FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT Year B November 27, 2011

Isaiah 64:1-9 • Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 • 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 • Mark 13:24-37

Some folks reading this know what it is like to beg for your life.

Some of us have been faced with dark circumstances or dire situations that we thought we might not survive, and we pleaded with Whomever might listen so we might be spared and live on to see another day.

The people of Israel were desperate for their circumstances to be different. In this passage from Isaiah, we see people who are scared for their lives and are calling for help. They are describing what a dire situation they are in, and we see them pleading with God to reach down and please do something to relieve their suffering and make it different.

In Psalm 80 we see another petitioner who is searching his own experience and mind to understand what might have gone wrong to create this current circumstance. And we see another (similar to Isaiah) desperate plea for God to reach down and intervene and change the difficult circumstance.

At the end of both the Isaiah and Psalm passages there is even some deal making going on in an attempt to add incentive the request to God: O God, if you save us, we will never turn our backs on you again.

These were people who were afraid the history of their people was about to end. They were facing the possibility the people of Israel might cease to exist, and they were desperate to find a way to turn it around and make it different.

We traditionally read these passages here on this first Sunday of the Advent season and we look at them as a People, a Nation, calling for the Messiah to come. The children of Israel had been through so much and had the relationship history with God that they were calling on God to send a Saviour, a Messiah, that would restore them as a people. The hope and expectation was that, at a minimum, they would be brought back out from under the oppression of other people; and, at a maximum, they would be restored to a place of prominence culturally, nationally, and religiously.

And so then Jesus enters the scene. Good news, right? Problem solved, right?

At the end of the gospel of Mark we get these less than encouraging words from Jesus. This is after he has done miracles and taught and led disciples, and it is just before he is betrayed, killed, and brought back from death. And in this important time Jesus himself is talking about what it will be like when the Messiah comes.


Jesus is telling them about the End Times that are to come (future tense) and the Son of Man / Messiah that is to come (future tense). He is still continuing the hopeful message that a Messiah will come and restore the right order to the world and the 'correct' position to the people of Israel. He is offering Hope and Promise...and he is encouraging Faithfulness and Awareness...and he is saying that all is still to come.

This doesn't seem like a really satisfying answer to folks who are looking for visible, concrete change.

And in the passage we have from Paul's first letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth, we see the message has evolved a bit. Paul is talking about the work of Jesus in a "Both - And" sort of way. He talks about the ways the work and message of Jesus that they have all received is there to continually encourage them as they strive to be faithful followers today; AND he talks about how they are doing this so they will be prepared and 'blameless' on the 'day of our Lord Jesus Christ (future tense).

Both Jesus and Paul and working with people who are still desperate for a new way of life. Their listeners and readers are on the low end of society and are hoping for a social and a spiritual revolution. Jesus offered such a message with his teaching and Paul reemphasized it with his teaching and guidance. BUT (or should we say AND?) they are both still looking ahead and pointing toward a change that is still yet to come.

Where do you look when faced with dark circumstances or dire situations? What sort of an answer are you hoping for? What sort of intervention are you expecting?

God, help us to see the short and long view.
We are so desperate to get away from
the pain of this moment.
We are afraid of the current circumstance.
We need to be saved.
We need to be assured.
We need to know there is Hope.
And we need to have our
Vision of Hope
our realm of expectations
our list of possible answers
loosened and expanded.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 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.


Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost, Year A

Joshua 24: 1 - 3a, 14 - 25
Psalm 78: 1 - 7
1 Thessalonians 4: 13 - 18
Matthew 25: 1 - 13

Think back on your commitments - on the big promises you've made in your life. What motivated you to make those commitments? Ambition? Fear? A promise of something? Reward?

Here on the brink of the KC commitment retreat, we can't help but read this week's text through the lens of commitment. How do our motivations affect our commitments? What do we expect to happen to our commitments? Do our past commitments affect those we make going forward? In the KC community, we reconsider our commitments annually. Are their other places we should/shouldn't do that in our lives?


Joshua addresses the gathered Israelites in a farewell address. They are in the Land, and Joshua is challenging them to renew their covenant to One God, Yahweh. Joshua knows the hearts of these people well, they've been through a lot together. And so he's not looking for an easy promise. He challenges them, reminding them of their faithlessness. He warns them that God is a jealous God who will not tolerate their infidelities. But they insist - they will serve only God. We sort of wonder if Joshua walked away shaking his head, knowing that the commitments they made were beyond their human capacity.

The psalmist reflects on promises the Israelites have made to look to the past and tell future generations about the covenants made and returned to time and again between God and God's chosen people.

The parable of the 10 bridegrooms can be a little daunting. Jesus is teaching about end times and encouraging the gathered to wait with readiness. A coming of end times was a prevalent belief in Jesus' time. He was foretelling a thing foretold by prophets for hundreds of years. For this week, we're tuned into his warning to be ready. Ready for what? And how do we commit to being ready? Do we assure that we're not left trimming our wick without a bridegroom by making some special commitment? It kind of feels like we've heard it interpreted that way - turn or burn sort of stuff, you know.

In Paul's letter to the church at Thessalonica, he's addressing the community's grief over those who have died before Jesus' return. Like many of Paul's letters, he's encouraging the community to care for one another in uncertain times. He's also addressing God's commitment to believers, assuring them that they need not fear being separated from their earlier departed loved ones - all of them will be gathered up into the clouds at the appointed hour. Paul interprets that as a commitment that Jesus made in some way. How does the commitment of Jesus differ from our commitments to the world?

God, save us from making
Commitments we don't intend to keep.
Save us from making
Commitments out of fear.
Save us from making
Commitments out of personal ambition.
Help us to
(as best we can)
be pure with our intentions
be pure with our commitments.
Help us as we attempt to
Commit whatever portion of our lives
we are able to Commit
to You.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 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.