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

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


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ December 1, 2019

12-01-19 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. Endings or New Beginnings
      1. Like the glass half full \ half empty conversation –
    3. What Can’t Wait – God’s Promised Day (hope) can’t wait
      1. Reminder – Doomsday Pollyanna
    4. Coming of the Messiah – Matthew
      1. Readings remind us of an uncomfortable truth – the coming of the Messiah also brings God’s expectations from the background to the foreground.
        1. How is what we are doing helping bring in the Reign of Christ?
      2. We sometimes conflate God’s goodness with tameness and niceness
        1. Hard to avoid the contrast in this passage
      3. Compares to time of Noah –
        1. Just going on with everyday life, enjoying things, heedless of the cost
          1. No one knows what’s going on
        2. But this time we do
      4. Edge of another climatic disaster
        1. And a large part of a proposed solution is to plant – plant trillions of trees and transform our yards to better support insects and land use
        2. Need to transform from armies to foresters
      5. Not a threat, encouragement
    5. Staying Awake – fostering a Poverty of Spirit
      1. Restlessness –
      2. Poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor.

The self-sufficient, the proud,

those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God, for them there will be no Christmas.

 Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone.

That someone is God.

Emmanuel.  God-with-us.

Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

  1. Doomsday Pollyanna
    1. A wider awareness than our immediate neighborhood
    2. Poverty of spirit – humbleness of spirit
  • Still thinking we are the ones who need to be served, instead of being the ones who serve others
  1. Isaiah
    1. What we are hoping for
      1. God’s mountain
        1. People will stream to it
      2. God will
        1. Teach us
        2. Judge between nations, settle disputes
      3. We will
        1. beat swords into plows\ hoes
        2. stay awake
      4. Practicing Staying Awake – practicing poverty of spirit
        1. Align yourself with the same people Jesus did – make Jesus Christ your lens for the world
        2. Matthew – Beatitudes Matt. 5,
          1. Blessed are the poor in spirit,
          2. for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn,
  1. for they will be comforted.
  2. Blessed are the meek,
  3. for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
  • for they will be filled.
  1. Blessed are the merciful,
  2. for they will be shown mercy.
  3. Blessed are the pure in heart,
  • for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers,
  • for they will be called children of God.
  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
  • for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  1. Judgement of the Nations Matt. 25
    1. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
    2. 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
  • “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
  1. 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
  1. Advent Devotions – Beating Swords into plowshares
    1. Work done by the people, not by God
      1. “They’ll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes.” Message Translation
    2. Shane Claiborne & RAW tools – bulletin picture
      1. Guns into garden tools –
        1. Ending gun violence
        2. New beginnings for communities
      2. The United States has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but we have almost half of the world’s privately held guns (42 percent).
  • A gun is stolen every minute in the U.S.
  1. Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violenceby Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin;
  1. Cathartic – Redemptive – Transformative
    1. Learning by doing
    2. Praxis – alternating between service and prayer
  2. Cathartic, Redemptive, Transformative
    1. Advent Devotions –
      1. Not just comforting, but also illuminating
    2. Talk about loving, caring for strangers
      1. Nothing like doing it
      2. No big, not public
  • Just trying to understand them, to not automatically write them off
  1. CLARA – affirming the inner emotion, even if disagreeing with conclusion
  1. Communion & thanksgiving table
    1. Eating at the same table
    2. All being served – by God

Readings

Isaiah 2:1-5 Common English Bible (CEB)

Today’s reading from Isaiah shares the prophet’s vision of the Lord’s mountain, the future promise for all of God’s people.

This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 In the days to come

    the mountain of the Lord’s house

    will be the highest of the mountains.

    It will be lifted above the hills;

        peoples will stream to it.

3 Many nations will go and say,

“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,

    to the house of Jacob’s God

        so that he may teach us his ways

        and we may walk in God’s paths.”

Instruction will come from Zion;

    the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.

4 God will judge between the nations,

    and settle disputes of mighty nations.

Then they will beat their swords into iron plows

    and their spears into pruning tools.

Nation will not take up sword against nation;

    they will no longer learn how to make war.

5 Come, house of Jacob,

    let’s walk by the Lord’s light.

Matthew 24:36-44

As we begin a new lectionary year, Year A, we start our spiritual journey with the Gospel of Matthew. In this Gospel, there is not much said before the birth of Christ. So, we start with Matthew towards the end of the Gospel, where Jesus discusses the trials that are to come.

36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 37 As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One. 38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that. 40 At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. 42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. 43 But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. 44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.

The word of God, for the people of God.

Thanks be to God

Perhaps the World Ends Here  By Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.