Category Archives: Women of Advent

Women of Advent: Bathsheba

How did we get to the fourth Sunday of Advent?!? I know, I know, there are four Sundays every year, but this year is a bit more compact. For the church I serve, First United Methodist Church, the last few days are filled with special and moving events.

Last night we held our Blue Christmas service. The last three years Leslie Coates who preaches at our evening service off site and works with our outside “art” connections has done an amazing job of creating a meaningful service. Along with the lighting of the four candles, he finds poems that speak to different kinds of loss and uses actors to memorize them.

We have a gospel group that sings powerful music, with a short sermon, then a variety of rituals: lighting of candles, holy communion and anointed prayer. Every year, I think it can’t get any better, but it does. The poems if interested were: “Ending With a Line from Lear” by Marvin Bell, “To My Future Caregiver” by C.W. Buckley, “To the Young Who want to Die”, by Gwendolyn Brooks, then Isaiah 40: 1-5, 28-31.

Today we celebrated the fourth Sunday of Advent and the candle of Love. Bathsheba’s story is in many ways harder than the others. In 2 Samuel, she is silent, passive almost. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth actively were part of their story even when they crossed all kinds of boundaries. Bathsheba is used and probably would have discarded had she not become pregnant. She ends up being the mother of a king, and honored and blessed.

In Matthew’s gospel, however, she is the only one not named by her name, but by the name of her first husband. David’s sin and abuse and outrageous behavior is noted and remembered. I paired that with Joseph’s story. I am grateful for Emmanuel “God with us” in this messy world. The full service or the sermon alone can be found here.

This Sunday was the last Sunday that Brett Valliant our director of music and organist would be with us. He is moving to Arizona to be one of the principal organists at Organ Stop Pizza. Brett is truly one of the most amazing musicians I have ever worked with. I have been so honored to work with him the last three and a half years. His videos show his great range. He is known all over the world. I am grateful for his music and am so happy for him.

Tomorrow night is Brett’s 20th annual Christmas concert. He started the concerts to pay off the debt on our great Schantz organ and has continued his concerts to build a maintenance fund for its upkeep. the concert will be live streamed.

And of course, Tuesday is Christmas Eve with two services.

Thes last few days of Advent have all the “feels.” Joy, sadness, gratitude, wonder, hope, love, and peace. Preparing for Emmanuel, for the birth of the Christ always seems like surprise. Like the first Christmas, I am never quite ready, never know quite what to expect.

What I do know, is that God comes whether I am ready or not. God enters the world, this world, messy, painful, exciting and joy filled when we are not looking. I know that Christ comes again and will bring light in our darkness and hope into our despair and love into the most hateful places. I lean into that faith and trust that Emmanuel is here and will bless us again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women of Advent: Ruth

It was a chilly damp Third Sunday of Advent. The roads were fine, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground and a mist in the air. We lit the pink candle, the candle of joy.

Traditionally, when Advent was a season of penitence, the third Sunday was a break from the fasting and the somberness of the season. The pink candle and vestments if pastors or priests have them are a break from the dark purples and blues. Called “Gaudete” (Rejoice!) Sunday, the song of Mary is often read or sung.

On this Sunday we came to the third woman in the genealogy of Jesus, Ruth. One of two books named after women, the story of Ruth is beautiful. Ruth’s story is also one of redemption that is greater than just a quick read of the four chapters of the book would suggest.

After all my research, I still got part of the story wrong. Ruth is Moabite. Moabites according to Deuteronomy 23:3 are banned from the assembly of Israel to the tenth generation. I said that this people came from Noah and his eldest daughter. WRONG!! A parishioner came and let me know it was Lot. And I said, “are you sure? I researched it!” She said, “yes I am sure.” And she was right! I came right back to my research and it was Lot and his eldest daughter. I have no idea where I got Noah!

Any way, the story is still ugly and awful. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughter’s had no prospects for husbands. So they took matters into their own hands and got their father drunk so they could have children. The eldest daughter’s son was Moab. Deuteronomy states that the Moabites did not give water or food to the people Israel when they were in the wilderness. There is a long history of bad blood between the Moabites and the Israelites.

The point is, that Moabites were hated and considered unworthy to be part of the Israel. Along comes Ruth, committed, faithful and willing to do what it took to care for her mother-in-law Naomi. A Moabite! It is a beautiful story, but also one of great depth and from Ruth and Boaz comes Obed, who is the father of Jesse who is the father of David.

The deep power of Mary’s song and Ruth’s story bring meaning to the pink candle of joy. Out of grief, out of uncertainty, God brings joy and comes to us as we are. God does not shrink from our human predicaments or prejudices but comes among us with grace and love.

The worship service or the sermon itself can be found at this link.

 

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Women of Advent: Rahab

While all the four women named in Matthew’s gospels as ancestors of Jesus are noteworthy because of some scandalous behavior in their stories, none can top Rahab. Tamar was scandalous in order to fulfill the law, Ruth who is the next in the genealogy is scandalous because of her heritage and the last woman is not named, except by her first husband.

Rahab, however, unlike Tamar, doesn’t play the prostitute, she is one. She is also a liar, deceiving the king of Jericho’s men about the Israelite spies in her home. That also make her a traitor to her king and country, but makes her faithful to the God of Israel.

The book of Joshua is a tough read for all its violence and blood shed in the Israel’s conquering of Canaan. Nonetheless, this immoral woman is called righteous in more than place in the Bible. Perhaps her faith as an outsider in a God who delivers the  chosen ones out of slavery and brings them through the wilderness to a place of promise is a witness not to be ignored. She chooses this people and their God on the basic of few stories she must have overheard.

She bargained for herself and her whole family: not two or three people: but her parents and her siblings and all who were connected to them. While Matthew could have skipped over her story by just naming Salmon who was the father of Boaz, the author adds, “whose mother was Rahab.”

Why? Perhaps Matthew continues to remind us our sensibilities are not important to God. God sees past ethnic backgrounds, labels and names and into the hearts and spirits of all people.

Today in worship, the bell choir was wonderful as was the choir. You can watch the whole service or just the sermon here.

 

 

 

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First Sunday in Advent: Hope

Happy New Year! We begin the Christian New Year with the season of Advent. Today we celebrated the first Sunday of Advent and lit the candle of Hope.

The new sermon series is based on the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1. In this new cycle of the lectionary, Matthew is primarily the gospel from which the readings are based. The Lectionary begins with the story of Joseph in the 18th verses of the first chapter. Which makes sense because reading genealogies if they are not yours usually are boring.

We read in worship the first six verses of Matthew 1, which name the four women of Advent: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba. Each week we will immerse ourselves in their stories and end with the fifth woman of Advent Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Three of these four women were outsiders: Gentiles, two were Canaanites and one was Moabite. Every one of these stories are “spicy’ or R-rated in some way. What I find most interesting in our sacred books these women are remembered in the lineage of Jesus, not Sarah or Rachel or Rebecca or Leah. Matthew seems to pointing to something deeper: that Jesus comes to us, not from some pure royal lineage, but from the whole of our human experience. His origins include people outside of the Covenant people and yet those very outsiders are faithful.

Tamar’s story is disturbing, uncomfortable and sad in many ways. She is blamed and used and put aside. Tamar takes her fate in her own hands and changes her fate and is remembered as a great-great-great- great (lots of greats) grandmother of Jesus. Tamar is a person of faith and hope. She trusted that God someone would take her actions and use them for what was right. Tamar invites us to have the same hope and faith.

You can find today’s worship service or just the link for the sermon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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