The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Introduction to the readings for Advent Two, Peace,  December 4, 2016

This morning our first reading comes to us from the prophet, Isaiah offering a word of hope to a discouraged and disgruntled community of listeners.  Isaiah’s words offer a startling alternative vision of how life might be rather than how life is.  Listen again to Isaiah’s description of the coming into being a leader whose very presence might impact human behaviour and interpersonal dynamics so profoundly that corporate greed, corruption, and political instability would cease to exist.

A Reading from Hebrew Scripture:  Isaiah 11: 1-10

The peaceable reign of god

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  His delight shall bee in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;  he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness, the belt around his loins. 

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the lord and the waters cover the sea. 

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the people; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. 

Here ends the first reading.  

Let us continue to reflect on the meaning of these words from the ancient texts as we sing together from More Voices #19,“Maranatha”

Our gospel reading for the second Sunday in the season of Advent, provides us with a vivid description of another one of our well known prophets, John the Baptist.  What thoughts do you bring to the hearing of John’s familiar prophecy and how do you find yourself responding to his proclamation?  For example, do you find yourself sympathizing and wanting to stand firm with the authorities of the day, the ones eager to maintain the status quo by doing what has always been done?  Do you feel yourself pushed or pulled in a new direction, aligning with those whose eagerness for the unfolding of a new day defines all their thoughts and actions?  Or do you find yourself standing resolutely on the sidelines of the story, disinclined to be caught up in any of the passage’s drama?

Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 3, verses 1-13 

John the Baptist preaches

“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,

‘You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruit worthy of repentance.  Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stories to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the tree; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me

I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’”

 

Response:  Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. Thanks be to God.