Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

First Sunday of Advent 2013

A few days late, but no one is paying me to deliver sermons on time..... 


Isaiah 2:1-5
2:1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2:2 In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.

2:3 Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

2:4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

2:5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

That is probably the most evocative image in Scripture; the image of swords being beaten into plowshares.  We no longer quite get the references to sheep and goats; we don't really know what shepherds did; we completely misrepresent what they represented; we aren't all that clear on "Samaritans." 

We get this.  Somebody even made a statute about it:

It was a gift to the UN from the Soviet Union, in 1959.

It's a nice contrast with the Son of Man:

Matthew 24:36-44
24:36 "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

24:37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

24:38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark,

24:39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

24:40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

24:43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
There's no image there, except people being taken away, as if some "rapture" had occurred.  Even the idea of "Son of Man" is controversial.  Did Jesus mean himself, as Jesus?  Himself as human?  As Messiah?

Opinions differ.  Let us set aside opinions.  We have no use for opinions here.  Here we stand before the revealed Word of God.  Here we don't need opinions.  We need to listen.  We need to know.
So what about the picture?  Magritte called it the "Son of Man," but what did he mean?  Who cares even about that, what does it mean?  Magritte's opinion is not binding on us, let us turn to his picture.

What do we do with it?

Maybe we start by not taking it too literally.  We don't take that disappearance language literally (well most of us don't.)  We don't take that swords into plowshares language literally.  So let's worry less about how "Son of Man" should translate, and pay more attention to how Magritte uses it:  as a hiding place.

That which is hidden, we know, will be revealed.  But that doesn't tell us what will be known when it is revealed.  So we are back where we started.

Trying to keep awake.

I especially like the other image in those words of Jesus, or the homeowner staying up all night so the thief can't break in.  What does a thief do besides take things we don't want to lose?  So who is the homeowner in that analogy; and who is the thief?

And what is it that will be stolen, if we don't watch out?

"Son of Man, you do not know...."

Psalm 122
122:1 I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"

122:2 Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

122:3 Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together.

122:4 To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

122:5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.

122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.

122:7 Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."

122:8 For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."

122:9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

That is the reason we look forward to the revelation, the apocalypse:  because then all humankind will say "Peace be within you."  This is the vision of the end, of the fulfillment, of the apocalypse:  not war and disaster and doom; peace and brotherhood and fellowship when everyone recognizes, if not the narrow reality of God, at least the wisdom of God; the goodness of creation, peace between people, the simple joy in living.  That will be the day of the Son of Man; the human one; the children of Adam.

That which is hidden will be revealed.  Try to stay awake.

Romans 13:11-14
13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;

13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;

13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.

13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

What would Paul think of Black Friday and Cyber Monday?  What would he say?  Probably just chuckle and go back to stitching his nets together, waiting for the next person to wander by and engage in him conversation.  Paul pretty much lived like that:  alert to strangers, willing to accept hospitality, setting up house churches that will little more than extended families in villas. Imagine the family of Downton Abbey sitting down at the table with all their servants, and sharing a common meal as equals:  that was Paul's house church; that was Paul's vision.

Peace be within you.

That which is hidden will be revealed.

Swords will be beaten into plowshares.  Not any more, of course.  Nobody carries swords, nobody uses plowshares.  It doesn't matter.  The meaning is the same.  Keep awake.  Why?  If you are asleep, what will the thief take from you?  What is so valuable you could never, ever, afford to lose it?  If you will not let your house be broken into, how will that be the day of the Lord's coming for you?

Son of man, you do not know....but come in under the shadow of this red rock, and I will show you....what?  Fear in a handful of dust?  No.  Something new.  Even now it is about to break forth?  Can you not perceive it?  Keep awake, or you'll miss it!

Expect it constantly, and you will not be surprised when it is finally visible to all.  Expect it confidently, and you will be the first to stand with in the gates.  Expect it visibly, and you will offer peace and seek God's good, and you will miss nothing.

Because everything that is hidden will be revealed.  Even the man behind the apple.

So keep awake.  You don't want to miss that.

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