Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Apocalype of God + Advent 1 + 2015

Advent I+C              29 November AD 2015            Fr.  Robert R.M. Bagwell+

All Saints' Hampton, SC                                                The Apocalypse of God

Jeremiah 33:14-16                                                                                       Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13                                                                                 Luke 21:25-36

In 1974, Carlo Corretto, a Roman Catholic mystic and hermit, released a book called: "the God who Comes", presents a portrait of God as the one who comes. God has come in the garden, in the babe in Bethlehem, (incarnation), will come again (parousia) and is continually coming. Though simple, the portrait is not simplistic. Believers will be encouraged and inspired to believe more in a God who is present always. The Judeo-Christian Bible from the "beginning" reveals a God who is loving, caring, intimate and pro-active toward His Creation  Let us for a moment reflect on the unique message of the Bible. In what other tradition of any other religion on planet earth is there is a God who pursues humankind?

This God is one that has been termed, "the Hound of Heaven," the "Shepherd seeking His Sheep", "the King of Love", the "Servant King.", the One who humbles himself to win the hearts of the people he has made.  Have you noticed that from the beginning, humanity does not move toward God, rather God moves towards humanity. To quote  Fr Carretto's book title: He is the God who comes.

Jesus is the God who comes. It all begins, "in the beginning" of Genesis chapter one.  The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia, as we speak of Pentecost.. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany,. During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration'

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had firmly tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.  Unlike many in these  later ages of our church when we "pretend" that the Lord somehow has not come yet, or at least what it was like for those believers before Jesus' first coming during the Advent/ Christmas time in history.  Given the "wars and rumors of wars" of our time, the quality of expectation is mingled with the preemptive dread of Armageddon in this earthly realm forgetting that for the redeemed Church of Jesus, there will be inexpressible joy at his coming in clouds in great glory! 

The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah'  During Advent the Church, looks back upon Christ’s first coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people and to restore the creation as it was at the beginning.. We participate in that redemption with our time, talents and treasures until God calls us home.  

The Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season: The redemption which began with the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, the Holy One of God, will be completed on the day when Christ Jesus comes back  AIn the manner as (the disciples) saw Him go@ as the angels told them on Ascension Day.  Until that time, we waitCwaitCwait.

WaitingCwhat about waiting?  Does anyone enjoy waiting? In line at the grocery store? In line at a toll booth? For the end of the school year? For report cards?  For job interviews?  These might be negative senses of waiting. Yet waiting is a part of life and Christian and secular sources would testify that it is actually a positive experience. Let me term that kind of waiting, "anticipation". Anticipation  is almost necessary for good things to come into beingCA healthy baby, personal  intelligence, strong personal relationships, works of art,  stable and profitable businesses,  

A strong spiritual life or a godly personal character are not developed overnight but through the exercise of learning to wait, practice and serve others.. Scripture tells us that Athose who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar like eagles, run without getting tired and walk and not wear out.@ (Isaiah 40:31)Waiting on God with such an attitude pre-supposes faith in Him, trust in Him and hope in His promise.

Only people who know reliance on God can stand when circumstances seem to deny it. Yet there is a sense that the world is rushing toward a culmination of history  by the growing concerns of the secular worldCISIS,          Russia and Turkey, Israel and her place in God's plans, the 'black lives matter' movement, nuclear arms, rampart starvation, crime, disease, and the world economy. The world needs a spiritual awakening. The world needs the Savior.

Waiting is a virtue that we should cultivate. Statisticians and sociologists tell us that our current ultimate value is measured by the use of our time. We want to learn good time management. ADon=t waste my time!@ someone says. We have all kinds of devices guaranteed to save time and manage it effectively.  But as we rush here and there, put more and more activities into less and less time, have we lost our souls?  Have we forgotten the virtues gained by waiting? Have we become more "human doings" than "human beings?" We want instantaneous everythingCafter allCAtime is money@ the culture tells us..  The consequences of this are only beginning to show up in our culture. We have instant access to too much information on the information highway and we are only beginning to realize that more is not necessarily better!.

Faxes, computers, TV, radio, mp3 players and newspapers. Instant gratification of whatever we wantCThrough creditCbuy nowBpay later. Instant food by restaurant and microwave. Life=s problems are solved quickly, easily and efficiently  in thirty minute segments on TV which shapes our concepts of what we can realistically expect in life, relationships, jobs and possessions. 

If we don=t find a relationship or a job satisfying,  leave! quit! Get another relationship or another job or go on workman's comp!! Patiently working through, waiting for the benefits of our faithful working takes too much time!  Waiting takes too much effort! Perseverance takes too much time!  Is it any wonder that people have fallen away from relationship with God, others and themselves  in our age? Time to develop our spiritual lives is not the way we operate.

If Church lasts too longCwe are wasting valuable time. AWasting time with God@ is a concept absurd to many. We want to be entertainedCspiritualized and sacramentalized in microwave time. Is it any wonder there are so many weak Christians in our day!  To be free from time=s tyranny, measuring time as our ancestors did -- by the gentle passage of seasons, by sunrise and sunset, not by seconds, minutes and hours.   We may think that we control time, but we actually live under its constraints.   Jesus says that when you see the fig tree blossom, you know what time it is.

Someday, there will be no tomorrow. The door will open and then it will shut In the New Testament the Church expected Christ Jesus= immediate return so there was an urgency in their proclamationC Christ Jesus might be back any moment. They sought to win as many as possible to Christ Jesus before His judgment of the world.  It was a time of urgent anticipation. As Christ Jesus= coming delayed, they were involved in spreading the Gospel and building communities of believers to the ends of the known world. As the issues of passing this faith on to other generations became of concernCthe organization of the Church  developed.      From this Church came our Kalendar that seeks in the timelessness of God to take us through the history of His people once per year.  All time was visibly seen as God=s time.

The four weeks of Advent have since the seventh century represented the four thousand years the Jews awaited the promised OneCMessiah. Advent  is a time to prepareCto wait for the coming of God as a little babyCto remember the value of anticipation and preparation.  Too many Christians do not prepare. They celebrate the Christmas event before handCand when it arrivesCit is anticlimactic. They do not think to use the material blessings that God gives to further his work, because, they  may need it tomorrow. But none of us knows when it is our last day and those resources will be of no use to us and will have reaped us no riches in heaven. With the ecological crisis, the threat of nuclear war, and international monetary problems, unstable governments and disease, everyone is thinking in apocalyptic terms, especially with terrorism.  We think apocalypse means Adoom@ but it actually means, Arevelation@. Jesus says that for us all there will be a day when there is no tomorrow. The invitation comes, the door opens, the word is spoken, and it is time. It is the time to prepare ourselves for Christ=s second coming to judge the world that we may be ready.

As we enter this Christian New Year today, our challenge is to make it one of preparation of ourselves for Christ and his purposes in our lives. We need him each day as the Savior yet to come and yet already here in our hearts. From the quietness of the winter darkness to enter into Christ=s illuminating light. If we do not participate in worship, if we do not commit to being part of the Body on the day of the Resurrection and making it the cornerstone of your weekly calendar, you will not experience the depth of the Christian Life that God wants for you. Lastly, we might get active on behalf of someone who needs our help.  Pray for guidance on what to do.  It won=t take God long to let us know.  Advent says, STOP! Evaluate, consider, prepare, be still, be ready.

As we enter this seasonCwould we be ready for Jesus to come to us today?  Advent is a reminder to always be ready.  The world is for the Christian to be viewed from a perspective of the endCthe End judges the present.  ChristianCare you ableCwilling and ready for IHS to come again?  Take the time to get ready. The last words of the Bible are these: AHe who testifies to these things says, >yes, I am coming soon.=  Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.@  The Greek word is  maranatha.. It is the season of reminder that as we say in the creed, Ahe will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.@

One of my favorite Advent anticipatory musical pieces, by Paul Manz, renders this beautifully.

Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sin Who loved us all, and shed his blood
That we might saved be.
Sing holy, holy to our Lord
The Lord almighty God Who was and is, and is to come
Sing holy, holy Lord.
Rejoice in heaven,
all ye that dwell therein
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming,
Is coming soon
For Christ is coming soon.
E'en so Lord Jesus quickly come
And night shall be no more
They need no light, no lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their All!

Even soCmaranathaC Lord Jesus quickly come !


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