Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent Week One: On Being Directed

On Being Directed                                          11/29/15

Jeremiah 33, I Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

Today is the start of the new year in the church calendar.  Last week, we culminated the year with Christ the King Sunday.  We lifted up Jesus Christ as the King of kings.  Just as the story of Scripture ends with Jesus Christ reigning on the throne of the new heavens and new earth, so our calendar year ends with the proclamation of Jesus Christ as King.

So, happy new year to you!  Today, is the start of a new year.  It is advent, which speaks to the Lord’s coming.  We celebrate 2 advents in the church:  the first when Mary gave birth to Jesus, the second when Jesus Christ comes again from the heavens.  As Christians, Advent gives us the gift of looking back and forward, while rooted in the present.

As we start this new year, I’d like to lift up a goal that has been birthed out of observation.  We need to talk more about The Lord.  Especially as we come together as a family of God.  Heat, building, bodies, our personal comfort levels in following the Lord:  these conversations are wasteful of the breath that God has given us.  The Lord is our life.  The Lord is our salvation.  I’d like us to become more comfortable talking about God, and about what Scripture says about God.  This implies that we need to spend more time in our lives reading from the Holy Bible, so that we can speak of what and whom we know.

I sometimes worry that some Christians and congregations have become godless.  What I mean is the absence of God in our conversations, our prayers, our dreams and hopes and the why of why we gather to do what we do.  The Lord should be at the center.  Imagine going to an open house this Christmas season, and not giving any compliments to your host, or offering any kind words, or asking any interesting questions about your host and how they arrived at that home.  Instead, you go around frothing your opinions of why you don’t like the paint color they’ve chosen, or give suggestions as to how they should place their furniture.  Do we do these types of things with the Lord God?  Or worse yet, do we not even speak to him when in his house?

The good news is that today is the start of a new year.  So we can go back to the very core of Christian faith:  Christ has come, Christ  has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  This is why we come to this house of worship, to give praise to the Lord God, and to seek his will, not our own, for our lives.  And we come first and foremost, not for ourselves, but for our brothers and sisters in the faith.  We come to bear witness to the truth:  God’s past work in history, and his promise of future presence.

Today’s Scriptures are taken from the lectionary, chosen for how they speak to us during Advent.   The Jeremiah passage reminds us of God’s will for the people of God, and the creation.   The Luke passage speaks to the world, the church and the believer about the future.  Thessalonians is a reminder of the big themes of Christian faith in the familiar routines of being a congregation.

Jeremiah is a prophet, nicknamed the Weeping Prophet, for he spoke against Israel to repent, promised that if they did not repent that God would them by sending foreign armies, watched the people reject him and his message, and watched as the Babylonians carried most of the population off to exile.  Jeremiah stayed in Israel as the people reaped the consequences of their actions.  In dark times, the prophet was able to speak to the people about the future.  This includes today’s reading from chapter 33.

This is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

 G. Campbell Morgan, a pastor in London at the beginning of the 20th century describes God’s restoring work in this way:

“The processes of realization are described thus:  first, destruction in order to rebuilding; secondly, moral cleaning in order to spiritual joy; and thirdly, spiritual joy in order to material prosperity. “


“We constantly begin our attempt at restoration  by endeavoring to secure material prosperity.  God never begins so.  He begins with the destruction of the things that are evil, but proceeds through the moral cleansing of human life, to the creation of spiritual joy; and wherever there is spiritual joy in human life, all the forces of the life are freed for their finest activity, and there results true and lasting material prosperity.”


“There is then to be within the heart of the people a moral cleansing, creating a spiritual joy, energizing the life along new direction”

 (Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, G. Campbell Morgan, Fleming H. Revell, 1994, pages 203-210)

This passage is called upon for Advent because we see the promised Messiah in this passage. 

In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sproud from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.  In those days Judah willll be saved and Jersualem will live in safety.  This is the name by which it will be called:  The LORD our Righteousness.

A few minutes ago, I expressed a call that we speak about the Lord more.  Do you see what happens in this passage when the land and the people embrace the Messiah?  What is that place called:  The  LORD is our Righteousness.   The place is literally named for who God is and what God wants for us.  The creation is united to heaven’s command in this prophecy.  The Lord is directing his people toward the place where we live in the righteousness of God.  Faith moves upon this directive, and toward this direction.

The Gospel passage is called upon because it speaks to Jesus’ words on his second advent.  In his message, he speaks to the Jewish people in the verses that immediately precede our morning passage.  Today’s reading then calls upon the world, God’s people, and individual believers to watch and pray, which is some of our most honored work as Christians, to watch the works of God and to pray to the Lord.  Listen now as Jesus’ words are first directed to all people, then to the body of believers who is looking for that great day of redemption, and finally, to how we should live.

The gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus teaches us to be careful, and to not be trapped.  He puts personal responsibility on each listener to live above the trappings such as dissipation, drunkenness and anxiety.

Of particular interest is the word dissipate.  Do you know what it means?

Webster’s defines the word as such: 

  1. to break up and drive off
  2. b.  to cause to spread out or spread thin to the point of vanishing.
  3. To lose irrecoverably
  4. To expend aimlessly or foolishly
Our call is to something much more important:  to be always on the watch and to pray.  While we can certainly do this individually in the privacy of our home or the obscurity of our walk along the street, is it not best, to watch and pray together, as we wait for the Lord?

The words from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians are delightful.  They encourage us to be God’s people together.

The word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

We really live, when we stand firm in the Lord.

We can’t thank God enough for our brothers and sisters.

We have joy in God’s presence because of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

We desire to see one another, and help one another in our lives of faith.

And then Paul prays:

That the Lord God will direct him to come to them.  He asks the Lord of the Church will allow for this union, and life together. 

That the Lord make your love increase for your brothers and sisters in the faith

That the Lord will strengthen your hearts.

That you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God when Jesus comes again.

I have homework for you.  I hope you take this work seriously.  I’d like you to read the copy of Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that came to you today.  The underlines are from years ago, and none were made for today’s distribution.  I’d like you to read it, and consider how you can be your best in this new year.  And perhaps you should pass it along when you are done to someone from the congregation who has chosen to not live life together here, and is thus hurting the congregation, and by extension, themselves.  Not that you should lead with that line, but if you feel the Spirit of the Lord speak to you through this reading, to pass it along with your prayer for the brother or sister that comes to mind.


Happy new year!  Here is one final quote from G. Campbell Morgan, on God’s desire for his creation:

“If the Biblical Revelation, the whole Biblical revelation—and by that I mean the whole unveiling of God in the Divine Library—teaches us anything, it teaches us that God’s will for the human race is that of abounding joy, and perfect happiness, and persistent merriment.  Tears are in the Bible from beginning to end, sorrows are multiplied to the sons of men.  The ways along which they walk are shadowed ways, and ways of darkness; but when we follow through the processes as suggested and revealed in the wonderful literature, we come at last to the final truth, and it is this, uttered in the word of the prophetic age, and finally repeated amid the glow of the morning as John saw it in Revelation; that God shall wipe away all tears from human eyes, that sorrow and sighing shall flee away, and no more place shall be found for them.  Human joy, and human gladness, human laughter and human singing, human merriment, these are never to pass.  They constitute the ultimate purpose of God for humanity.  But in order for such spiritual joy, there must be the purification of life.  Life must be purified at its springs, at is sources, at the places from which all its streams flow, those intellectual, emotional and volitional sources, which constitute the essential things of human life,; then the life becomes joyous, then the life becomes glad.”

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