We can comfortably rely on that grace and that empowers us to live lives that transform the world. When we follow in the path of discipleship, our work becomes the witness not the requirement. It becomes the fruit of salvation not the necessary step for it. And it becomes the visible sign of God’s love and grace in the midst of a broken and hurting world.
The usual sentiment is “Whoever isn’t for us is against us” which makes enemies of all those who don’t profess fealty or alliance. In this scheme, someone who would consider themselves neutral are nevertheless enemies. But Jesus’ statement does the opposite: it declares that whoever isn’t against us is for us, making friends of all those who do not profess enmity. In this scheme, those who are neutral are friends.
I. BEGINNING One of the curious and unintended victims of the current pandemic is my Netflix DVD queue. See, I am one of those dinosaurs who still enjoys getting a DVD of a movie through the mail. But the ability to stream, well, everything, has meant that I have often had these DVDs sitting on the…
The great power of Christmas is that simple phrase: God is with us. From cradle to grave, God is with us. In an awesome demonstration of solidarity our whole lives long, God is with us.
And so I want to say this, because we don't hear it often enough: if you are not feeling happy, if you are mourning, if you are grieving, if you're feeling sorrowful, you are no further from God than when you are celebrating and happy. In fact, in my theology, you're probably a little closer to where God is, to that Christ who hangs on the cross and cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Perhaps our real discomfort with Mary should be if it should turn out that she was in fact the only one bearing Christ into the world. For she does not seek to bear God into the world alone. Mary is an exemplar, to be sure, and exemplars are meant to be imitated.
What that means is that each of us—every one of us—can be that one “anointed to proclaim.” Every one of us is called to testify to the light. To proclaim the brightness that is breaking into the world. We can testify to the light by describing the vision that we see: a vision of justice, peace, love, and reconciliation.
If people today encounter Christ it is because we here will have prepared the way. We will have been the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Advent is a reminder of the need to keep waiting. But not waiting in passivity. Not waiting as if we were standing at a bus stop. But waiting actively. Waiting and watching, living lives of hope and love. Lives that by their very being testify to a reality greater than ourselves.
This is a vision of kingship that is in stark contrast with the nature of human kingship. It is a kingship defined by humility and service rather than by power and violence, a kingship that not only models this ethic by the king, but one that demands it of the citizens of that kingdom.
St. Augustine taught that the citizens of the City of God would still use the things of the world as they pertain to things below, but do not make this earthly life their ultimate end. If we are to be citizens of the City of God, we engage with the political realm, but we do not confuse the things of this world—even our cherished political institutions or our beloved homeland—with the City of God.
It is not enough to say that their sufferings are over, when the evils and injustices that caused their deaths are still with us. These are those who have gone through the Great Ordeal; it is not our place to ignore that ordeal or to fail to prevent it from happening to others.
It's easy to celebrate the Reformation as an event in the past—something we commemorate every year by bringing out all the Bach settings of our favorite Lutheran hymns. But in every generation, the church is in need of reform, in danger of sliding once again into temptation of the lure of power.
St. Matthew wants you to be ready for anything because the Kingdom of God is at hand and could be here at any moment. Be ready! Have your wedding robes on standby!
St. Matthew wants us to know that faith is known by its fruit because if we can bear the fruit of faith, it will bring sustenance to a world thirsting and hungering for righteousness.