Advent 2, 2016
The Epistle. Romans 15:4-13
The Gospel. St. Luke 21:25-33
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The season of Advent is full of anticipation. It only makes sense since Advent means coming into place, coming into view, or arrival.
We are approaching Christmas and the day on which we commemorate the first coming of our Lord Jesus in the manger 2000 years ago.
We celebrate at Christmas, His coming into view, or His arrival. Though it is a past event that we read about, it is also a sure and certain future event as well and this season is all about preparing for His coming again in Power and Great Glory.
And today we have this unique though very sensible theme running through our lessons, collects and even a Psalm we read together marking and noting the importance of the Bible…the Word of God.
We prayed, Blessed Lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.
And we will see here why the subject of the Holy Scriptures is to be the theme for an Advent Sunday.
The Bible, the Holy Scriptures were written specifically for us who come along at such a late date in redemptive history but who are not forgotten by our Lord… and are in fact still anticipating His Second Advent….and are reaping the benefits of His Words in the pages of our Bibles today.
They are written for our learning.
Meaning they are written so that we might learn from them a number of important things.
Each week we come together here in this place not only to offer praise and thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for us, but to receive certain things from Him as well.
We come to the communion rail and kneel before the Sanctuary of God and receive at the hands of men these Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That is said by many to be central to our worship. But we also receive something else not from the hand of man, but from the mouth of man… which is just as central and that is the Word of God.
We come each week to hear the Word read to us, preached, taught, and recited by us throughout our liturgy.
Our Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church finds the Holy Scriptures to be of great importance. They mention a number of times the Word of God.
We pray for example, asking God in the very first paragraph of that prayer, that He would grant “…that all those who do confess His holy Name may agree in the truth of His Holy Word, and live in unity and godly love.”
Agreement on the Word of God is vital. Yes, as we all know, there is varying agreement and disagreement by the different Christians Churches who all hold those same Scriptures in high regard.
It is our prayer each time we gather that the unity of God’s people would be founded upon the truth of His Word and that we would all agree upon what it says.
We must never cease to pray for this.
The Scriptures are meant in one way to be a unifying collection of writings, yet we aren't unified all of the time and sadly we don't always agree on what it says. But this is the fault of man, not of God.
We pray two paragraphs later, “Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and other Ministers, that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments.”
So the Bishops and other Ministers, both Priests and Deacons, are to set forth God’s true and lively Word.
All Christians are stewards of God’s Word and are to be familiar and fluent in it. This prayer in particular though, points us to the men that are called by God to handle the Word of God in a more formal setting, such as this, and to handle it with fear and trembling.
The very fact that it is the Word of God means that all Christians ought to at all times be in awe that the words we have bound up between the covers of our Bibles… are from God, and we have them so readily available, and we should handle them with care.
God’s Word, there, is said to be true and lively. We don't usually argue much about the truthfulness of God’s Word. We maybe don't put as much emphasis though, on the fact that the Scriptures are “lively.”
They are lively in that they are living. The writer to the Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
It is living and active meaning that it has a power when it enters the ear.
The Scriptures are not living in that they change depending on the desires of the reader….or the hearer or the circumstance as some do to them today….bending the meaning of them to accommodate perverted lifestyles they desire to live in…. or wrongheaded thinking about environmental issues, or social issues or the changing downward slide of modern society and its desire to be idolatrous and autonomous and not answerable to God.
They are living in that they have the power to enter, transform, awaken, counsel, exhort, shape and convict.
This is why they are also said to be active. A similar thing is meant here. God’s Word is living and active.
Now it may fall on deaf ears and have no power. This too is not the fault of the Author or the Book, but the hearer…..the heart of the hearer.
Someone said that it would seem that the fact that the Scriptures are living and active means that it is confined to the faithful only ….because only they are searched to the quick…
They are active in that the Holy Spirit causes them to be active and life giving as He sees fit.
By the life and doctrine, presumably both drawn and shaped by the Word of God, the Ministers of the Gospel are to live out what is found therein and to teach and preach the contents of God’s Word to the people.
Many a soul has been lead astray and will perish eternally because of the wrongful handling and wrongful dissemination of God’s Word by the ministers of God…resulting in wrong belief.
There is even a third paragraph in our Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church in which we pray,
“And to all thy People give thy heavenly grace; and especially to this congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, (meaning the people of God are to be humble and attentive…especially when the Word of God is being disseminated) they may hear, and receive thy holy Word; truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
This is the role the Scriptures lay out for the minister in preaching. He is not to entertain the people. He is charged with delivering the Word of God to the people as it is written…. and the meaning is drawn from the text…. and the people by the Holy Spirit are to hear it, receive it and learn from what it says.
Not to see the minister, but the message.
And the people are to then take the information given and to work and study and learn and to pray that they might serve God in holiness and righteousness every day of their lives for the rest of their lives.
Each Christian, not just the clergy, but the laity too, are to hear and receive the Word of God and then let it fill our hearts and minds with its truths.
It is unfortunate that the Word of God is such an enigma to some. They have been told from an early age they are not to read it.
They are to let the clergy tell them what is inside.
Or there are some who believe that even if they do try to sit down and read it, they wont understand.
Not even the most well trained clergyman knows all that is contained in the Scriptures and it’s meaning flawlessly and exhaustively.
But our prayer this day is, “BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The last line is the reasoning.
By reading them, marking them, learning them and inwardly digesting them, we may embrace and ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life that has been given to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus over in the Gospel today is addressing His hearers about the coming again of the Son of Man…meaning His return.
He speaks of the signs that will accompany His return. This is an example of a passage that is difficult to understand.
Some have said that all that Jesus teaches here has already happened.
Some have said they are signs of what is to come.
It would seem that in either case, most of what is mentioned is describing His Second Coming….because, He says, “They will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Jesus if He has come prior did not come in this fashion. Further, the angels at His ascension said He would return in the manner in which He left…and that has not happened yet.
But Jesus ends this section that we heard today by saying, “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near….When you see these things taking place, you know that the Kingdom of God is near.”
And then He closes with the same theme that we have for today. He says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:29-33 ESV)
Jesus’ words are the Words of life. They are written down for our instruction and they are eternal and binding on all men.
St. Peter says it in a similar manner as Jesus does today,
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God….”
Jesus says that in the end that no matter what happens….no matter what changes in this world…His Words will not pass away. What has been delivered to us, are the Words of Christ.
We have them in the palm of our hands.
They are to be read and treasured up in our hearts so that they would bring forth a fuller life as a Christian as we await His coming again.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.