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December 11, Third Sunday of Advent

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


Sunday, December 11 is the Third Sunday of Advent. Download the late autumn worship booklet. Download the Sunday News bulletin for December 11. Also, watch the recorded service and read Pastor Lise's sermon.


Stream the service live on Facebook at 9:30 am.

Lectio Divina for 3 Advent A

St. John’s, Gloucester

Dec. 11, 2022

Lise Hildebrandt

A lot has been going on and I ran out of time and inspiration this week. So no sermon this week. Rather, we’re going to do a form of “Lectio Divina,” also known as African Bible Study. It’s a way of encountering Scripture that is less about connecting with your mind and more about letting your heart respond to the reading. It’s particularly interesting to do this in a group setting, but you can also do it on your own. We’ll use the Gospel reading for today. A little background on the reading: We’re jumping all over the Gospel and messing up time sequence. Last week’s reading was from the baptism of Jesus by John, and at that time John clearly understands who Jesus is and questions why he would ever want baptism by him, John. Next week’s reading zips back thirty some years to the conception and birth of Jesus, and this week’s Gospel jumps ahead to well into Jesus’ ministry. I call it, “Gospel whip-lash.” I suppose all time is present to God at every moment. Nevertheless, this week John has been doing his John-prophetic thing, which has stirred up the ire of Herod and landed him in prison. His active ministry is winding down. And that’s when the Gospel picks up today. So here is what we’re going to do. The Gospel will be read 3 times. After each reading, there will be a pause, and a question to ponder. And then you will be asked to share with something that has arisen for you. If you are sitting with one or two other people, consider being a group with them for two of the shares. If you are sitting alone, if you are comfortable, identify another person you might talk to. If you want to just listen, that’s OK too. So here we go: First a prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. As I am reading the passage for the first time, see what word or phrase jumps out at you. Just one word or phrase that grabs your attention. (Read) Matthew 11:2-11 (NRSV) When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Now, I invite you to say out loud the word or phrase that stuck with you. Maybe loud enough for others to hear, if you are comfortable saying it. The question for the second reading is: Where does this passage touch your life today? What is God saying to you in this passage? (2nd Reading) Matthew 11:2-11 (The Message) John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. “Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!” When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’ “Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. Share with the person or persons near you what you heard about how this passage or God might be speaking with you. Speak one at a time. No discussion. For the third reading, the question is: What do I believe God wants me to do or be? Is God inviting me to change in any way? (3rd reading) Matthew 11:2-11 (Contemporary English Version) John was in prison when he heard what Christ was doing. So John sent some of his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one we should be looking for? Or must we wait for someone else?” Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you have heard and seen. The blind are now able to see, and the lame can walk. People with leprosy are being healed, and the deaf can hear. The dead are raised to life, and the poor are hearing the good news. God will bless everyone who doesn't reject me because of what I do.” As John's followers were going away, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John: What sort of person did you go out into the desert to see? Was he like tall grass blown about by the wind? What kind of man did you go out to see? Was he someone dressed in fine clothes? People who dress like that live in the king's palace. What did you really go out to see? Was he a prophet? He certainly was. I tell you that he was more than a prophet. In the Scriptures God says about him, “I am sending my messenger ahead to get things ready for you.” I tell you no one ever born on this earth is greater than John the Baptist. But whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. Now share again with each other what came to you. You do not need to second guess or analyze your experience, and again, this not a conversation but a sharing and listening exercise. This is a practice that you can do with others or do in your daily routine. Let us return to silence and end with prayer. Amen.


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