Sunday, 7 December 2008

A Short Not-Really-a-Sermon for Advent 2 and a Scrapped One

This morning, in a very lovely way (thanks Ed and Carmen), the LORD fixed it so it wasn't necessary for me to preach the short sermon I had prepared. So here it is:
Here’s something I am thoroughly qualified to say to you.

Mark 1.7 “After me comes he is who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The one who is coming and who is exceedingly, wonderfully, beyond what you can conceive is Jesus: the one in whom all the promises of God find their yes (2 Cor 1.20), the founder and perfector of our faith (Heb 12.2), the first and the last, who died and came to life. (Rev 2.8), him who has the two-edged sword (Rev 2.11), and eyes like a flame of fire (Rev 2.18), the holy one the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens (Rev 3.7), the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation (Rev 3.14), king of kings, Lord of lords, (Rev 19.16), the bright morning star (Rev 22.16).

This is the one I am trying to help you prepare yourselves to meet by urging you, like Peter in the Epistle: 2 Peter 3.11, to consider “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” while you wait (v12) to meet Jesus, as we all will. And to consider how (v12) the way you are praying, and learning of and living and serving him might be hastening the coming of that day.

Is there anything we can learn from Ed and Carmen in that regard? Might the prayer to which they are calling us be a way of doing just that? Keep your finger in your Bible at 2 Peter, and look at Isa 41.3 “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.’” Could what Ed and Carmen are suggesting also be a way that we can respond to that voice of preparing the way of the Lord into the hearts of people who have not yet come to saving faith in Jesus?

Last Sunday our Advent leaflet included the Advent Challenge: Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. In today’s Collect we prayed: “inspire us, the ministers and stewards of your truth to turn our disobedient hearts to you, that when the Christ shall come again to be our judge, we may stand with confidence before his glory.”

In what ways are our hearts being disobedient when it comes to worship? Are we letting something else keep us away from worship? Are we disobedient with the way we’re spending our money? Are we disobedient with our giving and generosity? Is there a lack of love for one another arising from disobedient hearts? I would add to that Advent list, pray more. I don’t see how we can expect to stand with confidence before Jesus in all his glory and majesty without making an honest effort to maintain and develop our relationship with him in prayer. Are our hearts being disobedient is this regard? Is prayerlessness a problem? If it is, learn how. We Anglicans have rich resources for prayer in our prayer books. Just find morning or evening or night or family prayer and follow the instructions. If you have questions, call me. Your bulletin also has a useful list of people and situations for whom and which to pray.

Look at 2 Peter again: 3.10: “One day the day of the Lord will come and the heavens will pass away with a roar, the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” For some, that day will be an absolute terror. But it needn’t be for you. You know what to do.

And remember this. Look at v9: the Lord “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

And Isa again, v10, although the Lord is coming with might, “his reward is also with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
Interesting that Joe Walker over at the most excellent felix hominum had occasion to, as he puts it, "scrap" his sermon for Advent 2, too. He writes:
All through the season of Advent, John the Baptist calls us to repentance.  But don't forget what his first act as the prophet of the Messiah was:  jump for joy.  
See what he's on about here.