The Second Sunday in Advent 2017
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 unique collect for the day stands out especially in Advent.
We prayed on this second Sunday in Advent that the Scriptures, the Bible would be unto us our primary source of hope. Or at least the primary source for where we are to find hope….and that would be in our Savior Jesus Christ.
The prayer states rightly that the Scriptures were written for our learning.
As we discovered in the Trinity season series, the Bible is the Word of God. (Article 6) This means that it contains or is made up of the words that God inspired to be written down.
In this age, we do not have living Apostles of Christ to give us guidance as to what God would have us do.
Nor do we operate on our own feelings or on what we believe to be true without first comparing these things to what the Scriptures say.
If even an angel were to appear and tell us something contrary to what we find in the Bible, we are not to listen to him.
The Word of God is final.
If it is pointed out to us that our behavior is contrary to the Bible, then we must at once cease that behavior. ..or work to bring it to an end.
But of course the Bible is not just a handbook for behavior. It is surprising how many people including Christians believe that the Bible is a book of moral guidelines… a book full of stories with a moral lesson…
The answers so many times come back to morality. It might be good on the one hand that morality is on the minds of many.
Yet how many do we find obeying what the Bible does prescribe?
The Bible is the Word of God primarily in that it tells us of the unfolding plan of how God is saving the world.
The unfolding plan of redemption.
It is a book containing all that God desires we know at this time to find comfort that what God is doing, He is doing for our good…and for His glory.
The prayer says that is was written for our learning. Learning about what? Well, by hearing them, reading them, marking them and then inwardly digesting them, we would by the patience they call us to have and the comfort that they supply we would embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.
So we might go into each Sunday service with this in mind.
We might come to mass saying to ourselves, ‘what will I hear today that I should also mark,…or remember. ..that’s not necessarily telling us to take out our highlighter and mark passaged….though that is a good practice.
The marking here is taking a mental note as well. In Psalm 50 we read the same use of the word…
“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” (ESV)
Here is God saying to the reader, “mark this…”
Take note. Take heed. Listen. Pay attention.
All of these are ways of saying, mark…
So we hear it read to us in Epistle and Gospel.
We then mark, or hear and take heed of what it says.
We then learn and inwardly digest what it says.
Learning and inwardly digesting the information is taking what we hear and mark and then learn what it means. Learn what it is conveying to us.
Inwardly digesting is then what we do with it so that the words of God may be effectual for us.
Thinking of food… we digest in that we absorb what we eat. What we take in, then gets absorbed into our system…and it then in turn nourishes us.
The dictionary also has in its definition, to arrange and classify in a convenient order.
We can apply this approach as well. But the main idea behind the prayer’s wording is that we take what we read or hear from the Bible and we let it enter the very fiber of our being and let the content transform us.
So with that prayer in our minds we need to turn now to what the word of God has to say to us today and then see if we might read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it's message for Advent…this time of preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus in power and glory.
How might these words today help us to live in light of Christ’s return??
In the epistle from Paul today he is writing to the Roman Church. We are reading what he wrote to them and also applying what we can to ourselves today.
Paul is telling some more important things to remember about the Scriptures…so this theme continues here of the importance of the Scriptures.
In fact the collect is usually written around the Scripture passages of the day. The theme of the day is developed by what the Bible says and then the Collect condenses it into a prayer to God.
What was written in former days. …the Old Testament to them….was written for their instruction.
That through endurance and encouragement they….and we might have hope.
This is the same message that the Collect is conveying to us today.
He then prays that this would indeed happen. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another.
Part of what it means to be a scripture reader, marker, learner and inward digester is that in doing these things we would live in harmony with one another.
Over and over Paul calls us to do this.
It must be important because in almost all of his letters he desires that Christians live with one another in love, tolerance, forgiveness, patience….etc.
He does so because it shows the world that we are serious about the Gospel.
He does so because it sets us on a course to live as we will live in the Kingdom of God…so why not start now?
Together with one voice, he says, we are to glorify God. We will do so in the Kingdom of Heaven…so why not start now?
He then says, “Therefore, welcome one another as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God.”
We are to welcome one another, or others translate it accept one another….take one another to yourselves. …treat one another kindly.
And then the next part teaches us of the unfolding plan of salvation for mankind, was directed in the beginning with the Jews.
The entire human race was the ultimate final goal of God when He set out to save us, but in the beginning, it was a salvation that was visibly through the people of God that he raised up from Abraham forward.
Jesus tells the woman at the well, who was from Samaria, that salvation is of the Jews.
Through Abraham all of the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
And so when we read this next part from Paul we should take care to mark it and inwardly digest it as well.
He says, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised (Jews) to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, (that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”
And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”
So we (as Gentiles) have been given this privilege that if we are in Christ….and we are as Christians by definition, we now have a hope that was not there before.
The promise has been extended to us.
In the Gospel for today, Jesus is speaking about the coming destruction of the Temple. The people at the time of Jesus had their own immediate advent of sorts coming to them. The Temple would be destroyed. …it would be another 40 years or so, but Jesus was absolutely correct.
He makes all kinds of promises and predictions as to how it will happen. What the signs would be. How the people will react.
And in the end 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.”
These last words of Jesus today have an important significance.
The generation Jesus speaks of and to here is debated by biblical scholars. It was another 40 years till Jesus’ prediction came to pass. So most likely the generation of the people living is not what he meant.
Generation in a number of other passages refers to the Jewish people. This is a helpful way to understand it. They certainly would still be a nation...a people…a generation… when the Temple was taken down.
But whichever generation Jesus was speaking of, they remained until the Temple was destroyed…and the point is more that Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but [his] words will not pass away.”
The words that Jesus spoke were divine. Because Jesus was God, all that He said was going to be true or would come to pass or would in some way be irrefutable.
If Jesus says, something was to come and a certain generation of people were to remain, then remain they would.
But this passage is also handed down to us and is read during Advent, so what do we take away from it?
We can certainly agree that the words that Jesus spoke did not fail when he predicted the fall of the Temple.
But we go further and say that His words will not pass away because they are eternal.
This is the same way we speak about the Bible.
The Bible is God’s word and the words in it are binding forever.
So whatever it says or teaches us is unchanging and eternal in its nature.
And Jesus today in this passage is in a way equating what He says to be on par with the Scriptures.
The Jews (at least back then, sadly not today) held the Bible to be the Word of God and they were diligent …or at least told to be diligent to keep what it said.
They to were commanded by God to listen to Him. God gave Moses His words written in stone.
The people were to obey because they came from God.
They too then were to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them because in them they would find God’s will for them…and how he would bring about the salvation of all mankind….Gentiles also…through them.
So as we move closer to the coming of Christ at Christmas, and we desire to draw nearer to Him while we await both the day of Christmas now and the Day of the Lord in the future, we turn to the reliable words of God so that by patience in waiting and patience in learning, we may await for Him with hope.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.