Monday, November 23, 2015

Present End-Times – 29 Nov 2015 – First Sunday in Advent

Time is of the essence in knowing where we are and who we are. Advent is particularly vital in that regard. The church runs counter to the culture in this month before Christmas, smacking up against consumerism and triumphalism.

Let this Sunday set the context of the church as standing for what is eternal and ultimate––balm in the season of sorrow for many who live through this social, joyous, partying time with memories of loss or regret or loneliness. Let the promises of the eschatological goodness of God shine through because some voices will be decrying the state of things, anticipating a devastating Second Coming of Christ.

Now, you may know there are two schools of thought in the Christian community regarding the Second Coming. One school believes that Jesus will indeed come back in a cosmic way, much like Luke describes. . . .

The other school of thought thinks that the Second Coming was the product of . . . the literal way [of thinking] pictured by Luke. These people think that the motif of the Second Coming is a figurative way of saying that God continues to work to help the world to manifest God's purposes among as many people and in as many places as possible. There won't be one great transformative event, but God is always at work.

[Both] viewpoints . . . infuse us with hope, whether hope for the return of Jesus on the clouds, or the hope that comes from recognizing that God is perpetually at work in every situation to try to lure people into joining God's purposes. And, both of these viewpoints believe that the season between now and whatever comes next is a time not for passivity but for passion. – Ronald J. Allen

We do not need to fear that these texts are all hell breaking loose because the wrong political party is in power––no matter who has the reins. Instead, we are reminded that God has the last word, and it is forgiveness, hope, and joy.

Luke 21:25-36

No cowering required! The day of deliverance may seem fearsome, especially in many contemporary portrayals of warfare, terror and disaster. . . . Amidst all this, Jesus' counsel seems oddly comforting: “Stand! Raise your heads! Redemption is near!” God acts to save, not to terrify. . . God beckons us to consider the future that we may yearn for but cannot imagine with any clarity—for it will surely be beyond our expectations, filling us with inexpressible joy.

Yes, a child will be born in Bethlehem in a few short weeks, but there is yet better news for us—Immanuel is also the one-who-is-coming, the one who makes all things new, the one whose arrival will commence the new age, when all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. – Scott Haldeman

Jeremiah 33:14-16

The prophet announces the promise that those who have been pulled away from their people will be re-united, and the two kingdoms will once again be one.

But the chapter opens with Jeremiah in prison and the city under siege (33:1–5), and so preachers speaking in these troubled times can say with the prophet that the promises of a righteous kingdom are never void. . . . [This text] insists that God's engagement with this world is moving steadily toward a real practice of righteousness and justice. Preachers can call for social structures that prevent some from taking advantage of the vulnerable, but also for growth in personal character that protects the structures from corruption. – Paul E. Koptak

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

How shall we traverse the busy-ness of this time of year? The body of Christ envelops us in the promise of satisfying community and solitary rest.

Bound by Spirit and yet separated physically, the teacher/evangelist desires continually to be among the young church soon again—to see, hear and touch those whose strivings in the faith provides him with such joy and hope. Such is the gift of balance between days together and days alone for the Body—a balance not easy to achieve and hold.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. It is not as though the one preceded the other; both begin at the same time, namely with the call of Christ … (Life Together [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954], 77–78). – Scott Haldeman

Ronald J. Allen is professor of preaching and New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana.  

W. Scott Haldeman is associate professor of worship at Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Paul E. Koptak is professor of communication and biblical interpretation at North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Homily Service 40, no. 1 (2006): 5-14.

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