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  • Peaceable Kingdom - Edward HicksIsaiah 11:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,    the spirit of counsel and might,    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.He shall not judge by what his eyes see,    or decide by what his ears hear;4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.6 The wolf shall live...

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  • E Thoughts

    In church on Sunday we sang words that felt like prayer and plea: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Surely in these days we long to be reminded that Emmanuel is:  God is with us. We are freshly up from Thanksgiving tables.  We read newspapers and wonder about who and how we are in this world.  We think about how we will ready our hearts for the big hurrah that is Christmas.  There is no snow nor freeze in the northland and it makes for a sense of wobble in these days of Advent.  There are many things that command our attention and worry our beings and the prayer goes up: O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It’s a worthy prayer. Perhaps these days of Advent might be a noticing and naming of how we live “God with us” in the now. Grace is so real. Perhaps these Advent days of readying ourselves might be spent sniffing the wind for hope. The Word became flesh, and flesh it remains. Where is it you experience Emmanuel, God with you? How will you call it home?    

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  • Throughout history, especially on dark nights, women have protected and nurtured their own: nursing, loving, comforting, or fighting off intruders. Deep in the pages of Exodus, a mysterious story picks up on that same theme, but is a narrative unlike…Read more ›

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  • You are a God of righteousness and justice; the earth is full of your steadfast love. You have given us your beloved son, but we have not respected him by following his commands. We live in a culture where money reigns supreme and the poor are neglected. Help us to lead lives worthy of you, as we answer your call to enter your kingdom and glory. Lectionary Readings Ps. 33; 146; 85; 94 Isa. 1:21-31 1 Thess. 2:1-12 Luke 20:9-18             Selected Verses Ps. 33:5  [The LORD] loves righteousness and justice;          the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. Isa. 1:23 Your princes are rebels     and companions of thieves.Everyone loves a bribe     and runs after gifts.They do not defend the orphan,     and the widow's cause does not come before them. 1 Thess. 2:12 …urging and encouraging you...

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  • The First Sunday of Advent – Matthew 24:36-44 Many are saying that the world has changed and that it changed on November the 8th with the election of Mr. Trump as our next president. Some are excited and hopeful about this change. They’ve waited a long time for this day. Others are terrified and dismayed about the change. They never wanted to see this day come. Both sides have expressed anger. Most, I suspect, are just worn out by the whole process. And everyone seems to be looking to and trying to predict the future. What will happen? What new policies and legislation will be enacted? What existing policies and legislation will be repealed? Where is America headed? What does the future hold? Those questions are not just for post-election America. The disciples surely must have thought their world would be changing when Jesus told them the temple would fall, not one stone being left upon another (Matthew 24:1-2). The very center and structure of the Jewish society was changing....

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  • Don't Eat Alone

    Writing everyday for Advent means reading everyday; if I have any hope of saying something fresh, it will be with the help of traveling companions willing to let me borrow their words. I have seldom had a plan for what I would read. I wander the house, or a bookstore, looking for the volume that […]

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  • Life With Jack

    Blessings to you, friends, as we have begun another Advent season. In case you are looking for The Uncluttered Heart, I wanted to direct you to its new home. I am grateful for the chance to share the Advent journey with you through The Uncluttered Heart. Blessings and Love, Beth

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  •  Some of my more evangelical Facebook friends regularly post calls to praise God. A few of them engage in those manipulative posts declaring, "If you love Jesus you will share this." Psalms of praise are often cited, and the need for us to worship God and to pray is highlighted.Some of these same people regularly share posts that attack Muslims as vile and evil, or that imply people on food stamps are addicts and social leeches. And so when I read today's passage from Isaiah, I couldn't help wanting to fling it at them. "When you come before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile... I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates."  See, God has no use for your worship when you don't care about the oppressed and the poor and weak.But just when I'm feeling a little smug, I remember what I do for a living. I'm a pastor, and many of the members at my church see my...

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  • Isaiah 11:1-10It is one of my favorite visions of the future and I marvel at the heart and mind of the prophet who brought it to life by putting it to pen. The One who delights in the Lord will pair wolves with lambs, leopards with goats, calves with lions, bears with cows, infants with adders. It’s a recipe for carnage but in the imagination of the prophet the predator lies down with the prey for a nap not for lunch. The prophet envisions the accepted order of the natural world radically transformed by the One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord finds a resting place, who judges the poor with righteousness, who decides with equity for the meek and slays the wicked without breaking a sweat. We are baptized into the vision of Isaiah and anointed with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord, joy in God’s presence. It is no small thing to be birthed again in the midst of the assembly and publicly joined with Christ and all who...

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  • like a spark to the fire like cool water to the dry tongue like a seed in winter to the cardinal like a red rose to the lover so are the signs of your goodness, O God

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  • Available Light

    I took this shot in St. John's Roslyn years ago. The chalice was  placed on the floor and positioned to catch the reflection of the windowYesteday Noah engaged his mother in a conversation about belly buttons. The whole business of placentas was explained with the sort of honest and brilliant simplicity Bridget is capable of, but one thing led to another and he asked "If Amma is your mummy, then who is Amma's mummy?" So he was, for the first time in his life, given the name, Valerie Underhill, which meant so much to me. Which led to the question beyond the power of simplicity to mask: "Where is she?" Which led to tears. Deep, wracking, sobbing tears.  He knows about death; he knows that dinosaurs are dead and that it's just their bones in the museum, but yesterday a pretty major penny dropped for him, about the universality and inevitability and permanence of death. Bridget talked about heaven and afterlife, which helped somewhat and he has asked some brilliant questions...

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  • I like to cite the great prophets, among whom Kris Kristofferson is included. Lately—I think out of desperation—I’ve been drawn back to his song “To Beat the Devil.”  It tells of a down-on-his-luck Nashville troubadour who, thirsty for whiskey and hungry for beans, carries his guitar into a Music Row tavern, where he encounters an old man sitting at the bar. After observing that the singer

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  • I have started knitting again.I haven't been knitting that much, since moving to Texas last year.  For one thing, I felt overwhelmed at first.  For another thing, people kept telling me that I would never need those warm socks and footies that I loved knitting.  And when it's 100 degrees out, and it plummets to about 85 at night -- well, it just doesn't seem like knitting weather.But, the temperature has been dipping down a little lower lately.  Also, it is Advent now, just barely.  So I got out my trusty knitting needles and threw caution to the wind.  I started knitting a pair of footies. It is not a bad way to spend Advent.One of the first words we hear in Advent is "Wait."  Wait, because it is God who is coming to us, and not the other way around.  And we can pray for God to come quickly (and sometimes we even do), but there is not one thing we can do to MAKE God come.  This one is on God.  Salvation is on God, not us.I don't know...

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  • Head and Heart

    photo by Holly Hayes / flickrShe came home with a smile and a little smirk. "Guess what?" she said. "I'm pregnant. We're pregnant." I don't know what I said--but it took my breath away. Pregnant. What did it mean? What does it mean? We were, together, moving into unchartered waters. I know it sounds dramatic to you seasoned ones who had forgotten when you first got your news. But for us newcomers--well--it was joyous and scary and we did not know what lay ahead. And the waiting. Nine months. Why that is almost a year! Will my wife be all right? Will the baby be all right? We don't have much money. And what does this total change in everything--really mean? We were moving, slowly--ever so slowly--into unchartered waters--and we just did not know.And once upon a time the book says that this little girl--maybe not even sixteen--was told she was pregnant. The word came not from the doctor but, for God's sake, from an angel. Angel? She had never even thought about an angel--and that...

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  • Our son's absence couldn't be avoided. He's got a new job, and taking off for a couple days simply wasn't a possibility. Still, he and his wife were missed. There was a bit of a hole in our holiday.Otherwise, it was all just about perfect. My wife, who ritually takes on the turkey singlehandedly, did it up wonderfully once again. Starting, well, Monday or so, she sweats about the menu, then works like a coal-miner all by her lonesome for 48 hours straight to come up with a meal that defines the holiday. This year her first-grade son mentioned to his mother that he hoped Mema (their name) would have cranberries. Wish morphed immediately into mandate. Two varieties, including something called, "Pink Stuff," were on the table on Thursday, even though "pink stuff" is at least 98% marshmallow and therefor not her cup of tea. If the Thanksgiving table is a book store, Pink Stuff is a silly romance novel. But, voila! there it was. My mother died three years ago already. She was 95...

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  • Becky Ramsey

    Welcome to the celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, Dec 4. This Sunday we move to the second card in the Advent Godly Play series, focusing on Mary and Joseph’s journey (don’t forget the donkey!) to Bethlehem. There are several themes to explore during the time in the circle or during the create-a-gift-for-God time, if you so wish. These include: 1. Mary as the chosen mother of Jesus. Why did God choose her? What does it mean to be in favor with God? 2. Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s news. The older children might enjoy really studying her reaction found in Luke, Chapter 1. You could even listen to The Magnificat. 3. The idea that God gives us courage and help to do what we need to do if we ask for it. 4. The idea of being part of God’s work in the world. How can each person do that? Can we look for ways to do God’s work? Be open to responding to God’s nudges? 5. Nothing is impossible for God. (What a great memory verse! Luke 1:37.) So how do we help the children...

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  • April Yamasaki

    At last week’s SBLAAR meetings, I was glad to see Drew Hart, now assistant professor in theology at Messiah College who also blogs for The Christian Century. We were both on our way to meet other people, so our exchange outside the Exhibit Hall was brief–so brief that I totally forgot to tell him how much I appreciated reading his book published earlier this year. I can’t say that it’s a book to enjoy since it’s focused on racism in the church, but this is an important, powerful, and practical book. It gave me a better understanding of the church and racism in the U.S., and a lot to ponder for my own context in Canada. I highly recommend Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart (Herald Press, 2016). The book begins with the racial trouble he’s seen: ** His brother’s arrest for “fitting the description” of someone who had committed a crime. But the description itself was vague as a...

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  • Where the Wind

    We live an either/or existence, but during Advent God invites us into an expansive both/and reality.

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  • There are lots of things that get a rise out of clergy at this time of year. First, many of us approach Advent the same way we approach Lent--as a season of preparation, waiting, and forestalling celebration until the goal is reached. Just as we would never say "Hallelujah!" or "Happy Easter!" in the middle of Holy Week, so, too, it is argued, we should never say "Merry Christmas!" until we get to the Feast of the Nativity on the night of December 24. I like waiting, but I like watching fastidious clergy throw hissy-fits over early celebrations of the season even more. Then, there's the esoteric debate about using blue or purple to celebrate the season. I prefer purple, but I prefer watching clergy get all bent out of shape about it even more. But there's one Advent debate that I didn't even know was a debate until I saw it unfold over the weekend, and this is one I'm not willing to watch from the sideline. Advent is a penitential season. It may not have the same penitential...

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  • The Peace of Wild ThingsWhen despair for the world grows in meand I wake in the night at the least soundin fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,I go and lie down where the wood drakerests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.I come into the peace of wild thingswho do not tax their lives with forethoughtof grief. I come into the presence of still water.And I feel above me the day-blind starswaiting with their light. For a timeI rest in the grace of the world, and am free.Wendell Berry (born 1934)

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  • November 27, 2016 – The 1st Sunday of Advent, Year AIsaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44© 2016 Evan D. GarnerAudio of this sermon can be heard here. When I opened my eyes on the morning of November 3, I knew three things: 1) despite my worries, the world had not come to an end; 2) I had an early-morning flight to catch and needed to get moving; and 3) I had to search for a new slogan to get me through the winter because overnight “maybe next year” had become “this year.” Like many Cubs fans who watched the end of Game 7, I had to check my newsfeed to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming. “Did it really happen?” I wondered as a big grin spread across my face. Yes it had. And, despite many predictions, the second coming of Jesus Christ had not occurred during the rain delay between the ninth and tenth innings as Cleveland and Chicago dueled to see which franchise would end its championship drought. When you get your hopes up for something year after year after year, it’s...

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  • Tamed Cynic

    Jim Somerville, the pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church, founded A Sermon for Every Sunday a couple of years ago with David Powers, President of Belltower Pictures (check out Shooting the Prodigal) as a way to help churches that didn’t have, or couldn’t afford, a regular preacher.  They recorded sermons in high-definition video that could be projected during worship. Now they are being used by small churches, house churches, Bible studies, small groups, Sunday school classes, and for individual viewing on laptops, tablets, and smartphones all over the country. Their preachers include the likes of Brian McLaren, Will Willimon, Amy Butler, and Lauren Winner. Jim invited me to participate recently and below is my sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent. Not only am I thrilled to be counted among the other preachers on this roster, I was grateful to make the acquaintance of Jim and David, the former is a homiletics nerd like myself and the latter is the kind of lay...

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  • Watch, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. ~Mark 13:35, 36

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  • Dating God

    In an conversation on October 24, 2016 with the participants of the Jesuit General Congregation and now recently published in the publication La Civiltá Cattolica, Pope Francis offered numerous insights and comments worth further reflection. The format was informal, with the Holy Father requesting that questions be spontaneous and without advance preparation. Therefore, his responses were also extemporaneous, lending the conversation a sense of fraternity and accessibility oftentimes absent from more formal papal statements. Some of the comments have already made headlines, including his strong critique of some seminary formation programs in which rigidity is emphasized and discernment minimized. He said: “in a certain number of seminaries, a righty that is far from a discernment of situations has been introduced. And that is dangerous, because it can lead us to a conception of morality that has a casuistic sense.” Pointing to the great Doctors of the Church St. Thomas...

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    Matthew 3:1-12...At least that's the advice I'd give if one is going to preach like John the Baptist. We begin wedding services with the words, "Dearly beloved." John stands at the Jordan River and begins his sermon, "You nest of snakes!" I'm not sure Dale Carnegie would approve.It certainly seems counter-intuitive to call people to repentance, to call them to the waters of baptism with insults. Sure, people are sinners; people aren't perfect. It's one thing to say that we all need to improve ourselves, but the serpent comparison seems a bit much.And, yet, that is exactly what John the Baptist does. His honesty is brutal; his words focused like a laser beam. A new day of redemption is about to dawn, but with redemption comes judgment as well, and John wants the multitudes to be prepared. This is Old Testament prophetic preaching at its finest. John, the hinge between the old and the new, standing on the shoulders of Elijah preparing the way for the One who will fulfill, who will...

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