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

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


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ December 08, 2019

12-08-19 Bulletin PDF

  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. Title Repentance (Peace) Can’t Wait
    3. Start with the ending
      1. Song was written after he reconnected with a long ago ex-girlfriend, and they were able to be honest about why their relationship didn’t work. they shared their insecurities, what they needed but didn’t know, or know how to ask for.
      2. When you both know it’s over, Suddenly the truth comes out
  • You can talk about your secret passion, You can talk about your restless doubt
  1. When there’s no pretending, Then the truth is safe to say
  2. Start with the ending, Get it out of the way
  3. Now, there’s no defending, Because no one has to win
  • Start with the ending, It’s the best way to begin
  1. Isaiah
    1. Starting with the ending – Stump of Jesse – Isaiah 10 – God made the stump
    2. The leader Israel needs V 2-4
      1. A Wise, just, and compassionate leader – centered in what’s right in the eyes of the Lord, not by outward appearances
      2. Equity – what people need to succeed
  • Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.
  1. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help.
  2. Elevator in church – equity – what people need to get to the sanctuary. Equality is just providing stairs
  1. Not military leader – strikes the violent with the rod of his mouth, breath of his lips will kill the wicket – not an army
  2. Will change the order of the world
    1. Enough for all, no need to compete
  3. Stump of Jesse – Isaiah 10 – God made the stump
    1. Just like John says, the ax is at the foot of the tree
  4. John and what he’s pointing people toward
    1. Also starting with the ending – repentance
    2. Speaking to the already religious, as well as the “common” people
      1. Everyday people, “As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River”
      2. Already religious
        1. “Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives.”
        2. “The ax is already at the root of the trees”
      3. Fallen short –
      4. God can make new people
    3. Hypocrisy of the religious
      1. “them” vs. “us”
      2. Starting with the ending – the ending of this type of Christianity in America. Turning people away from Christ by claiming to be Christ-like
        1. Sin of pride
        2. Not concerning ourselves with what Christ concerned himself with.
  • Concerned with purity, vs. doing what is right
    1. Concerned with avoiding sin, instead of working against sin
  1. Martin Luther – Imaginary Mercy
    1. “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where [pure] justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.”
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – cheap grace
    1. when asked in 1943 how the church could sit back and let Hitler seize power said “it was the teaching of cheap grace. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
  3. Repentance – admitting we aren’t perfect, and we don’t know it all
    1. Real vs. cheap grace or imaginary mercy
    2. Only sounds harsh until you get on the other side. Until you start from the ending
    3. Racism, pronouns, gender – focus is on getting better, and being unapologetic for being so
    4. Allyship is not something we are, it’s something we work towards.
  4. Feels so Good!
    1. Many be hard to start, but so freeing
      1. Recovering Type A personality – freedom to fail
      2. Key to so much spiritual growth
    2. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
    3. As practicing Christians, we know better. Or we should. And we should keep trying to know better.
      1. Not obligation, but peace!
    4. Feels good to be able to admit that you’ve been wrong, and need to do better
      1. Frees us to make future mistakes, and then apologize
    5. Personal stories of repentance
    6. Peace in repentance
      1. Righting things in self – from self centered to centering our selves.
      2. Required vs. Desired
        1. Required repentance – obligation
        2. Desired repentance
      3. my family – impediments became running jokes
        1. unintentional cruelty, masked as affection
        2. my speech impediment
  • my sister’s first crush
  1. apologizing, and not doing it anymore
  1. don’t chide the behavior you want to encourage
  2. easy to talk about the healed places, harder to talk about the not yet healed places
    1. as a spiritual leader, ethically, need to stay grounded in what’s healed, not what’s wounded.
    2. Healing given to me at this church
      1. Bible study, hard conversations
      2. Not where you are, but where you see yourself heading
        1. Not in denial
      3. Seeing the church die, it’s heartening to see a shoot coming from the stump of Jesse.
    3. Church stories of repentance
      1. Feast of St. Nicholas
        1. legendary habit of secret gift-giving
          1. giving to dowry – so the women wouldn’t become prostitutes
          2. three purses of gold through the window
        2. the repentance of the reformation
        3. UCC apologies for collusion with past theological errors
          1. Doctrine of Discovery
          2. Salem Witch Trials – Congregationalists
  • Conquest of Hawaii – Congregationalists
  1. Silence of church build up to WW II
  • Congregational stories of repentance
    1. Starting with the ending

Readings

Isaiah 11:1-10 Common English Bible (CEB)

11 A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;

    a branch will sprout from his roots.

2 The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him,

    a spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    a spirit of planning and strength,

    a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

3 He will delight in fearing the Lord.

He won’t judge by appearances,

    nor decide by hearsay.

4 He will judge the needy with righteousness,

    and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.

He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;

    by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be the belt around his hips,

    and faithfulness the belt around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,

    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;

    the calf and the young lion will feed together,

    and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow and the bear will graze.

    Their young will lie down together,

    and a lion will eat straw like an ox.

8 A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole;

    toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den.

9 They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.

    The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,

    just as the water covers the sea.

10 On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious.

Matthew 3:1-12

3 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, 2 “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” 3 He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:

The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,

        “Prepare the way for the Lord;

        make his paths straight.”

4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.

5 People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. 6 As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 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. 10 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. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 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.”