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John the Baptizer: Last Sunday's Sermon

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The Reading

The Gospel

Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Sermon

John the Baptist

John and Jesus were probably second cousins and I can tell there was a family similarity beyond just bloodlines. They were both totally committed to their faith and they both showed little regard for their safety when it came to expressing and practicing that commitment. I wish I had that kind of courage.

Both John and Jesus were the radicals of their time and I think they would be pleased with us if we showed some of that as well. John was not afraid to tell those who would listen that they were sinners and it was time to repent and ask God's forgiveness. Jesus' message was the same. He used stories and metaphors to give us his message of repentance and preparedness. He talked about shepherds and lost sheep. He told stories about bridesmaids keeping their lamps filled. Jesus message went beyond John's message. John cautioned us to repent and Jesus said to be prepared because we do not know when our day of re-conning will come. Jesus also told us of the importance of love. Jesus was the embodiment of that love in his sacrifice for us.

John told his followers, “I have baptized you with water but he will baptize you with the holy spirit.”

While I was writing this I realized that this is a good time to renew our baptismal vows. Please join me.

The Baptismal Covenant

Celebrant:  Do you believe in God the Father?

People:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant:  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

People:  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant:  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?

People:  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Celebrant:  Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People:  I will, with God's help.

Celebrant:  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

People:  I will, with God's help.

(Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305
Grant O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen

Good News in Southern Iowa

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During our bible study yesterday we were on the topic of good news.  I think it started with several of us complaining about how the media seems fixated on bad news and that things have gotten out of balance.

So, what happened was several people in the group started commenting on good things that are happening in our communities of Chariton and Corydon.  I took notes as quickly as possible and here is what I remember.  Corydon had it's Festival of Trees last Sunday and they had 550 people take the tour.  All of the money raised went toward the Empty Stocking Program.   The Southcentral Iowa Community Foundation has given $600 toward Christmas baskets to be distributed by the Inter-Church Council.. The Southeastern Lutheran Synod raised nearly five thousand dollars for the Lutheran World Relief.  St. Andrew's Episcopal Church is hosting this years Longest Night Service to help those who are grieving during the Christmas season.  The First United Methodist Church is once again offering the End of the Month Meals event for those in need.

There you have it.  There are so many good things to dwell on!

Peace and Love
Fr. Fred

Advent: Last Sunday's Sermon

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The Readings

Old Testament

Isaiah 64:1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence--
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil--
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people.

The Gospel

Mark 13:24-37

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

The Sermon

Waiting is hard for me. I remember as a child sitting with my annoying brother in the back seat of our Pontiac while the family drove to Illinois to visit my Aunt Mary and Uncle Ralph. It was a six hour trip and painfully boring. The only excitement was when we crossed the Mississippi at Burlington, Iowa. It was an exciting crossing because the bridge was old and considered dangerous and my mother practically went into a panic whenever we crossed.

So except for those two minutes of excitement we were bored. We never stopped for lunch because mom always packed sandwiches for us. The most frequently asked question from the back seat of the car was, “how much longer.”

Advent is a time of waiting. It is a time to prepare as well as wait. Unlike the trip to Aunt Mary's we have no idea how long the wait will be. We all know the physical end will come for us in one form or another. Maybe it will be 'the Son of Man coming in clouds.' It might also be when we finally just wear out and we are released from our physical bodies.

When that end does come we must be prepared. So, how do we do that? Packing sandwiches for the long journey makes no sense. Neither does storing up as much money and material things as we can. In the Charles Dickens story “A Christmas Carol” Ebeneezer Scrooge finally gets it right. His grim existence of acquiring wealth ended with a visit from three spirits. According to the story, Scrooge's last years on earth were filled with the joy of giving and loving those around him.

My advice is not to worry about when the end will come but to follow the map that Jesus has charted for you and you will reach the joy of God's kingdom.

The other side of Advent is looking forward to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. We do all kinds of things to prepare. We light the advent candle. We decorate. We buy presents. We ring bells for Salvation Army. We say Merry Christmas a lot. It is good that we look forward to Jesus birth. Jesus created a major shift in our world two thousand years ago and he is still changing lives today.

I ask that you spend some time this advent season reflecting on not only the advent of the second coming of Christ but also on how that child born in ancient times has made a difference in us today.