Date: 26 Nov 2002
Time: 19:19:46

Comment

I will be preaching, then receiving a young adult for baptism, then marrying his mother to her new husband -- all in the course of an hour-long worship service.

Do you good preachers see any connections I might make to the wedding? I can certainly deal with the call to repentence for the baptism, but how to make it say "Christian marriage" and "Advent" as well.... I'm not yet sure. Any ideas appreciated.

Peace. Laurie <><


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 06:26:52

Comment

Laurie,

You are very brave, I would not have celebrated all the sacraments on the Lord's Day ... you have a lot to put on your plate.

As Advent is the beginning of the Church Year, so is their wedding day the beginning of a life long marriage. As Advent prepares us for the birth of the Christ-Child in our lives, so marriage prepares us for growth and love.

Just a few thoughts. Good luck on Sunday,

tom in ga


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 06:33:02

Comment

Just a few questions:

What is my wilderness? How would we define the wilderness in our world today?

How am I to prepare my way? What needs to change in our world to welcome the new born Savior?

Where do I begin? Do I simply listen to John the Forerunner, or do I follow his example. It seems to me that in his very being is the way I prepare -- through humility, letting go of my ego, surrendering the one who is to come.

What is this purification rite that John calls the Israelites to?

What is this baptism that one who is to come will bring with him (I prefer or perhaps interpret Mark to say instead of "Holy Spirit", "fire" ? Fire catches up the meaning that was in the Isaiah reading on Advent Sunday.

tom in ga


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 12:32:30

Comment

Well... you can't get much more timely can you? Facing an unknown future, nothing out there that I know of, is a lot like facing the wilderness.

Interesting, isn't it, how Mark changes Isaiah? Isaiah says, "A voice cries out, 'In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.'" But Mark changes the punctuation and we have here, "A voice cries out in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'" Why do you suppose that is? And is there a difference?

Where is this wilderness? In our hearts, our futures? Isaiah says, "The people is grass," and that they have the constancy of the flowers. As I look forward to losing my pastorate because of the fiancial/economic inconstancy of the people, I can fully appreciate that. How to communicate this to the people without insulting them? Isaiah didn't have that to worry about ... and perhaps I don't have it to worry about either, but I do worry about it.

The Psalmist says, "The Lord will indeed grant prosperity...." But we are all standing around wondering why that prosperity hasn't been granted now -- why are we in this wilderness of faded grass where the church can't afford to pay its clergy?

I never really did preach the sermon that ought to have been preached (on Christ the King)... maybe I should have. I have no idea what to preach now!

Blessings, Eric in KS


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 14:35:33

Comment

Laurie,

I affirm Tom's idea of comparing beginnings, however, I would not try to turn the service into a service dedicated to the marriage, as we do when the marriage is on a day or during a time other than the regular morning worship.

I believe that historically, weddings were often celebrated during the regular morning worship. I don't believe the rest of the worship service was adjusted much, but that the marriage was incidental to the gathering of the congregation.

I once had the opportunity to recognize the fiftieth wedding anniversary of a couple during the Sunday morning worship service. Just after the confession of the Apostles' Creed (which follows the hymn after the message) I invited them forward and we reviewed the vows from the hymnal in use at the time when they were married. Maybe the marriage could be similar. If the couple wanted a service centered around the marriage rather than the 2nd Sunday of Advent, they could have chosen another time.

I'm sure you have explored with them their reasons for chosing the Sunday morning worship time for the time of their marriage. (Actually, one fewer messages to write on the part of the preacher! I could go for that!)

Michelle


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 14:54:43

Comment

Eric,

I see your dilemma.

Maybe it would help to put yourself in the place of the people of the congregation, to identify with them. Rather than accusing them of being grass, unwilling to part with their hard-earned money to support their priest adequately (which is tempting, but probably would not help them to grow), maybe you could confess that you feel like grass, flourishing for a while, then blown away (or carried away) on the wind, even though there is still so much to do.

But God will not fade away, God's word will remain for these people in some way, and God's word will continue to fire your calling, though it will carry you elsewhere.

This line would need more development, but it is the thought that came to me when I first read your posting.

I, too, have mused on the change in punctuation, maybe the Markan audience could not have identified with a way prepared in the wilderness, John, however, did come from the wilderness, so the change in punctuation would have made the passage make sense for them. On the other hand, the Hebrew scriptures were not initially punctuated, so maybe Mark was quoting the minority opinion!

Michelle


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 15:04:52

Comment

Laurie, I like Tom's connections. One I also make is that the Holy Spirit is also a part of their covanant. Nancy-Wi.


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 15:54:21

Comment

Dear DPS Friends...

This John the Baptist fellow was really something... wasn't he. He wasn't what I would call a friendly- seeker preacher. From what little I know of John the Baptist...he could really get under your skin.

Yet...John the Baptist was one of the preparers of the Way for Jesus. He had great humility....he certainly wasn't "full of himself"...only full of God.

Just trying to imagine how he would fit into most churches in today's world. I don't think he would last long in any of them..He didn't have to be "politically correct"...of course...it cost him his head. Just some thougths Circut Rider Jim in Ks.


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 15:59:34

Comment

Michelle... As to the punctuation, neither was Greek. So how is it that these two passages ended up punctuated differently in our translations? Jerome and the Vulgate? I don't know. Does anyone?

Good thoughts on grass, by the way. Thanks.

Blessings, Eric in KS


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 18:24:35

Comment

I am a pastor and I consider myself compassionate, but I am also coming here for insight into the biblical text. As a Bible student and a compassionate Christian I feel it is my duty to please ask that this week we stop trying to help Eric and focus on the text. We all love the man, but lets not get into it this week. There are plenty of chat rooms for that kind of stuff. Please respect the rest of us.

Bob in Fartsworth


Date: 01 Dec 2002
Time: 19:21:48

Comment

Bob in Farstworth (Really?) said, "I feel it is my duty to please ask that this week we stop trying to help Eric and focus on the text."

I agree. Except insofar as helping Eric addresses the text.

Blessings, Eric in KS


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 04:39:38

Comment

A few years ago, I was tied up in a gridlock in Orlando, Florida. It was a Saturday in December and I was trying to get across one of the busiest intersections near, at that time, the largest Mall in the area. I was listening to a tape of Christmas hymns, trying to remember why I had decided to drive out in the first place. It was a mess. In the middle of this mad house, some guy with long, wind-blown hair, a bull-horn and a cross, walked onto an island in the intersection and began shouting about repentance and calling all the people whore-mongers and vipers. Everyone did their best to ignore this nut. I was thinking, "That is all the church needs. One more fanatic to make us all look like a bunch of crazies." As the Christmas hymn played in the background, I looked around. There were a few heads stealing looks at the man with the bull horn. There were a few heads that were nodding. Like a flash, my thoughts turned toward John the Baptizer. Some people heard his message and were baptized. I am sure many more thought he was just some religious fanatic who didn't have a clue to what was going on. Do any of us really have a clue? Jerry in Jacksonville, Florida.


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 06:56:59

Comment

I just have to post to this as John the Baptizer was one gutsy dude. I always seem to want to be like him and say what is really in the scripture no sugar added but then who would listen. It comes just like not associating with others who are not believers, how would we ever share the news with them. My question is how honest are we when considering our jobs and the way people will look at us, (as lunatics, fanatics, etc.) For Eric, I really enjoy your postings and think that this is the week for honesty. I serve 3 churches and one is closing in January,(withered grass). Just think of the possibilities to share some meaning of the Spirit with eveyone. thanks again WaynO


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 13:09:34

Comment

In the parish I serve, we use the Advent wreath, so this week's candle is the candle of peace. It is an excellent theme, which I can recommend to Eric and others in parishes struggling financially. This secular world of ours has convinced most people that happiness is measured in terms of 'stuff.' Money has become a new god for too many people.

I love Advent as it can be a call to return to our roots. We are awaiting the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, but reminded in many practical ways that we are mired in the harsh realities of this world. It would be easy to come into our churches each Sunday and shut out the world, by focussing on the theological calendar of events. Without bringing the world inside with us, we are disconnecting ourselves from that world and doing ourselves a great disservice.

John the Baptist served in a harsh world--a world of economic, military, and political oppression. Did he seem concerned with the economy? with the military occupation? with politics? It doesn't appear so. He was concerned with people's individual relationship with God. He called them to repentance -- to turn back to God. Perhaps we can take our cue from that lesson.

By honest self-examination (in so many areas), we can decide just how 'right' our relationship is with God, and with each other. The key, however, is to be honest. There is always a danger of finger-pointing, and whenever I'm tempted to do some in a sermon, I remind myself that when I point that finger, there are three others pointing back at me!

The wilderness for me is when I'm not properly connected with our Lord. I will wander rather aimlessly, not accomplish anything, and feel out of sync. I have no hope and I have no peace. When I return to the Lord, however, my direction returns as well; I am renewed with the excitement for the future, and I'm once again at peace. Sometimes I end up in the wilderness without recognizing it as such and need a wake up call.

Just some early week rambling thoughts.

Blessings, Don in Ontario,Canada


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 13:09:41

Comment

I can't help but hear an announcer's voice with the Ginsu knife or bamboo steamer ... "But Wait, There's More"

Sally in GA


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 13:15:50

Comment

Tom asked how we define wilderness today. In the Southeast, "wilderness" means a broadleaf forest, making it easy for Eric Rudolph to hide from the law.

John's mission was to facilitate in bringing the Law to people - a charismatic preacher who preached repentance to both Jew and Greek. Too far a stretch?

Sally


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 13:27:03

Comment

Repentance is about which way we are traveling through our faith life. In sin we are moving away from God; when we repent, we turn around in order to be able to move towards God. It is then that we can see how God is coming to us, and what obstacles there may be that keep the path from being straight into our hearts. What are the roadblocks, false turns, ditches, speed bumps, and detours that we put in the way of the Lord?

Humility seems to be John's answer on how the way gets made straight (humble clothes, humble food, I am not worthy).

OLAS


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 15:15:50

Comment

John's ministry was one of preparation. We see that the preparation begins way before John (with Micah and Isaiah, who looked back to Moses, who looked back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, etc.). John came at a time of expectation, which is why everyone went out to be baptized. Making straight the paths was calling the people who had strayed from God to repentance, as all the other Old Testament prophets did. The whole Old Testament is preparation for the coming of the one who would fulfill what was written in the law, psalms and prophets - Jesus Christ, who came to baptize with the Holy Spirit. The fact is actually that Jesus prepares the way for us - he has gone before us, and now his Spirit leads us on the paths of righteousness. What do we preach? Preparation - but we stand in a different point in history, where we can see that God has made straight the paths. Now our preparation is to walk in the Spirit so that when he returns he might find us ready. S. in CA


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 17:47:15

Comment

There is a trailer on TV that tells us, "Forgiveness is not something you ask for, it's something you earn." Yikes! That may be true in some ways on earth, but then it is not forgiveness, it's payback.

However, the repentance John proclaims IS for the forgiveness of sins, at least that's the way it reads. What do we do with this?

Michelle


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 20:05:05

Comment

Advent is coming , right. 1st coming and knowing coming will happen. something new coming , advent and wedding does tie in well. Take a leeson from the advent candles and wreath maybe set one up in your church if you dont have one. the candles of Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love...and the Christ Candle in the middle... Marriage can have Joy, Hope, peace, love...but center of marriage, if they want a Chrsitian marriage should be Christ- Christ Candle thus...Hope that Helps Pastor mary in OHIO


Date: 02 Dec 2002
Time: 22:20:10

Comment

With all the powers of that day, all the influences upon their lives the people were looking for something new. They were looking for something that would guide them in a new direction and as I see it, that direction was to follow what their heart was telling them all along "to get right with God."

I find it intresting that the people went out to John in the wilderness and not vice versa. I think the reason they went to him was because they heard truth in his words. John's baptism made them feel clean on the outside. A Holy Spirit baptism would soon cleanse their hearts.

I see John as a story teller. His rough appearance was a story in it's self. For us to have such detail of his dress and eating habits tells me that someone was examining John's way of life.

John was what they were expecting in a prophet. Someone who had spent years in the desert (desert father) in communion with God. John in my eyes was down to earth a common sense sort of guy. He would explain repentance by telling you a simple story anyone could see was to the point and favored the right way to live.

There are times I preach and try to soften the blow for the congregation. But the times when I just hold to the truth and let the chips fall where they may I get a rush of Spirit power within me. Generally those sermons have the greatest impact and the people appreciate what they have heard. (not all but most)

I think I'll wrap my message around "the Johns" we have heard in our life. Have we listened? Why did we turn away? Do we rationalize or seek truth and act on it? Maybe we all need to go out in the wilderness, on a quest so to speak, and filter the beliefs we have through a strainer (hmm intresting word) to get to the truth. KB in ks.


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 06:46:28

Comment

Laurie, I really like what you are trying to do. Some of the comments were on new beginnings. I believe the Gospel indicates a new gospel or good news that was announced the people. It seems to me that you have an opportunity to preach a New Beginnings sermon. I also have a Baptism this Sunday. It will be my Grandson. And, I certainly desire to use the theme of New Beginnings. I also liked a few of the comments on wilderness. I'm wondering if it's best to define wilderness for people and tell them what I deem as wilderness, or is it better for them to search inwardly and find their wilderness. I'll probably do that by story either personal or someone else, and let the connections begin. The good news, of course, is that in Advent, Jesus is coming and our proclamation is to people who wander in wilderness. Blessings on your work. Lynn in Omaha


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 09:04:07

Comment

I think S. in CA has a good applicable point. Are we not, as Christians, called to be a bit like John the Baptist, calling others to repent & prepare their hearts. John prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus prepared the way for us, we prepare the way for him again for his 2nd advent... I'm thinking in terms of how Isa 40 & the 1 Peter text for this week reflect on that. Rabbi in IL


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 09:16:43

Comment

BOB, You are a pastor and try to be compassionate. You might think you are, but I am unhappy that you would tell people what to do and what not to do. I believe people have a right to share what they want to on this site, if you don't agree with that, please keep your opinion to yourself. If people ask for a prayer or share a personal situation, I can act like a pastor and reach out to them. Can't I? Or is the freedom to pastor limited to only our congregation and not to one another? Who needs the good news more..... who needs the hope of Advent the most in our lives? Peace, upset pastor in Iowa


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 09:44:56

Comment

This site is like a support group for me. I really enjoy hearing the warm, honest sharing that goes on in DPS -- an never feel that it is overdone. Whenever I use one of the ideas gleaned here in a Sunday sermon, I always give credit to my "cyber-friends," -- for I feel you are that -- friends. Please keep sharing concerns or joys alongside the exegetical material -- it makes for a balanced pastoral site. Eric in KS keeps me digging into my seminary Greek, and I really do appreciate him, and all the other fine contributors who challenge my thinking. Revmar in KS


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 10:11:46

Comment

KB in ks makes a good point: I'm certain there have been prophets who've preached to me that I've either dismissed as crackpots or not noticed at all. I wonder how we tell the difference?

That is, how do we discern the crackpots from the true prohets? Real life experience: I was asked to do a community Bible study, and I accepted the invitation enthusiastically. Once I started to scratch the surface and got in contact with a woman who was to be instrumental in this, I decided not to lead the Bible study. While we were talking on the phone, she said that God told her to tell me to base the Bible study on getting saved because people who attend the study might think they're saved but aren't. She told me she commits to memory (a famous preacher on the radio). Having listened to him, I have heard some genuinely good stuff, but I disagree with him on the salvation/baptism issue. My point is, I disagree with what the woman was trying to do - manipulative pastoral care, and soteriological differences. However, how do I really know she wasn't John? The waters (nice metaphor, huh?) are muddier than we think - except for the conviction of my own heart, I don't know that God DIDN'T tell her to tell me to make sure everyone was saved "correctly." (must do the 4 steps, make verbal confession, must be baptized by immersion). After all, I'm as confidently in disagreement with her stance as she is with her stance. (the fact that she's the one with the idea and is telling me to execute it is the first red flag)

Another real life example: Several years back, in the mid-80's, a woman in my Sunday school class got laughed at (and I was one of the laughers) for saying, "How do we know that God DIDn't tell Oral Roberts he'd call him home if he raised this money?" Now I'm thinking, she's right - I don't believe God said that to Roberts, but I can't prove or even know beyond the shadow of a doubt.

I like KB's idea of the message centering on listening to the "Johns" in our life - and how we discern truth from someone else's agenda.

Sally in GA (sorry for the long post - I love "muddy waters" conundrums)


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 10:18:05

Comment

Oh, BTW:

Sharing personal stuff is fine by me. I pray for the person whenever I read a burden. I do, however, think we rush to help folks in ways in which they aren't asking for help. We can bear each others' burdens (heaven knows, I've unburdened here, myself) without solving their problems for them.

That said, I'm going to ask for prayer for my friend who has 4 brain tumors. Just prayer, no medical advice. :o)

God bless you all!

Sally


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 13:57:36

Comment

Michelle, Eric, & all others interested in the Hebrew/Greek of Isa 1:3 -- While there isn't punctuation in the originals, there are textual indicators that a quote begins in a certain place. Our English texts have got it pretty much right in this case. The Masoretic Text (Hebrew) has the quote beginning with "In the desert, prepare..." The New Testament quotes the LXX (Septuagint; Grk tr of O.T. done around 70 B.C., if I recall correctlyn due to the Hellenizing of the culture,) as it often does, since it was sort of the NIV of its day and since the LXX's variations tend to better lend themselves to Messianic interpretaions. In this case, the indicator in the LXX is that the quote should begin with "Prepare the way..." rather than "In the desert."

Why the change? Partly because the LXX translators didn't do a very hot job with anything beyond the Torah (because a] they didn't deem it as of much importance as--and sometimes of less canonical value than--the Torah; and b] they had lost touch with the original Hebrew language and vocabulary, to the extent that much of the LXX is more of a paraphrase than a translation.) However, one may also certainly see the hand of God here, that in his foreknowledge of the nature & location of John the Baptizer's ministry, permitted this mild textual variant.

Probably for the Isa text, you want to consider what "wilderness" meant to the Jews. A lot of their history comes out of the barrenness of the desert there. That's where you meet God. It's also where you were when God seemed to have abandoned you.

Okay, sorry about the long and extravagant explanation, but I'm a Biblical language prof on the side, as well as a preacher.

Rabbi in IL


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 15:40:14

Comment

Rabbi:

Thank you for the explanation (no need to apologize for the length). I'm pretty good at dealing with Greek, but Hebrew is beyond me.

Blessings, Eric in KS


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 16:38:51

Comment

This year I'm focusing on the three "ghosts" (or the "spirits?") of Christmas - past, present & future, keeping in mind Dicken's "A Christmas Carol." The texts seem to lend themselves to this, with the three "comings" of Christ. Last week started with the Ghost of Christmas Future - I compared the frightening ghost of Christmas Future with the Spirit of last week's text, where, among the frightening realities we face, there is the promise of Christ's presence.

This week it is the Ghost of Christmas Past, with John tying into the prophetic voice, calling the people out to the wilderness experience and to their roots, turning away from a hedonistic existence, back to what was seen, among Jews, as an age of purity, when they were refined in the wilderness and prepared to receive the promise. sdfI'm still early in preparation, but intend to talk about our "repentance" as well, our need for a new path that is grounded in the promise espoused by the prophets and which comes to fulfillment in Christ.

Thanks for all your contributions. I haven't been on for a while - a really tough year, but God has been faithful. Thanks for your wonderful insights!

Gary in New Bern, NC


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 19:22:02

Comment

I may title my sermon "The Beginning of the Good News" and talk about how this good news starts with repentance and forgiveness. Repentance lays the groundwork for forgiveness. But forgiveness is the point, the reason we can move on to good news. (Does this apply to your church, Eric?)

DGinNYC


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 20:29:47

Comment

Dear Friends, the electrons on the web and in my head are buzzing. I have just one warning to those using "Johns" in reference to those who are or might be prophets. Just remember "Johns" in a lot of people's minds are a hooker's customer. Sorry. I was a prison chaplain for almost 6 years before the budget ran out and that is the way my mind thinks. Mike in NC


Date: 03 Dec 2002
Time: 20:36:03

Comment

Dear Friends, one other thought then I am hitting the sack. To Sally in GA, you were saying something about Ginsu knives? For the past two days I have had the idea of an "infomercial" during the sermon. I am going to have the phone ring in the middle of the sermon. My Bishop will be on the other end informing me that the budget for the conference is stressed. In order to supliment the budget without raising apportionments all clergy are ordered to have a paid commercial. The packet will be under the pulpit for this week. It will my "Advent Infomercial" and will it will play off the commercials that just seem to keep on adding more. In the end it will be...free. At least to us. Tomarrow is suppose to be nasty so I will be parked in front of my computer working up the script. If anyone is interested, I will put a link to the rough draft here Thursday. Mike in NC.


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 05:27:22

Comment

Fartsworth?? wow tough weight to carry. Perhaps it explains the controlling anal attitude.

Eric, my heart reaches out to you.

I guess it reluctantly reaches out to Bobby too.


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 07:41:04

Comment

Dear fellow preacher types, The storm arrived. With fire in hearth and a cup of Russian Tea I have begun in earnest putting my sermon together. The rough draft can be found at http://www.rfci.net/bagpiper/20021208.htm. It is an Advent Infomercial. I would appreciate any comments to improve it you may have. E-mail me at bagpiper@rfci.net. Mike in Sunshine, NC. (Yes it is a real town and on the map...at least some maps).


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 07:54:54

Comment

According to Barclay, the desert that John lived in was a very strange looking place (not the flat desert that I am familiar with from my days in West texas) It is a limestone desert and there are many strange formations. The ground is uneven and rough, and the formations cast frightening shadows. To me, it sounds like a nightmarish place, a place best avoided by anyone with any sense at all.But it is the place where prophets come from (I think it's in Stephen King's The Stand, where one of the characters talks about the Old testament prophets and wonders if there were those who went mad in the desert and never came back)John is dressed as Elijah was, and remember that the Jews believe(d) that Elijah has to come back before the Messiah.

On the baptism- when a Gentile converted to Judaism, he had to be circumcised, and had to be purified by water before he was recognized as a Jew. What is different about John is that he said the the Jews also have to undergo this purification.

I need HELP finding a quote from Flannery O'Connor, the great Southern writer. When she was asked why she used such grotesque characters and situations in her writing, she said something like "When the ears have grown dull, only a trumpet will do" but I don't remember the exact quotation (and yes, I am that particular about quotations- at least when I can find them :-)It may be in Tom Long's book of sermons "Shepherds and Bathrobes" which was originally entitled "When SOmething is About to Happen"

It's good to be back with you all

Revgilmer in Texarkana


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 07:59:02

Comment

Interesting conversation this week. I am especially intrigued that the Rabbi is joining us. Welcome and thank you for your insight.

I've been thinking of this text's beginning. The Good News of Jesus Christ is first declared in the wilderness. God comes to a place where there was no hope and gives people promise.

Sometimes we live with false promises in this world. It's easy to become complacent in our faith. We get comfortable and live with a sense of security. Could we hear the Good News when we are on the mountaintop? Probably not.

But the text doesn't say that God tried to reach the proud and the strong. It says that He sent John into the wilderness to proclaim a word of forgiveness and hope. It was in the wilderness that people found hope.

The Good News for us today is that when we are in our wilderness places, we are promised that God does not forget us. It says that he offers forgiveness and hope, and most importantly, love.

Pastor Hanky in Shiphead, KY


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 08:03:20

Comment

Someone ask where the wilderness is today. I think it is our culture of choices. The dangerous lions of pornography, short short skirts, see through clothes, instant love, instant sex, instand satisfaction, etc. For my older congregation it is the instant health and bewildering health challenges, Lack of respect for their lives, swindlers promising big money, war etc. Moses led the Hebrew people into the desert, the wilderness. John the Baptism, tells of the one to come who will lead us through the wilderness. Not preaching this week, but good discussion. I like the bullhorn in florida and the Christmas ghosts particularly. Nancy-Wi


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 08:48:12

Comment

To: The Pulpit Saints From: Oklahoma Irishman

John the Baptist is not that strange! He comes out of the wildreness wearing camel's hair and leather belt. He has locusts and wild honey stuck in his beard. His message is in the pattern of prophets. He looks like a preacher. He sounds like a preacher. He eats like a preacher. He smells like a preacher. His message is not frivolous and avant gard. It is the message the people of Israel longed to hear. No wonder he is so popular! No wonder he is such a threat! No wonder he is put to death.

A Sunday of PEACE to you.


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 09:20:37

Comment

Fascinating discussion on "desert" this week. At the risk of being minimalist here--and in contrast to previous comments I have already made--is it possible that the emphasis is really on the preparation of the way? That the desert is merely the space between towns & villages? That it's the place where the "mountains are to be made low" and the "valleys are to be exalted"?

In other words, is it possible that the desert is the places where paths have not already been prepared or have fallen into disrepair? If it has further meaning, perhaps it isn't so much a "what" or "where" as a "whom."

Or perhaps I just need nother cup of coffee...

Rabbi in IL


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 09:20:54

Comment

Fascinating discussion on "desert" this week. At the risk of being minimalist here--and in contrast to previous comments I have already made--is it possible that the emphasis is really on the preparation of the way? That the desert is merely the space between towns & villages? That it's the place where the "mountains are to be made low" and the "valleys are to be exalted"?

In other words, is it possible that the desert is the places where paths have not already been prepared or have fallen into disrepair? If it has further meaning, perhaps it isn't so much a "what" or "where" as a "whom."

Or perhaps I just need another cup of coffee...

Rabbi in IL


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 09:36:26

Comment

A bit outside of the current conversation:

I've been thinking about how John 'looks the part' with the way he is costumed. I also am thinking about how we make our sanctuaries 'look the part'in Advent (really 'pre-Christmas') with our decorations. We make pastors 'look the part' with robes and stoles. On a spiritual level, we dress up our displays of faith with certain words, acts and expressions. In one regard, it is a good thing and honors the traditions of our faith, allows for communication and establishes a common ground for the community. John does it to instantly/visually open the door to establish his claim to being a prophet.

On the other hand, the age old traditions are also a straight-jacket that ties us down and threaten to kill new hope for inspiration. John enters the old role of prophet to bring a new message of anticipation. Kierkegaard illustrates this idea by contrasting the wise men to the scribes- the wise men heard a rumor and set of on a long journey, the scribes spent a lifetime studing the scripture and sat tight in Jerusalem. Who found the truth?

I see John more as a new beginning then a tie to the past- a call to a new way. His ministry (and ours) is built on the old foundations but should not be restricted by the limitations of that old tradition. John clls us to a new living faith.

So, as we dust off our decorations for another year and dust off these familiar stories and prepare to deliver them in our dusty old robes and stoles reading from the dusty pulpit Bible, don't forget that God calls us to breath some new life into them... just like the wise men, risking to follow a rumor on a great journey.

TB in MN


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 10:09:17

Comment

Two things:

1) an unsigned post indicated that John looked and smelled like a preacher. In my experience, I've had people tell me everything from that I dress too nice to that I dress too shabbily (unprofessional). What's a preacher look like, anyhow? If I dressed and smelled like John, I probably wouldn't get a very good appointment. Interesting, huh? someone mentioned robes: I have sometimes chosen my civilian clothes as part of the visual liturgy.

2) A colleague in lectionary group had information via Fred Craddock that indicates that it's unclear what Mark meant by "beginning." (I hope I'm remembering this correctly) Is it #1 - the beginning of the prophesy of Isaiah, indicating that Christ was foretold by the prophet or is it #2 - an echo of the beginning of time, indicating the presence of Christ at creation or #3 - the beginning of the gospel, foreshadowing the passion? I'm thinking all three are true.

Sally in GA


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 10:17:40

Comment

If we're unclear on where the "beginning" is, and we're unclear about the voice crying out, it kind of puts in perspective many of our congregants' hunger to hear something definite upon which to base their belief. someone whose life feels ambiguous wants something more definite. The partners in a troubled marriage want concrete hope, not a "well, gee, we really don't know for sure..." It seems we could use the ambiguity to speak to someone's ambiguous life. I'm not sure, however, that I really know how to unite it. It reminds me of an old Dave Barry column that examined college majors. Philosophy was about deciding that there was no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. What make him so funny is that he's right.

Sally


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 11:56:40

Comment

Why does being Christian become a jounrey of fear into hot, waterless, out of the way places? How do we use the themes of Advent - Hope, Joy, Love and Peace - in scripture readings that place us in zones we personally don't want to be in? Is it our responsibility as speakers of God's Good News - the living Gospel- to speak the Good News and share it with God's people so that they have Hope and Joy?

Yes, John's voice was raised in the wilderness, yes we are called to repent - into what result? We are in the "What's in it for me" generation. My congregation is fairly young and want to know about the good things that comes with being saved and born again. Are we too steeped in the negative imagery of God to truly understand the redeeming grace of His positive nature?

Okay, so this is my first time actually making a contribution. I've been a silent member for almost two years. I have enjoyed reading everyones contributions and have found myself reflecting on them as I prepare for each Sunday.

I'm really excited about this weeks scripture and the Advent Journey that is ahead of us.

Gr8desert1 - Phx, AZ (in the true desert)


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 12:12:39

Comment

For the rabbi; I was at a text study yesterday and heard there were seven translations of the word desert in Hebrew that made distinctions between different kinds of deserts evidently. True? If so how do you think about the word desert? Is it the same as wilderness? Coming from Alaska, I have a whole different concept of wilderness I think.. MW


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 12:29:37

Comment

I've seen it posted here that John was dressed like a prophet, and that he was dressed like Elijah.

I have searched through the OT, and find no reference to camel's hair there at all.

I also researched locusts, and found the only relevant passage in Leviticus, where locusts are listed among those creatures with four (jointed) legs and wings that are acceptable to eat. The wild honey, well, there are two or three passages that reference God feeding honey from rocks and craigs, but...

In short, the reference to John's clothing and food seems unique to Mark and Matthew, at least scripturally.

Is there some other source that tells us this is how prophets dressed and ate? Or are we merely assuming?

Michelle


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 12:35:47

Comment

Where does this aforementioned foursome of Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace come from? I know about the four Sundays of Advent. I know purple, purple, rose, purple for the candles. I know we always have Second Coming and judgment. I know we always have John the Baptizer. I know we only get to Mary or Joseph on the Fourth Sunday. I know about the "O" Antiphons before Christmas. And I know we only Hang the Greens and bring in the poinsettias after the Fourth Sunday worship services. But who came up with those four words and why? Am I supposed to press the Sunday lessons into this mold? On whose authority? Sara, in GR,MI


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 12:52:07

Comment

Dear Sara, GR MI

I am not a scholar on the origins of various church traditions.

In my background each one of the candles on the Advent Wreath represents one of these words - Hope, Joy, Love and Peace. When I purchased my wreath many years ago, a litte pamhlet was enclosed with suggestions of scripture readings and hymns for each theme.

By now means are we honor bound to stick to these themes and there have been occassions in my 20 years of ministry where I have strayed from the formula. However, like the lectionary, I find this particular format to be advantageous during the busy Advent season.

Each denomination brings a different tradition to this wonderful time of the year. I know that my Father's Missionary Baptist church does not observe any portion of the Advent Season, but does hang the greens for Christmas Day.

In being an the psator of an ecumenically based congregation I try to incorporate many of these traditions that celebrate our faith.

Gr8desert1 - Phx AZ


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 13:06:47

Comment

Michelle;

The reference to the way Elisha was dressed is found in 2 Kings 1:8. NRSV has a "hairy man , with a leather belt around his waist" while NIV has "a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.

I had to look really hard to find it. Thanks for the interesting challenge,

Rabbi-

I still think the desert imgery is important- it is through this desert that the people of Israel have come home-twice (Exodus and return from Exile), crossing over the Jordan into the land both times. Also, if Barclay is right, this particular desert would be a place of uncertain footing, which is the way I feel a lot of the time. This desert, as unpleasant as it is, had been the road of hope at least twice before, but only through the power of God. Maybe the people remembered this.

I love this site - it really stretches me. Thanks

revgilmer in Texarkana


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 13:08:44

Comment

OOPS! I meant Elijah, not Elisha revgilmer in Texarkana


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 13:38:21

Comment

Michelle, Good question about the reference to Elijah. RevGilmer gave the only reference I could find linking him to John the baptizer. An interesting thing happens when you look up locusts and honey. I could find no reference at all to people eating locusts. Instead, I found references to locusts eating the people's food, or an army marauding a people like locusts.

The use of "honey" is the most interesting. In the category of signs from God, Isaiah 7:15 is notable:

7: 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Another repeated reference to honey is the sweetness of God's law, precepts, or word. For example,

Psa 19: 9 the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

and,

Psalm 119: 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The likeness between sweet honey and God's word is more specific to a prophet called to preach a hard word to a stubborn people in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 3:1 He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. 3 He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey. 4 He said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel-- 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.

This text is repeated in a similar form in Revelation 10:9-10.

Hope this helps. I think you're on to something. Neill in TX


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 14:56:13

Comment

Locusts. I am stuck at home without a single book to back me up on this, but I remember reading somewhere that the locusts were not the grasshoppers of the animal world but the produce of the locust tree. It grew much like peas in a pod. Eating the grasshopper type locusts would have made John "unclean" by the OT dietary laws, would it not? Which ever one it is decided upon to eat it might make for a humerus point in any sermon to picture John at a modern Baptist dinner on the grounds. Hey John! What did you bring to eat? John, locust casserole! Gee, thanks John.


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 14:56:58

Comment

Sorry. Forgot to take credit or ridicule for that last locust point. Mike in Sunshine, NC.


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 15:25:10

Comment

When this lesson came round last, I preached about the desert places and building highways in them (original, huh?). I even included a couple of desert-related poems. Those of you exploring desert imagery may find something of use there. The URL for that sermon is http://stfrancis-ks.org/subpages/bsermons/advent2b.htm

With regard to the concept of wilderness.... Canon Leon Morris in his commentary on the Book of Revelation said this: "The wilderness is the opposite of 'the great city' which is 'Sodom and Egypt' and which always opposes God and God's people. In the days of old, God's people escaped from Egypt into the wilderness.... Physically the members of the church live in the world, the great city. But they do not belong to it; their true home and their sure refuge is far from the great city, i.e., in the wilderness." (L. Morris, Revelation [Tyndale 1969], p. 159.) I drew from Morris in a sermon entitled "Nomadic Faith" -- URL: http://stfrancis-ks.org/subpages/csermons/epiph-5c-y2k+1.htm You might find something there you can use.

Blessings, Eric in KS

PS to Mike: Yes, John's locusts were actually locust-bean pods; insects would not have been a kosher meal and John was probably "ultra-orthodox" in keeping the Law.


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 17:38:40

Comment

Leviticus 11:21-23 But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.

It appears that the locust insect would have been kosher.

Thank you, Revgilmar in TX, for the reference. My search was specificly for camel hair, hence the reason I missed it!

Michelle


Date: 04 Dec 2002
Time: 19:36:07

Comment

I have to correct myself. According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, the "locust" referred to here is, indeed, the insect, and Michelle is right, it would have been kosher. The Greek word is "akris" which the lexicon says is "a locust, particularly that species which especially infests oriental countries, stripping fields and trees. Numberless swarms of them almost every spring are carried by the wind from Arabia into Palestine, and having devastated that country, migrate to regions farther north, until they perish by falling into the sea. The Orientals accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also were permitted to eat them."

So there you are.

Blessings, Eric in KS


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 06:55:35

Comment

Weird thought-

In the Hindu tradition, we have Shiva and Vishnu- destroyer and preserver- and they are sometimes portrayed as a two opposite halves of the face of god. Could John's diet be seen as a similar contrast within the character of God? Locust that destroy life and honey that sweetens life? God as both uncompromising judge and compassionate savior, bringer of death and creator of life, hand of punishment and word of hope?

It fits John's message well- he brings condemnation to the 'brood of vipers' and brings a message of hope in announcing the arrival of the savior.

TB in MN


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 09:09:27

Comment

Any thought to the idea that John was living off the fat of a very skinny land? Locusts and honey are available in deserts. The point might be that John was not supported by followers, at least until he began to preach. He may have eaten other desert produce. Kids in West Texas to this day eat prickly pear leaves and fruit, mesquite beans (which are in the same family as the disputed locust beans) and other goodies since the nearest 7-11 is miles away. Pace e Bene Deke in TX


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 09:32:45

Comment

Some thoughts on wilderness: We moderns see it as a positive place to recharge our batteries. It is something to be protected or exploited. In ancient times it was an unprotected place of danger and the haunt of evil spirits. They described cursed times as times when cities revert to wilderness.

Also this link has an interesting article saying that there is more than 46% of the earth's surface that meets this definition of wilderness: http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/4662024.htm

Lewis in Alabama


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 13:26:42

Comment

A Reflection on Mark 1:1-8

It begins in the wilderness that lonely, desolate place no one ever wants to go that very place we sometimes find ourselves far from the comforts of civilization far from the well-trod, established roads here we are sometimes scared sometimes stumbling setting a new course (which maybe isn't as "new" as we think) preparing the way preparing our hearts for the One who comes and turns our life around with forgiveness with God's love made real even in the desert we are not deserted a voice cries out to us for us Good News is on its way

3m in a2


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 13:32:24

Comment

Oops. I meant for there to be line breaks in the above passage (so that it reads like a poem) instead of a poorly written narrative. If you are interested in a copy with the line breaks as I intended, feel free to e-mail me at:

michael@fumc-a2.org

3m in a2


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 14:14:32

Comment

I'm still mulling, and I'm piqued somewhat that this week's and next week's Gospel readings climax in John pointing towards one who is greater, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, and whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. Why two weeks in a row, and what are the subtleties in the difference. Next week are we supposed to preach, "I really mean it this time!"

This week it appears that it's about baptism. Next week it appears that it's about his confessing. And both are linked to pointing to one greater than himself.

Thank you all for the discussion - especially about the locusts. I'd heard both versions, and, while I'd lighted at some point on the insect variety, it's nice to see it verified.

Folks talking about honey from the rock, made me think of the implication of baptism (of water) in the desert.

Sally


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 14:18:47

Comment

Just a few ideas I'm praying through, which are beginning to coalesce into a sermon.

In the beginning....

I can't help but hear the first verse of Genesis echo here. God creates, He brings order out of chaos, life out of lifelessness, purpose out of porposelessness.

Where does the call to heed the Good News of His Son begin? Not in a garden, as the Father created and intended that His creatures tend, but in the "wilderness" that sin has made of creation and our relationships.

What is the call? Prepare! Remove the obstacles. Repent! Change direction. Become aware.

What is required? Leave what you have embraced as comfort and security. Come to the place where there are no distractions. Come to the place where you must rely upon God. The place where your self-sufficiency is inadequate to the challenge.

Repent and receive. Admit to the barriers between you and God. Name the things that bar the way of the Lord. Reject them. Move them aside. Make way. He is coming. Be baptized. Receive the sign of your new orientation. Prepare yourself.

Who calls? God's messenger. One who is, by his very example, not relying upon the accepted norms of the world for security and sustanence. One who is outside. One who is not afraid, but who fears the Lord.

Who is coming? The Son. Too great, too wonderful, too majestic for anyone to even be a lowly servant of. Yet the sandal reference only causes me to remember the last act of service Christ did for His disciples when He washed their feet.

Where is the way of the Lord going? From the wilderness directly to the heart of God. The Way comes to make the way.

Believe it or not, much of this was sparked by the observations here. Thanksmuch.

BJM in Saskatchewan


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 15:02:50

Comment

Where are "the Johns" and what is "the wildnerness?" Those two thoughts have been posted on this site. Rabbi reminded us that the wilderness was the place that God was most often found. This is going somewhere...just not sure. I am thinking that as we all are in touch with those places of wilderness...those barren places in our lives and as we look back at those, we see the presence of God. Can we then, as John, proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Rambling, I know. And...Eric you are in our prayers. However, someone on this site was pretty harsh toward Bobby. While I disagree with him, we do need to allow him the right to voice his opinion. Do we not? lp in CO


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 15:53:12

Comment

Bob I would say in response to you not wanting to hear about Eric's real life difficulty is that I have found the real life, heart felt stuff is the best we have to offer one another on this site. You're in my prayer Eric. Keep the message going in the wilderness! BT in IN


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 16:25:31

Comment

Is there a connection to Martin Luther having a converstion experience on the John? Probably not.

I find it interesting that Martin Luther King Jr. was a John the Baptist for America. He also used the words " and every valley shall be exhalted, and every crooked place shall be made straight" (or something like it) in his "I have a Dream" speech. Did he see himself as a kind-of John the Baptist? He didn't have to dress differently, but he was a prophet. Nelson Mandela was a John the Baptist for South Africa. Perhaps some envirnonmentalists and peace-makers are John the Baptists for us today. They call us to both: 1. turn to the right ethical choice - like justice and non-violence and 2. turn toward God's shalom.

I would like to find a Christmas Card with a picture of John the Baptist on the front, and the words "Prepare the Way of the Lord, make her paths straight" on the inside, but I bet I won't find one. Brent in Pincher


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 16:32:45

Comment

And yet another shade of meaning for "desert" :-)

I was just looking at lp's comments, and thought I'd toss this out there to chew on: Isaiah's audience are in exile, a result of punishment by God. They definitely feel like they're "desert-ed." (sorry, just couldn't leave it alone, but it's related) There's some good comments on this in the Isaiah 40 forum. A christmas message for those who feel they've been beaten down by God... Rabbi in IL


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 16:55:59

Comment

Last week we read in Isaiah, "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down..." Mark does not begin his gospel with a nativity scene. He begins the good news with the heavens torn apart and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. (verse 10, the next verse after today's lesson). This is the beginning of something new, the barrier between earth and heaven is opening up in Jesus. And Mark ends with the curtain of the temple being torn in two at Jesus' crucifixion (15:38). This is also the beginning of a new era. The holy of holies is opened up and people have direct access to God. This is the good news we are preparing for, not just forgiveness of sins, but access to God (which becomes possible with forgiveness). No wonder John said that the one to come was more powerful, and he was not worthy to stoop down and untie his sandles.

Check this link out for more ideas along these lines: http://www.kerux.com/documents/KeruxV9N3Al.asp

DGinNYC


Date: 05 Dec 2002
Time: 17:52:09

Comment

Super ideas and “talk” this week! First, about punctuation. Rabbi in IL is correct, but there is more. Hebrew prophetic language is a poetic form. Not the poetic form we English-speakers recognize. “Roses are red ...”etc. in word rhyming style. Hebrew poetry would follow this formula- Say a phrase, repeat it using different words.

So, in Isaiah 40 A voice cries in the desert prepare a way of the Lord in the wilderness make straight the highways of our God So the “quote” should start with “In the desert...” Mark, of course, is after a different meaning, and is reflecting on the Baptizer's out of the desert appearance.

Second, one of my profs in seminary, Ulrich Mauser, wrote a book on “the idea of wilderness in the Gospel of Mark”. (Sorry, This isn't the exact title, and since I don't have a copy, it is resembled from memory. Resembled hee hee) Anyway, Mark uses a lot of contrasts between the stormy and quiet, wild and peaceful, desert and city throughout the Gospel. WATCH! This contrast can point to the heart of the message with good regularity. The desert, as any good wilderness is a “wild place.” It can be the raging of the sea witnessed in a storm tossed boat (soon calm, like Jesus), or the crazy man roaming among the tombstones (after Jesus, he is in his right mind). WATCH the desert, the wild places, in Mark! Here, we can instantly see a contrast - what is in the desert, the Baptizer, and that the “city folk” dared enter this strange, fearful area just because of the need to hear and respond to the message! And what was the message? Leave your “comfortable lives” and find true comfort? What? By leaving the safety of the city and going into the “wild place” for salvation? Muddy Jordan River water makes us clean? Where is your head, man?! (He really DID lose it, eh?) I can only throw water around, the one following me offers the Spirit! Some of this contrast can be found in Isaiah 40, “Here is your God!” who is the word that is forever, not like grass! (And see Rev Ev's wonderful contribution there!)

God Bless, Doug in Erie


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 04:08:53

Comment

DGinNYC's link to: "The Gospel of Mark from Beginning to End" by James T. Dennison Jr. did not work for me. You might try Kerux's home page and go to Online archives to find the article. Pace e Bene - Deke in TX

http://www.kerux.com/

Click - Online Archives (lower left) Find title under "Expositions" and click "Search/Expositions"


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 05:48:52

Comment

DGC in NY,

You said something about "Giving the people direct access to God." Something that might be a little more frightening, is the flip side, God also has direct access to the people. No longer can the people hide (in front) of the curtain behind which is God.

Kind of gives one an incentive to repent... doen't it?

Michelle


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 06:47:29

Comment

Sorry to come into the conversation so late in the week, but has anyone ever took a close look at the direct comparisons of John the Baptist to the prophet Elijah? The description of how John is dressed and where he was preaching is a direct reference to Elijah, the "hit-and'run" prophet who was a great threat to the powers-that-be. And yet this wild one who comes now, preaching in the desert, does not point to an event that will come like Elijah did or even to the important message he has to share. Rather, he points to an even greater person to come...one who will baptize with fire! Ponderin'Pastor in Illinois


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 07:50:55

Comment

Ponderin'Pastor in Illinois: I think it is significant that John is like Elijah. Hard to avoid. If the Jewish people expected Elijah to come before the Messiah, then John is necessary to pave the way for what they expected. But was Jesus what they expected? I think a good question to ask then is: "What kind of Messiah was Jesus?" or "What kind of Messiah do you need, does the world need, this Christmas?" If Jesus wasn't the Messiah the Jewish people expected, how many kinds of Messiah are there? Just someone from David's line? A revolutionary soldier? A person of power to overthrow the powerful? The 'Son of God' ie. of the same substance and DNA as God? A spirit-filled, compassionate servant? A pacifist? A non-violent, justice-seeking peacemaker? It seems to me a sermon could be on "What kind of Messiah were you expecting this Christmas?" Perhaps John invites a Christological question. Brent in Pincher


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 08:33:42

Comment

Hi, gang!

As always you are all giving me great food for thought this week. Since I serve rural churches who have been living with drought conditions for much of the 4-1/2 years I've been with them, I decided to tie both the Isaiah passage & the Gospel to the title "Good News in a Dry Land." But that was several weeks ago and when I sate down to start writing yesterday, the song of John the Baptist in the musical "Godspell" kept running through my mind in a crazy counterpoint to the tenor aria from "Messiah" -- Every valley shall be exalted. So now, I'm not sure where I'm headed, but you are all helping me form my thoughts and listen to the Word and the Holy Spirit in this process. Thank you, as always!

Eric, I'm glad you are still with us and contributing your thoughts, which I find very helpful.

And on a personal note that may irk some, I ask for your prayers, friends, as I approach the end of seminary life. Next week is my last week of class, but I still have to finish Credo and defend it at the end of January. I also have paperwork to do for my Board of Ordained Ministry before the first week of January ends. It is a busy time for me and for all others who are facing the same deadlines. Your prayers are much needed!

Thanks. StudentPastor in KS


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 09:58:53

Comment

For the several of you, including Eric, who are being "downsized", count me among you. My church will be going part time this summer. In the meantime, it's often not pretty. The situations we ALL find ourselves in certainly do impact how we preach. Letting that inform our messages in a positive and not vindictive way is a challenge we all face and having comfort and input offered by other pastors is a vital part of that. With a slight paraphrase of Paul "I always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in my prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." Thessalonians 1:2 Thanks to all of you for your gracious support of one another. Both the scholarly and personal comments on this site help me tremendously. The other lp in CO


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 09:59:01

Comment

For the several of you, including Eric, who are being "downsized", count me among you. My church will be going part time this summer. In the meantime, it's often not pretty. The situations we ALL find ourselves in certainly do impact how we preach. Letting that inform our messages in a positive and not vindictive way is a challenge we all face and having comfort and input offered by other pastors is a vital part of that. With a slight paraphrase of Paul "I always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in my prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." Thessalonians 1:2 Thanks to all of you for your gracious support of one another. Both the scholarly and personal comments on this site help me tremendously. The other lp in CO


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 12:48:44

Comment

The locust that John was eating was more likely Carob (marketed as a chocolate subsitute) In the Middle East a bread is made called St. John's Bread with carob. The boys liked the idea of eating bugs better than plain old bread. Eric, maybe it's time to move--Your kids will forgive you, eventually. My Kansas farmers, retired folk and others were having a tough time financially and it was obvisious to me that it was time to pull up stakes and leave. I moved to Steubenville, Ohio from Cuba, KS--Sue at 1st Westminster Presbyterian Church.


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 17:07:53

Comment

Rabbi in IL, I can only speak for myself, but I hope to glean new understandings from your postings. I hope to see your info on here as often as possible. Blessings to you! lp in CO


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 18:47:09

Comment

Hi everybody! Another latecomer to the sermon prep-party here! I've been thinking about this whole "out in the wilderness" thing. Why did John do his preaching out there? Just to be in line with the prophecies? Maybe, I suppose, but I think that there is something important here about the fact that in order to hear him his listeners first had to walk away from their usual surroundings. Would his message have been heeded by more or fewer if he had shouted it out at a street corner in Jerusalem? It seems to me that those who came and heard in the desert had already made some committment of themselves simply by virtue of going out to where John was.

Is there a parallell here for us? To what extent does going out into the wilderness parallell leaving the "real world" and evntering church on Sunday morning? What is left behind, and what is the goal we have?

Craig in CA (who can't spell "parellell" to save his life)


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 20:45:29

Comment

parallel :o)


Date: 06 Dec 2002
Time: 23:46:33

Comment

Eric,

I too lost my position last year, for different reasons. The last sermon was the most difficult for me to preach, but I believe the best way is to point them towards hope, as you model that for them as well, believing that God will provide another place for you, and that something greater is to come for all of you. It was a scary time, but I will encourage you to trust, because now I am in a much better spot for my family and myself.

You could even have some fun with the passage that you were the John the Baptist type, the one that came before, and that your job is to point them to the one who comes after and whose sandals you (we all) are unworthy to untie! Point them to Christ, to hope, to their salvation, and yours too.

Susan in Wa.


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 06:01:49

Comment

Hey gang.... let's clear something up. I'm not leaving my parish right away. If everything works out, I will be leaving at the end of May, 2003. Until then ... there will be a transition period and a "wrapping up" of my ministry here.

So thanks for the "how to leave" advice, but it's premature.

Blessings, Eric (still) in KS


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 06:47:14

Comment

I was reflecting on what the significance of wilderness might be to John. I think he was symbolically calling folks to remember the place where they were completely and utterly dependent on God, the wilderness journey for the children of Isreal. In other words he was asking them to remember where they came from and who brought them to where they were today. Perhaps the message is to unChristmas the holiday season so we begin to see what truly matters most in this time of the year and in doing so, we discover who we really are. I love the book A Cup Of Christmas Cheer and recommend it for folks as a dramamtic reading. It has a powerful message about rediscovering who we are and what truly matters and fits with the theme of Peace for this second Sunday. Pam in SC


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 07:57:38

Comment

I've been pondering what it is that drew so many people to John the Baptist. So far my list includes that he was focused, spoke the truth, demonstrated humility and was filled with courage. In addition to what he demonstrated, he was also touched by God even prior to his birth. Perhaps the world needs a few more "John the Baptists." This is my first post. Thanks for all you thoughtful reflections on the text.

Pr. Roger in IA


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 07:57:57

Comment

I've been pondering what it is that drew so many people to John the Baptist. So far my list includes that he was focused, spoke the truth, demonstrated humility and was filled with courage. In addition to what he demonstrated, he was also touched by God even prior to his birth. Perhaps the world needs a few more "John the Baptists." This is my first post. Thanks for all you thoughtful reflections on the text.

Pr. Roger in IA


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 08:48:35

Comment

Why did John proclaim his message in the wilderness and not in the city (of Jerusalem)? Is there a difference between the desert and the city?

I think it is difficult to hear God's voice in the city for it is filled with so many other voices: success, greed, etc. "Bowling in Columbine" says that our culture voice is fear and violence. How does one empty herself in order to hear the clear simple silence of God's voice?

The desert (according to Urban Holmes) is an anti-structure to the world we normally live in, it is where we can once again hear God afresh.

One of the cultural voices set into us from childhood is that old Christmas song "O you better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout I tell you why ... Santa Claus is coming to town" Such a song sugges that we conform to the worlds expectations (our parents in the beginning, the nation later on) and our religious life, live in the city, is filtered through that reality. Why pray, why seek, why be hungry, when we are to be silent, saying nothing, etc.

John the Baptizer draws us into a new hope, a new place, and confronts us with a new possibility.

tom in ga (a little late)


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 08:50:34

Comment

Eric, So glad to hear things look somewhat brighter. Time to wrap up and make a smooth transition for the parish and myself is important to me as I prepare to move on to the next phase of my ministry next summer. I pray yours goes well.

StudentPastor in KS


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 12:55:21

Comment

Consider this tie in with the Isaiah lesson ... the Hebrew for "Comfort, Comfort my people" is "Nahamu, nahamu ami..." The root word is "nacham" and it carries overtones of a call to repentance. Is John trying to carry out God's command to "comfort my people" by calling them to repentance?

Blessings, Eric in KS


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 12:58:16

Comment

A Saturday afternoon question: just who is doing all this way-straightening?

kbc in sc


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 13:04:54

Comment

kbc in sc asks:

..... just who is doing all this way-straightening?

I think it is a join work between YHWH and the people ... through repentance the people open themselves up to the future, now free from sin and guilt, and God through forgiving and loving and shepherding brings them into a new place. It is the work of covenant partners, and not the work of only one.

tom in ga


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 13:11:12

Comment

Pam in SC - Looking for the book you recommended, A Cup of Christmas Cheer, all I find is A Cup of Christmas Tea on amazon.com. Could you tell me who the author is?


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 16:46:56

Comment

Deke in Texas, thank you for correcting my link to Kerux. I got there through a link in textweek, and thought I copied it correctly.

Pr Roger in LA asked what drew people to John the Baptist. Maybe it was his "prophets costume"... :)

DGinNYC


Date: 07 Dec 2002
Time: 18:48:16

Comment

A VERY late comment. I am old enough to remember the glory days, the success days of the mainline churches in the '50s. Now we're downsizing. The wilderness is reclaiming built-up places. Maybe we really have nothing to lose by preaching repentence, to prepare the way of the Lord in the fast increasing wilderness.

revhen in ny


Date: 2/10/2003
Time: 1:38:54 PM

Comment

Acts 1:8 Ministry- FREE Outreach training kit, and conusulting services for Churches. Visit us at www.acts18.org. Pray that God will bless this ministry to reach more souls for HIM.