Draw Near to Justice

Image Credit: Daily Theology dailytheology.org

December 16, 2018 Advent 3

Luke 3:7-18

This is the time of year that many people live for. The festivities and parties. The lights and the pageantry. The giving and the receiving.  While we may be in the season of Advent in the church, many others are in the season of indulgence. Spending beyond their means so that they can attempt to bring joy to a friend or family member.

It is in light of this that we continue to wait in Advent. We wait to rejoice in the birth of a baby that is going to change the world. We wait for the light that is to be born into the world that calls out the darkness. We wait with bated breath for the hope promised to us by our ancestors.

With this,we find ourselves in the third week of Advent. How wonderful it is to be greeted by the insults of John the Baptist, “You brood of vipers!” Wow, he know show to wake us up from our complacency. He continues to call us out of our comfort zone and into the reality of this world. He attempts to pull our attention away from the office Christmas parties and the twinkling lights. Through John the Baptist we are called to live alongside our neighbors and draw near to the justice found in Jesus.

John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the wilderness. He causes us to sit up straight and pay attention because the message he must share is so much different then others we have been hearing. He speaks with a voice of resistance. A voice that is not afraid to proclaim the message he has been given to share. This resistance will eventually get him killed.

While John resists those in authority, our society tends to resist the gospel message in parts.I will be bold to say that many live lives of apathy. It is much easier to just sit back and worry about yourself then it is to step outside of your comfort zone and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or welcome the stranger. We may know we need to repent of this apathy, yet it is so much easier to sit down and relax.

The people that are listening to John are thirsty for instruction. They want to know what they should do. This has not changed much over time. The early Israelites were also asking for a king and someone to guide them and tell them what to do. It continues in the Israel of John’s time as they want to know what they should do when he calls them out of their complacency and desire to stay where they are at.

It is easy to look in the past and think that it was better then and want the same thing today. However, as John cries out in the wilderness, it is a reminder for us that we too are called out of our complacency and our drawn near to the incarnate God. The Son of God was born human so that we could connect in relationship and get a glimpse of the great mystery.

John’s message comes as a sign of grace for us in a world that is broken and needs the love God has promised to all of creation. A love that John points to in his proclamation.A love that is born into the world so that all will come to know God and be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Bearing good fruit is part of the message that John shares. We all want to bear good fruit. When those that chose to follow John the Baptist ask, “What then should we do?” he pulls his answer from the law that came before him. You must share a coat if you have two! You must not over-tax people and only take what has been prescribed!You must not extort through threats or false accusations! We too, should be following these instructions of John the Baptist.

However, our redemption does not hinge on these actions. The promise of Jesus following John the Baptist to baptize in the Holy Spirit connects us with something much greater. It is here that we encounter the grace of God that washes over us regardless of our actions. God’s love for us was made clear in the death of Jesus and we are given hope through the resurrection.

We are drawn near to justice this advent season because of Jesus. Through the grace that we receive in baptism and being fed at the table, we should desire to bear good fruit, not because we have to, but because we want to. Because we desire to encounter God in our neighbors and the stranger. The awesome thing is that Trinity does a fantastic job of this through our various ministries, including MCREST and the bags we recently filled for the Detroit Rescue Mission. By doing so, we speak boldly to the voices of injustice and proclaim more boldly with love. May you continue to be bold in your proclamation of love this holiday season.

Let us pray. God of justice, you raise up the sinner and fulfill the promise of resurrection. May we continue to be embraced in your love this season and respond in acting in justice for all of creation. Amen.

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Draw Near to Wonder

December 2, 2018 Advent 1

Luke 21:25-36

I grew up in the city. Fortunately, the city of Charlotte is not real big, and I lived just on the edge. Therefore, you could go in the back yard and not worry about the light pollution. This meant that whenever there was a meteor shower or comet,we could usually see the event unless it was cloudy. I would lay out in the yard and look up to the stars and wonder in amazement at how it was all created and wonder what existed beyond the earth.

Advent is a time of wonder. The promise of God is going to be fulfilled in Jesus and we anticipate being able to celebrate that very coming on Christmas. In our gospel lesson, Jesus encourages us to raise our heads to look beyond our pains and adversity, so that we can live in the hope and anticipation of his coming into the world.

The problem that we can run into is that we are so distracted with our lists and things that need to be done before Christmas arrives that we forget to wonder! Some of us may have even forgot what it meant to wonder many years ago. We get caught up in work and chores and running kids here and there that we lose the sense of wonder that comes into this world as a newborn baby.

This lesson from Luke seems to be a strange selection as we open up the Advent season. We are anticipating a newborn, and Jesus foretells of the time to come after he dies. The time Jesus speaks of does not sound like one we would get in line to participate in. Who wants to live among the fear and distress of the world? Yet,the gospel also reminds us to be ready at all times. No matter, what it is we are anticipating. Jesus tells those listening to, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly” (vs 34). He was making sure that they were awakened from their own stupor. I am sure there were many that were walking around with their heads down and not paying attention to the things that were happening around them. They too, were distracted.

We are guilty of the very things that Jesus names. We worry about the day to day issues that affect our lives. We all become drunk in our own ways. That drunkenness could come in many forms. Being so caught up in one thing that we forget to do the things that truly matter. We let time slip away and with that we could spend more time with the people that we should be loving and caring for. We become drunk on those things that distract us from being in relationship with God and in turn fall short of living out that relationship with others.

In response to any distress that we may encounter, Jesus tells us that he will be present to bring us that sign of hope we are looking for. That sign that first came into the world with his birth. He calls us to raise our heads and look up to the signs and know that our redemption is drawing. It is a redemption that is found in Christ. We are redeemed through the grace of God through the blood and life shed on the cross.

While Jesus speaks of signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, we are also reminded of his presence. A presence that will never leave us. Even when the earth and the heavens pass away, his words will never pass away. His words of hope and redemption that comes to all of humanity are the ones that we look towards in wonder. A wonder that guides us and carries us through difficult times. While it seems that we will always have bad things happening around us, Jesus comes with the reminder to raise our heads and be courageous to face those adversities knowing that we are redeemed through his saving grace.

We are called into his presence to wonder. The wonder draws our heads up from the distractions and brings us closer to a loving God that chose to be born in this world so that we would know God’s love. To wonder, draws us near to the mystery of God. How are you going to wonder this Advent season?

Let us pray. God of Wonder, be our guiding star in these days of Advent as the day light gets shortened as well as our patience as we wrestle the lines at the stores. We rejoice as we begin to draw near to you in this time of waiting. Amen.