Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

Sermon Notes 120422

Isaiah 11:1-10

1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 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. 3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 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. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 6 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. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Romans 15:4-13

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; 10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; 11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 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.'” 4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 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? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “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 baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 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.”

Today, we light the candle of peace. “The Lord gives strength to his people, and the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11 Peace is what we long for deep within our very being. Peace often seems like an unattainable ideal. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Isaiah 32:17 How can we possibly get everyone to agree so that peace can exist? Wars have been woven into the fabric of life for all generations. Yet, in the most desperate times on the battlefields of enemies, we hear stories of amazing moments of peace when both sides put aside their differences for even a moment to give grace to one another. 

We read stories of soldiers praying together, singing together, and simply closing the great divide of race, gender, and culture that separates them. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippines 4:7 As we move through the season of Advent, the season of preparation, we are building a new day: it is a time of renewal. Each week we light candles to represent the rekindling of a fire. We begin with hope and move to peace. 

Remember that Isaiah writes to a community whose optimism had been proven false: Their country was conquered, people had been ripped from their homes and sent into exile, and they had lost much of what they most deeply valued, possibly forever. In this context we read, “A shoot shall come out from the stump . . . a branch from his roots.”

It doesn’t seem like much of a promise. It wasn’t the promise that everything would turn out fine, but it was the promise that life would go on. Let’s look at two words (In the context of a which comes first scenario): 

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or a feeling of trust

Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

Hope does not need good circumstances in order to take root; sometimes all it needs is a shoot peeking up tentatively from the stump of a now-dead tree. How many dead branches have you trimmed away in your life where you think the tree or the bush is dead, yet you catch a glimpse of one sign of a bud or sprout among the deadness? One glimmer of hope lies there ready to spark our optimism of a better future. 

I have always had a special place in my heart for John the Baptist. In fact, when called upon to state the person in the Bible to whom I most relate, I confidently answered John the Baptist. I relate to his urgency to wake up the people so that all would be ready for the arrival of Christ. John was not among the mainstream preachers of his time or perhaps of any time. If he were wandering around the countryside today, how would he be received? John didn’t look like a great prophet and he didn’t frequent the temples as typical teachers and prophets did. In fact, he would likely make a lousy guest preacher. 

John did not paint a rosy picture for those who believed they were doing everything right. Pastor Ben Yosua-Davis says it like this: “Rather than commending the piety of all the good religious people who had come to hear him, he slanders their integrity, promises them that their religious identity won’t save them, and prophesies that the one who comes after him will burn the chaff (presumably those same good religious people) with unquenchable fire.”

This message would not be a winner on Sunday morning. More than a few folks would mutter on their way out the door that it was not acceptable talk in spiritual spaces: not in our churches, not on Sunday mornings, and certainly not from a guest speaker with weird clothing and odd dietary habits.” Not only would the faithful question John’s words, but he might put fear in the hearts of those who did not yet know the promise of the Word.

Yet John’s promise of judgment also contains a seed of living hope.

Every good steward of the earth knows that pruning is a necessary part of maintaining a healthy ecosystem. When a forest reaches a point where the old towering trees are blocking the light, taking all the space and nutrients from new plants, it is time to thin out some of the trees. Fire is nature’s way of removing deadwood and making space for new life to sprout. In my early attempts at raising flowers from seeds, I had a hard time thinning out my seedlings because I wanted them all to grow. I slowly learned that each seedling needs space and crowding them into a small space resulted in fewer flowers. In fact, sometimes you have none at all. 

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit becomes a part of us and works to transform us into new beings. This is a slow process as seeds of new life are planted within us. Just like those seeds in our gardens, the seeds sleeping within us need to be activated by the fire of the spirit so they can see the sun. We must make choices and prune away those habits and traditions that hinder and hamper the growth of our new being. Often it is our obstacles that shake us into action. God does not create these challenges in our lives, but God will use every opportunity to prune us so that we may grow and become fruitful. 

So how does this pruning relate to the peace that we come seeking this morning? 

God prunes those whom He loves–those who truly belong to Him. The heavenly vinedresser cuts here and there, wherever it’s needed, to shape us into the image of the true Vine, Jesus Christ. This only happens when we learn to abide in Him.

  1. God prunes us so that we will bear more fruit.
  2. God prunes us so that we will become more dependent. 
  3. God prunes us in order to assure us that we are truly saved. 
  4. God prunes us so that He is free to answer more of our prayers. 
  5. God prunes us so that we will glorify Him. 

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

God of Advent waiting and watching, Today you have called us to prepare ourselves to receive this “shoot” which shall arise from the stump of Jesse. You remind us that this is the one who will bring messages of peace. He will help us to become faithful disciples and servants. But we have much work to do. Our preparation needs to focus on our own attitudes and actions. We need to clean our spiritual houses of the cobwebs of hate, greed, apathy, and suspicion. We need to focus more on your absolute love and forgiveness. As we turn our lives to you, help us to remember that our own healing is vital. Enable us to be strong and confident workers for you in this world. AMEN.