Third Sunday before Advent


Old Testament

‘O that my words were written down!

O that they were inscribed in a book!

O that with an iron pen and with lead

they were engraved on a rock for ever!

For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;

and after my skin has been thus destroyed,

then in my flesh I shall see God,

whom I shall see on my side,

and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

My heart faints within me!

Job 19:23–27a


1 Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint; •

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

2 Let my vindication come forth from your presence; •

let your eyes behold what is right.

3 Weigh my heart, examine me by night, •

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

4 My mouth does not trespass for earthly rewards; •

I have heeded the words of your lips.

5 My footsteps hold fast in the ways of your commandments; •

my feet have not stumbled in your paths.

6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; •

incline your ear to me, and listen to my words.

7 Show me your marvellous loving-kindness, •

O Saviour of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; •

hide me under the shadow of your wings,

9 From the wicked who assault me, •

from my enemies who surround me to take away my life.

Psalm 17


As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 2:1–5, 13–17


Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’

Luke 20:27–38

Sermon on Third Sunday before Advent

Last night I was at a bonfire night party, when that ‘penny for the Guy’ comes into its own. We ate and drank and generally had a very good time in the presence of friends and neighbours. But we did not

“Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.”

The anglican church now finds itself in the midst of the season of remembrance, doesn’t she? We have just celebrated All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints and All Souls. Next weekend we will remember The Fallen. The words from Job would seem to characterise this season.

‘O that my words were written down!

O that they were inscribed in a book!

O that with an iron pen and with lead

they were engraved on a rock for ever!’

All the remembered have been written down in our book. We have paper and ink, but why is Job calling for iron pens, lead and stone? Does this make sense in this age of computers and internet? – – In the Middle East at that time, there were a number of civilisations which used cuneiform to record their letters, legislation and even lists – on stone/clay tablets. The most famous example of this is The Code of Hammurabi.

Hammurabi ruled for nearly 42 years, from about 1792 to 1749 BC…. In the preface to the law, he states, “Anu and Bel called me by name, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.” (Wikipedia)

This Code is a set of laws promulgated by Hammurabi. Scholars have used The Code to show how the laws of the region were homogenous. Some thought they were the model of, or taken wholesale into, the OT. Others saw all the laws of the area as parallel and cultural, as every nation needs laws to keep the social order. Thus the scholastic confusion because The Code and the Torah have many of the same laws.

There are examples of tablets of laws throughout the Middle East at this time. We always speak of the tablets of the law which Moses brought down from the mountain-top, don’t we? Tablets were set up in the public places of Babylon for everyone to know how they should behave, so ignorance of the law was never an excuse. These tablets of stone were written up by scribes with iron pen – a chisel, we would call it – and lead was put into the carving to keep it pristine, protected from the elements, always legible.

The eternal law – that is what was written on the tablets. Job wants to write words which are never to disappear – that they are written on stone and the lead never fades – unlike documents from our computer printers.

What we write down is what we remember during this season, all around we have the rolls of this and that. Our All Souls celebrations consisted of the reading of the roll, didn’t it? We remembered the fallen of the year just passed. We will remember next week. – Remembrance is central to our celebration of the faith isn’t it? Doesn’t Jesus say, “Do this in remembrance of me”? “Whenever you take the cup, do so in memory of me”? We need to understand how we remember, don’t we, if we are to be faithful. It is not just a matter of “sending one’s regards” or “reminiscing”.

This topic of remembering has also been prompted by some recent reading. I took up a book called Starting with Nietzsche in which I learned about that philosopher’s obsession with life in all its fullness. He wants people to remember the basis of experience. We have forgotten too much, he says. Other philosophers also lament the forgetfulness of modernity. Some have worried about even the “forgetfulness of Being”. Theologians bewail the fact that God is not one of the first things we speak of when we talk of the important things of life. Some theologians have even spoken of a ‘death of God’ following on in the thoughts of Nietzsche. – What a forgetfulness that is!

But we are here to remember – according to one set of meanings, we are “to bear and keep in mind, be mindful of the fact, take into account, take into consideration.” This is not temporally singular, it is a very active and lasting manner of memory. It forms the background to all our activity, not just a glancing thought.

We are here to remember – we are here to keep the saints in mind. The saints are all who have believed before us – all the loved ones of blessed memory. We take into consideration the lives of all those saints here and now so that our lives are filled with significance. We do not recite items by rote – what we remember is significant for all people everywhere.

We have to ask what this act of remembrance really is. How do we remember? This is the most difficult of tasks for all of us. Don’t we forget so very much every day? In moments of clarity, we see before us things that have happened years ago, sometimes with pride, sometimes with shame. Normally what is remembered has not been considered until that moment – but on the other hand we can know something significant, something formative, for our lives – if we dwell on it, if we are truly remembering.

To remember is to bring to mind in a directed way. It is not that idle moment of recognition, rather it is a critical moment of reflection. Memory is the basis of our lives together. That is why everything is to be engraved in stone forever. At least that is what Job wants, isn’t it?

We all want our words to be remembered, don’t we? I suppose that is why I post my sermons on the internet, hoping that someone will come across them and be encouraged. I must be as vain as Job, or so many others. I must have a conceit to think that others will find my words of interest and worth to keep for themselves as well. But I am not that boastful – well, I hope not. I believe I keep in mind that, as the preacher says, “all things are but dust” – and I must remember that the internet is the height of ephemera. One haphazard zero or one and all is lost. Like rumour, it flies about but settles nowhere. – Nowhere are there tablets that last forever, unless it is the believer’s heart. The heart is the seat of eternity – that wherein which plays host to love, where God and soul co-mingle. The heart God wants to change from stone to living flesh, where God wants the law written. No longer is the Law merely on those tablets of stone, but the Law is written on the heart which lives, the heart which loves. The heart beats with the meaning of the Law and so is truly remembered along with the names of all the saints of blessed memory.


Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent

To blow up the King and the Parliament

Three score barrels of powder below

Poor old England to overthrow

By God’s providence he was catched

With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, holloa boys

God save the King!

Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

A penny loaf to feed ol’ Pope

A farthing cheese to choke him

A pint of beer to rinse it down

A faggot of sticks to burn him

Burn him in a tub of tar

Burn him like a blazing star

Burn his body from his head

Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.

Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!


The picture is of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ conspirators
Starting with Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Wright, Thomas Percy,
Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and Thomas Wintour

This sermon is from Stilman Davis. It is copyrighted. You are welcome to use it, but put some extra money in the plate if you do.

Sermons are spoken. They whistle in the wind and enter your ears to echo for some time between them. However, sermons are destined to go on into the distance after they have resonated with you.