Advent

Longing for Peace

In the early 1800's there was an American painter named Edward Hicks who became fixated on the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. He painted a child with his arm around a lions neck, his fingers twirling the mane and at his feet a wolf lay with a lamb and a leopard and goat and behind them a big brown bear and all were at peace.  He painted this same image over sixty times, with a variety of backdrops and arrangements of the characters — but always a diverse group of normally competitive creatures were at peace. The paintings all have the same title; The Peaceable Kingdom.  

 

Sunday, December 4, 2016
Advent 2

Advent and Uncertainty

The bumper sticker on my neighbor’s truck says that he’ll be a first responder in case of a Zombie Apocalypse. One popular TV show chronicles doomsday preppers while another show gathers survivors of a nuclear holocaust in Jericho, Kansas. The movies, Ender’s Game and Hunger Games, are not about games, but about the loss of childhood innocence in a post-apocalyptic world. One of the unexpected consequences of the shift to a secularized/post-religious worldview, is that the end of days can be spoken about without any reference to the Book of Revelations or Judeo-Christian prophesies.

 

Suddenly, Jesus’ “Nobody knows the day or the hour,” has become very main stream. We have seen enough of the horrors of 20th century technology and violence to almost believe that every day of the 21st century could be our last. Having said all of this, I don’t think Jesus is calling his people to master the crossbow, stock their basements with years of rations, or wear a gas mask clipped to their belt. He is instead inviting people to be spiritually ready. This seems to be a good place to begin Advent.

 

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Advent 1

How does it begin?

I’ve learned a trick from Sci-Fi guru Orson Scott Card, when I’m at the bookstore, looking for a novel, I always read the first 13 lines of the book. If the author doesn’t nail it in the first half a page, the book isn’t likely to be worth it. Mark’s gospel is a good read. He begins with ordinary folk flocking out into the wilderness to hear a prophet. What would make them do that? They have a need to know that life will turn out Okay. Some of them have lost children to malnutrition. Others are struggling through failed marriages. Everyone is caught in the cross-fire between the zealot terrorists and the oppressive Roman government, with their congress of Sadducee stooges. The people need to hear a good word. We share that need with them.

 

Sunday, December 7, 2014
Advent 2

Why John the Baptist Matters

For the next month and a half we will see the bedraggled dipping man come in and out of our holiday readings. Oh, here’s that old voice in the wilderness fellow again. He eats locust and wild honey, even though these items haven’t been approved by the FDA. Even though John the Baptist is a key figure in premodern church art and drama, he doesn’t get much attention now. I think many local church problems, as well as our general failure to witness to contemporary culture, is rooted in our failure to appreciate JB’s message.

A Little Easter Before Christmas

Last weekend I was walking through the local mall when I get passed by Santa Claus. He’s being escorted by mall security and greeting people as he goes by. Looks a little thin this year, I think. Already my mind is turning to the task of buying Christmas presents. I notice that the mall is full, even though I’m there while the Steelers are playing (bless me, for I have sinned). Santa is headed towards his seat, beside which his elves are keeping in order a long line of expectant children. All of this, and we haven’t had Thanksgiving yet. My sense of calendar has become disoriented.

 

The calendar of our spiritual lives is oriented around a single point. Jesus is on the cross, dying. The thief beside him begs, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The thing we know now, and which needs to be preached, is that his kingdom is fully there at that moment. The kids on St Nick’s lap say, “Santa remember me when you come upon the 24th of December.” They look for a future event, when what they hope for becomes realized. Santa does not say, “Oh Tommy, you don’t have to wait. I’ve got your fire truck toy right here.” But Jesus says to the thief, “Amen. Today, you are with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Dodd calls this ‘realized eschatology.’

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013
Christ the King
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