Advent 3, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Lent 4, Year B March 15, 2015 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
Lent 3, Year B March 8, 2015 Third Sunday in Lent, Year B 2015 Exodus 20:1-17
Lent 2, Year B March 1, 2015 Second Sunday in Lent, Year B, 2015 Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Mark 8:31-38
Lent 1, Year B February 22, 2015 Lent 1, Year B Mark 1:9-15
Ash Wednesday, Year B February 18, 2015 Ash Wednesday, Year B Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 15, 2015 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Year B February 1, 2015 Luke 2:22-40 Luke 2:22-40
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 25, 2015 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:14-20
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 18, 2015 Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B I Corinthians 6:12-10
The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 11, 2015 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B The Book of Common Prayer –Holy Baptism
Second Sunday after Christmas, Year B January 4, 2015 Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B Luke 2:41-52
Two Christmas Eve Meditations December 24, 2014 Christmas Eve, Year B Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-5, 14, 16
Advent 3, Year B December 14, 2014 Third Sunday of Advent, Year B Psalm 126, I Thessalonians 5:16-24
Advent 2, Year B December 7, 2014 Second Sunday of Advent, Year B Mark 1:1-8
Advent 1, Year B November 30, 2014 First Sunday in Advent, Year B Mark 13:24-37

 

Advent 3, Year B

Sermon Date:December 14, 2014

Scripture: Psalm 126, I Thessalonians 5:16-24

Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday of Advent, Year B


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Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, 

Will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. 

This verse from Psalm 126 holds within it the entirety of the Christian life. 

Take a look at this scarf.  This scarf has been knit in such a way that one side cannot be separated from the other. 

This knitting together is also true of how sorrow and joys are knit together in the Christian life.  These two things, joy and sorrow, cannot be separated in those of us who are trying to live faithfully, hopefully, and lovingly through our days, no matter what our days bring.

But—our culture bombards us with fake joy, especially at this time of year. 

We’re tempted by the idea that all we need to do to make our children happy is to give them things.  One place that I shop for clothes, Talbots, even has a shirt this Christmas season that says, joyful, joyful.  The subliminal message—buy Talbots clothes to experience joy.    

So we search for joy in material things, or perhaps in travelling, or even in something as simple as food—that expression, comfort food, is what I mean here—as in “I’m having a bad day—I think I’ll eat some chocolate.”

And sorrow, in our culture, is to be avoided.  Someone you love dies, and not long after that death, people think something’s wrong if you’re still grieving. 

And yet, we never stop grieving for those we love.  There’s no such thing as closure over the losses in our lives.  Our task of grieving is to accept these losses in our lives and to integrate them positively into who we continue to become. 

For me, the big temptation is to avoid sorrow.  It took me days to read this article that appeared in The Washington Post on Wednesday—A grim portrait of CIA tactics after 9/11. 

I really didn’t want to know.  But finally, I read the article and experienced the deep sorrow that comes from knowing that in the name of this country, people were subjected to torture and abuse—and that all of this was kept secret, that officials in charge were deceived about the methods being used. 

No matter what side you’re on, whether you believe that these desperate tactics by the CIA were justified or not, as Christians, we feel sorrow that we live in a world so broken that these events would have even occurred, just as we feel sorrow over the tragedies that continue to unfold in the Middle East. 

Ferguson is another example of this sorrow I’m talking about.  Regardless of what side you find yourself on regarding the Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown case–still, as Christians, we feel sorrow over the fact that in this nation police and whole communities  find themselves fearing and distrusting  one another and that violence  on both sides seems to be the only solution.   

We live in a broken world, a world that is hurting.  And when we hurt, anger and rage well up in us—natural human emotions.

The temptation is to act on our anger or rage in order to avoid feeling the pain of sorrow—because sorrow can feel so helpless, so passive, so debilitating. 

Charles Carl Roberts, IV did not want to enter into sorrow.  Full of rage and anger, he went to an Amish school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, several years ago and gunned down five young girls and wounded many more. 

He did this because a young daughter of his had died only a few hours after being born.  And rather than accept the sorrow of this loss, this man held onto his anger for years and finally sought revenge against God by killing innocent children and then taking his own life.

In the face of tragedies such as this, we do well to remember the psalm verse, “Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.”

Because this verse can guide us through the times of tragedy and loss that we will all face in our lives. 

This verse tells us that sorrow is not helpless, or passive, or debilitating.  Sorrow demands the kind of action that can ultimately lead from us from sorrow into joy. 

This verse tells us to move past the anger and rage,

To own our sorrows,

To take the events that have caused sorrow in our lives and plant them in the faithful and hopeful and loving soil of our hearts, and let them take root and grow.

Because the promise is that if we can do this, in the end we will receive an abundant and healing and joyful harvest that we can use to help heal our hurting world. 

I had a friend, Holly, many years ago when we both had small children, and Holly had the gift of living joyfully in the midst of sorrow.  She deeply cared about many things, but most of all, she cared about God knowing how grateful she was for her life. 

The right side of Holly’s body didn’t work quite right, but her slight limp and the limitations of her right arm didn’t seem to bother her a bit.  She was unfailingly cheerful.  She was always thanking God for all things.  And often she sang, slightly off key, but her songs were always full of joy. In fact, she was so full of joy that she could get on your nerves.

One day we were driving home from a Bible study.   Holly was in the back seat with our young daughters, and we were talking about what we were going to cook for our dinners that night.

Suddenly, Holly was silent, and when I looked in the rear view mirror, I saw that she had slumped to one side, and that she was unconscious.

I’ll spare you the details of all that happened next, but ultimately, the doctors found a large benign tumor in her brain, so intertwined with the blood vessels that it could not be removed.  She had been born with this tumor and as it grew, it had caused the stroke that had affected her right side when she was only twelve years old.  This tumor took her life away as we all knew it that day in my car.

Holly lived for many years after almost losing her life that day.  Her husband cracked under the stress of caring for her and ended up divorcing her.  Her parents took care of her until they couldn’t do it any longer.   Her twin sister raised Holly’s daughter.

The amazing thing was that through this all, even in the nursing home where she spent the last years of her life, a thread of joy still ran visibly through all of the sorrows that had defined Holly’s life.

She died several years ago, and I will never forget her funeral.  Her former husband came with his second wife, welcomed and graciously received by Holly’s family. 

After the funeral, at the gathering in the fellowship hall in the basement of the church,   Holly’s sister’s family, all of whom are singers, got up and sang several songs of rejoicing with the most beautiful harmonies imaginable.

And then Holly’s sister Carol played us a cassette tape.  Holly was suddenly with us, talking to her family one Christmas long ago and asking them to sing with her—a little song about joy.   

Then Carol paused the tape,  gave out streamers to everyone there, and then Holly’s voice came back, and we all joined in and danced around the fellowship hall in a long procession—Holly’s former husband, his daughter, all her loving family who had cared for her,  her friends—we all  wove around  the tables and the chairs in the room waving our streamers and singing–

Joy is the flag flown high in the castle of my heart, in the castle of my heart, in the castle of my heart, joy is the flag flown high in the castle of my heart, when the King is in residence  there. 

So let it fly in the sky let the whole world know, let the whole world know, let the whole world know, so let it fly in the sky let the whole world know that the King is in residence there.

Sorrow knit together with joy—God’s sorrow as Jesus died on the cross, God’s joy at the resurrection.

God’s continuing love and joy in us and hope for us, even as we continue to give in to anger and rage and to hurt those around us.

God coming among us as a child born in a stable,  with great might to help and deliver us —

When we claim God’s love for us,  and take that love into our hearts, we really  can rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances,

And even when we are weeping so hard that we can’t see the way ahead, we can still go out carrying our seeds, and sow them with our tears into the soil of God’s love,

With the faith that God’s abundant harvest of joy will eventually spring up in us,  a harvest of healing love for this world.

Amen.   

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