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Year A, Advent 2, 2016 – All Together Now

November 30, 2016 / Molly Douthett / Advent

Welcome back to More Than Hearing and the second Sunday in Advent! Even though this is a new liturgical year, we are at the tail end of the calendar year. It’s an odd way to live – one foot in the next year and one foot in the current one. Maybe by living in this off balance way – tipped and unsteady and looking around for something to give stability – we have a chance to perceive the way Jesus is already reigning and coming to reign again in this world. Isaiah saw this new world arriving with glory and peace as the shoot from the stump of Jesse. In Romans, Paul writes about this kingdom giving Jews and Gentiles the capacity to welcome one another as Jesus welcomed them. And in Matthew, John the Baptist sees opponents of this kingdom – or at least those who are worried about upheaval and change – and gives them an ear full about their assumptions of their place as heirs of the promise given to Abraham.

This week’s texts are:  

Isaiah 11:1-10  [02:00]  – This vision from Isaiah, particularly verses six through nine, are well known and well represented in art. (See the link “Peaceable Kingdom” below). Christians have re-interpreted the identity of the shoot as Jesus, yet Isaiah didn’t have a particular person in mind. For him, this unlikely character who comes forth from virtually nowhere is a figure representing bright hope in a leader who embodies all the best qualities of God’s spirit. We were intrigued by the image of a rod from his mouth striking the earth, which we discuss in Word smart. The passage shifts abruptly between verse 5 and 6 where the vision of a Shoot from the stump shifts to the vision of animals pairing up in unusual ways. It is possible that the sudden disruption in the natural order of prey and predator now living in harmony is simply a byproduct of this individual’s reign. We have several Nature smart illustrations and special effects for consideration here. And finally, the image of all sorts of animals dwelling together was just too irresistible – we have a fun idea for a special effect in People smart! I wish I had some kids in my congregation to try this one!

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [03:12] –

{MWD}  Nature – Verses six through nine are difficult to read without pausing to reflect on the kind of world where the natural instincts for predator and prey take a break and a defenseless child walks among them. Something truly amazing is happening in the realm of this world and it has caught the imagination of artists and preachers for generations. I suppose it does so because the animal world seems so very straightforward – you are born, you grow up, you make more of your species, and you die all the while eating or trying not to be eaten. For that instinct to be so muted as to be nullified sparks a lot of questions about this new order – and about our own.

{D2}  Nature – It’s hard to think of anything other than nature when reading this passage. The stump, the shoot, and all the animals – even though they are behaving in unusual ways – these will light up a Nature-smart brain. Even if you are stronger in the other smarts, you are drawn to these images of creatures pointing to God’s glory by their unexpectedly peaceful repose together.

  • Smarts – Word [04:17], Nature [05:54], People [07:44]
  • Isaiah 11 worksheet   


Romans 15:4-13  [09:18] – At the beginning of this passage, Paul stresses the importance of Scripture as a source of hope. In it, we find instruction to confess and sing praises with one voice to God. This seems to be a musical version of the Peaceable Kingdom. We have an idea for joining voices in Music smart. Since harmonious living is a key concept in this passage, we have a special effect in People smart using The Lord’s Prayer. Also in People smart, we suggest substituting a word in the passage as it is read – how does this change the sound and impact of Paul’s encouragement to welcome another? And for Self smart, we have some questions that could be handed out as “homework.”

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [11:29] –

{MWD}  People – Paul displays not only the importance of hospitality in a life that follows after Jesus but the inevitability of it. Once you understand yourself welcomed by Jesus, it seems the only response is to turn around and offer it to others in his name. Paul writes elsewhere that hospitality is a spiritual gift that manifests in some more than others, but I think this passage from Romans makes it clear that we have an obligation to pass on the grace we have received from Jesus at all times. That we are to welcome one another is clear; how we do that is up to our own creativity.

{D2}  Word – Paul’s reliance on the scriptures in this passage, and his biblical word study, finding so many passages referring to the goyim, and understanding that to mean the Gentiles with whom he was working, leads me to conclude this is a Word smart passage. The demonstration of God’s intention for Jewish-Gentile relations through the written word is a lovely bit of exegesis on his part, and we have much we can learn from his lesson.

  • Smarts – Music [12:07], People [13:16], Self [15:55]
  • Romans 15 worksheet   


Matthew 3:1-12  [17:00] – I’ve read this passage from Matthew many times, but this is the first time I’ve paid close attention to the size of the crowds in verse six. For Eye smart, we have some examples of large gatherings (links listed below). Also in Eye smart as well as Body smart, we suggest using scales to illustrate repentance as rebalancing our lives. In Math smart, we offer a graph to chart God’s grace as an exponential increase – something the Pharisees and Sadducees misunderstood. (For math sticklers, in the show David referred to “y=2^x” as logarithmic, but actually it’s still exponential.) Finally, in People smart, we wonder if the abrasive relationship John experienced with those leaders was something that turned out to be beneficial.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [18:17] –

{MWD}  Body – John preaches repentance to the crowds, which scholars have defined less as remorse and a new pious way of living than as a redirection that can happen multiple times. It seems to me very much like a person balancing a yoke on their shoulders with weights at the end. If you’ve ever seen people carrying loads in this manner, you will notice their movements are determined and precise. I think this is because the weight on their shoulders does not allow for extraneous movement. If someone were to come along and either upset or add to one of the loads, that person’s equilibrium would be thrown way off. I think this is what repentance is; the balance of a load is realigned and the person hauling it finds herself suddenly moving in a new direction.

{D2}  Nature – Again, someone with high Natural smarts, this passage has a lot to offer. Here are the wilderness, the camel hair, the locusts, the wild honey, and the Jordan River! Here are snakes, stones, trees, wheat, chaff, and fire! Why, it’s a veritable hiking trip for your mind!

  • Smarts – Eye [18:44], Math [20:41], Body [25:02], People [26:40]
  • Matthew 3 worksheet



… in Isaiah 


… in Romans 15


… in Matthew


Image Credit: “Peaceable Kingdom,” Edward Hicks, 1844 (public domain)




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