Monday, 30 November 2015

All will be well.....

The OT reading is Jeremiah 33:14-16. Now as I wrote mid-week about this reading from Jeremiah - what is interesting about this snippet is that it is a re-worked piece from earlier in the same book and it is looking forwards to the fulfilment of all things.

In the original piece in Jeremiah 23: 5-6 the "righteous branch" obviously identified by Christians as Jesus - is given the name "The Lord is our righteousness" but in this re-worked piece we heard today, it is Jerusalem that now bears that name.
What is the significance of this change? Well Jerusalem the place is a short hand way of referring to the people of Israel and what it does is introduce a corporate element to the Advent hope, because the prophesy is looking forward to a restored and renewed community that lives under the wise and just rule of the aforesaid “righteous branch”.

And if we want to find out something of the nature of that community we look to our second reading, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Now 1 Thessalonians is a fascinating book because it is Paul’s first ever letter and actually is the oldest Christian text in the New testament, predating all the gospels and was written around 52 AD just 19 years after the resurrection of Jesus. So when we look at Thessalonians we are looking into the first written evidence of the young church by its foremost evangelist, Saint Paul.

So as I say this letter tells us something of the nature of that community. Its essential traits are to be Love and Holiness. There is to be both love for "one another" and "love for all".

If we take the first one. In terms of our relationships within and between different members of the church, how we relate to each other whether they be trivial or profound, peaceful or full of strife, what we can be sure of is whatever they are like, they will be a witness to others.
The question is....what kind of witness will we be?
Do we really know each other or is our knowledge of each other shallow and perfunctory? Do we know what makes each other tick? Do we really care about each other, not just in terms of “Oh Doris isn’t well this week” but do we know and care about our spiritual health and well being. How is Doris’ relationship with God? Is she sure of her salvation? Does she know that she is loved? Do you know if the person sitting next to you knows they are loved by God? Do you yourself truly know that you are loved by God?

Because knowing you are loved is first base. You should know that if you were the last person on earth, Christ would have died for you. God loves you that much. That is so important because knowing how much we are loved is the prerequisite and well spring  of the following phrase;

That we should have "Love for all".  We love others because He first loved us and this is a reminder that through us we are to exercise God’s compassion that extends beyond our boundaries.

And believe me, there are boundaries!  Because besides "Love" we are also called to "Holiness", a word that appears six times in Thessalonians. Holiness is the quality of life that distinguishes us from the world. The word "Holiness" means chosen and set apart. It implies separateness. We are to follow a clearly defined set of ethics and moral behaviour and not succumb to the norms of the world. Christian morality and ethics are different and set us apart. When churches reject the morality of the Bible as being old fashioned and no longer applicable and replaces them with the morals and ethics of secular society I firmly believe that God rejects us.

Now of course, on the wider canvas we can all fail and often but when we do it is a good thing that we have something that we are also assured of – forgiveness.

We believe in a God who forgives those who go astray but truly repent.

Many Christians have fallen in this way and we all know we fail often so it is a great thing that despite that fact by the grace of God we can always turn and be saved. God who came to us in humility at Christmas and will come again at the end of time, for everything in Thessalonians is set against the backdrop of "the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints". This is not a warning to keep the troops in line but a conclusion to the whole human story where our faithful life will come to light. The end of all things is the major theme of Advent.

And so we turn finally to Luke.

Luke 21:25-36 concerns what has already happened (the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD) and the final day of reckoning all underpinned and overseen by the "coming of the Son of man in a cloud" (refers back to Daniel). We are living in the gap as I said two weeks ago between the inauguration of God's kingdom and the final end when "heaven and earth will pass away" as it says in verse 33. What does that mean “when heaven and earth pass away?  
The Christian hope is in a renewed physical resurrection body in a renewed world where "heaven and earth" are no longer separate but one place because heaven comes down to the earth. If we want a vision of our hope in words we can do no better than refer to the book of Revelation 21: 1-4 which says;

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

This my friends is the Good news. The Good news that started in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Good news for all mankind.

In the end, no matter how broken and bruised we may be, how shattered and hurt by events in life. The faith we have says that in the end, all will be well and all manner of things will be well as Julian of Norwich wrote many centuries ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment