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Weekly Liturgy : Nov 28 - Dec 4

Matthew 3:1-13

Second Week of Advent

The Peaceable Kingdom.  Edward Hicks.
The Peaceable Kingdom. Edward Hicks.
 

TEXT:


Matthew 3:1-13


In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”


The Baptism of Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.

 

REFLECTIONS:


In the second week of advent, the lectionary this week anticipates the outcome of the coming of the Christ child. As I sat down to read these passages for this week, I recalled a question my mentors and spiritual leaders have been asking me, “what if there is no violence in God?” The way I have been paraphrasing that question considering this week’s text is “what if God’s actions towards God’s creation was about seeking re-unification between God and God’s creation?” Or asked another way, “what if all God wanted was to be with their children on Christmas?” Before moving on to the rest of this write up—I invite you to sit with that question for yourself. “How does God show up in your life that invites you to be re-unified with God?” This frame of reference is challenging for me to hold onto when I read the harsh phrases John the Baptist says to the wealthy, politically-powerful religious-leaders. I’ll be honest, I had to jump back to the Isaiah image of the peaceable kingdom to remind myself that God desires peace and mercy. Later in Isaiah, the author of that scripture claims God doesn’t want our sacrifices—God seeks to care for the poor, foreigners, widows, and orphans. John’s practice of offering baptism by water begins to open for me what was so compelling for those people to come out to him in the desert. John is unlike the religious leaders who demanded payment to enter the temple, demanded the people buy a goat (or a turtle dove if they were poor) to slay at the alter for the people to experience God’s presence. They believed God was unable to be with humanity if humanity didn’t first purify itself. John was saying something different. He said “come, be renewed through baptism by water—God will do most of the work for you to be in God’s presence.” In fact, that’s the Christmas story! God becomes a human to be with us. The God of the cosmos (who put so many stars in the sky that when you zoom in on a piece of night that has no stars, more stars are in that zoomed in section than the stars we can see with the naked eye) leaves the heavens to be on earth. This God leaves all that cosmic power behind to prove that God truly loves us in a way that forgives us first, baptizes us into re-union with God, and then leads us into God’s ways. So, is it possible that God just wants to be with us on Christmas morning? And could that be what John is saying the religious elite—be like the God you follow, who breaks down all barriers to care for those who need it most.


I don’t know about you, but that sounds like pretty good news to me.


 

PRACTICE:


Outward Mindset Application Ask a co-worker, friend, or family member if they have a frequent desire that motivates them day-to-day. Pathways Toward Centeredness When was the last time you felt the emotion of awe? Who were you with and what were you doing? Consider how your interactions with others would be affected if you let yourself feel awe about the people around you.


Questions for Reflection What are you anticipating in your life that you imagine will bring you an experience of peace or joy? Is there anything that distracts you from anticipating good things? What could it look like if you began your day with looking forward to the possibility of experiencing peace and joy?

 
Many of our reflections on each week's text come from other sources. If you're interested in reading more of what inspires us, here our our two favorite reflections.

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