The Rev. Carole Anderson
Luke 1:39-45
12 mins 54 secs
Views: 3
At last we come to the final Sunday of Advent. Monday and Tuesday this week we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. Our Gospel in Luke gives us a brief picture of the two cousins who have both experienced the power of the Lord in their lives. Elizabeth, who is expecting her own miracle in a few months, runs to meet her cousin and exclaims, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." Mary, the Mother of our Lord replies to Elizabeth's greeting with the wonderful words from our canticle, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in god my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant." Two ordinary women bound by blood and the greatness of God. They remind us that nothing in impossible with God. But they also remind us that the power of God changes lives. They were simply ordinary women going about their daily lives when God stepped in and changed them forever. That's what God does for each one of us. This Christmas, as we welcome the Christ child into our hearts again, remember this, Emmanuel, God with us, changes us and the whole world forever.
The Rev. Cindy Stansbury
Luke 3:17-18
19 mins 10 secs
Views: 6
This week, our readings include some of the most challenging verses from John the Baptist and some of the most comforting verses from Isaiah and Paul. Laying them side by side always makes for interesting contrasts: Surely, it is God who saves me; * I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, * and he will be my Savior. -Isaiah 12:2 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. … The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” -Philippians 4:4-6 “ You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance …9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” -Luke 3:7-9
The Rev. Cindy Stansbury
Luke 3:1-6
13 mins 48 secs
Views: 3
John the Baptist is the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!” This always makes me think about what the Romans did when they made roads, doing extensive grading and filling work, so that the road is straight and level, regardless of what the terrain was previously. John was a dramatic person posing a dramatic challenge, but even more he was the messenger proclaiming the return from exile, the great jubilee, the moment when God would return to Israel and abide in her midst. In Advent we are anticipating the arrival of God in the midst of Israel in the birth of Jesus. And we are also anticipating the return of the King when the glory of Jesus will be seen by the whole world. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” -Luke 3:5-6
The Rev. Carole Anderson
Luke 21:25-36
10 mins 43 secs
Views: 2
This Sunday, we celebrate the beginning of our Advent season, literally, "the coming of Christ." It is also the church's new year. As we heard from Rev. Cindy last week, Jesus' death on the cross for sins was his coronation ceremony if you will. It was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel and their Messiah. It was also the end of the temple worship as Israel knew it. God would now dwell with His people and they would be his temple. Our readings reflect God's promise for Israel and us beginning in Jeremiah: Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness." But as usual, the disciples want to know what the signs will be when all these things come to pass. So Jesus takes them aside and tells them what to expect. The bottom line of the message for them -and us- is this: Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. So as our Advent season begins, let us prepare the way for our King, Jesus, and stay awake or alert because we do not know when He will arrive.
In the past several weeks, while our Gospel readings have been progressing through Mark, our epistle readings have been in Hebrews, focused on Jesus as our great high priest. This week, we turn instead to John, Revelation, and Daniel to look at Jesus as our King. Since we live in a secular democratic republic, where leadership is messy and temporary, it is hard for us to relate to “king.” At best, to our ears, “king” can sound like something from a storybook, or like a celebrity figurehead, and at worst, an usurping dictator, rather than a noble, rightful holder of power. As usual, Jesus’ view is deeper and not quite expected. He is king above all kings, but his kingdom is one of truth, not of geography. Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your family and friends; enjoy the amazing and much needed rain - but don’t drink the rainwater, and please continue to pray for those who have lost their homes and are in need of shelter during this rain.
The Rev. Cindy Stansbury
Mark 13:1-8
14 mins 56 secs
Views: 1
Our lives are filled with transitions, endings, and changes, which we’d rather avoid. The news is filled with fires and impending disasters, and impending dooms of various sorts, and it can be exhausting, overwhelming and discouraging. But this week our readings all look to our hope and peace as “The Day” approaches: Daniel speaks of a time of anguish in the future of Israel, but that even then, those who are wise shall shine like the stars in the sky. The psalmist prays for protection, promises to choose only the Lord, and says “Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.” In our Gospel, Jesus speaks of the temple being destroyed and dismantled, but also says: “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.” Finally, the New Testament reading concludes with: Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25
This week is Stewardship Sunday and our readings seem appropriate. Our Old Testament reading is about God’s miraculous provision for Elijah, a widow and her son the midst of a drought. She gives her last flour and oil for the prophet and her jar never runs out until the rains come again. Our Psalm is about putting our trust in God who watches over strangers and widows instead of in princes. In our Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to beware of the scribes who enjoy the honor and respect they receive as men of God, but “devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” They enjoy the attention of men, but their hearts and lives are not aligned with the priorities and concerns of God.
Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31 This week, at the first service, we have the joy of a baptizing Raelene and two of her children Annie and Billy during the first service. It seems appropriate then that our readings for this Sunday are about how to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. In Deuteronomy, God gives the Shema to Israel, and in Mark, Jesus gives the great commandment. If we hear and follow and live this commandment in our life it will go well for us, and we will praise God with an upright heart. But what happens when we can’t follow even one command? Then we turn to our epistle reading for the week: Hebrews 9:11-14.