Cultivated by Fire

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

Text: St. Luke 3:7-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our coming Lord, who is cultivating us for the Kingdom. Amen.

Is there anything quite like fire? All it takes is flicking a match against a box to strike a flame. The initial light is so weak that even a child can blow out – but that same blaze can leave a burn that will “torment you throughout the night.” And that same small, delicate flame can quickly grow into a fierce and unquenchable fire threatening to destroy everything in its path.

In the unfolding climate crisis, we have seen larger and larger wildfires consume massive swaths of the Pacific coast, the mountain west, Alaska, Siberia, and Australia. Smoke from the fires can cover hundreds of miles, turning the sky a terrifying shade of hellish red, and send haze and smog thousands of miles further. These infernos threaten to devour everything they touch. In 2016, the Chimney Tops 2 fire in the Smoky Mountains destroyed more than two thousand structures. In 2020, wildfires destroyed more than 17,500 structures in the US. And in 2018, the Camp fire in California destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings and killed 85 people.  It doesn’t take much – yes, downed powerlines and lightning strikes can start up a blaze, but even something as simple as a car driving over tall, dry grass can light a fire that will unleash scenes of hell on earth.

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Repentance and Fire: Advent 3C

Some Thoughts for the Third Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Zephaniah 3:14-20
  • Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6
  • Epistle: Philippians 4:4-7
  • Holy Gospel: St. Luke 3:7-18

Texts in Summary:

We continue our Advent readings with a second week of John the Baptist.

It’s Gaudete Sunday, one of the two Sundays when rose is the appointed liturgical color. (If you’ve ever wondered why your Advent wreath has three purple or blue candles and one pink one, it’s for this weekend. This tradition is slowly falling out of favor, though. I know of exactly one Lutheran parish that even has rose-colored vestments, and more and more parishes are dropping “the pink one” from their wreaths.) The name comes from the Latin entrance chant, which in turn is taken from this week’s Philippians reading:

Continue reading “Repentance and Fire: Advent 3C”

Prepare Ye

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Texts: Isaiah: 40:1-11; St. Mark 1:1-8


Grace and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who will lead us on the way of the Lord through the wilderness to the Kingdom of God. Amen.

As the house lights dimmed, the spot hit the back of the theater and my classmate belted out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” as he processed down the center dressed like John the Baptist – or rather, like John the Baptist as imagined by a Broadway producer in the late 60s. The tempo picked up and other cast members danced their way onto the stage. The Leavenworth Senior High fall musical for 2004 – a production of 1971’s Godspell – was, by most accounts a smashing success.

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Rend Your Hearts

A Homily for Ash Wednesday

Texts: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


Grace and Peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who accompanies us through the Lenten wilderness. Amen.

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It was well after midnight my sophomore year of college when I stumbled back into my apartment after hours in the library working on an assignment I was nearly certain I would fail. Exhausted, frustrated, and angry, I dropped my books and my pack, grabbed my shirt and simply pulled, sending buttons and thread flying everywhere. Standing in the doorway, a few shreds of fabric in my hand, I could only muster a sigh. I felt a little bit better, but only for a moment. I quickly collapsed into bed for a few fitful hours’ sleep, still in my undershirt, jeans, and shoes. The next morning, I woke up barely rested, and none the closer to finishing my research paper. Were this a movie, rending my clothes in such a dramatic way would have inevitably led to a breakthrough; as it was, I got a brief moment of catharsis before barely eking out a C+ on the project and in the class and quietly dropping the major.

As overly dramatic as that night may have been, the ritual imagery of Ash Wednesday puts it to shame. Continue reading “Rend Your Hearts”

Rejoice, You Brood of Vipers!

A Homily for the Third Sunday in Advent

Texts: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Philippians 4:4-7; St. Luke 3:7-18


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who stands ready with the winnowing fork in his hand. Amen.

We’re over halfway through Advent — we’ve made it to the third Sunday, sometimes called Gaudete Sunday, or “Rejoice!” Sunday. In many parts of the Church, they’re lighting the odd candle out, a rose candle that stands out like a sore thumb among the purple and blue. Some parishes are even hanging up rose-colored paraments, and a few lucky priests are wearing rose vestments. I’ve even been told that somewhere, someone can somehow differentiate between rose and pink.

It’s a festive, jolly time of year! It’s time to rejoice, to deck the halls, to go out caroling, to feast on all sorts of sweets, and to raise a hearty glass of wassail or gluehwein. As many of you know, I’m fairly rigid about the liturgy, which means I’m hesitant to celebrate Christmas before we arrive at the 25th, but I do want to join in the seasonal festivities.

To that end, I’ve endeavored to write a few Advent carols rooted in this year’s lectionary readings; here’s a fun one based on the first Sunday’s Gospel: Continue reading “Rejoice, You Brood of Vipers!”