Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 1st Sunday of Advent; November 27, 2016

Scriptures for this Sunday: Isaiah 2:1-5; Matt 24:36-44

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and NRSV}

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Last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday. We talked about practical ways that we make Jesus the King of our lives.

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I think that we make Jesus the King of our lives when we practice these four disciplines:

  1. belonging to something that is inherently bigger than ourselves,

  2. discerning our purpose and role in what’s happening around us,

  3. being consciously aware of the narrative of our life, and

  4. thinking long-term: Transcendence.

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Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The church is decorated with imagery from the Christmas story and we want to hear about baby Jesus and the three wise men and the mean innkeeper and how cute baby Jesus looked laying there in a manger.

Today’s Scripture says nothing about that. The reason for that is because the Season of Advent is not only about Jesus’ first coming, it is also about Jesus’ triumphant return sometime in the future.

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Today’s Scripture, if we think about it, is depressing. Jesus warns us about being too sure of our own righteousness.

NIV2010 Matthew 24: 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

These words of Jesus are simple, harsh and scary in their simplicity. They are saying, “Watch out or you will miss the boat…” Today’s readings say nothing about the cute baby in a manger. There is nothing in today’s readings about Christmas cheer, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or dreams of a white, snowy Christmas.

The words of Jesus challenge us to take a good and honest look inside ourselves. Are you willing to consider the possibility that your neighbor whom you think to be “a sinner” could end up on “the ark” (Matthew 24:38) with you or without you?

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In his letter to Romans, Paul wrote,

Romans 13: 11 … understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

So what’s in it for us?

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God is always coming into our world to bring renewal and regeneration. God is always coming into every moment of every day of our earthly lives. “God comes to us disguised as our life” (Father Richard Rohr, contemporary theologian).

God enters every moment and every situation of our lives with a vision, with a notion, with hope and with an idea of what that moment can be. These possibilities are God’s grace.

We have free will and a choice as to how we respond to God’s Grace. That choice is simple: do we let more or less of God’s grace into the world that God entrusted into our care.

The season of Advent is about the creative presence of God in our world, the possibilities that God brings into our lives and how that presence and those possibilities compare with the established routine of our lives. Advent is a season to think about our invitation to be instruments of God’s grace in this world, and our role in ushering in the time when the proverbial swords will be beaten into plowshares (Isaiah 5:5). It is about Kingship of Jesus over our hearts, minds, and lives.

We live in one of the bleakest periods of human history… As a whole, the human race has never been less sure about the meaning of our lives or our importance in the universe…. Geo-political news is dreadful; socio-economic news is not much better. The environmental news is getting worse every day; scientists are telling us that rising sea levels will play havoc with our weather, agriculture and manufacturing capabilities. Global warming releases so much methane from the melting permafrost regions that our bio-sphere will not be able to sustain life in its present form pretty soon. This is scary stuff and there are limits to what we as individuals can do about it.

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But we are not helpless! We can be instruments of change in the world. The Hebrew Scriptures, the Early Christian Writings and the Gospels talk about the coming final judgment through the lens of how well we treat one another, our neighbors, the Earth entrusted into our care and what we do with the blessings that God bestowed upon us.

We can contrast all the news and dire predictions with the story of Advent. The story of Advent reminds us that God is physically with us and among us. The story of Advent is the story of Jesus coming back to bring final healing to our problem riddled world.

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The story of Jesus is never told just because Jesus was a cool guy or because it is a cool story. The story of Jesus is told and retold with the hope that it will bring a change in us. The story of Jesus is not just about what God did 2000 years ago but also what God is doing in the world today. Advent is the story of Jesus and what can happen when we let God into our lives.

The story of Advent is not something that happens to us as we passively go about living our daily lives. The story of Advent is a story in which we are invited to act as active participants. The story of Advent invites us to be God’s partners in hope as we witness to God’s presence in our world.

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