Monday, November 28, 2011

First Sunday of Advent B (2011)

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Mark 13:26
Theme: The Son of Man Coming

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

There is an Italian proverb that says, "Once the game is over, the King and the Pawn go back in the same box." And so it is with God’s kingdom. All of our worldly games- regardless of how high the stakes-will be reduced to nothing at the coming of the Redeemer. But His arrival will be no game. Today the Church Year begins anew. The coming of Advent reignites ancient hopes and age-old expectations. Does it register with us that each new day brings the possibility of the Messiah’s return? The earth will stop spinning. The sun will cease rising. The fevered commotion of human activity will be hushed. All humanity will hold its collective breath as it beholds the glorious appearance of Christ. Advent is time to refocus and renew. What does it mean to be God’s people? Why are we here and what is our purpose? Do we need to re-evaluate our priorities? Have we fallen into a rut or been lulled into apathy?

Christ’s message is not to be brushed off. When will the owner of the house come back? Evening? Midnight? When the rooster crows? Or at dawn? Will it be a convenient time? Will it suit our schedules? Will it meet our expectations? Will it be when the game just starts, the harvest is nearly finished, or holidays are upon us? Will it be when tragedy has struck, death has occurred or a marriage has been broken? Will it be when a baby has been born, a retirement has commenced, or a victory has been won? Will it be during the more mundane routines of life- working, cleaning, fixing, preparing? Yes, it will be all of these. And we will be no exception. Christ will not wait for us to fit Him into our schedules.

Christ will come to bring release to His people. Yet He poses this question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”1 One thing He will find regardless of when He comes is a world full of sinners. Too easily we think of sin merely in terms of moral infraction. When we transgress God’s commands we anger Him and invite His punishment. The Holy Spirit convicts our consciences and triggers guilt for those wrongs which we commit. When consciences become too seared or too defiant the call to repentance is no longer heeded. Then some degree of lawlessness and anarchy ensues.

But our sinfulness is a much bigger issue. God is not just the keeper of a moral standard. Sin is, in fact, a systemic and pathological problem. We seek to be our own little gods and control our own destiny. We seek our own well-being first at the expense of others. This has invasive and far-reaching consequences. We relegate God to a subservient, helping role. We define and circumscribe the permissible extent of His reach. His help in emergencies is sought, His advice for critical decisions is sometimes appreciated; but His interference in our self-serving agendas is not readily tolerated.

All this engages us in less-than-honest recognition of our sinful status and less-than complete repentance. We do well to follow the example of Isaiah today who says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”2 There is no pretense; no holding back in such a confession. We are never partly in need of God’s forgiveness. We are never less in need of God’s grace than the next person.

Our Lord never denies His mercy to the humble and yearning soul. Isaiah continues, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever.”3 Our sorrow over sin need never to end in despair. The cross is the guarantor of God’s favour. The Saviour who will come again in glory is the same Saviour who came in humility when He was born of the Virgin Mary. His coming was not happenstance. He took on our human nature so that He might redeem us from sin. His crucifixion was not an accidental tragedy. It was the purposeful and necessary means to atone for our offenses before God. The word of God says, “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”4 He rose from the grave dealing death a fatal blow.

It is this message of the gospel that can alone bring hope, health, and life to a sin-struck world. The words of the Holy Spirit are life-giving words which daily assure baptized believers of the unconditional love of the Father in the person of the Son. The common language of the church is being lost. It’s no mystery why. The language of Scripture only becomes our own when we take it upon our lips, treasure it in our hearts, and meditate on it in our minds. Infants first learn their mother tongue not by study, but by hearing it every day. Foreign languages are those not heard very often. Our heavenly Father speaks to as His dear children. Those who don’t learn to recognize His voice as sheep do their shepherd will find themselves alone in a hostile and dangerous world. Those who are not nourished by His body and blood will suffer spiritual hunger.

Dear friends, the servants in today’s parable were commanded to attend to their allotted duties. Each has a particular task. Each has a specific calling. Our charge is faithfulness. God cares nothing for our worldly status or success. Such boastings on our deathbed are recorded as transgressions in the heavenly register. Think how free we are to pursue the aims of His kingdom! An ambitious young man once asked a very successful businessman to reveal the secret of his success. "Just jump at your opportunity," he answered. "But," asked the young man, "how can I tell when my opportunity is coming?" "You can't," replied the wise one. "Just keep jumping." You need never wait around for God to provide just the perfect conditions for your endeavors. Now, of course He often does do just that. But we don’t recognize it as such. So we approach each day confident that God has the present and the future in hand as He did the past. We can sacrifice all for the sake of His kingdom because we know the supreme sacrifice has been made for us. God grant that He would powerfully sustain us and gently prepare us for that day when we will be made new in His kingdom. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday of Advent
27 November 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 18:8
2 Isaiah 64:6
3 Isaiah 64:8-9
4 Hebrews 9:12