Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent 1B 2011

          That Jesus will come again is a matter of faith.  We’re familiar with the burial office reading (St. John 14: 2-3) Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” We think of the Lord’s coming for us at our death, but he will also come again at the world’s last day.

          When Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:11) the angels told the disciples, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians about the Holy Communion, says (11:26) “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 

In the Apostles’ Creed we say, Jesus “ascended into heaven . . . from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” In the Nicene Creed we say, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom shall have no end.” We confess the mystery of faith in Eucharistic Prayer A “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” In Prayer B “We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory.”

          We don’t preach much about the final coming of Christ. The church teaches that Jesus will return; we don’t say how or when. There’s been lots of speculation and interpretation of the relatively few Biblical passages about the final coming.   You’ve seen  bumper stickers about the Rapture “In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned”. The Rapture teaching became popular in the early 19th century.It puts together verses from Thessalonians and Revelation in a complex system.  We’re free to speculate how and when Jesus will come again. I don’t know the how and when but I believe Jesus will come again and we need to take seriously his command in today’s gospel, “Keep awake.”

The final coming of Jesus teaches that life has meaning and purpose. It directly opposes the materialist notion that life is accidental and finally purposeless. That idea is a real temptation particularly when we wake up and hurt, or when we suffer loss and feel despair. Those are the times in life when we have to hold on to faith with both hands.

Jesus is alive; he will come again, our lives and the world are in the care of the God who made all things and has redeemed us and all things in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The day will come when God’s perfect justice and mercy will be done and will be seen to be done, and we wait expecting that day. We keep awake.

We keep awake and look for the ways God is at work in our lives and the world around us. We keep awake and rejoice when the sick are taken care of, when mourners are comforted, when as Jesus said in St. Matthew 25, the hungry are fed, water is provided for the thirsty, strangers are welcomed me, children who need them are given underwear, and those in prisons, physical, emotional, and spiritual, receive visits of encouragement and support.

Hymn 10 (Hymnal 1982 - the traditional tune is Melcombe 531) written by the Rev. John Keble in 1827 summarizes our Advent call: “New every morning is the love our waking and uprising prove; through sleep and darkness safely brought, restored to life, and power, and thought” especially verses 5 and 6, “The trivial round, the common task will furnish all we need or ask: room to deny ourselves, a road to bring us daily nearer God” “Only, O Lord, in thy dear love fit us for perfect rest above, and help us this and every day to live more nearly as we pray.” Amen.

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