The Adventurous Lectionary: The First Sunday in Advent – December 1, 2013

Lectionary Reflections for December 1 2013 

Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:36-44

Advent awakens us to visions of a glorious future.  We hear of God’s aim for history, and recognize that the fulfillment of God’s aim is always partial.  God does not fully control the historical process but inspires the evolution of persons and communities.  Our own readiness can tip the balance towards God’s vision in our personal lives and communities.

Isaiah describes God’s new, but future, age.  The prophet imagines a world in which weapons of war are transformed into tools of nurture and growth.  In the course of history, there may be times of war, but violence – even for positive reasons – is not the aim of the universe.   Human and global history aim at the realization of God’s Shalom.  Jerusalem stands at the center of Isaiah’s image of history as the glorious heart of Judaism and also the spiritual home for all nations.  Jerusalem is a place of creative diversity, where diversity gives birth to beauty and affirmation.  This is not imperialism but an invitation to alignment with God’s aim in the historical process.

The dream of Advent involves our claiming our companionship with God.  We are to walk in the light of God, listening to our better angels and seeing angels everywhere.  The future is open-ended and we have a role in creating it.  As agents of God’s Shalom, we are agents of the world we seek.  We are to become the change by embodying Shalom that we seek in the world.  In a world characterized by violence and injustice, we are to walk in the light of God.

Psalm 122 also focuses on the centrality of Jerusalem in God’s future realm.  Our prayers make a difference: as Walter Wink asserted, the future belongs to the intercessors.  Accordingly, our calling is to pray for the peace of God’s holy city.  Jerusalem is the axis mundi, a thin space-time that reveals God’s vision for humankind.  Jerusalem reveals the heart of God, but God’s heart embraces the whole earth.  Advent lures creation forward; guiding the moral arc of history toward a world in which lion and lamb lie down together, and peace is the primordial song of creation.   The New Jerusalem represents God’s vision for history: although it is more than the physical Jerusalem, it also embraces the people of Israel in every time and place.  There is no room for anti-Judaism in Christian faith or practice.

The Epistle of Romans invites us to ask the question “do you know what time it is?” and asserts that this moment is the moment of salvation.  In light of God’s movements in the world, followers of Jesus need to “wake up.”  Don’t sleep through the coming of Christ!  Stay awake and open to the unique vocation of this particular moment in time.  Romans counsels us to put on the “armor of light,” to put on Christ, and embody Christ in our lives.   We are to see Christ and be Christ in contrast to the injustice, violence, and greed of the world.

The words of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 24, also challenge us to “wake up.”  The times are treacherous and any moment can be the unique moment of Christ’s coming.  No one knows their moment of salvation, so be ready.  Speculation about the end times is foolishness, for no one fully predict life’s most critical moments.  We don’t need to affirm a literal Second Coming of Jesus or an apocalyptic end to world history to appreciate the importance of this very moment.  Any moment can be decisive, so stay awake for your own – or your community’s – God moments.  Don’t be caught napping when your time and God’s time intersect.

Today’s scriptures present both hope and challenge.  We are to be wide awake to possibility and to God’s emergence in our daily lives.  There may never be a perfect end toward which history aims, but each moment can be a Holy Now and each place a Holy Here.  Faithfulness is found in living toward God’s vision in the moment by moment events which define a lifetime, whether it be that of a person or a community.

About Bruce Epperly

Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, and Pastor of South Congregational United Church of Christ, Centerville (Cape Cod), Massachusetts. He is the author of twenty five books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study,The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age, and Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He has served as chaplain, professor, and administrator at Georgetown University, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Wesley School of Theology, and Claremont School of Theology. He may be reached at drbruceepperly@aol.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats. His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion).


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