Tuesday, November 26, 2013
As I sit at my desk in the quiet of my office, I have been reflecting on the Advent and Christmas that is to come and the sermons that need to be preached over the next four weeks. The lectionary (from which we draw our rota of readings for the years and seasons) starts with a wide view in where God is going in terms of the kingdom. The vision then begins to narrow down into the lives of people until it comes to the focal point of a little boy, born of a woman and laid in a manger. All of the hope, all of the love and all of the mercy that God has and that God is going to use are made available in this one child.
Advent is not a celebration, nor is it only the precursory preparation to the great event. It is not about Black Friday or Digital Monday or anything else that the box stores, Time-Life or the Shopping Channel can dream up to get to you buy something. Satisfaction and the entrance in to the kingdom that God is building cannot be purchased or negotiated. Admission is free and needs to be accepted without condition. Membership has both its privileges and it’s with all the responsibilities that go with being invited in to be a guest.
Advent is about getting a new and fresh vision of the kingdom that is growing in spite of how hard some are working to stop it, to kill it, and to destroy it in favour of something that is suitable and making God in their own image. Our attention is slowly turned on the future and what it might hold. Remember the furour over the end of the Mayan Calendar and the possibility of the end of life as we had known it? Or even further back when we though our digital age was about to come crashing down because of Y 2K and the fact that they had not used a clock that was only yy instead of yyyy? Remember the fear those such insignificant things cause?
Jesus reminds that we will not know when the end of this present age will come (Matthew 24.36-44). What we need to concentrate on are simpler things. God has promised that there will be a kingdom and that we can be a part of it. We are in the meantime meant to get ready and be prepared for that moment. And as we await that moment there are things to do. We need to especially regard the fact that we need to hold out the hope that we have from God in Christ that the kingdom is coming and coming soon. The “When” of the coming of our King has been determined but not foretold to us. We need to be ready and prepared for what is next. Are you ready for what is next?
There is a story that is told about a tourist who went to the Lake Como region of Northern Italy. While looking around, the adventurous tourist discovered a walled in estate. Peering through the bars of the gated entrance he saw an amazing courtyard. It had gardens full of flowers and trees and vegetables divided by immaculately manicured lawns. The Caretaker invited the visitor in and gave him a lengthy tour which was fully enjoyed.
At the end of the tour, the visitor asked, “Who lives here, in this great place?” The caretaker replied, “Just me.” The visitor was astounded. “Where is the Master who owns this place? When was he last here to at least visit?” In answer the caretaker said, “well it has been 11 years since he was last here and I get directions as to what I need to do from his agent.” Flummoxed, the visitor inquired, “So if the Master was to show up you would be ready for him tomorrow?”
After a moment, the caretaker said, “No... not tomorrow. I am ready for him today. I am ready for him today.”
Thursday, November 21, 2013
(Just an aside: when I was learning to play the French Horn as a boy, I was given the music of this hymn "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide" without the words. I played it for weeks not knowing what it was. It was not until the day of a competition, that I discovered that I was playing a well known hymn and that the place where we were competing was a Church. quickly learning the words, with some help from my dad, it emboldening me and enabled me to compete to my utmost. Now we uphold the cross for others to see that they might come and follow too.)
This week we recall that the kingdom is coming, in all of its fullness, with all of the pomp and pageantry, the power and glory and all the quietness of a thief in the night.
This week we are reminded of the events that now seem so long ago... and it was only holy week and Eastertide. We are reminded of how he was arrested and tried repeatedly and by different judges. All of them demanded truth and then, if they got an answer, rejected it as impossible, preposterous and an outright blasphemous lie.
Pilate gave Jesus one last chance to recant; one last opportunity to save himself and to act like one of us. He had chances to save his own skin and to walk away free but he did not take. And so Jesus was taken and crucified. He died being proclaimed as a king.
I was talking with a friend this past week. We have both been standing in spots where kings of this earth, have been taken and executed by the people. In my friend’s case it was the Jerusalem Room at Westminster Abbey, where the King James Bible was authorized and where King Henry IV was killed. In my own case it was a grand meeting room in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg where Tzar Nicholas II and his family were arrested and were taken from to be executed elsewhere. I have stood where the Tsar stood and I have stood at his tomb in Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. None of it is as powerful as recalling what happened that last night, as Jesus is betrayed, arrested, beaten and eventually dying.
I have never been to the places where he lived... where he preached and he healed. I have never seen the hill where he died. Yet, I now his life, his presence and his healing in my own life in this moment...and in this moment, etc... Jesus is more real to me now that any king or Queen, any prince, ruler power or even Bishop. Thus maybe it should be recognized that there really is power in the blood of the king. We need to know that we have failed and fallen and that we need his strength and mercy to help us stand up again.
There is a line in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” that has stayed with me and I come back to it now and again. The scene is Jesus has fallen under the weight of everything he is doing and going through and one of the soldiers sarcastically asks him, “Can you get up your Majesty?” the soldier clearly wasn’t aware of the power that there is in the blood of the king. He wasn’t aware of what God was accomplishing in Christ for him and the rest of the world. And he was not aware of what God could do to him in his anger over the execution of his Son. It is why Jesus prayed, “Adda, forgive. They don’t know what they are doing.” It wasn’t the force of the soldiers; neither was it a fear of the critics and the scoffers nor the strength of the nails that kept Jesus on the cross. It was our need for love grace and mercy of God that had him remain there.
So then the next time you pray “Our Father in heaven,” remember that you are praying for his kingdom not yours and for his will to be done in you and not yours in the world. That is a kingdom worth coming into.