful crop in partnership with God” I am talking about how we all need re-orienting after a very difficult fall, and John is offering us that, to throw away the chaff in our lives and focus on the wheat.
    So off I go to finish. I brought home some cookies from the Advent Festival to share. I am looking forward to this weekend being DONE tomorrow at 1:30 pm
    Blessings to all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad that the funeral went smoothly. Repentance as re-orientation – excellent. Hoping that you’re able to finish up quickly! Counting down the hours until “done” time….


  16. This weekend included two funerals (one yesterday afternoon and one today) and a quick trip downtown for a concert last night. I managed to get in my rehab run in spite of extreme yawning (and that was after a late afternoon post-funeral starbucks run that I’ll probably pay for later), and now I have eaten dinner and am staring at my blank screen about Joel. I have this vague sense about the connection between “rend your hearts” and “I will pour out my spirit” and am thinking about “that’s how the light gets in” (except I need to not use the Cohen poem because I have gotten so many blank looks every time I’ve said it in the past several weeks)…
    I have this Parker Palmer quote about heart being the “core of the self, that center place where all of our ways of knowing converge — intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others.” I’m pondering whether we find it easier to tear our clothes than our hearts because breaking open all those other things is terrifying…and yet women and slaves receive the spirit and prophesy, which is also terrifying and breaks things open…

    I clearly have a lot of work to do, because I don’t even make sense to myself.

    I have peppermint candy ice cream! And I’m even willing to share it. 😉


    1. There’s definitely something preachable about the Spirit breaking us open – hoping that you find a way to put all the sermon pieces together! Blessings in your late-night writing.


  17. Late to the party, and way to late to be working on a sermon!

    I’m struggling with this one. We just switched back to the RCL from the NL and I’m remembering all the reasons I like the NL better – 2 weeks of John the Baptist in Advent being one of them!

    I spent the last 2 days on the road listening to Christmas carols and thinking about Isaiah and John the Baptism and the hope of a righteous king in Psalm 72. And i started to notice how much longing is in Christmas music – longing for material things, longing for relationship/love/family, longing for a better world.

    So I’m playing with carols as my sermon – titles and snippets demonstrating the longings and then how those longing are met with hope in Christ. And weaving in the readings.

    I’m most definitely using Snoopy’s Christmas by the Royal Guardians, where the Red Baron hears the Christmas bells and instead of shooting Snoopy down, makes him land and shares a Christmas toats with him. How’s that for the kind of reversal Isaiah is talking about?

    It’s still rough, but I think it will work. I just wish I could remember the Christmas song that talks about how we’re a little kinder, etc and how it should last all year.


    1. I’m dreaming of… a baptism with fire? All I want for Christmas is… a brood of vipers? 🙂 Sounds like you’ve got a good theme, hoping it comes together for you quickly!


  18. Well, tonight’s 11:30pm finish is better than last week’s 2:30am finish! Just my 10th Sunday in my first call (interim pastor) and I haven’t gotten into a good weekly routine yet. I hope late Saturday night doesn’t stay part of my regular workweek, but it has been pretty regularly these first months. I’m not getting any first-hand feedback – just second- and third-hand chatter that people are generally happy. Pretty much preaching sermons that I need to hear, so maybe others can get something from them too. Still working on getting a website up and running so cutting and pasting here – (constructive) feedback welcomed!

    A Time to Repent – a sermon on Matthew 3:1-12

    Wow, can you believe it’s December already? There are some months I feel that sense of surprise more than others. And this year November going into December is definitely one of those months.

    Actually, I wonder if November is always one of those months? Am I ever ready for it to be December? Today is December 4th and it is Steve’s parents’ anniversary – they’ve been married 62 years today – and when their anniversary comes in these first couple of days of December, I know that exactly 3 weeks from today is Christmas. And I panic. When our children were small, I panicked about the shopping and the wrapping, the Christmas picture and letter; and the cleaning, the decorating, and the baking – Oh, my.

    Over the years, especially after one particular year when I got really, really sick right after Christmas, I’ve pared down what I do in preparation for Christmas. I haven’t sent Christmas cards in years. I do almost no baking. Thank God for – I don’t think I’ll have to brave the wilderness of Crossgates Mall even once this month. Steve does most of the decorating and pretty much all of the wrapping and makes the Chex Mix. I’ll cook Christmas dinner but we don’t have company anymore; it will be just the 5 of us and my boys won’t notice if the house is dirty…

    Part of the reason I’ve pared down so much of what I used to think I had to do for Christmas is because I’ve come to fall in love with the spiritual discipline of Advent and I had to make space for it. Last week, we talked about these weeks as a season of preparation, a time for watching and waiting for the Advent, the coming, of our Lord Jesus Christ to Earth as a babe in a manger, waiting for God’s incarnation in human form, for Emmanuel, God with us. Sometimes we say that we need to prepare our hearts so that God can come in, can come into our hearts and make his home there. In order to do that, we don’t need to shop or wrap or put a tree inside our house and hang lights from it – which is a really strange thing to do when you stop to think about it – but there is some overlap. Although my boys might not care if the house is clean, God might care if my heart isn’t.

    Which brings us to our scripture for today and John the Baptist appearing in the wilderness, blowing on his shofar and proclaiming, Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near! Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Clear the way, make his paths straight!

    Repent! says John the Baptist. Get ready! Get straightened out. Look at your life, see where you are falling short. Because the kingdom is coming! The king is coming and we need to be ready! Repent!

    But, often, when we hear the word repent, we cringe. Repent? I’d rather put on some Christmas carols, pour some eggnog, and decorate my tree, thank you very much. I don’t want to “repent,” If you ask me, that’s not very Christmas-y at all!
    Or is it? What are the first words you think of when you hear the word repent? How does it make you feel? Bad? Guilty? Sinful? Sad, sorrowful, contrite? Rueful, regretful, remorseful? Ashamed? Unloveable? Any I’ve missed?

    But there is a dimension of meaning to the word repentance that we miss if our focus stays on how we feel bad – or how bad we feel. The biblical meaning of repentance is not simply about feeling bad. In fact, it is not really about feeling at all. It is much more about doing something. The word that is translated as “repent” simply means to turn around, turn back, to change direction. John the Baptist is standing in a long line of biblical prophets here in calling for people to turn away from their bad behavior, to turn around and reorient themselves in the right direction.

    Remember, too, that when we turn away from something we are at the same time turning to something else. We turn away from sinning toward God. We turn away from destructive things in our lives toward health and wholeness. We turn around and stop heading in what we know is the wrong direction and we turn toward the path God points out to us. We turn around and walk away from people and things that harm us and instead walk towards people and things that build us up. We turn away from the dark and turn toward the light.

    As good Reformed Protestant Christians, sometimes we might wonder if all of this sackcloth and ashes repentance stuff is necessary. We are “saved by grace through faith,” right? God forgives us our sins and Jesus already did everything necessary to wipe them away. So, I’m good, right? Actually, Paul addressed this very question in his letter to the Romans. He says that we have been put right with God because Christ acted on our behalf and was obedient when we weren’t or couldn’t be and that even as sin increased, grace increased even more, and all of this leads us to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    And then Paul asks the question, “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
    How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

    We know sin. We experience sin. We know how it feels. We know the feelings of shame and unworthiness. We know the horror of resolving to change and yet doing the same thing again and again and again. We know we can’t do it by ourselves and we can’t do it for ourselves. And we know the deep, deep longing to be freed from sin, the desire to be rid of it.
    Friends, John the Baptist strides into this pit of hopelessness, the depths of our despair and he says, Turn around. Turn toward the light. Turn toward God. Repent.

    And, in response, the people came. They came out of the city and went to John in the wilderness, they came to him where he was by the Jordan river. And it does feel like a wilderness, doesn’t it? When we turn from the familiarity of our favorite sin, not knowing what lies ahead. Our eyes are shadowed, our outlook is bleak. We get so entangled in our own wilderness. But we won’t be able to turn around, change, repent, if we stay where the bright city lights shine all the shadows away. We have be willing to go into the wilderness, trusting we will be met there, that we will find hope there.
    And when they turned and went to John in the wilderness, they confessed their sins and they were baptized by him. They were washed clean in the waters of the Jordan. In baptism, God acts to fully claim us for new life in Christ. In the waters of baptism, we are washed and made new, dying to sin and rising with Christ. Yes, we are only baptized once. Yes, on the cross Christ did it once for all. And yet, and yet, we know the persistence of sin, the stench of it. And so, again and again, we hear John’s call, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! Prepare! This is the siren song, the call, of Advent.

    Our God is an awesome God. God never stops reaching out to us, calling us back, offering forgiveness and grace. God meets us where we are but refuses to let us stay as we were. God is love and love wants the best for us. Isn’t that the whole point that the New Testament makes? Isn’t that the message Jesus came to give? God loves us all, even all of us sinners, but God also wants us to change. God hates sin and the effect sin has on everything around it – not to mention what it does to us, the effect it has on us ourselves – when we remain in it. God meets us in the waters of baptism and here, at this table, and he offers us himself and he offers us eternal life.

    That’s the offer: new life, eternal life, free from sin. It’s there for the taking. So, prepare. Repent. Spend some time this Advent seeing where in your life you need to turn around or change direction, where in your life there are roads that need to be straightened or trees that need pruning or even chopping down. Indeed, there is cleaning to be done in Advent. For John baptized with water but when the one more powerful comes, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The good wheat will be gathered in and the chaff burned up in flames. Are you ready?

    In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

    Rev. Lynn Kostecki Brown
    December 4, 2016


    1. Looks great to me after a quick read-through! Relatable, smooth transitions, seasonally appropriate and all the good things 🙂 Hopefully you can find a writing routine that works for you soon. Blessings in leading worship tomorrow!


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