Archive for December, 2011

Advent Week 3

// December 10th, 2011 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Stupid Joy

Isaiah    61:1-2a, 10-11

John     1:6-8, 19-28

How does one begin to analyze joy?   What is the deep biblical meaning of joy?  The passage from Isaiah refers to God as the “joy in my soul”.  John the Baptist is often associated with the joy of religious ecstasy.

Honestly, the process of analyzing joy as a useful function tends to diminish its function.  We can use joy as a mind set to do the things we really don’t want to do, but is that really joy?  Can I joyfully clean the cat box?  Sure, I can rejoice in the result having a clean cat box, but the drudgery, there is no joy there.  I am certain that there will be a dutiful message of joyfully being good little Christian children radiating from many pulpits this Sunday.  Messages of joyfully fulfilling those things we are supposed to be doing.  But is this going to bring us to God?  Can you imagine John the Baptist faking it as he went through the motions on the banks for the River Jordan?

This is what I mean by stupid joy.  It’s that kind of joy that rises up unexpectedly, maybe even inappropriately.  The kind of joy that makes even the most somber, serious person look like an idiot.  The kind of joy that has you laughing until you cry and only stopping because you can no longer breathe. What I’m talking about is the uncontrollably drooling, pee in your pants kind of joy.

When Isaiah talks about the joy in one’s soul, I don’t think he is talking about being contented with obtaining some level of Godliness.  I think, like the idea that God is love, that God is joy.  Finding that joy in your soul is a glimpse of God.  In other words, experiencing joy is experiencing God.

Join us this Sunday at the Kessler Theater at 11:00am for talk and songs about joy.

Meanwhile watch this video


Paul Semrad

Advent Week 2

// December 10th, 2011 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

The Story that is Coming

The Scripture this week, whether in Isaiah or Mark, Peter or the Psalms, tells us of what is to come. But it’s the advent season, it’s Christmas time, and we know what is coming. The baby Jesus is coming, the heralded birth of the Messiah. We know the story. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem, they don’t find a place in the inn, and they, yet again, end up in the manger. The angels sing to the shepherds, who walk away from their flocks to seek out the child. The wise men see a star in the distance and trek across the desert on their camels. It’s the same story every year.  Or is it?

One of the things that has fascinated me most as a writer and actor over the past decades is performing the same play, the same material, over and over, sometimes hundreds of performances. And yet, if you’re paying attention during rehearsal or during performance, you discover something new in the text, in the story, time and again. Do actors somehow become smarter because they’ve performed a play dozens of times? I can guarantee you a “No” on that one. Or is the new insight due not to increased intelligence or mere repetition but instead due to the ever growing narrative of our own lives that allows us to find something new in that which is old.

Any seasoned storyteller can tell you that each listener brings their unique story and life experience to the narrative that is being told. Each listener, each participant, brings their whole life with them when they listen. A good story invites the listener to step into the narrative as it unfolds.

This Sunday I hope that you will bring with you your own narrative, your own stories, about the Advent season, about the holidays and Christmas in your life. As you consider those stories, please keep in mind that this week’s theme is love.

I’m going to tell a story relating to that theme about an old man standing in the rain on Christmas Eve many years ago. It’s a true story. And the point of the story is not to help us understand the narrative of the past nor to simply see that which is coming but to be ready for the opportunity to step into the narrative, into the story of God’s love in the present.

David Marquis

Advent Week 1

// December 10th, 2011 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Advent 2011: Hope

The Text This Week: Mark 13:24-37

Excerpt, Inclusive Translation: (vs. 33-37) “Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come.  It is like an owner traveling abroad.  They leave their home and put the workers in charge, each with a certain task, and those who watch at the front gate are ordered to stay on the alert.  So stay alert!  You do not know when the owner of the house is coming, whether at dusk, at midnight, when the cock crows or at early dawn.  Do not let the owner come suddenly and catch you asleep. What I say to you, I say to all: stay alert!”

But stay alert to what?  This, I think, is the challenge and the hope Advent offers us. Cultures are always changing – we live in a vastly different world than when the Gospel of Mark was written. The fig trees, natural wonders, and master-slave society imagery that decorate this passage are a little different from what we see these days as Advent begins.  David Henson offers a cheeky-but-provoking rendition of what we seem to be staying awake for in this day and age:

“Keep awake! And be watchful for the best deals on flat screen televisions, for they will come and go like a thief in the night. Keep awake! Two will be shopping, but only one will be taken into the paradise of door-busting discounts. Keep awake! And the peace of a peppermint mocha and the grace of our Starbucks will be with you always, for the coffee shop will remain open all night to fuel the delirium of fevered consumerism. Keep awake! For you know both the day and the hour when the master of American consumerism will return. Keep awake! For Black Friday now begins on Thursday.” (

Advent is coming, the wings and wind of a fresh year in the life of the Church.  It offers us something more than stuff, something beyond that frenzied feeling of not-good-enough that our consumer culture tries to hook us with.   It subversively refuses to the use of violence and shouting matching to overthrow consumerism, but lures us with love, and the promise that we, too, are already a part of something better if we can just keep paying attention to it.  Come light the candle of Hope with us as we move into this season of Deep Blue Waiting and try to discern together how to stay awake to the things that mattered to Jesus and offer us life, even still.

**Advent Conspiracy**

At the end of our gathering last week, Lisa Shirley shared an Advent Conspiracy video with us: – !Advent is this time of aching for a world that could be – and of taking thoughtful actions to make that world a reality.  Come join us at 10AM during the Sundays of Advent to join the Conspiracy.