Second Sunday of Advent
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Afterthoughts: Where God Works
Sunday’s sermon was about God working in our midst to finish what has been started, both globally (as in the reading from Luke 3:1-6) and locally (as in the reading from Philippians 13-11).
Globally, God sought to deal with the impact of our sins on relationship (both with God and with others).
Take a look at the Gospel reading from the beginning of Luke 3,
“The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”
John was preparing the way for Jesus to:
· Straighten out our ways.
· Smooth out the ride.
· Make a way for all to see the path to salvation.
This mission for Jesus was completed on the cross
and is seen in John 19:28-30,
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
I have written about this before and will recap here:
Jesus completed the mission.
He made a way where there was none previously.
The tense of the phrase “It is finished” is key.
It is in the perfect tense which means that it reflects an action
with an impact that addresses the past, present and future.
In other words,
Jesus finished the work for all those who had come before,
all those who were around during His day
and all those who would come after.
There would never be a need for sacrifice to deal with sin again.
This is how God completed the global work.
Locally, God pursues us to bring us to completeness.
Look at the words of James from chapter 1, verses 2-4
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
God uses the paths of our lives to bring us to wholeness.
Paul says it another way in the reading from Philippians on Sunday:
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”Philippians 1:3-11
Although the “you” used in this passage is commonly understood as referring to individuals, the word in the Greek is a 2nd person plural, the mobster “yous.”
Paul is encouraging them by reminding them that the work in the name of the Gospel is something God is doing in the midst of their community.
You and I are brought to wholeness
through the “sharing of the Gospel,” as Paul says.
What does this mean?
The word used for sharing here gets translated elsewhere as “fellowship.” It is the Greek word koinonia.
The generic definition I use is “common-ness,”
for it speaks of things we have or do in common.
In Paul’s case, the Philippians have the work of the Gospel in common with Paul. He recognizes their partnering with him as he (Paul) is partnering with Jesus.
This is how God brings us to completion:
Through our common work of the Gospel.
It is through living like Jesus that we become more like Jesus.
The ways in which we used to live become practices that we distance ourselves from in favor of those things that Jesus has lived out for us in the Gospels.
In a very practical way, this common work is seen in many areas.
I will give you two examples from the New Testament.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.”1 Corinthians 12:4-10
Much has been written about spiritual gifts.
(And there are other passages in the New Testament that describe it)
Simply put, they are the abilities and aptitudes given by God for the use in the community of faith.
By using these gifts, we participate in the Gospel with Jesus.
By allowing God to use us and refine us through these gifts,
we become whole.
Think about the things that we do together.
· On Sunday mornings, we have an Altar Guild that prepares the space for our worship. We have greeters that make sure we are welcomed into the space. We have lectors that declare the Scriptures during our lessons portion. We have musicians and singers who lead us in declaring God’s goodness through songs and anthems. We have celebrants to lead through the liturgy and preachers to speak life into the Scriptures for us.
· During a wedding or a funeral we add those that set up the space to celebrate; whether it is of a life well-lived or a life beginning a new season.
· When we feed our friends on Tuesdays, we share from we have and look after the “least of these.”
In these and in other areas,
the work that we do is our common work.
It is what we are called to.
It is what helps us to be complete.
Someone who is not involved in the work of the Church misses out on the opportunity to be made whole.
The Fruit of the Spirit:
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.Galatians 5:16-26
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”
This passage from Galatians describes for us what we would expect to see (and not to see) within a community of faith. These are the basic characteristics that should be the mark of our common-ness in completing the work of Jesus and in bringing wholeness to ourselves and to others. It is commonly referred to as the “Fruit of the Spirit” and is the manifestation of a life lived in the community of God.
And what is most interesting to me is that each of these “fruits” require us to grow.
Each of these things can be very difficult to do and,
as they are practiced,
they make us more and more complete.
But we know that we are not complete.
And we wait while we are being made complete.
And so, we have this common hope that Paul expresses well in Philippians chapter three, verse 20-21,
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.”
Which brings us back to Advent.
The season of waiting.
The season of expecting.
The season of hope.
As we navigate this season of Advent together,
let us be reminded that we look forward to the day
when God makes us complete.