3rd Sunday in Advent, Year C

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Where Does Our Help Come From?

This is a question that many have taken and repeated from the writer of Psalm 121. It is our guess that he borrowed the question from someone else too.
It is such an important question in so many different ways and from so many different perspectives.

As we read this week's lectionary readings, this Eternal Question popped up in a slightly different way: Where does our Salvation / Restoration come from?

As any of us read through the Hebrew scriptures we can see a hundred different ways that the followers of Yahweh found themselves in a tight spot and looked at each other or to the Heavens and asked--Where Will Our Help Come From? This doesn't change much when we look at the Christian scriptures. The circumstances are a bit different--the rulers are Romans rather than Egyptians--but the question is motivated from a similar place: we are in desperate straits, our future is bleak, we are oppressed, we are persecuted....Where Will Our Help Come From?

The scripture readings this week offer two different types of answers. Now, we do not think we can take these four passages and make a generalization that these are the only two types of responses found in scripture, but it is true that these two are pretty popular.

The first type of answer to the question is represented by two passages from the Hebrew scriptures. The first is from the prophet Zephaniah and the second from the prophet Isaiah. You should read the passages. Both of them portray that Salvation / Restoration is something that will come / has come to the people from Outside of them somewhere. Yahweh will take away judgements, provide victory, renew his love, remove disaster, deal with oppressors, save the lame and outcast, bring you home, and restore your fortunes. God does these things for you and your response is to be grateful and love and praise and rejoice.

Now in the passages we find in Philippians and Luke, we find a second type of answer. As Paul describes to the church in Philipi, it is the responsibility of the individual to first rejoice, be gentle, prayerfully make your thanksgivings known, And Then the Peace of God will come upon you and guard you.

And also in Luke, we see Saint John the Forerunner yelling and spitting at people who have come out to be baptized by him. Now we are not 100% certain why folks were streaming (get it? streaming) to John to be baptized. In fact, John was not certain--he asks, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" And as we see him sharing some less aggressive teaching time with them, we see him encouraging folks to get their own invdividual selves in order--bear worthy fruits, share your stuff, share your food, don't cheat people. And then we see that John is encouraging folks to change their ways because when the Messiah comes, the Messiah will bring judgment. He talks like there might not be a chance to get things straight once the Messiah got there.

As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Messiah, we should spend some time asking what that might mean.

What sort of Messiah did Isaiah and Sephaniah expect? What sort of Messiah did the people of their day need?
What sort of Messiah did John the Baptizer expect? What sort of Messiah did the people of his day need?
What sort of Messiah do we expect? What sort of Messiah do we need today?
What sort of Salvation / Restoration do you need?
Where will you help come from?

Oh Lord,
we wait with expectation
sometimes with a clear understanding
of what we need...
And other times, not so much.
Be with us in our expectancy
and open our eyes and our ears and our souls
to understand your presence
in our lives.

© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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