Elizabeth Quick

Author's details

Name: Elizabeth Quick
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://bethquick.blogspot.com/

Latest posts

  1. bethquick.com: Sermon, “A New Name: Abram & Sarai,” Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22 — January 19, 2015
  2. bethquick.com: Sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday, Year B, “A New Name: Beloved,” Mark 1:4-11 — January 13, 2015
  3. bethquick.com: My 2014 Reading List — January 1, 2015
  4. bethquick.com: Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, “Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting,” Luke 1:26-55 — December 21, 2014
  5. bethquick.com: Sermon for Third Sunday in Advent, “Hurry Up and Wait: Message,” Luke 3:7-18 — December 17, 2014

Most commented posts

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  2. bethquick.com: Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B: Changed from Glory into Glory – Branches — 1 comment
  3. bethquick.com: Lectionary Notes for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B — 1 comment
  4. bethquick.com: Lectionary Notes for Trinity Sunday, Year B — 1 comment
  5. bethquick.com: Lectionary Notes for Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Jan 19 2015

bethquick.com: Sermon, “A New Name: Abram & Sarai,” Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22

Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2015/01/sermon-new-name-abram-sarai-genesis-171.html

Sermon 1/18/15
Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22

A New Name: Abram and Sarai

            What are you waiting for? What events, or situations, or circumstances, right now, are you waiting for to take place? A child or grandchild to be born? A birthday? A retirement? A vacation? And how often, like a child on a road trip, have you wondered, “Are we there yet?” As I child, I attended one of our church camps, Camp Aldersgate, every summer. And I couldn’t wait for my week of camp to come. I’d start packing way in advance. And then finally, we’d head for Aldersgate. The trip seemed to take forever. But when the trees changed into tall skinny pines, I knew we were close, at last. I was shocked, when I got older, to realize Aldersgate was only about an hour from home. Not even. How could that be? But from a child’s point of view, an hour drive may as well be a whole day spent stuck in the car. Perspective is everything.
            Today, we continue our series looking at the New Names given in the scriptures, we encounter two people who set out on what seems to them to be the longest of journeys. We meet Abram and Sarai back at the end of Genesis Chapter 11, when they’re listed in a genealogy after the Tower of Babel incident. If you don’t know about the Tower of Babel, check out Chapter 11. Anyway, we know from this that Sarai was considered barren. In ancient times, anytime a couple could not have children, the woman was considered barren, because the intricacies of fertility weren’t understood. It wasn’t known that sometimes men were the ones who could not father a child. However, in Sarai’s case, it seems that she, indeed, is the one struggling with fertility. At the start of Chapter 12, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And the next verse starts out, “And so, Abram went.” Before this scene, we know absolutely nothing about Abram. We have no idea why God would call him for such a task, such a journey, or why God would make him such a promise. All we know is: God calls, God promises, and Abram goes. The text tells us that Abram is 75 when he sets out on this journey.
            Throughout the next chapters of Genesis, we see Abram and Sarai travel to Canaan, the land which God promised them, and travel from here to there, living in different places, occasionally getting into scuffles with local leaders. They’d started out in what is now Southern Turkey, and make their way through modern-day Syria and Lebanon to Israel, and then spend time in Egypt and other nearby regions. And occasionally, throughout this time, God reiterates the promise to Abram: I will bless you, and make you a great nation. God says to Abram, “Don’t be afraid, I am your shield, and your reward will be very great.” But Abram is perhaps a bit skeptical. The years are passing. Abram says to God, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless … and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But God says to Abram, “Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” And Abram believes, and is called righteous.
            And more years pass. Sarai is frustrated. She finally decides that since God has prevented her from having children, she’ll offer Hagar, her slave, to Abram to bear children for him. Abram and Hagar have a son together, named Ishmael. Abram is now 86 years old. Unsurprisingly, Sarai, seeing Hagar and Hagar’s child with Sarai’s husband, begins to feel regret over the events she set in motion. She treats Hagar badly, but God promises Hagar that her son, too, is part of the promise. He, too, will be blessed.
            And more years pass. And finally, when Abram is 99 years old, and Sarai is 90, God again reiterates the promises to Abram. He gives them new names. Abram, which means Exalted Father, a hard name to bear for one who had no children, will be called Abraham, Father of Many. And Sarai, whose name meant Princess, will be Sarah, Princess of Many. And this time, God offers a timeline: by next year, they’ll have a son. And newly-named Abraham falls on his face laughing. He indicates that God must mean it is through Ishmael that all these blessings will come into fullness. But God says again – yes, Ishmael will be blessed. But the promises I’ve made to you hold true. And Sarah will bear a child. Later, Sarah herself will hear the news from God, and she, too, will laugh. But sure enough, she bears a son. And they name him Isaac, which means “Laughter.”
            What a story! What a journey! From the time that God promises Abram that he will become the father of many nations, to the time Sarah gives birth to their son Isaac, 25 years have passed. 25 years! God repeatedly renews the promise, reaffirms that the promise is still going to be fulfilled, but I’m sure none of us are surprised, or unsympathetic that Abram and Sarai seem so often to doubt that the promise is true. This promise of God is a long journey of unfolding. And in fact, it is not truly played out, this blessing, until several generations later, Moses leads the Israelites into the promised land. It is a blessing that unfolds over years, over decades, slowly, piece by piece.
            We talked a lot in November about God’s blessings in our lives. It is one thing to count the blessing you see around you in your life. But it is another thing entirely to nurture the promise of blessing that hasn’t yet been delivered. What blessings have you sought from God? What promises to you feel yet unfulfilled in your life? Have you found it easy to wait?  
In my first religion class in college, I learned what is still one of my favorite theological concepts: Kairos. There are two common words for time in the scripture: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is the Greek word for our regular, ordinary, everyday time. Our human time. The seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days moving just as they do. But kairos – kairos is time in a different way. Kairos is God’s time – specifically, “God’s right time for action.” Usually the word “chronos” is used in Greek texts to talk about time. But in the gospels, for example, this “kairos” – God’s right time for action – is used more often than chronos – regular time. And that makes sense, because the scriptures are full of stories about God’s right time for things to happen. Kairos. God’s right time for action. I have no idea why Abram and Sarai needed to wait 25 years for God’s promise to come to fruition. But I believe that at the right time, God acts. Certainly God reminded them again and again that the fulfillment was on the way. And when the time was just right – for God’s plans – Isaac was born. Kairos.
Have you ever tried to pry open the petals of a flower bud? It can be so tempting, when you see a flower that you’ve wanted to bloom, to just “help it along.” But your doing so is most likely simply to damage or destroy the flower altogether. I think Abram and Sarai tried to open some flower buds more than once in this story. Damage was done, especially, for example, to Hagar. They thought that they could find a way to sort of “help” God bless them, help God fulfill promises made. How tempted we are to do this sometimes! We try to offer God good ways to bless us. We try to set it all up, make our plans, and then ask God to add the blessing, make the promise fit to what we’ve put together. We are blessed, because even when we try to force God’s hand, God can work through the mess we make in the process. But waiting for the promises, the blessings, to unfold in our lives in God’s right time, in the unexpected ways that are better than our best plans – it’s the most beautiful bouquet of blessings you can imagine.
I asked you to think of the nicknames by which you’ve been known, and how you got them. One of my nicknames I got in elementary school – it was Bisquik! My basketball coach gave me that name. He was known for giving every player a nickname. And I was so anxious to get my name! He once called me “Pearl” when I made a good series of foul shots, but that nickname eventually stuck on a teammate instead of me, and I was distressed. What would my nickname be? When would I get a nickname? I would even ask him about it, but he insisted I had to wait until something struck him. I had to wait for the right moment. Maybe “Bisquik” isn’t exactly flashy, but when my nickname was finally given, it was worth it for my one-of-a-kind name.
When God names us, when God claims us, makes us new, fulfills promises in us, we find that our own small plans and visions pale in comparison. Instead of Abram, Exalted Father, God gives us Abraham, Father of Many, as countless as the stars. I can’t tell you why God’s plans sometimes unfold so much more slowly than we’d like. Only God knows that. I can only remind you of what most of you know. That looking back over our lives, our way has never turned out better than God’s way. Indeed, things have a marvelous way of bringing us to just the spot where we belong. I can tell you that serving at Apple Valley was never part of my plan. How could it be? I didn’t even know you were here! And yet, in what can only be God’s right time at work, here we are!
God took Abram and Sarai’s laughter and drew from it their child, Laughter brought to life in the child Isaac. A promise fulfilled. The promises are being fulfilled in your life too. And in mine. And in this place. What shape will they take? Surely, only God knows. But that is so much more than enough. Amen.   

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/sermon-a-new-name-abram-sarai-genesis-171-8-15-22/

Jan 13 2015

bethquick.com: Sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday, Year B, “A New Name: Beloved,” Mark 1:4-11

Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2015/01/sermon-for-baptism-of-lord-sunday-year.html

Sermon 1/11/15
Mark 1:4-11

A New Name: Beloved

            Tim: Today we’re starting a new series in worship called, “A New Name.” Each week, we’ll be looking at a different person in the Bible who goes by a new name. Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel, Simon is called Peter. Saul becomes Paul. In each of these cases, the new name corresponds with a significant moment in their spiritual journeys. This is a series Pastor Beth’s been wanting to do since her first weeks at Apple Valley. Surviving a merger of congregations is a difficult task for churches. It usually isn’t all smooth sailing. And sometimes there’s a lot of residual grief and pain and tension and so on. Pastor Beth served as pastor for a few years at a church that was a United Church – Presbyterian and United Methodist– and when she first met with them, they told her about how firmly they thought of themselves as united. This made sense, because they had been merged together as one congregation for almost 40 years. And yet, Pastor Beth discovered that within two weeks of being there, she knew whether everyone was a Methodist or a Presbyterian! The differences between the denominations still stirred up trouble in the congregation all these years later. Making a new congregation out of older congregations isn’t an easy thing.
            The longer she’s here, the more Pastor Beth learns about the journey we’ve all been through to become one congregation – and she knows it wasn’t always easy, even still. But, she says, “I have to tell you, from this outsider’s perspective, you’ve done a remarkable job at becoming one congregation. Yes, I know what congregations some of you were once part of – but it isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I interact with you. Every church has some traditions that are special, but I’ve also found you refreshingly flexible when Pastor Penny and I want to try something new. It’s really delightful to pastor that kind of congregation, because it means that there’s room in us for God to do something new.”
            And we serve a God who loves to make all things new. That’s one of the promises of the scriptures: In Christ, we are new creations. When we follow Jesus, we have an opportunity to let go of the past, let go of harmful behaviors, let go of destructive patterns in our lives. We can actually let go of hurting ourselves and each other, and claim new life in Christ, resurrected lives. So between now and the season of Lent, as we begin a new year, we’re also thinking about what it means to be new creations in Christ, children of a new birth, given new names. Today we do that as we celebrate Baptism of the Lord Sunday.
Laura: Today, in our gospel lesson from Mark, we find Jesus at his baptism. Hopefully this text sounds a bit familiar – we just read most of it during Advent, the first section about John the Baptist. Mark is very brief in all things in his gospel, and so the actual baptism gets only three verses. John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, is in the wilderness, preaching baptizing people, a symbol of repentance and forgiveness of sins. He speaks about one who is coming who is more powerful than he, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. And then, indeed, Jesus arrives, and is baptized by John. The other gospels have a bit of dialogue between Jesus and John where John wonders why Jesus needs to be baptized by John, but that is of no importance to Mark. He only says that Jesus comes to be baptized, and that when he was, as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit seemed to descend on him like a dove, and a voice spoke, saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Other gospels have these words from God directed to the crowd – This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased. But in Mark, this message is right from God to Jesus – You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. This event marks the beginning of Jesus' ministry – from here he goes into the wilderness himself for a period, where he is tested and tried, and then he begins showing up in synagogues, preaching, teaching, and healing. But it begins, in a way, with this baptism. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Bev: A couple of years ago, Pastor Beth’s dearest friend Heather was struggling with the process of getting a learning permit for her then 16-year old daughter, who was ready to learn to drive. Somewhere along the way, Heather had misplaced her daughter’s Social Security card, which they needed to get Mickayla’s permit. Well, in order to get a new Social Security card, you need your birth certificate, which proves your citizenship, but you also need proof of identity – like a driver's license – which obviously she didn’t have. Of course, it turns out that you can also use a photo student ID card or a photo credit card or something like that, but proving your identity isn’t so easy.
Every so often, you can read news stories about people who have accidentally been declared dead in paperwork even though they are quite alive! Somehow names and information got mixed up, and these folks had ended up with bank accounts frozen, unable to get loans or credit, had stopped receiving things like social security checks, and had real financial difficulties as a result of the mix-up. And, as crazy as it sounds, some people have had an extremely difficult time proving their identity, proving that they were really alive and who they claimed to be, once this mistake had been made.
How would you prove your identity? Author John Reader, talks about how we keep trying to form our identity in different ways in contemporary culture. Sometimes we try self-as-commodity – we are sort of a “product” that can be branded and molded in a certain way. Sometimes we try self-as-consumer – “I shop therefore I am.” We try to take what we have, what we possess, and make it into who we are. Sometimes we try self-as-project, he says, constantly trying to put together a good-enough self by making sure wehave the right trainings and qualifications and skills to be what we want and what is expected of us. Identity formation is an important process. We all go through a time or times in our life when we need to ask ourselves critically: Who am I? What do I believe? What is my life all about? But whenever we start building our identities from all these external sources, we are probably heading in a bad direction, never knowing our true selves. So who are you, really? What is your identity?
Liz: Sometimes we need to be reminded of who we are. John Reader was right: if we look in the wrong places, we can find a million voices that will gladly tell us who we are and who we should be. But these voices don’t know us. God, who created us, knows us. Our identity is being shaped from the day we are born and before and onward. We might, the day we are born, have had our feet dipped in ink to make prints that would identify us. We have names that we were given that set us apart. But even our names aren’t who we are. When we celebrate a baptism in the church, we are celebrating the fact that we all know someone's identity. We are celebrating that the person is a child of God, made in God's image, and part of the body of Christ. That is our identity, our true self. It is something we all share in, but something that is made manifest in each one of us in a completely unique way. We are God’s beloved. With us, each of us, even you, even me, God is well-pleased. We are Beloved.
Sometimes people get worried about baptisms when they have newborns. A lot of traditions and practices built up over time are hard to erase, and many pastors still find it hard to get people to believe that nothing bad happens to you if you aren’t baptized on a certain timetable. Baptism is a sacrament – and outward sign of an inward grace. And the inward grace is from God – God's unconditional love for us. Baptism, then, is a sign, a reminder to us of God's love. It is the thing we do to celebrate what is true no matter what. God made us. We are made in God's image. God loves us. Baptism is the reminder, the party, the celebration of that amazing fact. That’s why Jesus is baptized. It reminds him, as he starts what will be three years of heart-wrenching ministry that will lead to his death on the cross, that he is Beloved. Jesus is many things, and known by many names. But what he is first is God’s child, Beloved.  

Tim: Isn't it nice to be reminded of who we are? Figuring out our identities in this world of competing voices can be exhausting. We can get off track. Lost. Mixed-up. Isn't it good to remember? Who are you? What is the true self buried under all those expectations placed upon you? What is your true self, when you strip away all those layers you’ve built up to fit in, to get ahead, to be good enough? Who are you?
We have an opportunity to renew our baptismal vows, to remember the celebration that marked our true identity, so that we, too, might have strength for the journey that lies ahead. Do you need a reminder of who you are? Are you a disciple? Are you a follower of Jesus? Come, let God remind you. In whose image are you created? Who calls you by name? Come, let God remind you. You are loved without condition, part of God's own family. Come, Beloved, let God remind you. Amen.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/sermon-for-baptism-of-the-lord-sunday-year-b-a-new-name-beloved-mark-14-11/

Jan 01 2015

bethquick.com: My 2014 Reading List

Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2015/01/my-2014-reading-list.html

Books I Read in 2014

I didn't read as much as I wanted this year, especially in the first several months. I did finish my DMin though, so perhaps reading what I had written over and over and over in the editing process counts in lieu of a few books....

1.     Hamilton, Adam, 24 Hours that Changed the World (church Lenten study) - Pretty good. My congregation enjoyed this. 

2.     Hamilton, Adam, Making Sense of the Bible (church Bible study) - I think this is a really excellent study. It's got a lot crammed into it, and will delve into some uncomfortable topics, but my folks took it mostly in stride. I think if pastors realize their congregants want and appreciate this kind of look at the Bible, it would make things easier from there on out. 

3.     Kalas, J. Ellsworth, A Hop, Skip, and a Jumpthrough the Bible (church Bible study) - Not my favorite of his books. (Christmas from the Backside is) but this was a nice companion book to my Bible 101 class. 

4.   Hamilton, Adam, Not a Silent Night (clergy Bible study) - Probably my least favorite Hamilton book to date. I felt like this was a "need to put out an Advent study" book. It wasn't awful. It was just not moving to me in any way. Forgettable. 

5.     Lupton, Robert D., Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life - I got this thinking I would use it as a DMin resource, but it wasn't really what I was looking for. A decent read, although I think Lupton could push farther in a lot of areas, and still uses an "us" "them" breakdown that is not helpful sometimes. 

6.     Livermore, David A., Serving with Eyes Wide Open - Another one I got thinking it would work for DMin research. This focuses on short-term mission trips and on pastors training other pastors outside the US. If you and your church are involved in either of those things, I recommend it. 

7.     Borg, Marcus and Crossan, John Dominic, The First Christmas - I've had this for a while, and finally got to it. I really enjoyed it. I think it would be a great read for some of my atheist friends who think they've discovered the myth of Christmas, and some of my Christian friends who might benefit from understanding the multi-layered symbolism of the Christmas story. 

8. Lewis, C.S., Miracles - Oh, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia are so good! So full of imagination! So open! His non-fiction - not so much. I'll give him this - he's got an interesting technique of argument. Reminds me of the apostle Paul. I'd love to see what he'd make of our scientific knowledge today. 

9.     Smith Hill, Pamela, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life - Loved this look at Wilder's life, especially the examination of the relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose and who really wrote what. (Smith Hill argues that Rose was an editor, not essentially a ghost-writer, and that Laura was forgiving of the large chunks of her writing that Rose lifted for her own work.) 

11.  Monk, Theophane, Tales of a Magic Monastery - This is a book beloved by one of our CCYM coordinators, and thus, by our CCYM as a whole. I was glad to read the source of some of our favorite CCYM parables. 

12.  Baum, Frank L., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - My brother gave me his old kindle, and this was pre-loaded on it, so I read it. I like the movie better! (I know, I know.)

13-15.  Roth, Veronica, Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant - Divergent was awesome. Insurgent was pretty good. Allegiant - boo. It isn't just the ending, which I hated, but won't spoil here. It was the way the third book just changed so many key elements of the first book that I loved. Unbelievable character actions. A total change in setting. A change in the whole world of the book. A letdown after a great start.  

16.  Fielding, Helen, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy - I am a huge fan of Bridget Jones' Diary and The Edge of Reason, which are both hilarious. In this book (SPOILER ALERT), Mark has died, and Bridget is significantly older. I was SO disappointed we never got to see the rest of Bridget and Mark's relationship, their marriage, them parenting together. I don't mind Bridget growing up. I just wish we had gotten to see it happen.  

17-19. Bracken, Alexandra, Darkest MindsNever Fade, In the Afterlight - A Young Adult series I heard about via some tumblrs I follow, appropriately enough. Excellent series. I hope it gets more widely read. 

20.  Shapard, David M. and Jane Austen, Annotated Emma - An excellent read for this lover of all things Jane Austen. 

21.  Norris, Bruce, Clyborne Park - CNY Playhouse is staging this show in the spring, and I read it before auditioning. I wasn't cast, but I'm so glad I read the script, and am looking forward to seeing the production. A contemporary look at race, housing, and the things we don't like to talk about out loud. 

22.  Ehrman, Bart D., The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed - Since I'm obsessed with Judas, I had to read this. I've had this book for a while and finally got to it this year. I like Bart Ehrman's writing style and approach, but I realized I really don't care about Gnostic writing. I loved the parts where Ehrman explores the canonical gospels and theorizes about actual Judas. I also found the section on the discovery of the text to be intriguing. But the rest - not my thing. 

23.  Ruhl, Sarah, In the Next Room -  Todd was reading a stack of plays for school, and I picked up this one out of the pile. It was ok. 

Selected Audiobooks: Mostly I listen to really light stuff I wouldn't both reviewing, but a couple of standouts - 
Eugenides, Jeffery, The Marriage Plot - This was really good. I loved reading about students in the midst of the explosion of semiotics and deconstruction. I had no real sense when my SUPA English introduced us to this stuff in high school how contemporary it was and how useful it would prove to know about later in my educational career. Also, the main character is named Mitchell Grammaticus, and I think that is the best character name ever.  

Weiner, Jennifer, All Fall Down - I love all of her books, and feel sad when she's mislabeled as "chic lit." This book focuses on a young mother caught up in prescription pain med addiction. The protagonist isn't particularly likable, but I think that's ok. 

Fanfiction: Admission - In this past year, I've read a ton of fanfiction. I had no idea when I started out looking for a version of The Hunger Games written from Peeta's perspective the whole world of fanfiction that existed. I subscribe to updates from a bunch of works-in-progress now, and there's something neat about getting a story chapter by chapter. My favorite, which I mentioned last year, is still, hands-down, When the Moon Fell in Love with the Sun. The author has been through a lot in her personal life in the last year, resulting in a slow update schedule, but it is worth the wait. 

In Progress: 
Poehler, Amy, Yes Please 
Stookey, Laurence Hull, Let the Whole Church Say Amen!
Dashner, James, The Maze Runner
Shealy, Daniel and Louisa May Alcott, Little Women: An Annotated Edition
Aslan, Reza, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/my-2014-reading-list/

Dec 21 2014

bethquick.com: Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, “Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting,” Luke 1:26-55

Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2014/12/sermon-for-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year.html

Sermon 12/21/14
Luke 1:26-55

Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting

            The children have already done a good job of proclaiming the good news for us today, haven’t they? I especially appreciated that refrain, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.” That’s what we’ve been talking about – that’s what you do with good news. You share it! You tell it! You invite others to hear it and be a part of it. You live it!
            But, I am a pastor, so I can’t entirely give up an opportunity to preach at least a little bit, especially in this season of Advent, especially when we’ve finally gotten to something that sounds a bit like a Christmas story. Today we got to hear all about Mary, in three segments. First, Gabriel tells her she’ll bear a son who will be Son of the Most High God. The angel calls her “favored one,” blessed one. Mary asks just one question, “how can this be?” And then she responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” Her faith always astounds me, the way she just absorbs the angel’s frankly outrageous message.
And then we see Mary go to visit her cousin Elizabeth, an older woman who is also expecting a child, John, who will be known as John the Baptist. We’ve been hearing a bit about him these past couple weeks. And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit – the first person in the gospels we hear about receiving the Holy Spirit – as Elizabeth notes that she and Mary both believe that God fulfills promises made – even these miraculous promises to them.
And then finally, we get to the part we actually heard first, from Leona in our Call to Worship today: a song of praise, of hope, of Mary realizing that her child represents God turning the world upside down. This section of Luke is known as the Magnificat, “My soul glorifies/magnifies the Lord,” and it is one of my favorite passages of scripture. This passage is the longest single chunk of speech from a woman in the New Testament. Mary’s words echo those of Hannah, mother of Samuel in the Old Testament, who praises God when she is able to give birth after a long time of believing she could not have children. This song, Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is Mary’s vision of what Jesus’ birth will mean: the lowly are raised up and blessed by God. The proud are scattered. The powerful are brought down from their thrones. The hungry are filled, while the rich leave empty-handed. These words were considered so revolutionary that at different times in history – in Guatemala, in Argentina, and in India, the public reading of the Magnificat was banned. After all, if Mary’s words were taken serious, why, this Christ-child might upset the whole order of the world! And so we get a little insight into Mary – what she’s expecting in Jesus – through her response to Elizabeth.
            This Advent, I’ve been taking part in a Clergy Bible Study with some pastors in my area studying the Adam Hamilton book Not a Silent Night. The book focuses on Mary, and urges us to think about what happened to Mary after the crucifixion and resurrection, about what Mary went through when Jesus was a young child, and a young teen, and a young man. And of course, the book reflects on what Mary must have been wondering about after hearing the news from Gabriel that she would give birth to God’s son, the Savior. We talked briefly last week about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah John the Baptist was expecting. John expected the winnowing fork and the ax at the roots, ready to judge, but Jesus came preaching grace and forgiveness, and John had to wonder if Jesus was the person he was preparing for or not.
Today, as we read these texts, I’m wondering about Mary’s expectations. I think of all of those I know who’ve gone through their first pregnancy. There is so much to hope for, to expect, to wonder about, to prepare for. But there’s only so much you can really learn from What To Expect When You’re Expecting. And no matter how you imagine your child, they will be different and more than you could have imagined. No matter how you imagined your life with a brand new life in it, you can never completely anticipate all that the child will bring to your life. You are full of expectation, without knowing exactly what to expect. And you have to prepare – you’d be crazy not to – all the while knowing that you couldn’t prepare for everything.
As I think about Mary, I think about how long and short a pregnancy is all at once. The time goes by quickly, in some ways, but in other ways – how hard it must have been for Mary to wait to see what this child would really be. We read nothing of any additional visits from Gabriel from the time he told her she would have a child until the time the child is born and angels have sent shepherds to meet the newborn. Did she wonder if she had hallucinated? Was she crazy? Was she just going to have an ordinary child after all? Did she wish she’d asked more questions? She must have wondered not only what her child would look like, but also what he’d be like, a child who was a Savior. Was she supposed to parent him in the normal way? I just can’t imagine what was in her heart. On Christmas Eve this week, we’ll hear that when Jesus is at last born, what Mary does is treasure and ponder in her heart everything that happens.
The angel told Mary she was favored, blessed, and Mary believed it. The angel told Mary nothing was impossible with God, and Mary believed it. The angel told Mary she would give birth to God’s child, and Mary said, “Here I am,” and “Now, God is going to turn everything upside down.” She couldn’t possibly be prepared for it, be expecting everything that would happen in the next decades of her life. And yet she was prepared for and expecting God to be faithful as always.
I hope that is what this Advent has been, is, for you. It is hard to imagine what God has in store for us. But yet, friends, we can rely so completely on God’s promises being fulfilled that we can most certainly expect that the unexpected that God has in store will be all that we hoped – and more. Here we are, servants of God. Let it be with us according to God’s word. For blessed are we who believe that there will be a fulfillment of what is spoken to us by God. Amen.


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Dec 17 2014

bethquick.com: Sermon for Third Sunday in Advent, “Hurry Up and Wait: Message,” Luke 3:7-18

Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2014/12/sermon-for-third-sunday-in-advent-hurry.html

Sermon 12/14/14
Luke 3:7-18

Hurry Up and Wait: Message

            Every year around this time, we see news stories and facebook posts and tv coverage of the “War on Christmas.” There’s a story about whether or not you can say “Merry Christmas” anymore or if you must say “Happy Holidays.” People urge us to remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and warn against “taking Christ out of Christmas.” Maybe you’ve even been frustrated by the secularization of the season. I certainly get frustrated by the consumerism, the commercialism, as if spending more and more money will somehow bring us a more joyful and meaningful experience celebrating the birth of Jesus. But I wonder, as we reflect on this season, what might happen if we worried less about how others might try to “take Christ out” of Christmas, if such a thing were even possible, and wondered more about how we, how you and I can produce any evidence that we’re working to put Christ into our preparation for Christmas. We can’t control what other people do, much as we might like to. But we are, in fact, totally responsible for our own behavior. And so, when it comes to Christ in Christmas, we have to ask: Are we putting Christ in? Rev. Robb McCoy writes, “Nothing can take Christ out of Christmas as long as I strive to be Christ in Christmas.” And that’s his sort of slogan for the season: “Be Christ in Christmas.” He tries to think of tangible, meaningful ways that he can act and live and interact as Christ in Christmas, and urges us to do the same. How can we be Christ in Christmas?
Last week we talked about our role as messengers. I asked what others would know from us about Christmas, about Jesus, about God, with us as the messengers. We’re the messengers of God in these days, the ones tasked with sharing the message, the good news. What kind of messengers are we? Today, we turn our attention to making sure we know exactly what our message is. What is the message that we’re delivering? Last week we looked at John the Baptist, messenger, announcing Jesus’ pending arrival, and today, we’re right back with John again. But this time we look to Luke’s gospel for a little more insight on the message that John was sharing.   
As our text opens, crowds are coming out to John to be baptized. Baptism like this was a cleansing ritual, practiced in many traditions. It signified renewal, a fresh start. So folks are coming to John to be baptized. But he’s not exactly warm and welcoming when he sees them: “You brood of vipers!” he hells. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” He goes on to say that the crowds should not expect to rely on their Judaism, their families, their history, their cultural identity, to give them a free pass from responsibility. “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” In other words, yes, God has had a special relationship with God’s people. But that doesn’t give you the freedom to do anything you want. You still have to hold up your part of the relationship, the covenant. John continues forebodingly: “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
            John obviously catches the attention of his audience – they begin asking him what they should do. He replies to them, to tax collectors, to soldiers – whoever has two cloaks must share, whoever has food must share, whoever has power , whoever has money must be fair and just. The people are filled with expectation at John’s words, and they wonder whether John himself might not be the messiah they are waiting for. But he insists he is not: “I am not worthy to untie his sandals,” John says. But, he leaves them, and us, with a compelling images of the messiah. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” A winnowing fork was a farming tool used to toss wheat into the air, so that the wind would catch the good grain and separate it from the useless chaff. Our passage concludes, “So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”
Is John’s message “Good News?” There’s such an underlying tone of threat, between the vipers, the ax, and the winnowing fork. And yet, obviously his message was compelling enough to have crowds flocking to him to be baptized, ready to say: I’m changing things in my life starting now. John is sharing with the crowds, with us, his vision of what the messiah will be. In fact, John will eventually have to send word to Jesus to find out if he really is the messiah, because Jesus certainly acted differently than John was expecting. John sees judgment, just as surely as Jesus comes with salvation – a bit different in emphasis. John has a picture of the messiah that is his own – but the good news still comes because of the core of what John is preaching, as we read last week: Repentance for the forgiveness of sins. What John is preaching, at heart, is that all this preparation is for one who is coming who has the power to free us from the consequences of our sins, one who has the power to cancel out the results of our messes. And that, certainly, is good news. Remember, way back to the summer, when we talked about what the good news was Jesus was talking about. He came preaching about God’s kingdom, God’s reign, how it was here and present and not far off and unattainable in this life. Good news. So both John and Jesus preach the same action in light of this arriving kingdom: Repent. It means literally: change the direction of your mind. Change the direction of your life from all the other ways you’ve been wandering, and head in God’s direction fast, because God’s realm is right here, and you don’t want to miss out.A good message.    
            John tells us, though, that we need to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” In other words, baptism and saying you “repent,” you’re starting fresh is great – but let’s see some signs that will show that we’ve actually heard – and lived – the message we’ve received. He gives some examples – to tax-collectors, to soldiers, to anyone who asks – about how they, even those who might normally be shunned or disliked or excluded – they – everyone – can bear the fruit of repentance. And not only does John urge the crowds to prepare for the kingdom of God’s imminent arrival by acts of repentance that make room for God, but also those very acts of repentance, preparation, and renewal are in themselves signs of God’s kingdom. Whenever I think of John the Baptist I always think of that phrase “the proof is in the pudding.” The little proverb is actually a shortening of the original saying, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It means that you can tell how good a pudding is not by describing but by actually eating it! Nothing will prove the goodness like eating it will. That’s what John means about fruit – we can describe our transformation all we want. But nothing will prove that our lives are transformed better than our actually transformed lives. Nothing will better demonstrate that we’re Christ followers than our actually following Jesus. And so, then, nothing will better help us be messengers of the Christmas message than actually being the message with our very lives. Be Christ in Christmas.
            As Christians, we celebrate what is called incarnational faith. Incarnation means for us first of all the event of Christ’s birth – God became human. It means embodied. Jesus is called God-with-us, Immanuel. As the gospel of John puts it so beautifully, “and the word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” Our faith is embodied in God incarnate. Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, come to live among us. We celebrate it as a sign of God’s great love for us, that when we failed to get the message in so many other ways, God made the message tangible, made God’s own self into the living embodied message in Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
            But our incarnational theology doesn’t end there. It isn’t just that Jesus is the light of the world. The gospels tell us that we, then, as followers of Jesus, are the light too. We’re the light of the world, meant to shine for others to see, so that they might see Christ within us. We are the body of Christ in the world, the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We are the body of Christ, the embodiment of Christ, in fact the incarnation of Christ that lives in the world today. We’re not just the messengers. We embody the message. We have the potential, the power, the responsibility to be Christ in Christmas.
            Here’s the amazing thing.  When we seek to be Christ in Christmas, which is exactly what we incarnational folks are supposed to be, called to be, created to be doing, we are not only the messengers of this good news. We actually embody the message itself. If we are Christ in Christmas, we become living, breathing, walking and talking messages of good news. And when we do that, when we live and breathe the good news, there’s no way we can miss the meaning of Christmas. Friends, if you find yourself worrying that we’re losing our grasp on Christmas, the best thing you can do is look into your hearts, and see if you find Christ there. Is the light of Christ shining from you? Are you not only a messenger, but the message? When people meet you, talk to you, interact with you – and by people I mean all the people – are they seeing Christ in you? If they do, we won’t have anything to lament! Be the message. Be Christ in Christmas. Amen.


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Dec 12 2014

bethquick.com: A Sung Communion Liturgy for Epiphany Sunday

Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-sung-communion-liturgy-for-epiphany.html

A Sung Communion Liturgy for Epiphany
(Tune: IN DULCI JUBILO (“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”))

Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice!
Lift your hearts unto the Lord. Praise! Praise! Praise our God forevermore!
Radiant star that shines so bright: Jesus Christ, the world’s light!
Praise God evermore! Praise God evermore!

We’re in Your image made; to us this world You gave.
Yet, we turned our hearts from You. Woe! Woe! Set against the good we knew.
Still Your love remained steadfast. You beckoned us to walk your path.
Jesus lights the way! Jesus lights the way!

To table we’ve been called: Come one, come now, come all!
Here we share the feast of grace! Love! Love! Here, for everyone a place!
He breaks the power of cancelled sin and darkness quenched, the light pours in.
God-with-us revealed! God-with-us revealed!

Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Joy! Joy! Prince of Peace, Living Word!
Blessed be the child who comes in God’s name, the Promised One! 
Praise God’s holy name! Praise God’s holy name!

The night Christ was betrayed to us this meal he gave.
First he took and broke the bread. Life! Life! At God’s table they were fed.
Then he shared the loving cup. Forgiving us, he raised us up.
“Feast, and think of me. Feast, and think of me.”

Remembering these mighty acts, to You, O God, we offer back
Holy, living sacrifice: Thanks! Thanks! Full of joy, commit our lives.
We proclaim the mystery: Christ died, but rose in victory.
Christ will come again! Christ will come again!

On bread and cup outpour Your Holy Spirit, Lord.
Make these gifts become for us Christ! Christ! We, his body, him, our life.
By this meal we are redeemed and by this grace we are set free.
Jesus makes us one! Jesus makes us one!

Prayer after Communion:
The dark to light gives way, Bright Dawn of all our days!
Journey with us as we leave, Star! Star! People of the Star are we!
Now we travel other roads to shine Your light where’er we go
Overwhelmed with joy! Overwhelmed with joy!

Text: Beth Quick, 2014.
First stanza text: 14th Century Latin, John Mason Neal, translator (1855.)

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A Sung Communion Liturgy for Epiphany Sunday by Rev. Beth Quick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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