Advent 3 Yr C (12/16/12)

11 Dec

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 3:7-18

 

Canticle 9

Surely, it is God who saves me;
I will trust in him and not be afraid
.              

 

Opening Questions

  • Does being a Christian require you to be accountable?  To whom, how often, and for what?
  • What are your aspirations for life….and are you living them?

 

Appointed Passages[1]

Zephaniah 3:14-20

14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

15The Lord has taken away the judgements against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.

16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.

17The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you* in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

18 as on a day of festival.*
I will remove disaster from you,*
so that you will not bear reproach for it.

19I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.

20At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.

  • How does God’s love renew people (v. 17)?
  • What does the phrase “I will bring you home” mean to you (v. 20)?

Philippians 4:4-7

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • When and how can “exposing your gentleness” to others sometimes be a bad thing (v. 5)?
  • When we make our requests be known to God (v. 6), what should we expect?
  • How would you describe the “peace of God” (v.7) and how does it guard your heart and mind?

Luke 3: 7-18

7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

10And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 12Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ 13He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ 14Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

  • Verses 7 to 9 (the first paragraph above) imply that the decendants of Abraham may be baptized, but had no intention of leading a different life.  What catalyst can trigger your use of religion to lead a better life?
  • One of the definitions of baptize includes the concept of purging a bad experience or ordeal.  Is the feeling of remorse for a bad experience a catalyst that can generate personal change?  Are there others?

 

Comment

Evolution in human beings occurs.  We change and adapt to circumstances and events.  Religion can (and I daresay should) be the source of a process by which we measure our personal evolution against a set of values or ideals that define whether we are improving or becoming extinct.  Ideals thus provide critical benchmarks – even if we cannot fully achieve them in our lifetimes.  Assessing the state of our souls might then be considered not only in terms of what we achieve, but by our aspirations.[2]

The truth of living life involves the bad experiences that bring the potential of a teachable moment which, if used astutely, can grow our character.  Such experiences typically come with pain and some suffering.  People seek to live privileged lives in order to acquire “cushions” to avoid the pain and suffering of life events.  On the one hand, seeking to avoid pain is an appropriate objective for all of us, but the downside is that too many cushions may keep us from developing into people who are the richness of experience that polishes and seasons the woodwork of our character in order to develop into who we were intended to be.

In a sense, salvation is not something we should wait to experience until after our death, but a process to embrace daily as a tool to live better lives; to give voice to those aspirations by which we may ultimately be judged.

In this season of Advent, we look to the future with hope.  We anticipate someone coming to be among us who can show us the essence of God in human form.  You can find such a person like this to be near…..are you open to looking?

 

Quotes for Today:

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them.

Louisa May Alcott

Sanity may be madness but the maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Don Quixote

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let’s live with hope.

Henri J. M. Nouwen


[1] New Revised Standard Version of biblical passages

[2] Some phrasing and concepts are drawn from The Unbounded Mind, by Ian Mitroff and Harold Linstone

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