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Year C, Advent 1, 2018 – Hope

November 28, 2018 / Molly Douthett / Advent

Hey all! Welcome to the second go ’round of More Than Hearing! We began this podcast three years ago with the intention of utilizing Howard Gardner’s educational theory in preaching and worship. (To read more about this theory, click the link above). David and I have used many of our ideas and we truly hope that some of you have, as well! We’re heading off into another lectionary cycle but this time we’ve changed our emphasis to focus specifically on the intelligences, or “smarts” as we call them. For every podcast going forward, we each will concentrate on one particular smart for the readings. We’ve discovered this will extend the time of the podcast, plus add a layer of difficulty for passages that just don’t seem to exhibit anything useful. We like the challenge, though, and the discipline of expanding our creative energies to allow the Spirit to breathe into us and our congregations. This is the point, after all! 

*[If you want to see how we started this whole endeavor, click this link to take you back to the beginning!! I forgot we used prairie dogs and meerkats as an illustration in Luke. ALSO, check out this Smart of the Week compilation.]


This week’s worksheets:

WORD CAdvent1x2018 and MATH CAdv1x2018

The theme for Advent 1 is hope. Jeremiah sees a quickly approaching day when God fulfills promises made to Israel and Judah. The Psalmist hopes for God’s mercy and righteousness. Paul is eagerly looking forward to being with the believers in Thessalonica again and even though Jesus is raising the specter of The End, he tells the disciples to stand up and raise their heads to see redemption drawing near. The context of a passage may be stressful, but looking to God’s future brings “bright hope for tomorrow”.


This week’s texts are:

Jeremiah 33:14-16 [06:36]

In the commentary by Katie Munnik linked below, she suggests that Jeremiah proclaims these bold words of hope as the Babylonian army is approaching. Visually, he is courageously facing an oncoming storm and for WORD smart purposes, he is singing a protest song. I really like that image – it speaks to the rebel in me! If you want to go a less defiant route with this idea, maybe think about this passage as a lullaby sung to children as the winds roar past the windows. Think about printing out some of the phrases from the passage and displaying them in your worship space as reminders of the God in whom we place our hope. 

MATH smart encourages critical thinking and weighing evidence, much like the story about the prince linked below. It also emphasizes numerical analysis and statistical data. We link to two articles below about public safety as Jeremiah insists that “in those days” people will live in Jerusalem safely. For a special effect, make some charts using this data interspersed with your own “predicted trends” under the Righteous Branch administration. (There is some EYE smart in this sfx, especially if you plot your data in ways that draw a picture! Have fun with that!)

  • Smarts – Word [05:01 & 07:06], Math [10:18 & 11:28]
  • Links in Jeremiah
    • WORD smart –
      • Read Advent Credo by Allan Boesak for a fantastic set up for the whole season.
      • Katie Munnik suggests that these verses are a song Jeremiah sings as the Babylonian army approaches.
      • Might we use these verses as a protest song?
      • Here is a link to some tunes if you choose to adapt these verses as a lullaby.
      • Here is a link to motivational quotes; I found only a few to my liking, but ymmv.
    • MATH smart –
      • Here is a story of a prince who learns how to think through what justice means.
      • A couple articles from the Vera Institute for Justice, here and here, about interpreting public safety and crime statistics for the U.S.
      • Another here about increased incarceration rates.


Psalm 25:1-10 [15:57]

I frequently use the Psalms as calls to worship so think about using the psalm for the day as your Advent call to worship or in the candle liturgy if you do that. For the true WORD nerd, go to Bible Hub and search for specific words in the original language. How might alternative translations enhance the meaning of a verse? Try an antiphonal reading either as a call to worship or a response to the confession, or anywhere else that seems fitting! To keep people who have disengaged still somewhat engaged, try taking words from the psalm and make word puzzles out of them!

The challenge of finding MATH smart ideas in passages is on full display here! But David is brilliant and thinks you can rewrite this psalm in BASIC. Really. Well, maybe someone who understands BASIC could do this! We have some examples on the MATH worksheet linked above. It is an interesting challenge and if you know people in your congregation who are up to the task, let them give it a go.  It’s a great way to engage those folks who might otherwise not “get” the poetry or music of the psalm. Remember, we’re looking for many paths to reach souls! If BASIC is too complex, then try David’s illustration about keeping columns of numbers straight in order to add them correctly.

  • Smarts – Word [20:57], Math [16:52]
  • Links in Psalm 25
    • WORD smart –
      • Use the psalm as a call to worship in the liturgy.
      • Make your own crossword puzzle using words from this psalm at this site! I made this puzzle.
    • MATH smart –
      • Use BASIC computer programming to define the variables of God’s actions in the psalm.
      • Rewrite the psalm as a BASIC program. Here are some of the commands.


1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 [25:05]

I tend to offer quotes as illustrations for WORD smart and I think I found a good one that reveals how Jesus increases our love (verse 12). The quote is from the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; the story of Louis Zamperini’s experiences in WW2. You can find it at the link below. The word parousia is familiar to some of us. It literally means “coming” but you can play with this by adding MUSIC smart to it. Yes, this is cheating a bit, but we’ve discovered the intelligences often bring a friend along to the party. Rather than get upset by this, we make room for the interloper! I hope you will, too!

We have a very pragmatic illustration for MATH smart. Think about Paul’s joy in verse 9 as a Return on Investment! Paul has invested a lot of emotional capital in the Thessalonians and he seems to have gotten a great deal in return for it. Granted, using economic theory is not terribly romantic or poetic, but it will connect with people who are accountants, economists, or engineers in your congregation. Go where their strengths are and where their imaginations dwell! Light up their brains to kindle their hearts. 

  • Smarts – Word [25:43], Math [28:29]
  • Links in 1 Thessalonians
    • WORD smart –
    • MATH smart –
      • Here’s an article that talks about what Return on Investment (ROI) is and how to calculate it.


Luke 21:25-36 [30:51]

Because of the auditory nature of the intelligence, WORD smart gets sound effects! Try contrasting the calming sound of the surf with the howling winds of a storm for an illustration for verse 25. Check out the link below for the five acts of the Christian story as another illustration. I have another quote at the worksheet that could be an addition to the signs from Jeremiah as a special effect. Borrowing a bit of SELF and PEOPLE smart, ask your congregation to write their part of Act Four in the play.

And for MATH smart as either an illustration or a special effect, ask people how good they are at predicting the coming Son of Man. Then, use some number sequences to get them going on the idea. We still may be entirely off base about when the Parousia arrives, but doing this exercise may make it less confusing or distressing. Essentially, Jesus is telling the disciples to pay attention to evidence around them, and continue to hope for the answer as God will reveal it.

  • Smarts – Word [35:26], Math [32:22]
  • Links in Luke 21
    • WORD smart –
    • MATH smart –
      • Predicting the end is like determining number sequences like these:
        • 1, 4, 9, _  [16] (squares)
        • 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, _  [13] (primes)
        • 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, _ [8] (Fibonacci)



Image Credit: Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash


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