Thursday, November 28, 2013

Awaken to God -- Alternative Lections for Advent 2 (David Ackerman)

During this holiday season it is easy to lose track of the presence of God. We get caught up in the commercial aspects and neglect to remember the spiritual foundations. But these texts remind us of God's active presence. God is in the business of entering our lives and bringing transformation. The apocalyptic elements might be difficult to wrestle with, but the apocalyptic, that sense of God's purposeful entry into our midst to bring into existence the reign of God, is central to the season and to our faith.  Advent invites us to look forward into the future to the time in which God brings into being the fulness of God's realm.  In the meantime, these texts from David Ackerman's alternative lectionary -- Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary --  invite us to remain faithful even during difficult times.


Advent 2

“Awaken to God”

Call to Worship: Psalm 57:8-11 NRSV

One: Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.
Many: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
One: For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
Many: Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth.

Gathering Prayer: You have brought us together today, God, amid all the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Help us to filter through the static of life so we may hear your voice calling us.

Confession: We confess, God, that we haven’t been faithful to you as we should because we’ve been far too distracted by other things. You cry to us but we do not listen. We have been hearing selectively and have chosen the noise of our world over the sound of your voice. Forgive us, and awaken us to your presence among us.

Assurance: God breaks through our resistance and comes to deliver us from every power that would keep us from being fully human. Let us give thanks, then, to God, who names us and claims us as beloved children.

                        Daniel 3:19-30 – “The Fiery Furnace”
Revelation 11:15-19 – “The Seventh Trumpet”
Luke 1:5-20, 57-66 – “The Birth of John”

Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.

Reflection Questions:

·         Worship leaders will want to set the scene for Daniel 3:19-30. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, and their punishment is to be thrown into a fiery furnace. Who do you think is the fourth person in the furnace? (Hint: it’s not Jesus – the answer is in v 28.) What do you think is the point of the story?

·         What do you think is the point of today’s reading from Revelation 11? Do you hear an ecological warning given at the end of v 18?

·         Does the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1 remind you of any other story in the Bible? Which one?

·         Have you ever doubted something that you knew you should believe in? Is it hard for you sometimes to have faith?

·         Today’s stories are filled with angels. Do you believe in angels? Who do you think they are and what do you think they are like?

·         Do you sometimes feel that you are on sensory overload this time of year with all the noise that is around you? How can we awaken to the presence of God in times like these?

Prayer of Thanksgiving: You have rescued us, God, from persecutions outside us and doubts inside us. Thank you, God, for freeing us to be new people this day.

Benediction: With shouts of victory, God sends us out to proclaim good news of deliverance and love. Let us go forth as people fully awake to the presence of the Holy One who goes with us this day. Amen.

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