Isaiah 2: 1-5 Romans 13: 11-14 Matthew 24: 37-44
Events can occur in our lives, as well as in our world, that are greatly upsetting. For any one of us it can be something like a catastrophic illness, an unexpected death, or even the simple demands of everyday life. In our world, it can be a natural disaster or man-made terror and war.
Yet, no matter what tragedy or difficulty we might encounter, for people of faith, those who believe in God and in Jesus Christ, there is one constant, an anchor, a solid foundation, on which we rest. Put in another way, through all of the challenges of simply being alive, there is a common and constant strength that we possess. It is the trust and the hope that we profess in God, and in the love of God for us. As a result, the purpose of the creation of which we are a part, and the purpose of our lives, accompanied by the love of God that they reflect, will be accomplished. It will be achieved. It will be fulfilled.
This is the vision and the hope which the Season of Advent proclaims. This is the vision and the hope that is found in the beautiful words of Isaiah the prophet that we heard today. This is the vision and the hope that encourages us as we begin again the annual cycle of reflections and celebrations that are a part of our preparation for the recalling of the coming of God into the world in the person of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
We are to hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew that was read today not as something which brings on fear. Certainly, it is not a threat It is a simple counsel given to us that advise us and give us encouragement. We are to be alert, attentive, to everything around us. In ways that might be totally unexpected, the presence of God is revealed.
We are to live, as St. Paul tells us, not just for the moment, but also with the view of what will be. The love of God and the purpose of God will be accomplished. It will be fulfilled. We are to live so as to be part of this. Even in the darkest moments of our lives and of our own human history, the light of God, the light of Christ can and will break forth. It is firm faith ad trust in this that motivates us as believers in Jesus Christ.
Of the many gifts that we might present to others at this time of the year, let it be the faith and trust in God that we can share. Let it be the faith and trust in God that, most of all, we are to celebrate.
In the belief and the practice we proclaim, even as simply as by our presence her today, what is to guide us in the choices we make and in the lives we live is the faith, the hope, the trust that this Season recalls. It is the faith, the hope, the trust in the presence with us, then, now, and in he future of our good and gracious God.
Malachi 3:19-20 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 Luke 21:5-19
The framework of Saint Luke’s Gospel which we have been following through the last months has, as its destination, Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the focus and center of the followers of Jesus as devout Hews. It was the Temple, located in Jerusalem, that was the central symbol of their distinct faith in God. Having now reached this important destination, Jesus tells his listeners that all of this, Jerusalem and the Temple, will pass away, not a stone will be left on another. This statement could be nothing but shocking to all of them.
What we need to keep in mind, as believers, as we hear this, is that the message that Is being conveyed by Jesus, is a message of hope, not fear. No matter what might be experienced, no matter how often it might appear that it is evil which succeeds, no matter what adversity seems to have the upper hand in life, do not give up, do not lose faith.
God does not meddle in our history God invites us God came into our history in the person of Jesus Christ to tell us that we have been created in love. Indeed, we are loved. But we also can choose. With the ability and the potential we have been given we can choose to make real, in our lives, what we are to be, a reflections of our Maker. We are to be reflections of the goodness and love of God who gave us existence. Christ also came to tell us that the freedom we have to choose how to act is the way that the purpose of God in creation can be accomplished. All of us are a part of this. All of us can accomplish this.
What Jesus’s words to us today tell us is that faith in God and lives lived in terms of this faith and trust will ultimately triumph. Perhaps this will not be in ways that the world and society measure victory, but in ways that Jesus tries, again and again, to remind us. The key to success in life, being that person each of us is created to be, comes by faith and trust in the teachings of Jesus. This is not always easy. It is not free of stress and anxiety. It is not free of misunderstanding or rejection by others. But if we remain true to his words and teaching, our ultimate experience will be victory, triumph, success. We will come to a true realization of what is valuable, what is important, what has true worth.
Saint Paul tells the followers of Jesus of his time, and tells us as well, that the approach to daily living involves doing what we can in caring for others as well as for ourselves. This maybe simple or even routine, but this is what is needed to be a good person, one who truly reflects the goodness of God. This is to be done despite ridicule, at times, or even the rejection of being said to be foolish. Living in this way will bring true peace of mind and heart.
As persons of faith and trust in God, it is no longer the Temple, but the Body of Christ that we are, which is to be the visible sign and symbol revealing God. Remember that in our world today it is in and through us that is found an experience of the presence of our good and gracious God
Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 2 Thessalonians, 2:16; 3:5 Luke 20:27-38
In the cycle of nature we experience here in the upper part of the northern hemisphere, fall arrives and the spring and summer flowers wither and fade. The leaves on the trees first show color and then are replaced by absence and thus stand bare. These are familiar reminders of death and dying.
Our faith, however, declares something different. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, assumed all the aspects of human nature. This action reached its culmination in accepting death on the cross. Rather than an end, however, his death was the gateway to theResurrection, It was the conquest of human death by the rising to new and unending life. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to our faith.
As we may lament the disappearance of flowers and leaves on the trees, we definitely look forward to their restoration next Spring. So it is in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate in faith. We do not need to consider the Resurrection only in terms of some future time, but also in terms of the present and how faith in the Resurrection affects us now. In whatever way we might experience a certain sense of dying such as in pain or suffering or illness or even old age, we can do so with a confidence and with a hope that is based on faith in the Resurrection. Indeed, the faith we profess tells us that in whatever way we experience death, it is not an end but an opportunity for transformation.
God speaking to us today in the Scriptures focuses on the meaning of Resurrection. The seven brothers are asked to do a simple things: eat pork. But to do so would go against their tradition and law. Thus they endure torture, punishment and ridicule from those who would eventually kill them. They did this because they know and believe that they will be restored to life. This would not happen in some magical way, in a return to life they had known, but in a deeper and richer sense of what life is, a restoration to life in union with the very Creator of life.
Jesus points out that the petty concerns of the Sadducees are really meaningless. They are the skeptics, the secularists of their day in Jewish society. They are not concerned with the real understanding of life that Jesus offered to those who believed in him and his message. Jesus seeks for us to understand that the petty concerns of this life have little meaning in comparison to the life and hope that is realized in the Resurrection.
We need to keep things in perspective. What we are to do now is to live our lives in ways that proclaim the Resurrection with the same confidence that we have that flowers will grow and the life of trees will be restored. We are to show the transformation in our lives that faith in the Resurrection reveals even now the constant presence with us of our good and gracious God.
Wisdom 11: 22 -12: 22 Thessalonias 1: 11 – 2: 2 Luke 19: 1-10
One of the qualities of the Gospel account presented by Saint Luke is that it includes what might be considered colorful incidents about different individuals. Such is the casein the story of Zaccheus which we just heard. It is an incident that is, in a way, somewhat humorous. But it is also rich in meaning.
The encounter with Zaccheus takes place in Jericho. Jesus is still on his journey to Jerusalem and, ultimately, to execution on a cross. He has shown and taught what it means to take up the cross and follow him. Now he has come to Jericho, an ancient city that physically the lowest city in the land. There he will meet Zaccheus, a tax collector. As a tax collector. Zaccheus is following a profession that qualifies him as among the lowest of the low persons in his society. He had heard of Jesus and wanted to see him. But he was even low in stature and had to lift himself into a tree. He is called by name, converts and reforms. He thereby shares in the saving love of God in the words of Jesus.
The message is clear. If Zaccheus can be saved, all can be saved. If he can be seen as a person of faith, then faith is possible for all persons. If he can radically change his life, all can change their lives as well.
No one is excluded from the loving mercy of God, the loving mercy that Jesus proclaims. It is that loving mercy that finds it ultimate expressed upon the cross. It is that cross that we are all called upon to take up as we follow Jesus.
Any doubt or question that we might have is answered in the vision offered by the writer of the Book of Wisdom. Before the power of our creative God, even the most powerful forces of nature are like small seeds or drops of dew. Before the merciful love of God, nothing is loathed or rejected or hated. Before the forgiving presence of God, even the worst sinner, the lowliest of the low who rejects God can be welcomed back, forgiven, reconciled.
All of us, as St. Paul reminds the Christians of Thessalonika, can share in God’s purpose and calling. All of us can look forward to the fulfillment of every good purpose and effort of faith. All of us can look forward to the “Day of the Lord” without fear or alarm.
It is with this vision of faith in Jesus Christ than even death itself is no longer to be feared. Those who have distanced themselves from God because of selfishness and sin can be assured of the opportunity to celebrate because conversion and reconciliation is possible. That is the lesson to be learned from the story of Zaccheus.
Mindful that this past week we honored All Saints and we prayed for All Souls, we did so because we are convinced in our faith – like Zaccheus – of the all-powerful love and mercy of our good and gracious God.