First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

November 18th, 2018 – Sermon

11/18/18   by Pastor Greg Briggs   (Audio version is at the bottom of this post)

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Is this a time for Apocalypse or Thanksgiving?
    3. How much time do you set aside to give thanks on Thanksgiving?
  2. Hannah’s prayer
    1. Prayer of thanksgiving,
      1. Hannah a woman who was barren is able to bear a son
        1. Not just any son, but one she dedicates to serve God, who will anoint David, the king of Israel
      2. Radical prayer for her time, that the distant God who created the universe cares about us minute humans in our suffering
      3. and First hint of Advent
        1. Prelude to Mary’s Magnificat – her praise for God during pregnancy
        2. Mary – another miraculous birth, another son who will serve God
          1. Song of praise is similar
        3. Mark Notes
          1. Jesus, delighting in destruction?
            1. Reminder to not be distracted by grand things
            2. Not about preservation or destruction of things, but ushering in God’s kingdom
  • Described by Hannah as “The Lord makes poor, gives wealth, brings low, but also lifts up high! God raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the garbage pile. God sits them with officials, gives them the seat of honor!”
  1. What does grandness matter, if there is suffering, poverty?
    1. inequality
  2. That last line – Pangs and Throes, but of what?
    1. 8 – death throes or birth pangs?
      1. Differences in translation
      2. ὠδίνōdín, o-deen’; akin to G3601; a pang or throe, especially of childbirth:—pain, sorrow, travail.
  1. Difference in perspective – is this the end, or the next step
  1. Big A and little a apocalypse
    1. What is apocalypse?
      1. Even choosing the definition shows a bias
      2. End of the world or
  • Drastic reordering of the world
  1. First apocalypse on earth, the first microorganisms that released oxygen –
    1. Oxygen, essential for our life, lethal to what came before
  2. The temple did fall
    1. As did the Roman Empire
    2. As did many other societies in between
  3. Hard times now
    1. Hard yes. Harder than what?
    2. Will Smith “Things aren’t worse now. Things are just being captured on video now.”
  • “me too” movement is about uncovering now what has been going on for so long.
  1. Hard to hear, yes. For those suffering, the suffering and the silence has been worse.
  1. Even when things are getting worse, it is because things are coming out into the open
  1. Another point of view
    1. But not in the long view – Extreme poverty
      1. From
      2. “In 1820, the vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed higher standards of living. Economic growth over the last 200 years completely transformed our world, with poverty falling continuously over the last two centuries. This is even more remarkable when we consider that the population increased 7-fold over the same time. In a world without economic growth, an increase in the population would result in less and less income for everyone. A 7-fold increase in the world population would be potentially enough to drive everyone into extreme poverty. Yet, the exact opposite happened. In a time of unprecedented population growth, we managed to lift more and more people out of poverty.”
  • Since 1820 – majority of our country’s life – civil war, two world wars, women gaining the right to vote, ending of slavery –
  1. “44% of the world population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of poor people in the world has declined very fast—in fact, faster than ever before in world history. In 32 years, the share of people living in extreme poverty was divided by 4, reaching levels below 11% in 2013. Although the World Bank estimates for 2015 are not yet available, the projections suggest that the incidence of extreme poverty has fallen below 10% for that year.”
  2. Since 1981 – essentially my living lifetime – (1981 when they started a new survey method)
  3. Hannah said “The Lord makes poor, gives wealth, brings low, but also lifts up high! God raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the garbage pile. God sits them with officials, gives them the seat of honor!”
  1. Chrysalis conversation
    1. What does metamorphosis look like to the caterpillar? Death
    2. What does metamorphosis look like to the butterfly? Birth
    3. What does metamorphosis look like in the middle? One hot, sticky mess
  2. Point of view
    1. Times are hard, things are not going to be easier or nicer, at least on the national level, anytime soon.
      1. Yet, it is still up to each of us to choose what we focus on, and how we interpret what is going on.
      2. We can choose to continue to not listen, or we can work on getting ourselves into a better place to bear this load
    2. Don’t let hatred, fear, anger, control you. When you can, edit the sources of hatred and fear out of your life. When you can’t – transform yourself instead. Remember, Love casts out fear
  3. Love Casts out fear Appreciative Inquiry
    1. Not “finding a silver lining” in every cloud
      1. Which is finding a bit of good in the bad
    2. Or “blowing sunshine”
      1. Which is inserting false or shallow positivism to gloss over negativity
    3. Spiritual and mental reorientation
      1. Most common phrase in the Bible? “Do not be afraid”
        1. Don’t let fear rule you
      2. 1 John 4 16-18 “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
  • 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
  1. Appreciative Inquiry
    1. Technique that we will be using in the next few months of this interim time
    2. Putting our focus on what has gone right, not what has gone wrong
    3. Foreshadowing in Advent Conspiracy – remembering what makes the holidays and Christmas truly meaningful – memories, not gifts. Caring for others.
  2. Thanksgiving? Now?
    1. But let’s not jump ahead yet. First up is Thanksgiving. Not a perfect holiday, in it’s history or often time in the family issues and strains that often come up. Not to mention the almost obligatory over eating
    2. Use this as a time to Practice “love casting out fear” – it is a time for us to pause, and reflect on what we are thankful for. A time of remembrance and gratitude
    3. Carve out (ha! Pun!) some time to be thankful.
      1. Maybe look at the table as it is being set, or at those you are helping to feed, whether your family, or friends, or volunteering in the community
    4. Setting your intention for the upcoming holiday season
      1. If you are feeling particularly stressed out, suffering, exhausted, remember, this is why we crave a Saviour and have been given one.
      2. Engage in Thankfulness when you can.
      3. Keep in mind Advent
        1. Hope, Love, Joy, Peace
        2. Modern – Advent Conspiracy – worship fully, buy less, give more, love all
  • Advent calendars, readings and actions. Build in a daily practice of coming back to what’s important, to finding peace in the chaos instead of letting chaos disrupt your peace
  1. Come, pause with us on Thursdays, or find your own time and place. Remember Sabbath. The less time you feel you have time for it, the more you need it.
  1. As you put together your Christmas wish list – think beyond things
    1. Because We do need a little Christmas, right this very minute
    2. Presence over presents
  2. Remember, you aren’t in this alone
    1. Family, friends
    2. Community of faith
  • Beloved child of God – no matter what.


Readings – 1 Samuel 2 1-10

Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord.

    My strength rises up in the Lord!

    My mouth mocks my enemies

        because I rejoice in your deliverance.

2  No one is holy like the Lord—

    no, no one except you!

    There is no rock like our God!

3  Don’t go on and on, talking so proudly,

    spouting arrogance from your mouth,

    because the Lord is the God who knows,

        and he weighs every act.

4 The bows of mighty warriors are shattered,

    but those who were stumbling now dress themselves in power!

5 Those who were filled full now sell themselves for bread,

    but the ones who were starving are now fat from food!

    The woman who was barren has birthed seven children,

        but the mother with many sons has lost them all!

6 The Lord!

    He brings death, gives life,

        takes down to the grave, and raises up!

7 The Lord!

He makes poor, gives wealth,

    brings low, but also lifts up high!

8 God raises the poor from the dust,

    lifts up the needy from the garbage pile.

    God sits them with officials,

    gives them the seat of honor!

The pillars of the earth belong to the Lord;

    he set the world on top of them!

9 God guards the feet of his faithful ones,

    but the wicked die in darkness

        because no one succeeds by strength alone.

10 The Lord!

His enemies are terrified!

        God thunders against them from heaven!

    The Lord!

    He judges the far corners of the earth!

May God give strength to his king

    and raise high the strength of his anointed one.”



Mark 13:1-8


13 As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”

Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”

Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”

Keep watch!

Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ They will deceive many people. When you hear of wars and reports of wars, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen, but this isn’t the end yet. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines in all sorts of places.

The last line can be translated two ways

This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.              or

These things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end.

 Litany of Thanksgiving


Let us give thanks to God our Parent

for all the gifts God has so freely bestowed upon us.


For the beauty and wonder of your creation,

in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.


For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,

revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.


For our daily food and drink,

our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.


For minds to think, and hearts to love,

and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.


For health and strength to work,

and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.


For the brave and courageous,

who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.


For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.


For the communion of saints,

in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.


Above all, we give you thanks

for the great mercies and promises

given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;


To God be praise and glory, with you, O Loving Parent, your blessed son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Listen to the audio version by clicking on the link below:

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