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

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon – December 16, 2018

Sermon –December 16 2018   by Pastor Greg Briggs

  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. “From Anger to Joy”
    3. I wonder if John the Baptist has even been used in a communication or interpersonal psychology class?
  2. For the Sunday of Joy, both scriptures sure start out angry
    1. Judgement and Redemption – two sides of the same coin
      1. You can’t be saved if you aren’t first doing something wrong
      2. You can’t ask for forgiveness if you aren’t aware you did something that needs forgiving
  • Often, we don’t want to hear the bad part, only the good.
  1. Different stages of understanding and communication
    1. Anger to honesty
      1. Anger isn’t bad. No emotion is, it’s what we do with them
      2. Anger isn’t a final, or primal, emotion, it points to something else
      3. often a disconnection, often one that causes harm
      4. indicates importance, and need to speak honestly (hopefully in love)
      5. You brood of vipers! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon?”
    2. Honesty to correction
      1. Course of action to ease this disconnection
      2. Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father.
  • Correction to contentment
    1. Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”
    2. “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”
    3. Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same
  1. Contentment to joy
    1. Beginning of Isaiah
    2. You will say on that day: “I thank you, LORD. Though you were angry with me, your anger turned away and you comforted me. 2 God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid. Yah, the LORD, is my strength and my shield; God has become my salvation.”
  2. Contentment is joy
    1. For a greedy mindset, contentment is settling for less
    2. For a centered person, contentment is the unveiling of so many joys and happinesses that were obscured
    3. The added joy of being able to share with others, and share in their joy as well
    4. Hard to talk about if you haven’t ever been in a place of need
    5. Not just personal, but collective
    6. “There is a cosmic struggle going on right now between those who believe that it is their duty to get what they can, while they can, and hold onto it for as long as they can and those who believe the world has enough for all and work to help so all can have enough. It is a struggle between nations and peoples, between political parties, states, and communities. This struggle takes place in each soul each and every day.” – Rev. Enno Limvere
  3. Isaiah
    1. Prophet who calls us to atone, and reminds us that we aren’t too far gone.
    2. We aren’t beyond hope, and God will not forget us, even when we break our covenant with God
      1. God has become my [the speaker’s] salvation. Wasn’t before, but is now
      2. Not about the past, about the future
    3. There is the joy!
      1. You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.
      2. And you will say on that day:
        “Thank the Lord; call on God’s name; proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples;
    4. John – Everyday Acts of Repentance
      1. John does not start with the powers that be – the Roman Empire
      2. He starts with individuals
        1. followers of God – give if you have extra
        2. tax collectors – quasi-traitors-employees of empire
          1. Collect only the correct amount
          2. Honest political officers?
  • soldiers – unclear if Roman or Jewish
    1. don’t cheat
    2. don’t harass
    3. be satisfied with your pay
  1. reminder of our own self control
    1. may not control circumstances, but can control our responses
  2. Difference between escaping judgement, and passing it
    1. Not hiding behind status or power, but demonstrating
  3. Produce fruits
    1. Implying it’s hard to tell the difference between Children of God and oppressors
    2. Demonstrate difference
  4. John – Practices what he preaches
    1. “The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ.”
    2. He said “the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals.”
    3. John could have done what he was accusing others of doing, taking more than was allotted to him
    4. Lived as an example – an accomplishable example
    5. Not about amount of power, but what you do with your power, authority, and influence
  5. Not about punishment or vengeance, but restoration, and justice
    1. God may be angry with us, but that anger will pass away, or turn away.
    2. Not about the past, but the future
      1. Hard, when we are so often tempted to say, “I told you so” and hold it over others
    3. Call for, and seek out, those living as John has called us
      1. Politicians who don’t cheat
        1. In contrast to our Legislature’s latest Lame Duck Session, trying to limit power of those coming into office, because they don’t think the same way
      2. Look for honesty, speak out about unlawfulness and deceitfulness
  • Be honest with yourself if you’ve supported dishonest leaders – make amends, don’t compound mistakes
  1. Honorable people honor the calls to repent and admit their wrongs
  1. Starting with truth
    1. We live in an unsustainable society – because we act as if it is our “duty to get what they can, while they can, and hold onto it for as long as they can”
      1. Climate change
      2. Lame duck session political grabs for power
  • Ongoing hardening of our hearts to other’s suffering, so we don’t feel the empathic pangs
    1. 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Shootings
    2. Continued denial of empathy for asylum seekers, in violation of the Geneva Convention, at our Southern borders
  1. and those who believe the world has enough for all and work to help so all can have enough.
    1. There truly is enough for everyone, if we can be content with a healthy and safe way of life, but not an extravagant one
    2. European middle class vs. American Middle class is sustainable
  2. Today’s scriptures show us a path, a place to start
  1. John shows us embodiment
    1. Not only is it the divine born into human form, but it is the expression of the divine wish in each of us
    2. John starts with negatives – moving us to positives
  2. Prayer from Enfleshed.com

 

Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Take flesh in our hands,

that they might cook meals that nourish,

plant seeds that grow life,
create art that inspires,
touch tenderly bodies that ache.

Take flesh in our feet,

that wherever we may find ourselves:

kitchen tables, altars, bars, hospitals, prisons, bedrooms, sites of conflict, places of peace,

we will be rooted in the assurance of our power and possibilities.
Take flesh in our voice,

that we might

call for the mighty to be torn from their thrones,
speak words of compassion and love,
and whisper “thank you”
to every source of beauty that upholds us.

Take flesh in our gut, in our bones, in our deepest places of knowing

that we might listen
to that which moves us without words,
to the wisdom of feeling,
to that which we have silenced
by the tyranny of reason.

Take flesh in our skin,

our curves,
our wrinkles,
our scars,
in every detail of these bodies,
that we might begin to honor
the holy we wear.

Take flesh in our eyes

that we might weep
tears worthy of
all that has been lost,
all that has been taken,
all that has been betrayed.

Take flesh, O God,

in our beating hearts,
that we might
keep fighting for collective life,
keep believing in divine possibilities,
keep loving despite our trembling,
keep turning towards each other.

Come, O come, Emmanuel.

 

  1. When we find contentment, we find Joy.
    1. When we embody God’s desire for us and for all, we won’t be able to contain our joy
    2. Then, we will speak like Isaiah:
    3. And you will say on that day:
      “Thank the Lord; call on God’s name;
          proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples;
          declare that God’s name is exalted.
      Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things;
          proclaim this throughout all the earth.”
      Shout and sing for joy, city of Zion,
          because the holy one of Israel is great among you.

 

Readings

Isaiah 12:1-6

You will say on that day:
“I thank you, Lord.
Though you were angry with me,
    your anger turned away and you comforted me.
God is indeed my salvation;
    I will trust and won’t be afraid.
Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my shield;
    he has become my salvation.”

You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.
And you will say on that day:
“Thank the Lord; call on God’s name;
    proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples;
    declare that God’s name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things;
    proclaim this throughout all the earth.”
Shout and sing for joy, city of Zion,
    because the holy one of Israel is great among you.

Luke 3:7-18 Common English Bible (CEB)

Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

14 Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

15 The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ. 16 John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” 18 With many other words John appealed to them, proclaiming good news to the people.

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