Readings for First Sunday of Advent, 12/2/12:
Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
- "surely" - check out the Advents texts this cycle. The world 'surely' appears almost every week. Maybe that's nothing, but I like it - it's a word of promise, a word of sure fulfillment. Definite.
- "Fulfill the promise." What promises have you made? Broken? Kept? Which have other made/broken/kept with you? What promise is Jeremiah referencing here? Do you believe God fulfills promises made to you? The world? How?
- "execute justice" - I like this phrase, because it has such a different meaning than the meaning 'execute' usually has in our system of justice today. Today, when we execute, we mean we take life for life out of revenge. But God means bringing real justice to those who have been oppressed. That's execution in justice that I can support and work for.
- A name: "The Lord is our righteousness." That is a powerful name. What does your name mean? What would you like God to call you?
- The psalmist mentions shame several times - his shame, the shame of those obedient to God, shame he hopes is put on others by God. Shame is a powerful emotion, a powerful motivator, a powerful weapon of oppression. Of what are you ashamed in yourself? In others? How do you shame others? Does God shame us?
- "Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions" - Many people probably echo the psalmists worries - will be judged by all the things we did when we didn't know any better? I think we can trust in God's abundant grace, who calls us into a more mature discipleship. Indeed, verses 8 and 9 talk about God as a teacher, The One who instructs us. How have you learned/grown in your faith over the years? Are you a mature disciple? Or an early student?
- "Be mindful of your mercy." That's sort of an audacious thing to say to God!
- "way," "paths," etc. This psalm has good Advent imagery, relating to our journey toward Christ's birth. .
- This reading opens with high praise - "how can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?" Who has brought this kind of joy into your life? Have you thanked them? How? Has someone thanked you for such a thing? I think so often we don't thank each other, praise each other enough, especially for the gifts of service given in the life of the church. And yet, giving thanks for one another is a powerful thing to do, and is sooo appreciated.
- Vs. 11-13 are great words of blessing - a good benediction perhaps. "May God direct our way to you." "May God make you to abound in love for one another and for all." "May God strengthen your hearts in holiness." Those are blessings I'd like to receive.
- Advent always begins with surprising "end times" texts that probably catch parishioners off-guard, who are ready to sing Christmas carols. How do we refocus them and us? This text is about time, and expectations and waiting. So is Advent. What we do while we wait is important. Whether or not we live like something exciting is going to happen in our world by God is important.
- It is easy to look around our world and see evidence of these signs Jesus is talking about, and get pretty worked up about "Armageddon"-type stuff. But is that how Jesus means us to react to this text? He says that when we see such signs, we'll know that "your redemption is drawing near" and that "you know that the kingdom of God is near." Elsewhere, we understand that Jesus means these things are already hear. Now is the time that we are redeemed, and now is the time that the kingdom is at hand. Now and soon, coming and already here. That is the crux, the irony, the strangeness of advent, the kingdom, and the whole gospel.
- "Be on guard" - I think in the world today we're often told to be on guard - we're to be on guard against terrorists, suspicious activities and packages, etc. Being on guard always in this way can be exhausting. Is this what Jesus means? I don't think so. In fact, he says almost the opposite. We're to be on guard against being weighed down with the "worries of this life" so that Christ's coming doesn't catch us not ready. I think God often tries to enter into our lives and hearts but finds us not ready. This is what Jesus wants us to live ready for.
- "this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place." Another passage talking about end times, if that's only as far as you are wanting to look. Better to think of it this way: so often in my life I am putting things off - procrastinating - not so much about day to day things, like sermon-writing :), etc., but about big things: I will start giving more ... when I'm out of debt. I will take risks for God .... after I get my PhD. I will speak out about what I really believe .... after I'm ordained elder (Ok, I can check that one off my list now...). But God arrives unexpectedly. I should stop acting like I have something to wait for before I get to work the way God wants me to. The time is NOW.