Monday, November 21, 2016

One will be taken; one, left – 27 November 2016 – First Sunday of Advent

The religious imagination chews on images that sometimes clash and sometimes feed depth to each other. Such is the beginning of Advent, a time when we consider ultimacy.

In these weeks, if we prepare for the coming of the Holy One, we anticipate our ultimate salvation. If we ponder in these weeks our own finality and that of Earth itself, we practice living with the knowledge of oblivion and, in so doing, we hold what exists in the present of infinite value. Whichever path we emphasize in Advent, our comprehension of Jesus’ presence will be strengthen and altered by immersion in a story that is at once ancient and new.

Matthew 24:36-44

Jesus indicates that the time before the temple is destroyed will seem quite normal. People will be engaged in the activities of ordinary life—eating, drinking and marrying. But all of that normalcy will be swept away just like it was in the story of Noah's flood.

The image of “one taken and one left” is employed as a core element of the premillennial dispensationalist idea of the Rapture. It seems more likely that, following the image of the flood, to be “taken” is to be taken away in judgment or death, while being “left” is to remain alive.

Jesus reiterates his warning that no one knows when this flood of judgment will happen. Jesus' followers will not be surprised when the temple is swept away, together with the political and religious system built upon it. Instead, they will recognize it as God's vindication of Jesus.

This Advent text assists the Christian assembly to make spiritual preparation to greet the Lord. It is not difficult for us to be deceived by the apparent normalcy of daily life and fail to recognize that the risen Christ is ready to meet us at this hour and every hour, whether in prayer, service to the neighbor in need, worship or Bible reading. Advent summons us to be alert during all of ordinary life, recognizing that the living Lord is ever ready to break into our lives with saving power. – Aaron J. Couch

Isaiah 2:1-5

As the Christian assembly welcomes the season of Advent, it receives a word of promise that rings with hope for the coming of God and the triumph of peace. . . In the religious imagination of the ancient world, mountains were the “thin places” where one might encounter the divine. This passage announces that the Temple Mount will be recognized as the reality to which the Mesopotamian ziggurats aspired; the reality of which the Greek's stories of Mount Olympus were shadowy intuitions—the home of the living God on earth. . .

The exaltation of Zion points to the preeminence of Israel's God. The whole human family will discover the goodness of the Lord and will seek God's instruction (Torah). The result will be the end of warfare and lasting peace. People will realize they no longer need weapons that produce death, so they will transform them into farming tools for sustaining life. – Aaron J. Couch

Romans 13:11-14

Paul directs his readers' attention to the future and to the salvation that God will accomplish, because that future is what gives meaning and direction for believers in the present time. . . Paul employs the image of putting on the armor of light, which suggests that there is a struggle involved in embracing God's future fully in the present. He also uses the image of putting on Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27) as a metaphor for baptism. The two “putting on” images may be considered roughly equivalent. The promises and character of Christ may serve as a strong defense against the enticement of a life lived only for personal gratification, which sadly will lead only into darkness. – Aaron J. Couch

Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.

Homily Service 41, no. 1 (2007): 5-14.

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