Author's posts listings
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2013/12/sermon-advent-conspiracy-spend-less.html
Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less This Advent, our theme for worship is Advent Conspiracy. The Advent Conspiracy is a movement started by some pastors a few years ago who felt like they were somehow missing Christmas – that the folks they served were missing Christmas – that our whole culture was missing Christmas. They felt that the way we prepare for Christmas would set us up for nothing but a giant letdown when Christmas day arrived. And so they crafted their Advent Conspiracy. They said, “We all want our Christmas to be a lot of things. Full of joy. Memories. Happiness. Above all, we want it to be about Jesus. What we don't want is stress. Or debt. Or feeling like we "missed the moment". Advent Conspiracy is a movement designed to help us all slow down and experience a Christmas worth remembering. But doing this means doing things a little differently. A little creatively. It means turning Christmas upside down.” You’ve often heard me describe Jesus as one who turns our world, our expectations, our assumptions upside down. So it seems only right that we think about how Jesus wants to turn our Christmas upside down too. (1) The Advent Conspiracy movement has four themes that we’ll explore in the next week: Spend Less. Give More. Worship Fully. Love All. The word conspiracyis something that can sound so sinister. We normally think of conspiring against. Two parties conspire against a third. But the broader meaning of conspiracy is a “coming together” of things. In fact, literally, con-spire means to “breathe with.” I really like that. That’s what I hope we’re doing this season. We’re learning to breathe with Advent. That’s our Advent Conspiracy. We start with thinking about “Spending Less.” And to focus us on this, we find ourselves in the gospel of Matthew, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount. We looked at the Sermon on the Mount this summer, but we couldn’t cover everything, and we actually skipped right over these verses. Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He talks about the eye being the lamp of the body, and needing that eye – how we see the world around us – being so important. And he says, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I’ve always loved thinking about this verse, because I think it is a pretty verse that most of us know – and because we’re so familiar with it, we forget to think about it critically, and to think especially about what the verse doesn’t say. What it doesn’t say is: Where your heart is, that’s where you treasure is. No, but where your treasure is, there you will find what you really love. I think the order matters. Jesus is telling us that it is the evidence that determines where our hearts are, not whatever we pay lip service too. So, if we claim our hearts are with our families, for example, but what we “store up,” what we spend our time thinking about and worrying about and spend the bulk of our time doing is making sure we have enough money and stuff – well, what we “treasure” is actually where our heart is, no matter what we say, and not the other way around. So what do you treasure? When I think about treasuring something, two images pop into my head: First, I think of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, obsessed with, consumed by the One Ring – “my precious.” That’s treasuring something – the ring is the only Master Gollum serves, and indeed, his heart is with the ring, no matter how much he struggles to put his heart elsewhere. And then I think about my favorite line in the Christmas story, the story of Jesus’ birth, the story we’re longing to hear and tell already as we begin our season of waiting: When Jesus is born, and the shepherds hear the angels and arrive to greet the baby and they tell Mary and Joseph all that had happened to them, we read, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” What Mary treasures in that moment is every precious word and experience and part of the process that has brought her child – God’s child – into the world. And so indeed, because of what she treasures, her heart is full of love. What do you treasure? We gather for worship a couple of days after the busiest shopping day of the year. But whether you shopped on Friday or are shopping some other time, probably most of us will be doing some spending on Christmas presents in the days ahead. I love shopping for people – I love giving gifts – but that’s next week’s sermon. But today, I want us to think about what we spend – and what we’re thinking about when we spend our money. We spend year round, of course. We buy things all the time. So when you’re spending, what is it, actually, that you’re trying to buy? Sometimes we spend money, buy things, because we have an actual need we’re trying to fulfill. We need food. We need sneakers. We need school supplies. We need supplies to fix a repair at home. But sometimes when we spend, we’re really trying to buy something else: a reprieve from our loneliness. A break from the boredom. Trying to earn someone’s affection or influence behavior. Trying to buy a bit of happiness, fill a bit of emptiness. Some of you might remember that last Lent I tried to fast, as much as possible, from spending money. And I was amazed at how many times I day I thought about buying something. It was kind of alarming. And I’d bet much more than 50% of those impulses to buy had nothing to do with something I “needed.” I often think of words from the prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” It seems silly, doesn’t it, that we would spend and spend on things that don’t satisfy us or the people we’re buying for. When we’re spending, this season, let’s think about this: What is it we’re trying to buy really? And what is it that we’re treasuring? Jesus says we can’t serve both God and stuff, God and money. Of course we mean to serve God. But Jesus says we better make sure that we’re taking a good look at what we actually treasure. Because that’s where we’ll find our hearts. Let’s make sure our treasure is worth what we’re spending.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/12/sermon-advent-conspiracy-spend-less-matthew-619-24/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2010/11/lectionary-notes-for-second-sunday-of.html
Readings for Second Sunday in Advent, 12/8/13:Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12Isaiah 11:1-10:
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19:
- The peaceable kingdom. This is one of my favorite passages from Isaiah. From the Bible really. We need a vision like this today, don't we? How would you describe your vision of peace? What does God's kingdom look like to you? What is your peace-picture?
- "a should shall come out from the stump" - good imagery. After 9/11, I preached on this passage for my preaching class in seminary and visualized what life might come out of the 'stump' - the wreckage of the twin towers and Pentagon. New life coming out of destruction and wreckage. I think we can ask all the time, not just after disaster - what life can come from the destruction we see?
- "He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth." - another good image. Not with a weapon of pain and physical violence, but with words of judgment, words that bring justice and equity to the meek and the poor.
- "the wolf shall live with the lamb" - this is a vision where what was harmful can live in peace, and where, particularly, the defenseless never need to fear again. a threat-free, fear-free place. Today, when we live with fears on so many levels, from so many areas, isn't it wonderful to think about a place where fear does not exist? And note, fear is eliminated with out eliminating the things that used to cause fear. The wolves aren't all killed - they just have come to be at peace with the lambs. Hm.
- Judgment and Justice - To me the word justice is so powerful because of its double meanings. We want to bring criminals to justice, to make sure they get what they deserve in terms of punishment, but we want to bring the oppressed justice, to make sure they get what they deserve: equality, shelter, food, health, etc. I'm reminded of the Newsboys song with the lyrics, "When you get what you don't deserve, it's a real good thing . . . when you don't get what you deserve, it's a real good thing."
- This psalm is written as a sort of call for blessings on a king, perhaps at the beginning of his reign/coronation/special ceremony.
- In my NRSV translation, some of the phrases sound quite demanding of God. "Give the king your justice, O God." Are we willing to demand of God so boldly when we have wants/needs? When is or isn't this appropriate?
- "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things." (emphasis mine) God alone does wondrous things. Surely the psalmist meant his God over other gods of other people. But I read it as God does good wondrous things, not humans. Remember who Creator and who is creation! The good we can do we can do because of God.
- "live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus." Ah, we're not so good with this one, are we?
- and like it, "welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you." How is it that so many perceive the church as so unwelcoming? How can we close so many people out of our walls and not see our behaviors as directly in conflict with the scriptures and with Christ's desires for us? We should be ashamed of ourselves!
- note "the root of Jesse" theme here and in the Isaiah reading.
- John is such a fiery character. His energy, his righteous anger is infectious. Jesus' style is so different, but sometimes I think he need John's anger too - we need to be angered and upset about hypocrisy and false behavior. Jesus and John were family, and their bond is evidenced elsewhere in scripture. I wish we knew more about their relationship. I'm intrigued.
- "God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." God is God - we can't rest on our claims of connections and heritage. We need to be tied in our own way to God - no excuses will get us around needing to bear our own good fruit.
- Some of these images of the threshing floor, the granary, etc., lose their meaning for us if we don’t understand these processes ourselves. A winnowing fork, for example, was used to toss wheat into the air, where the wind would separate the wheat grain from the light chaff.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/12/lectionary-notes-for-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2013/11/reflections-on-black-friday.html
I remember how much fun my best friend in high school and I used to have taking my mom to work early on Black Friday, and then hitting the sales. We were more in the market for $10 deals, rather than big ticket electronics, but we always had a great time, and felt very adventurous.
I know many folks are opting not to shop today (I'm too lazy to get up that early anymore!) and were very upset to see all the shopping deals yesterday. I get that. I delight in being able to spend the time surrounded by family on Thanksgiving, the chance to, for one precious day, cut away from the relentless pace of our world as a collective body, and say, "There are much more important things to do." I feel sad that we are eating away even at that small practice.
But, I also think the issue is bigger than when we choose to shop, and so we need to think carefully about how we speak about what we see happening. I'm at a point in my life now where if I miss the sale price on Black Friday for something I want, I can afford to pay the higher price another day. I can afford to choose to shop locally instead of from big corporations. I can choose organic and whole foods over imported and processed items. And so I try to whenever possible.
But this hasn't always been the case in my family. In my Doctor of Ministry Research group, we've spent a lot of time talking about costs, and how the cost of things always goes *somewhere* when we are able to get something cheaply - it doesn't just disappear. But most often, the costs shift more and more to the poor - domestically and internationally - but become more hidden. Rarely do the most wealthy pick up more cost. For the cheap prices today (and every day), we perpetuate a system where the most vulnerable incur more costs - in low wage jobs, in lack of benefits, in organizing and labor rights power, etc.
We continue to live in a culture that says that all the items on sale today are valuable to have. A bigger (or super smaller) TV, headphones, tablets, smartphones, whatever. I certainly have many of these items! We create a culture that says these things are necessary. And then, we shame people, who are already struggling financially, for trying to fit in to the culture, and buy the things we've determined everyone must have - we shame them for trying to secure them at a cheaper price!
When I think about the message of the gospel, the message of Jesus, I'm reminded that his message was so much more than opting out of a day of shopping (which I know you all know!) Jesus was about opting out of a whole system! Jesus was about opting out of the relentless culture of stuff, and offering a kingdom of God that said people were far more valuable than things, than status, than corrupt power. That true power comes from vulnerability, from service, from heading to the end of the line. And Jesus never communicated this message by shaming anyone - except maybe the rich and powerful and influential - to whom he simply to spoke the truth.
Anyway, sorry for the rant. But I want to make sure that when we're shaking our heads at the commercialism of the day, we're doing it for the right reasons. Not because we can't believe "those people" are fighting over a good deal - but because we've created a culture where "those people," just like the rest of us, believe that these things will bring us life. That, indeed, is something to be sad about.
(This post was originally shared here on my facebook page with slight variations.)
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/11/reflections-on-a-black-friday/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2010/11/lectionary-notes-for-first-sunday-of.html
Readings for First Sunday in Advent, 12/1/13:Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44Isaiah 2:1-5:
- "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war any more." ah, I long for the day when this vision will be made plain on earth. It certainly retains timeliness, doesn't it? This is one of the verses (along with Micah 6:8) that graces the rotunda of the General Board of Church and Society's United Methodist building in Washington, D.C. ...
- also, about the above verse: notice that the image is not just of peace, but of turning weapons into tools, tools that help growth and creation and life. Non-war, Non-fighting is not enough. Proactive, pro-creative is where God calls us.
- "The Lord's house . . . shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it." This is a unique visual - if you think of God as mountain-top and nations as rivers - they stream upwards, against the usual flow, to meet with God.
- Oh, indeed, let us walk in the light of God!
- "peace be within your walls . . . "peace be within you." Peace in your house - that's good. Peace within you. That's better. Let's not ask it only for "relatives and friends" but for all.
- "for the sake of . . . the Lord our God, I will seek your good." This is an important verse. We are good at seeking our own good, aren't we? But do we seek the good of others? If we can't do it for them or for ourselves, can we do it, as the psalmist says, for God's sake?
- "you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep." There is such urgency in this statement and in this passage. I dislike our obsession, in Paul's time and today, with the end times. But I do like a sense of urgency. What are we waiting for to get going with doing God's work? We know what time it is: time for peace. time for justice. time for grace. Now is the moment to wake and work.
- "make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." No provision? Poor Paul - so black and white sometimes in his thinking - body or spirit instead of body and spirit.
- "salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers." - this is a good verse to plug John Wesley's idea of sanctifying grace - grace that grows in us as we become disciples. A time of conversion (justification) when we first come 'be believers', however we might define that, is not the end and all and all of our relationship with God.
- note on the Greek: the word for flood, kataklusmos, means literally, "inundation." neat.
- "at an unexpected hour" Another passage talking about end times, if that's only as far as you are wanting to look. Better to think of it this way: so often in my life I am putting things off - procrastinating - not so much about day to day things, like sermon-writing :), etc., but about big things: I will start giving more ... when I'm out of debt. I will take risks for God .... after I get my PhD. I will speak out about what I really believe .... after I'm ordained elder. But the Son of Man comes unexpectedly. I should stop acting like I have something to wait for before I get to work the way God wants me to. Again, is in the passage from Romans, the time is NOW.
- Note that Jesus makes no mention of why some get taken and some left, or where they get taken, or anything specific. We bring a lot of assumptions to the text about what this means, but be careful not to read things into the passage that aren't there.
- Why do you think Jesus tells the disciples (and us) these things? What's his intention? We react, today at least, with fear and anxiety and worry. Is that what Jesus meant for us to feel? If it isn't, (and I'm thinking it isn't) how come we're missing what he's getting at?
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/11/lectionary-notes-for-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-sung-communion-liturgy-for-season-of.html
A Sung Communion Liturgy for the Season of Advent The Lord be with you as we gather here Lift up your hearts unto the Lord your God. For it is right to give God our praise. Let us prepare our hearts for coming days: Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. You created all things and called them good, Made us like you, but we cast off your love. You set us free and claimed us as yours, Through sage and prophet spoke to us your word. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. O Holy God of power and might, Bless’d be the one who comes in your name, Hosanna in the highest, God! Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Holy are you and blessed is your Son, Jesus, the Light, your presence here with us. You sent him in the fullness of time, He came to preach good news to all. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. And on the night he was betrayed, Christ took the bread, and unto you gave thanks He broke the bread and shared it with friends. “Take, eat, my body given for you.” Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. After the meal he lifted up the cup, “My blood, my life, I pour it out for you. This covenant I make anew. Set free from sin! Remember me!" Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Spirit of God descend upon us now, And make these gifts become for us. The body and the blood of Christ Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. We thank you God of Mystery For sacred meal, community Send us forth now to share your light, Disciples of the One of Peace! Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Text: Rev. Beth Quick, 2013. Permission is given for free use of this hymn text with author attribution.
A Sung Communion Liturgy for the Season of Advent by Rev. Beth Quick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/11/a-sung-communion-liturgy-for-the-season-of-advent/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2010/11/lectionary-notes-for-reign-of-christ.html
Readings for Reign of Christ Sunday, 11/24/13:Jeremiah 23:1-6, Luke 1:68-79, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43Jeremiah 23:1-6:
- Woe to shepherds who lead God's sheep astray! That's a warning to those of us who are clergy, but more generally to any of us who have power to lead and abuse it. Certainly, following November's elections, this can be a word of warning to our leaders, especially those who say they lead out of their religious beliefs.
- Out of David - a righteous branch is raised up - this is good language we'll see again in Advent.
- the name: "The Lord is our Righteousness." Our righteousness is not our own doing, our own making - God is our righteousness.
- Instead of the usual Psalm, we have this ‘prophecy’ spoken by Zechariah at the event of John’s circumcision, when his mouth is opened, after his silence for doubting God’s promise of a child.
- Note again the reference to David - emphasis of the family line, the lineage of Christ's "kingship."
- Zechariah also talks about the role his own son, John, will play. "You will be called the prophet of the Most High."
- "to give knowledge of salvation." I like this phrasing - we have to learn how to be saved, how to let God save us, and how? "by the forgiveness of our sins."
- words of blessing: "may you be made strong..." Do you give others words of blessing?
- On the day we celebrate Christ's nature as the one who reigns, Colossians gives us a long list of Christ's divine characteristics: first born of all creation, in him all things created, through him and for him, the head of the body, head of the church, first-born of the dead
- "In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" - I just love this phrasing - a joy for God's fullness to dwell inside Jesus. And to me, what makes Jesus the Christ - the dwelling of the fullness of God within him. We strive for that.
- Reign of Christ Sunday throws us into the crucifixion story abruptly. It's a shock to us, as we're about to hit Advent, and as we've been focusing on the teachings of Jesus. Use the abruptness - we're meant to be shocked, shocked out of our comfort zones!
- Some interesting Greek notes here: the word for soldiers in verse 36 is stratio^tai means literally, "citizen bound to military service." Just thought that was an interesting phrasing. Also, in verse 39, what we read as "kept deriding" in NRSV is eblasphe^mei in Greek, to blaspheme, or literally, "to drop evil words" or "to speak lightly of sacred things," a definition I especially like.
- Notice the repeated question/command to Jesus to save himself. If we have an ability to save ourselves, why might we choose not to? Who wins and loses when we use our own powers for our own self-interests?
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/11/lectionary-notes-for-reign-of-christ-year-c/