Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent (B) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Mark 13:32
Theme: Advent Angels

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The angels will be released. They will be sent to summon the elect. It’s an intriguing scene to consider and a reality that will captivate us with some urgency. We won’t be mere observers, but targets of His intimate love. Yet nothing in the universe will remain unaffected. The coming of the Son of Man will involve the disturbance and subjugation of the entire cosmos. The Creator will fully purge His creation. Neither the most remote and inaccessible star nor the very ground under our feet will remain untouched. Time and space will be breached; sieved in an instant. From Adam to the newly conceived infant humanity will appear before its Maker. There will be no exclusions or exceptions. Ancient things will become new and nascent things will be made mature.

Advent intends to lift our thoughts from mundane repetition to the fulfillment of holy promises. Advent means ‘coming’ and the season aims to jolt us from spiritual slothfulness in anticipation of that great day of the Lord. The Scriptures continually teach us to be mindful of our mortality. We heard Isaiah today, “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”1 How feeble is human strength and how fleeting is our opportunity! We are only sojourners in this land and there is great danger and delusion in believing otherwise. Of the faithful of past centuries the Bible says, “They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”2 A permanent home awaits us too.

Dear friends, as we embark on a new Church Year we are called on to reassess how in tune our lives are with the truth God reveals to us. Christianity is not an ideological position. Obedience to God’s will brings us into direct conflict with the agenda of Satan. Advent is a call to forsake our sinful ways. Does self-interest dominate our schedules? Are God’s commands treated as optional guidelines instead of the scaffolding which supports our love for Him and others? Do we not see that the specifics of His commands are meant to serve us holistically? Does, for example, ignoring the Sabbath not merit a second thought? Does sexual immorality cause us no angst? Does lying and deceit trigger no pain in our conscience? Do we allow jealousy and covetousness to rule unchecked, justifying it as part and parcel of the pursuit of our ambitions? Are our sins of omission even more glaring than the sins we commit?

And how do we react to being confronted by the perfect will of God? Do we dart for the shadows? Do we race for cover hoping to fade into anonymity? Do we grasp for a new identity pretending to have some type of cathartic amnesia? All such attempts are in vain; we cannot escape our past. Sin allows for no self-disassociation. In fact, sin adheres to us like superglue, it stains us deeply. And it impacts us. Luther said, “Where there is sin there is no clear conscience; where there is no clear conscience, there is a life of uncertainty and an unquenchable fear of death and hell in the presence of which no real joy can exist in the heart.”3

Advent does, however, announce to us the only real reason for joy. Christ comes to lift the burden we cannot bear. He cleanses the stain. Our offensiveness to God is covered by His body hanging from the tree. His corpse is draped over our body of sin and buried with Him in the grave. In baptism we are submerged into the death and burial of Christ. And there the punishment for the sins of the believer stays buried. In baptism we also participate in His resurrection. Raised spiritually now, we await the resurrection on the Last Day. A cross was lifted for us and the price of our freedom was nailed to it.

That freedom from sin’s condemning and binding power is something we have the privilege of sharing with the world. Christ tells His disciples to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. We are called to be wise to the misrepresentations, the equivocations and the blatant condemnations of the secular agenda. We are not to participate in them but rather expose them. We cannot sit back and allow the most vulnerable to be taken advantage of. Christian life is one of service. We are lights in a spiritually dark world.

Black is the ‘colour’ we see when all the colours of the spectrum are absorbed or are absent. White is what we experience when all the colours are present at once. Black symbolizes the absence of God and His gifts. It represents our spiritual condition without Christ. But Christ shines on us with the full spectrum of His love. We are bathed in the whiteness of His righteousness. Our lives are coloured by His holiness. In His perfect presence there are no shadows, no dark corners; no aspects of our existence are hidden from the brilliance of His redeeming light.

Dear friends, advent is not only concerned with future promises. Every time your heart is moved to an honest confession of sins and you receive His forgiveness you anticipate His advent. Every time you are called to remember your baptism you anticipate His advent. Every time you receive the sacrament of His body and blood you anticipate His advent. And at the very same time He also meets you in these gifts. Christ is coming in glory but He is already here in grace. He will rend the heavens and come down but He already embraces you with compassion. Presently we can only behold Him by faith. Our fallen nature prevents direct participation by our senses. At His coming we will be freed from sin’s curse and know Him fully. The Scripture says, “The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”4

We will be changed- for eternity. No trial, circumstance, or adversity can prevent that from happening for God’s people. The angels wait to participate in that event. We soon look forward to meeting once again the angels of the nativity; Gabriel’s visit to Mary, and good tidings announced to shepherds. But that was just the beginning of their work. They will come to gather the elect. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit has made this promise, “God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”5 “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”6

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday of Advent
30 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Isaiah 64:6
2 Hebrews 11:13
3 Martin Luther, Complete Sermons
4 1 Corinthians 15:52
5 1 Corinthians 1:9
6 1 Corinthians 1:8