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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent 2016: "Advent is the church's season of apocalyptic."



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!

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.

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.

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.

The apocalypse is the revealing of the truth.  It is not the Gotterdamerung, the Armageddon, the End of All Things.  It is the revelation, the revealing, the uncovering.  The words of Isaiah are apocalyptic: "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.  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.  [God] 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."

Ain't gonna study war no more.  Not because an ultimate power says so; not because the last war, the war to end all wars, has been fought.  Because of the revelation; because of the need.  Because we will see and want to learn the way of the Lord, of the house of the God of Jacob.

That is the apocalypse.  That is the revealing.  How we should then, and now, live.  If is for that Jesus came.  It is for that Jesus died.  It is what the church looks forward to, is herald to, is messenger for, is meant to announce and proclaim and make real here on earth, here and now.

It is always Advent.  We are always waiting.  We are always trying to stay awake.

But the meaning of the liturgical calendar, which begins with Advent, is that the apocalypse has happened, that the thing we were waiting for has come to pass, that what has been is, and will be.  It is no contradiction to cite Matthew here:  But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  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, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 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.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Taken?  Taken where?  Away, physically?  By the Spirit, emotionally?  Taken in the Rapture?  Or taken by war, tragedy, peril, catastrophe?  Jesus is not reassuring here:  our house is going to be broken into?  But how is the kingdom of heaven like that?

And what are we waiting for?  What if it has already happened?  Does it have to be a flood, a mysterious disappearance of 50% of the population?  Can it be something more prosaic, like those who see the kingdom now, and those who don't?

After all, when the people are drawn to God's holy mountain, will it be everyone?  Or just the people who want to go?

Isaiah doesn't say you have to go.  Isaiah says you will want to.  Matthew's Jesus doesn't say you will see it coming; he just says it will come, and you may not even know it.  In fact, you won't know it, otherwise the hour will be expected.  Christianity says it has come; and it is coming; that we must prepare; and that we must see it has already happened.  Advent is the season of anticipation, but it sneaks up on us every time anyway.  The world prepares too early, and more frantically every year.  Now "Black Friday" is a two-week event before Thanksgiving, and "Cyber Monday" starts the moment the turkey leaves the oven.  And still the world isn't ready for what is coming, for what has come, for what will come.

Advent is about preparing for the coming, again.  Christmas is about the coming that has already happened.  Advent reminds us to wake up, look around, see a world that needs what is coming, what has come, and who came, and what happened after that.  We start over again, to end in four weeks with what we anticipated this time; and still we are surprised by it.  Christmas is about the same thing every year, and every year we need to see again that what we waited for, what we are waiting for, is already here

 If that isn't apocalyptic, what is?

4 Comments:

Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

It will be the greatest regret of my life that I wasted so much time on other things that I could have spent on reading the scriptures and theology. Well, the greatest regret about intellectual matters, I've done lots of things that are worse. Maybe I'd have done fewer of those if I'd spent more time on scripture and theology, too.

1:52 AM  
Blogger June Butler said...

As I have said, I no longer attend church, but I read the Scriptures from the Lectionary, and I say my prayers from the Prayer Book at home. Thank you for the sermon/reflection for the First Sunday in Advent.

If I could, I'd probably attend church during Advent and the Christmas season, whether I went the rest of the year, or not. As I've also said, I take my community where I find it, often in unexpected places, but in your case, not unexpected, Rmj.

12:19 PM  
Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

June Butler, that's pretty much what I do, too. I get the daily readings by e-mail and listen to them after I've read them, the US Catholic Bishop's Conference also has them in MP3 form. And I listen to five psalms, though a lot of the time this last month I've read them. I'm beginning to sing them when I can do that instead of croaking them out. I used to sing like a bird. Well, I still do but the bird is often a grackle.

6:23 PM  
Blogger June Butler said...

TC, croak away. I liked Leonard Cohen's raspy, old man's voice, and I doubt God minds. I also use The Daily Office from the Mission St Clare for my prayer time, too. The site offers a couple of hymns and chants, along with the Daily Office readings from scripture.

8:05 PM  

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