What is your charisma?, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Preached January 23, 2022, by Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min. 

To better understand today’s text, we first must slide our fingers back a bit in this letter to the church in Corinth to chapter 11:17 where Paul writes, “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear there are divisions among you.” From this point extending for three more chapters, Paul is outlining what it means to be the church, how the church is to worship, and how members of the church are to relate with each other and the world.

There was significant segregation in the Corinthian church on several levels. There was segregation between rich members and poor members, between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, between slave-owners and the slaves, between men and women. Right there in the first-century church, there were discriminatory practices based on sex, race and ethnicity, politics, economic and social status. I am glad that doesn’t happen in the church anymore! Oh, if that were only the case!

So, our reading today begins with 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. As you listen, see if you can pick up two primary themes Paul is unpacking. Listen to the Word of the Lord!

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.[1]

Did you pick out the two primary themes? The first is the radical inclusivity the church is to demonstrate. The second one is that the Church is a community of charisma!

The first theme Paul tugs out can be said either positively or negatively. The positive way is to describe the radical inclusivity of the Church. The negative way to describe the first theme is prejudicial exclusivity in the Church. Corinth was a melting pot of cultures and people back then. It was a hub for commerce as it linked the east with the west. It was both a major crossroads for shipping and for highways. Think, a melting pot. People from all over the known world were thrown together and as the common habit, like seeks like. It’s no different today really. The rich folk hangs together while the poor members huddle to see what resources they can collectively muster. Jews hung out with other Jews while the non-Jewish members of the church felt as though they were missing something because of their non-Jewish heritage. Men and women were often separated culturally but Jesus’ teaching was all about pulling people together. Slave-owners wanted to make sure their personal slaves remembered who the boss really was. Paul looked at all this from a distance and said, “Enough!”

First, Paul reminds them (reminds us) that all people who follow the Way of Jesus are baptized into one Spirit. Baptism is a form of adoption and when people follow Jesus, they are baptized into one family. The long-held divisions of Jew and Gentile are torn down. Men and women are now brothers and sisters and can worship together. Slave owners and slaves are all seen as equals. Resources are pooled together and the community cares for her own, both rich and poor alike.

Paul uses a metaphor that was often used in antiquity and that is of the body. Paul is unique however because he sets his description of the Body apart by calling it the Body of Christ where each member or part of the body is connected to something larger than itself.[2] Paul goes so far as to talk about those “inferior” parts of the body as being the most important parts of the body. Those inferior parts of the body are just as important as the more prevalent and non-descript parts of the body. You may be a genius and can speak with utter beauty and passion, but if your bladder is full, you are going to attend to one thing first, aren’t you? Just try telling a full bladder it’s not as important as the speech or presentation you are making and see how that well that works for you. Paul says it beautifully in verses 25 and 26 where he writes, “But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

So, beloved, the Body of Christ has many parts; what part are you?

The second theme Paul pulls out is every member of the Body has a gift to be used for the others in the Body and for the ministry of Jesus. The word for ‘gift’ Paul uses is the same word we get our word ‘charism’ or ‘charisma.’  It’s also translated as ‘grace.’ He is telling the Corinthians that everyone in the church, male or female, slave or free, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, all have charisma! Every single person in the Church has a special gift and grace that is to be shared with others in the community and the Body of Christ.

A gift is used, or it’s left unwrapped and unopened. An unopened gift, an unused gift, demonstrates ingratitude to the gift giver and selfishness to other members of the Body and church family.  So, what’s your charisma? What is your gift? The challenge in many churches today is that people are not using their gifts. When this person doesn’t use her gift, it forces another person who really doesn’t have that gift to try to use it anyway. When you as members of the Body of Christ don’t use your gift, it means you and I have to use gifts and charisma we don’t have because you are failing to use yours. Folks, if you have charisma, it’s for the sake of God and others and not for you. Each of us has been gifted, blessed to be a gift, and a blessing to others. What is your gift, wrapped up and given by God through the Spirit to you? Are you using it or are you like a spoiled child in a play space and when asked to share, you reply, “No! It’s mine!”?

Friends, think about our lesson from Paul today. Can you see the implications of what he is saying? Do you see the ramifications and impact on others if we lived into what he asked? It would be this:

This Church, this Body of Christ, would be a change agent of grace in the world. The Church is called to be a radically inclusive community where there are no divisions based on race, ethnicity, politics, or economics. The Body of Christ is uniquely being set apart in the world to show the world that when everyone uses the charisma God gave them for the greater good, a community arises that sees no lines of division between business class and working class, between my understanding of Jesus and your understanding of Jesus, between black or white or yellow and brown, between straight people and gay people.  In essence, if the Church can figure it out – i.e., how to use everyone’s gifts, working to wrong injustice, caring, and respecting the most destitute person in her midst, then and only then can we expect Christ through the church to change the world. The Church becomes the living textbook for the world to see how people are to work together, care for one another, and honor one another. 

So, what part of the Body of Christ are you? What gift, what’s your charisma to be shared with others? Are you using it? Amen.

© 2022 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301.  Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission. All rights reserved.

[1] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] “The comparison of a human community to the physical body was certainly not original with Paul. The trope already enjoyed a long history in classical literature. However, Paul gave it a revolutionary new twist. Previously, the comparison had reinforced hierarchy, suggesting that the lowly workers, the drones, should obey and support their military, mercantile, and political leaders. Those at the bottom of the social ladder should stay put and be grateful for the guidance and protection of their natural superiors.”  David L. Bartlett; Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration. Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

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Christmas Eve Meditation – Growing Back into Christmas

A meditation given on December 24, 2021, by the Rev. Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.

Luke 2:8-20

For 61 years the power and profundity of this night have amazed me so. As a child sitting on the sofa looking at the Atlanta winter night, I would stare, searching the twinkling starlit sky above. Back then I was full of awe and wonder and believed in the magic of Christmas. As I became older, the awe and wonder never really left but their sense of presence seemed to fade somewhat. In their place settled a spirit of busyness and rush. The nights of awe and wonder melted into fulfilling obligations whether in terms of giving gifts or showing up someplace during the frenetic season. The magic of Christmas had very subtlety moved from the power of the newborn King to Santa Clause, from the manger to the mall.

I’m grateful that I have grown up somewhat since then.  They say that the older you become the more you regress into childhood, and this has happened to me at Christmastime. I find that the older I become, the more I realize how much I dislike malls; Christmastime is a time for me to go hunting for the gift of the manger and listen for the little baby coo and wiggle for the warmth of his mother. I suppose one could say that with each passing year, I am growing back into Christmas.

The Welsh have a word that I think describes how we are feeling this time of year. The word is hiraeth (here-eyeth). It’s a noun and it describes a feeling a person has who possesses a mixture of longing and yearning for the past and the way things used to be; it’s a type of homesickness found deep in your soul and it’s tinged with a little touch of grief over the times and experiences lost to the past and the departed. Yes, the older we become, Christmas births within in each of us a deep sense of hiraeth.

We long for the Christmases of yesterday, either the ones we had or wish we had. It’s a longing for the life that we think we remember that was simpler and more grounded. Yet, Christmas also evokes a spiritual hiraeth within us, which in all honesty, is what Christmas is all about in the first place. We listen to the Christmas stories, watch the kids enact the birth of baby Jesus, smile at the children dressed as angels. We sing familiar carols and are taken by the hand of the spirit and are led back to what Christmas is all about. We suspend our callous, stubborn hearts and once again open our spirit to the possibility, to the reality, that unto us this day, in the City of David, Christ was born.

Beloved, we live in a world of shootings, pandemics, horrific storms, and where there are wars and rumors of war.  But tonight, this holy night, we practice hiraeth.

Tonight, we go back home again, longing and looking for those reminders that God is still in control and that God has not left his beloved forsaken.

Tonight, we remember God and how much God loves us enough to become enfleshed and join us in this journey of life. 

Tonight, we remind ourselves that God placed his trust in a young girl’s weary and feeble arms to be held, loved, and cared for. Ultimately, the birth of Jesus is God’s active expression of God’s faith in you and me. He allows you and I to care for this child who has no place to rest his head except in your arms and mine.

Friends let’s grow back into Christmas and receive the baby being placed carefully, lovingly, in our arms this night. Revel in the presence, joy, and hope the birth of Jesus provides. Feel him in your arms. Feel him in your heart. Amen.

© 2021 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301.  Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission. All rights reserved.

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The Great Reversal, Luke 1:45-56

 A sermon preached on December 19, 2021, by the Rev. Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.

  One would think that after 4,000 years, we would’ve figured it out by now. Beginning with Abraham and extending forward until today, God has this penchant for doing the exact opposite of what good rational people expect.

            Abraham, an old man, and his nonagenarian wife, Sarai, start a family in their old age and that family becomes the genesis of the people God will use to fulfill his salvation Story for the world.

            Then there is that young Hebrew infant Moses, born of an enslaved woman, adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, raised in the palace with royalty and became the prince of Egypt.

            How about the time the Prophet Samuel goes to anoint the future king and he travels to the smallest clan of the Jews and has Jesse parade all seven of his sons before him but none of them were chosen. Samuel asks, “Are these all your boys?” Jesse lets him know he had one more son, the baby of the family, a young boy who was tending sheep in the field. This shepherd boy doing the family chores his brothers did not want to do by tending the sheep was then chosen to one day become King David.

            Oh, and we cannot forget how the nine-foot Goliath who was all decked out in armor with superior weapons of war met this ruddy shepherd boy David on a field and was felled by a rock from that young boy’s slingshot.

            If we zoom out a bit more, we see all the powerful nations of the ancient world, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Babylonians but God chose the little bickering and in-fighting tribes of Israel to be his beloved, Chosen people.

            God’s whimsical character typically does a total reversal of what we think God will or should do. The Jewish scriptures are loaded with examples of this great reversal. And this is where we pick up on another great reversal this morning. This is the Story of how God chooses a middle-school-aged girl and a postmenopausal old woman from a backwater village to be the bearers of a prophet the likes of Elijah and the new Davidic Messiah.

            The scene is this: Mary is now pregnant and goes to see her relative, Elizabeth, in the hill country of Judea which is located some 8 miles west on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When Mary comes in the door, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb does a flip and Elizabeth begins to proclaim in the Spirit, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me…and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  And then Mary said

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”[1]

            The Magnificat, as Mary’s song is called, is a song from a young peasant girl who was chosen, not from the upper echelons of society, but from total obscurity. This young teenager who has caused quite a fuss with her unexplained pregnancy and who is a living embodiment of God’s doing the opposite of what we think now sings about God’s habit of doing what we would never expect.

            Mary, who describes herself as a humble servant girl, is now described as a queen mother who will give birth to a king. God uses the humble to scatter all those who are proud.

            Those who are hungry will soon be filled and those who are rich will be sent away empty.

            Those who are not even noticed by people in society will become somebodies that make a difference and those who are in power will soon be deposed.

            Those who are oppressed are lifted up while those who oppress will be brought low.

            Even Jesus picks up on these themes his momma espoused in his own teaching when he describes that the first will be last and those who are last will be first. He reminds Peter and the other disciples that if you want to be great, you must become small and a servant of all. If you want to save your life, then you must lose it. And let’s not forget his Sermon on the Mount where Jesus extols the virtues and values that rub coarsely against the way the culture lives and behaves.

            Blessed are the poor in spirit.

            Blessed are the gentle people.

            Blessed are those who hunger, not after food, but are starving for God’s ways to govern the world.

            Blessed are those who forgive.

            Blessed are the pure of heart.

            Blessed are the ones who do the hard work of making for peace.

            Blessed are those disciples who are persecuted for loving Jesus.

            Blessed are members of the church when others revile you for following Jesus.

            Why do we think God’s works this way with the great reversals in the biblical Story? Perhaps God works and speaks this way to keep the community of Jesus from getting too comfortable with itself. Uri Avnery, an Israeli human-rights activist has an interesting aphorism that speaks to this issue. He says, “When you are on the top, you love stability. When you are on the bottom, you want change.”[2]  That one statement is a spotlight on the character of how our world works, isn’t it?

            So, when Mary declares, for example, that God has filled the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty, she’s not extolling the virtues of poverty and the vileness of wealth. On the contrary, those who are poor embrace the fact that nothing is theirs and everything is a gift from God. If everything is a gift of grace from God, then it is easy to share because if you have nothing you then own everything! The rich, on the other hand, are not bad because they are rich. The warning from Mary is that the rich will cling to existing ways of living, worldviews, and values, and in the process, will be empty of God (refer to “blessed are the poor in spirit!”).

            Our Story on this final Sunday in Advent is a delightful one reminding us that we cannot pigeon-hole God, or the way God will work in our lives. The Lord can take what we deem absurd and craft beauty and meaning from it. Our Story reminds us that when we act “rich” in our judgment of others, will be sent away empty without fully understanding or experiencing the grace God provides. The Magnificat is a hedge and reminder to those of us who are smug in our Christian walk who presume to know all the answers, who knows who God will condemn and damn and who is in and who is out.

            My friends, how has God’s habit of flipping things, reversing things, impacted your life in Jesus? occurred in your life? already What impossible, improbable changes in your life need to occur? God is full of whimsical surprises but in order to see them, experience them, be a part of them we must let everything we hold dear go and fall into the waiting arms of Christ. What do you need to let go of before Jesus is born anew in your life?

© 2021 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301.  Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission. All rights reserved.

[1] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Heidi Haverkamp, ed., Everyday Connections. Reflections and Prayers for Year C (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021), 32.

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The Foundation for a Transformed Life; Luke 3:7-18

 Sermon delivered December 12, 2021 by Rev. Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.

Luke’s gospel moves along at a pretty good clip straight out of the gates. We have the birth stories for John the Baptist and for Jesus. Twelve-year-old Jesus is found debating the religious scholars of the day in the Temple all the while his parents were frantically looking for him all over the city. Now some twenty years have passed in Storytime when we pick back up with John in Luke 3. Turn in your Bible to Luke 3:7-18.  Listen for the Word of the Lord!

Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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. 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.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation and be satisfied with your wages.”

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you withthe Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.[1]

            Now if John was a member of Toastmasters learning how to give a speech, he might be told the best way to get a crowd to turn on you in a hurry is to open up by calling them an epithet. Think about it: How would you feel if I walked up here and said, “Good morning saints, good morning sinners…You brood of vipers!”? Interestingly, John’s audience received his words in the spirit in which they were given. John in the form of one of the Old Testament prophets was not just addressing a specific person for criticism but his remarks are delivered to the whole Jewish community that was coming to him. Like the prophets Isaiah, Zechariah, Amos, and the others, Luke paints John as the prophet who announces there needs to be a change in the larger Jewish community or they will once again be taken into exile and God will raise up a new generation of followers. This is what all the talk is about of God raising up children of Abraham from the very stones on the ground. Like the Jewish prophets before him, John was declaring, “There’s a change a coming and you need to get back right with God. You need to reclaim and live into your Jewish Identity![2]   

            Luke’s story about John is different from the other gospel writers in that they focus primarily on John’s water baptism but here at the beginning of Luke, the emphasis is more on the content of John’s message and preaching which is for the community to begin bearing fruits worthy of repentance; in other words, start living like the children of Israel are supposed to live![3]  

            As you listened to the scripture, did you hear the brood of vipers’ response to John? They didn’t push back against his description of them. No, with a staccato rhythm, one after the other asks John, “What then should we do?”

            His first answer is to the general crowds of the larger Jewish community. John declares that a fruit that displays a true turning back to God deals with justice. “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone that has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.” This was not a first-century call for socialism as we think of it today; John’s call was a reminder to the community that as a chosen people of God, they have a moral obligation to take care of each other. He’s not asking them to give up everything they have to show fruits worthy of repentance; he is simply saying to share with others in the community so they can have the basics, too. If you have two coats, well this is south Florida and so give one to a person that doesn’t have a coat. If you have plenty of food to eat, then share with those who are hungry and are food insecure. It’s a moral crime to throw out food when others have to dig in garbage cans to eat.

            The much-maligned tax collectors that no one cared for asked, “Then what should we do?”  John replies, “Collect no more than what is prescribed for you.” You see, tax collectors in those days were contracted out by the political officials to gather revenue for “the state.” The problem was, it’s what we would call an unregulated business. If you were a tax collector in a certain area or were responsible to collect taxes for a certain cause, you would pre-pay the taxes for the people in your area and then you would go out and have people pay you back for that service.[4] So, imagine the Broward County tax assessor comes in and says, “I just paid $3 million for new sewage lines so now I demand $6 million in taxes from you.”  You and I would push back and say, “Hey, we will pay for the sewers that cost $3 million and that’s it!” The tax collector would then reply to you and me, “Well, life is full of these little hardships, and you owe me $6 million. If not, you’re going to jail.” Back in John’s day, the tax assessor, or collector, could levy any charge they wanted from you. There was nothing fair about the process at all. John did not say, “Quit your tax revenue collectors’ job; no, he simply said to just practice ethics as you do business. Quit shaking people down for money.”

            It’s then a third group, a group of soldiers, approach John and say, “What should we do?” John replies, “Do not extort money from anyone with threats or false accusation, be content with your wages.” These men were not the Roman legions we often read about in scripture; rather, these were most likely Jewish citizens who were hired as a local peacekeeping force for the local leaders. Think first century police force.  Unfortunately, these forces would act like mob bosses and would threaten citizens or extort money for “their protection.” The common person on the street was mistrustful of them at best, scared of them at worse.[5] John simply tells them to do their appointed job and be content with what you are owed and paid.

            Share. Be fair. Be content. That’s it. It’s pretty basic, isn’t it? It almost sounds like something our kids in our Happyland Preschool are taught. They are taught to share, be fair, and happy with what they have. Why do adults seem to forget those basic values the older we get? Preschoolers get it, why can’t we?

Friends, the fruits of repentance do not mean living a perfect a squeaky-clean life; the fruits of repentance do not require you or me to quit our jobs and join a monastery; the fruits of repentance do not dictate that we have to wear certain clothes. The fruits of repentance are pretty basic. Share, be fair, and be content with what we have. It’s not rocket science, folks[6].

            This morning we baptized a little girl and as a community made promises to her, her parents, and to all the people who have been baptized at this church’s font. We have promised to help raise her in the Christian tradition. We have promised to teach her the basic doctrines and beliefs about Jesus and the Church.  We have promised to pray for her and her parents. We have promised to do something on behalf of this little girl. John is demanding that you and I, if we are followers of Jesus, need to teach her to share, to be fair, and to live contently with what she has. Imagine the woman she will be if we are true and consistent with our promises?

            Columnist David Brooks writes, “Some of the wisdom passed down through the ages is transmitted through books or sermons. But most learning happens by habituation. We are formed within families, churches, communities, schools, and professional societies. Each institution has its own stories, standards of excellence, ways of doing things. When you join the Marines, you don’t just learn how to shoot a rifle; you absorb the entire ethos that will both help you complete the tasks and will confront and mold you into a certain sort of person: fierce against foes, loyal to friends, faithful to the Corps.”[7]

            Beloved, when we become followers of Christ, we don’t just learn how to quote Bible verses; we absorb the entire ethos that will help us complete the tasks and will confront and mold us into a certain sort of person: We share with others; we are fair to others, and we are content with what we have. This my friends, is the foundation for a transformed life. This my friends, is how we live into our Christian identity. So, as we make our way to Christmas, amidst all the preparations, let us examine the health of the fruits of our transformed life. And all God’s people say, Amen.

© 2021 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301.  Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.

[1] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Gospel of Luke (I-IX), (Doubleday & Company, Inc.: New York), 464-465.

[3] Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship: Year C, Volume 1, Advent through Epiphany. See https://a.co/cabOqOx.

[4] Fitzmyer, 470.

[5] Ibid., 470-471.

[6]One commentator writes, “For the Baptist, repentance had less to do with how fervently one prays or how faithfully one attends the worship service; instead, it had everything to do with how one handled riches, executed public service, and exercised stewardship.” From, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor. See https://a.co/aHEv9NB.

[7] David Brooks, What Happened to American Conservatism? The rich philosophical tradition I fell in love with has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression. The Atlantic Magazine,  

December 8, 2021. See https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/brooks-true-conservatism-dead-fox-news-voter-suppression/620853/.

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Sunday’s Pastoral Prayer, Advent 2, December 5, 2021

God of Abraham and Sarah, of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we come before you today with thanks and praise for the gift of a safe night and thoughtful rest; we gather as your children, saints and sinners alike, thanking you for this chance to come into your sanctuary to confess, to praise, to give, to learn and then be sent out into the world to witness to your love for us in Jesus Christ.

Father of Tender Mercies, we especially pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one this day; fill their hearts with Easter hope and a reminder we shall be reunited with you one day.

We are mindful of the many families and friends who have empty seats around their tables this holiday season. Those seats represent losses to death, broken relationships, or moves from the area whereby there was once someone to talk with, someone’s hand to hold, or someone simply to sit within the safety of their company. Fill that sense of emptiness they feel.

Members of this community are learning about new illnesses they have or who are in the middle of a protocol that will bring them health. Give them confidence in their doctors, patience with their treatment, and the grace to undergo the surgeries or the procedure’s implementation and outcomes. Please relieve the anxiety those who are ill feel so intensely; fill them with your Holy Spirit and bring wholeness and healing.

We hold up to you the men and women who are a part of one of the many communities of recovery in our church.  There is so much we can learn from them if we would only train our ears and eyes to listen and see.

Send your loving hand and touch those who are unable to attend services due to illness, circumstance, or age. In-Spirit each of us to be mindful of their physical absence and move us to reach out in love.

Lord God, we pray for our nation and her divisions engraved in politics, racism, and economic injustice; let us remember we are stronger together than when we are alone. Hold our political leaders to high standards of ethics and justice; convict them to remember they are in service to the people and not to the power they can derive from their office.

Bless those who are a part of every portion of our food chain, Lord. For the farmers, for the laborers and migrants who pick our food, for those who transport our beef, lettuce, and cereal to the stores we shop. Touch those essential workers like grocery store clerks who fill the shelves and check us out. Oh Lord, there are so many involved in bringing us our morning cup of coffee.

Each of us comes today with personal joys and needs, O Christ.  Hear us as we silently lift to you now…

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, kingdom come, Thy will be done, earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

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