Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shifting focus . . .

It is that time of year, the time of year when we begin to shift our focus in the church from “green living” to thoughts of Advent and Christmas. Naturally, our readings begin to reflect that transition, and our readings this week do a very good job of reminding us of our jobs. You and I are called to worship and love God with all our hearts, but as St. Paul exhorts us this week, we are not called only to the worship of Him. Better put, perhaps, we are not able to worship God simply by showing up at church once or twice a week and singing songs. True worship of God also involves us be heralds, ambassadors of the in-breaking Kingdom of God. We live in the here-and-now, but we are focused on the results of His recreation in the future.
Isaiah starts us off by reminding us that this, the world around us, is not “as good as it gets.” This world, the things that so consume our time, energy, effort, and worry, are passing away. And God will be recreating all things new. No longer will mothers and fathers experience the deaths of unborn or newly born children. No more will people be stabbed in the back by co-workers or be stepped on like rungs as others try and climb the corporate ladder. There will be no hunger, no disease, no death. Creation itself will be renewed. Predators and prey will live together peacefully, as He intended in the beginning. Earthquakes, floods, famines, plagues, tornadoes, and all sorts of natural catastrophes will have ceased. You and I, and all members of His holy Church, are called to witness into the messes of this world, the tragedies of our lives, the hope and promise which He gives. And to remind each one of us of His ability and power to do all these things, the Father raised Christ from the dead! When things seemed most hopeless, when the Savior was dead, God acted once again to remind each of us that He wants to and can save us.
Our life in this world, He tells us, will be full of pain, suffering, persecution, and all sorts of evils. There are no “free passes” for the faithful. Indeed, the faithful will be the very ones called to remind the world of the love of God, of the power of God, of the grace of God especially at those times when the world cannot or will not see Him. We go into places like Nzara, torn by 40 years of civil war, devoid of the most basic services, and proclaim His saving grace despite world’s testimony to those residents. We go into places where human beings are treated like less than animals, where they are traded for others or used as toys or slaves, and we remind them and those with power over them that God created even them in His image and that no one has the right to treat Him or His in that fashion. He died to free them; no one has the right to sell them once again, without at least remembering that their actions will have eternal consequences. We even go into places of death. Places where hopeless human beings choose to take their own lives, and we remind the families, the friends, the neighbors, the coroners, the first-responders that it is for these reasons, and so many more, that He died. And all this, all this is passing away! He is making all things new!
Brothers and sisters, this coming week, Christ the King Sunday, we will remind ourselves that we are not really part of a democracy. We may live in America, but we are simply sojourners here. Instead, our residency is in the world to come, where we serve the Lord, the King. And we have been called by our Lord to proclaim His hope and His promise, just as He first proclaimed it to each one of us through His birth, His death, and His resurrection. We have also been reminded, and will again throughout Advent, that we need to tackle our callings with an urgency, an urgency which reflects the belief that the Lord could return at any moment, completing what He began that Easter morning, and wiping away all our tears, all our suffering, and all that reject Him. Come, Lord Jesus! Heal us and make us whole.

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