Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Dark Side of Hope

After chanting our way through the annual 1st Sunday in Advent's Great Litany, confessing many sins, and beseeching the Lord to hear us many, many times, for our sermon today our preacher chose to focus on the future house of God (because nobody really wanted to hear one more word about sin). While it is a good a joyous thing to contemplate a world without war (...imagine all the people, living life in peace...), your preacher might choose to ignore some big chunks of the Bible readings for today in order to persuade us that all will be well. For a clue as to how this is done, I have italicised the verses that he can expound upon, and I have struck through the portions of scripture he might ignore.

Isaiah 2:1-5
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 24:36-44
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Did I miss something or was there no mention in today's sermon of the Gospel message of the necessity for watchfulness lest ye get swept away?

I am sure that there is a better way to tie all these readings together. I liked the Archer of the Forest's sermon for today at his blog Costly Grace, where he focused on Christian hope and urges us to,
"Strengthen hope through prayer and strengthen it through the reading of spiritual works like the Bible and other spiritual works. (Chicken Soup for the Soul doesn't count.)

Strengthen hope by actively remembering to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life.

Strengthen hope by looking toward the coming of Christ in his glory."
Certainly we should hope and work to be ready for the time that the Son of Man returns, because it sounds like there will a time of peace for those who are ready, but there will also be a time of woe for those who are not prepared. Why do we need an armour of light if there is not danger in the darkness? This is the dark side of hope: in order to hope for something better, one has to first recognize that one's current state is lower than that future, hoped for, Kingdom.

Even though we sleep dreaming of the Kingdom, we dare not forget the thief in the night.

I am afraid we must keep our swords at the ready.

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