God is coming -- is a word like that a cause for celebration or angst? I suppose how you answer will depend on how you envision God. For many of us who live on the left side of center the idea of judgment is a difficult concept to get hold of. And yet the biblical story is not without passages that speak of judgment, especially in regard to the coming of God. As we pursue this Advent journey toward Christmas and its celebration of the incarnation, words like those found in these texts that David Ackerman, in Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary, has chosen for us as an alternative reading (I plan on preaching from Daniel 5), require some deep reflection on our part. Perhaps they can push us to stand with courage for the things of God.
December 15, 2013
“God Is Coming!”
Call to Worship: Psalm 62:1-2 NRSV
Many: He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
Gathering Prayer: You bring us together today, God, and we look for you to come and rescue us from the brokenness of life. Be near us, Holy One, and deliver us from times of trial.
Confession: God, we have been cowardly people who have spoken without thinking and kept silent when we needed to speak. In our thoughts and actions, we are guilty of failing to trust in you. In this season, when we hear your call to turn to you, we ask your forgiveness. Where we deserve to be judged, we ask you for mercy. We also ask that you give us the courage we need to forgive others in the same way that you have forgiven us.
Assurance: God gives us abundant assurance this day of grace, love, and forgiveness. In the spirit of this season, let us give thanks to God for coming to us so that we might have new life this day.
Daniel5:1-7, 17, 25-28 – “The Writing on the Wall”
Revelation 15:2-4 – “Song of Victory”
Matthew 24:15-22 – “Coming Judgment”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
· What do you think is the point of today’s story from Daniel 5? Can religion and politics ever be completely separate? How do they influence and impact each other?
· What do you think the intended readers of John of Patmos’ writing would have thought the “beast” in Revelation 15 represented? (Hint: keep thinking politics.) What do you think the beast’s overthrow would have meant to first/second century Christians? What does it mean to you to think that the victor would be known as “the Lamb”? Should these images be taken literally or as attempts to describe something that transcends human language?
· What do you make of the kind of description of the “end times” that we see in Matthew 24? What do you think is the point of readings like this? Again, should these images be taken literally or as attempts to describe something that that is indescribable?
· How do you feel about Bible readings that focus on judgment? Are there any good things that might come from those kinds of readings? What could they be?
· The teaching of Jesus’ return to judge the earth is often lifted up in Christian theology, but it also divides many Christians, who envision it very differently. What do you think that what people call “the return of Christ” might look like? Do you like the idea of it? Why or why not?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: We give glory and praise to you, our victorious Lamb, for leading us down a path of indescribable joy. We pray that our lives might reflect true gratitude for all the good you have done for us and all the love you have shown us.
Benediction: We have been sent to proclaim the liberating good news of a God whose coming into our world changes everything. Let us go now and share a message that our world yearns to hear – a message of hope, peace, love and joy. Amen.