Sunday, 7 December 2014

Can't make it to Church? 7 December 14

As we engage with the second week of Advent we turn our eyes to the prophetic with the words of Isaiah bringing what was for his audience a future hope. This Old Testament Prophet brings us the instruction to one (who is generally taken as John the Baptist) to prophetically speak words of comfort, to tell the short-lived people of the eternal truth of God. That He will come with justice and will come to 'tend His flock' as He, the shepherd, returns. The promise of this  salvation is near says the Psalmist, nearer today that it was yesterday.

'Been a blinking long time,' we cry as one, 'When are you going to get here, when will you come. Why so long?'

The words of 1 Peter give us a bit of perspective in that 'one day is like a thousand and a thousand like one day'. The thought that a thousand days of our life is but an eye blink to Him - and that His eye blink is like a thousand days to us' is a call to be patient; a call to see how it all fits together. A recognition that for as long as people have looked to the coming of God's solution - His saving act of love - timing has been the focus.

'When?' That is the question today. This was the question for the people who, having heard nothing from God for a very long time (400 years in fact - if you want to know more about this do a search on the 'silent 400 years'). The people of God cried out for God's voice to be heard; for God's salvation to be made manifest. It is then that we find the Isaiah prophecy being fulfilled in the Gospel description of John the Baptist - the herald of Jesus, the Christ - and the voice of repentance.

Oh that today we could hear that voice and in our repentance make straight paths where we are found today. 'What's that Sooty, we can do exactly that - We can hear that voice and be that person where we are are?'

This is our advent challenge today:

To turn away from the things that we think, say, and do  - those things that separate us, and others, from the loving attitudes and behaviours that herald in the Kingdom of God.

To make real the conditions that feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked and rescue the poor from their pursues. Let's pray for Foodbanks, hostels, Street angels and pastors and the like, charitable organisations and individuals who seek to are a difference where they are.

Let us pray that we might also take up the challenge to 'make real' the Gospel in our lives and the lives of those around us. To tell those who are wrong and living wrongly to: 'Prepare the way of the Lord and to make his paths straight.'

(The straight paths are about making the arrival of the awaited one happen quicker and smoother - in Roman times, when the Caesar wanted to visit places! they might build roads which ran over filled in valleys and cut out the bends? This is the 'Roman road' we are familiar with today - not true for Isaiah though, but that's why it's prophetic innit?).

So as we grieve over the perceived silence of God in our life; struggle over the absence of God that is seen in our illnesses; fight against the injustice and inequality of our world where the gap between those who have and those who have little or nothing - let us look to the East and the dawn that heralds the second Advent of Jesus and make ourselves a people ready for Him when he comes.

The Collect
Almighty God, purify our hearts and minds, that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as judge and saviour we may be ready to receive him, who is our Lord and our God. Amen.

Isaiah 40.1-11
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ 

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13
Lord, you were gracious to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the offence of your people and covered all their sins. I will listen to what the Lord God will say, for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful, that they turn not again to folly.
Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other; Truth shall spring up from the earth and righteousness look down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give all that is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness shall go before him and direct his steps in the way.

2 Peter 3.8-15a
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him,

Mark 1.1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
 “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptiser appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Post Communion Prayer
Father in heaven, who sent your Son to redeem the world and will send him again to be our judge: give us grace so to imitate him in the humility and purity of his first coming that, when he comes again, we may be ready to greet him
with joyful love and firm faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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