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

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


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ November 17, 201

11-17-2019 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 – Doomsday Pollyanna
      1. Real Good Church by Molly Phinney Baskette
      2. A balance between urgency and confidence
        1. Knowing the stakes, and knowing the we can do what’s necessary – for the life of the church
  • Resolve the tension found in the scriptures today
  1. Prophetic Texts
    1. Today’s scripture readings, especially the gospel reading, will either be very disturbing, or very comforting
    2. Two prophetic texts –
      1. Ending, neutral zone \ transition time, new beginnings
      2. We are always in this cycle, though we may not be aware of it
    3. Jesus foretells ending
      1. Disciples are in the moment, admiring the temple
      2. Jesus predicts the temple’s destruction and foretells many hard times, in the world and for his followers
    4. Isaiah an ending and a new beginning
      1. Ending of slavery in Babylon
        1. Also ending of the illusion that things in the promised land were perfect and just waiting for them to return
      2. Time in neutral zone – work and change
  • New beginning – promises of a better life
  1. Doomsday pollyanna
  1. Apocalypse – isn’t The end of the world, just the end of the world as we know it
    1. Apocalypse – un-veil-ing, reveal-ing.
    2. There have been multiple apocalypses
      1. The temple Jesus is predicting will be destroyed isn’t the first temple, it’s the second.
      2. Isaiah – finding remains of first temple
    3. “The end of the world already happened with the dinosaurs. – we’re the post-apocalyptic monsters.”
      1. 5 mass extinctions
      2. Great Oxidation Event
    4. Doomsday Pollyanna
  2. Every apocalypse starts with the loss of an illusion
    1. Things will never change again
    2. God will not give us more than we can handle
      1. 8 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
    3. Ruth Moerdyke – “we know who we are, when we aren’t challenged” – time of change is a time of challenge
      1. “I’m a nice person until you make me angry…” maybe you aren’t that nice after all – maybe the focus shouldn’t be on the niceness, but on being good. Sometimes, to live God’s will, we need to be more than nice, but we will always need to be good
    4. Jesus – reality check and advice for hard times
      1. Maybe not prophetic in a mystical sense, but just knowing the flow of time
      2. Focus isn’t on the predictions of what and when, but how we should respond – continue in our faith, continue to be good, Godly people
      3. Isaiah – reminder of the better things to come
      4. Doomsday and Pollyanna. Not naïve, but centered
    5. Build up to Advent
      1. Every advent is a time of waiting, a time of hoping, the reminder that we need a messiah, a good, Godly way forward
      2. time of fostering Hope, Joy, Love, Peace, because there isn’t enough
      3. We are closer to the promises of a new heavens and new earth
        1. Living longer
        2. Lower infant mortality
  • Enough for all to eat and have a place of their own
  1. Not labor in vain or bring children into a world of horrors
  1. Advent is a time of hopeful waiting, and Anxiety – two parts of the same thing
    1. Listening to many of you, it seems like the struggle to find hope and control anxiety is harder than ever
    2. Temptation to slip into denial, go back to the illusion.
      1. Denial is my Spiritual Practice (and other failures of faith) by Rachel Hackenberg and Martha Spong
    3. Anxiety is functioning on multiple levels
      1. Personal
      2. Congregational – interim time between pastors
  • National
  1. Remember the ongoing cycle
    1. Ending
    2. Neutral zone or in between time
      1. Least comfortable, most unsettled
      2. Most fertile, most creative
  • New beginnings
  1. We will be challenged first
    1. “But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith.”
    2. Don’t be afraid
    3. Don’t worry about what to say
      1. Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict.
      2. You don’t need to prepare anything special – just be consistent with how you’ve always lived
    4. Stand up for your faith – simple common ideas become radical in times of conflict
      1. Wanting every child to have the best chance for a good future
        1. Great statement in abstract, but need to be particular
        2. Poor children
        3. Abused children
        4. Refugee children
        5. Children of parents who need help
        6. Children who don’t have parents
        7. Children in the foster care system
      2. “we know who we are, when we aren’t challenged”
        1. This is a time of challenge – if you stay true, that’s all you need
        2. It’s easier to stand up to your enemies than your friends
          1. Veteran’s day Army Major Hugh Thompson Jr.
            1. Helped stop the My Lai massacre
            2. Didn’t prepare his defense in advance, was grounded in what was right – not killing innocents
            3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Thompson_Jr
          2. Is this a coming time of apocalypse?
            1. Who knows? Very well can be.
              1. Climate change
              2. Failure of democratic systems to demagoguery and greed
            2. Yet, Jesus’ response is the same
              1. Don’t get taken in
              2. don’t worry about preparing for your defense
  • keep on in your faith – we have everything we need
  1. doomsday Pollyanna
    1. even in this time, we still have everything we need, all the resources, all the people, to bring about a better world and avoid apocalypse – we just have to choose to. And choose to give up what doesn’t get us there
    2. can’t hold on to our hatreds, biases, angers, ways we’ve always done things.
  • Need to focus on what is deep, true, and eternal
    1. Isaiah reminds us of some of that – basic health, wellbeing, and community. Faith in our God that provides enough for all, but not enough for all excesses
    2. A teacher, leader, messiah, that knows hard times are coming, as they have before, and will again, and reassures us that we have all we need. Not to preserve our lives in perfect joy and denial of the problems of the world, but in full awareness and in spite of those challenges.
    3. Those that try to hold on to their lives will lose them.
  1. And, as shown time and time again, those people and homes of faith that hold true to a clear mission are the ones who thrive, especially in trying times
  • How to live in trying times
    1. Focus of our Advent devotions
    2. What Can’t Wait?
      1. What do you, individually, and you, collectively need to put more focus into?
      2. How to deal with anger and energy filled people?
  • How to talk about hard things?
  1. How to cope?
  • What is your faith?
    1. Ones that know and own their beliefs do better than ones that do not

Readings

Isaiah 65:17-25 can be found on page ______________________.  This reading from Isaiah is thought to have been written after the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, and saw their home city Jerusalem, and the holy temple they craved both in ruins.

17 Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:

    past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind.

18 Be glad and rejoice forever

    in what I’m creating,

    because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy

    and her people as a source of gladness.

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.

    No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.

20 No more will babies live only a few days,

    or the old fail to live out their days.

The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person,

    and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.

21 They will build houses and live in them;

    they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 They won’t build for others to live in,

    nor plant for others to eat.

Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people;

    my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.

23 They won’t labor in vain,

    nor bear children to a world of horrors,

    because they will be people blessed by the Lord,

    they along with their descendants.

24 Before they call, I will answer;

    while they are still speaking, I will hear.

25 Wolf and lamb will graze together,

    and the lion will eat straw like the ox,

    but the snake—its food will be dust.

They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Luke 21:5-19 can be found on page ______________________.  This reading from Luke takes place as Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for the last time, and will shortly be betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified.

 5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”

7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?”

8 Jesus said, “Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky. 12 But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will provide you with an opportunity to testify. 14 Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. 17 Everyone will hate you because of my name. 18 Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. 19 By holding fast, you will gain your lives.