December 9, 2012
Second Sunday of Advent
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Many Christians look at Jesus and tend to branch off in one of two main directions. The one camp says that Jesus is God, and worthy of praise and adoration, but then leaves behind what the Gospels tell us that he said and did.
The other says that Jesus was a really, really, really good human being, better than most of us, and he said and did amazing stuff that we ought to listen to and practice, but there really is no power there to draw on for doing such things like healing and reconciling and proclaiming the nearness of God or any of those other things. Now there are a lot of people in the middle between these two camps, but like most things, the voices at the extremes tend to speak the loudest.
So we often see one side proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, but preferring the prosperity gospel, or the “only us and not them” gospel, or the “Jesus looks like us, thinks like us and votes like us” gospel to what the Gospels really say. The other side says “we are the only hands and feet Christ has in the world,” and we should be doing these good things we see in Jesus, but all that worship and praise stuff just gets in the way.
It isn’t that either side is totally wrong, each misses by degrees.
John says quite plainly that Jesus is Lord, that when we see Jesus at work, we are supposed to see God at work. We also see how many times Jesus overturns our settled theologies and understandings about how the world works. It is not enough to praise, we also need to learn from and follow.
And we also hear our need to connect with God just as Jesus did. In his prayer about those who follow him, Jesus prays,
Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me,
that they may be one, even as we are one.
The prayer Jesus prays is that you and I would be one with God the way Jesus is one with God. John goes on to write some of the most intimidating language of the Bible:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also
do the works that I do; and greater works than these will
he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in
my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
We are not Christ’s only hands and feet in the world, but we are called to do mighty things, and to do so because are connected to God through Christ.
In other words, it is easy to fall off the narrow path, either one way, where power and might are ascribed to God, but we forget the ethical teachings to love our neighbors, care for the widows and orphans and poor, and welcome the stranger. Or we fall off the other way, where the ethical teachings of Jesus are the highest good, but we are all on our own to accomplish it.
We have similar problems with the prophets. Conservatives often want the prophets to simply predict the coming of Jesus. Progressives often want the prophets to be social activists. And while prophets do both of these things, they were so much more. The prophets are poets who are trying to break through our ways of seeing the world with the message that God is God, God is in charge, and God saves.
Recently when Mira and I go the stomach bug, she wouldn’t take her meds, or if she did, she wouldn’t keep them down. For Mary and me, this means panic. She gets meds six times a day, and we are diligent to administer them. So several days with few doses means we go into a bit of a tailspin.
After she got better and was calmly taking her meds again, we had the chance to gain some perspective. Yes, several days with lower doses is not in the plan. But in just over a year, with six doses a day, we have probably missed fewer than twenty doses total. When we are in the midst of the crisis, we are freaked out. When we are able to gain some perspective, this is a blip.
Sadly, there is no button that can instantly draw us up out of the crisis and give us the perspective that this will be okay. But the next time something comes along, we can learn from this past time.
The role of the prophet was to overwhelm people in crisis with words and beauty and poetry and images that break them out of their narrow, tunnel-vision panic and survival mode thinking. The prophets brought a word that broke open the possibility that God is doing something new, making a way where there had been no way. To a people who had no more energy to imagine anything different that what they faced right now, the prophets gave them an imagination booster shot!
For a people in exile, in despair, in depression, or pain, or loneliness or dread, the prophets speak hope and life and remind the people that God is God; God is in charge and God saves.
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe,
I am the LORD, who do all these things.
Jesus, we see God working again, and finally, to make a way where there was no way, to give life and new life, to teach us that we are all in this together, there is no us and them, there is only us, there is no other. This is our hope, our work, our source and our goal.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all humankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not
Thanks be to God.