We come to the end of the Advent season, with words that challenge us to consider the nature of our relationships with God and the powers. Whom do we serve? Do we seek loopholes that excuse us from our obligations? Is judgment in our future? These aren't easy questions to face, but Advent is a season designed to ask these difficult questions before we hear the message of the coming of God's realm. I invite you to consider the message of these texts, which have been offered to us by David Ackerman as part of his alternative lectionary project -- Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary. We might not like hearing a message that is as harsh as this one seems, but perhaps it is one we need to wrestle with.*******************
“God Reverses the Powers of the World”
December 22, 2013
Call to Worship: Psalm 108:1-6 NRSV
One: My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make melody.
Many: Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.
One: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
Many: For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
One: Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.
Many: Give victory with your right hand, and answer me, so that those whom you love may be rescued.
Gathering Prayer: There are so many oppressive forces at work in the world, God, and the injustices that we see often make it hard for us to believe in you. Yet, deep in this holy season, we come together now to look for your hope in the midst of the bleakness and suffering of our world. Come to us, Jesus, we pray.
Confession: We have been impatient people, God, who have not been attentive to your work in our midst. We have doubted you and turned our backs on what is good. Forgive us, God. Change us, and help us to work for true justice and peace in this world. We pray in the name of Christ, whose coming we look for with anxious expectation.
Assurance: God has won victory over every obstacle that would wall us out of grace and love. Let us live, now, as a people forgiven and set free to live for the work of discipleship.
Scriptures: Daniel 6:16-27 – “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”
Revelation 18:1-3 – “Babylon Is Fallen”
Matthew 23:13-26 – “Leaders Denounced”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
· As with most of the other readings from Daniel in this season, today’s selection from chapter 6 requires setting some context, as described in Beyond the Lectionary. What point do you think the author of Daniel 1-6 is trying to make in these stories? How do you think this point fits in with the season of Advent?
· What do you think the author of Revelation 18 is talking about when he describes “the Fall of Babylon”? Why is historical context important in answering this question? How do you think the initial readers of Revelation would have received this message?
· For “red-letter Christians” who see Jesus’ words as being kinder and gentler than other parts of the Bible, passages like this, where Jesus rails against Jewish leaders, may be difficult (especially when some use them to anti-Semitic ends). How do we make sense of such passages? Is it fair to call them anti-Semitic? Why or why not? What might the leaders have been doing then that would justify such an expression of anger on Jesus’ part?
· In places where there are injustices, do you think God changes things? If there are things in this world that you would change if you could, what would they be? What keeps you from changing them?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: Thank you for making us stewards of the good news that you have changed this world by your grace. Come, Christ Jesus.