Sunday, November 30, 2014
Homily for Ad Te Levavi - The First Sunday in Advent
Matthew 21:1-9; Romans 13:8-14; Jeremiah 23:5-8
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
They were looking for a king. What they saw didn’t look anything like a king at all. Nevertheless, He was a king. He was the King. A King unlike any they had ever imagined since they first began to look for a king like the kings of the nations. Then they forsook their true King, the LORD, and received a devil of a man named Saul. And then David. And then Solomon. And then…. well, it pretty much went downhill from there, until it was so bad that Judah despaired of having a king at all. Then they were laid siege and were conquered by the Babylonians, and they were taken away into captivity. Jerusalem was leveled and their temple destroyed. Their fields were salted so that no herb would grow. The land was scorched and burned and all hope was cut off.
Then, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. God spoke of impending judgment for their idolatry and apostasy. But, God also spoke of comfort and hope, in the most unexpected of places. To burned out, lifeless, and hopeless Judah, Jeremiah proclaimed: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as King….” The thought must have been preposterous and unthinkable. There was no potential for life in Judah. There was no hope for restoration and fruitfulness. They didn’t have a king. They weren’t certain they wanted a king any longer. They were a people without a land. They were no people at all. They were dead, and no one can bring life out of death.
We are not so different from them. We may have different idolatries and apostasies, or maybe not, but we are very much like them. Sin has made our hearts numb, just like them. We have become drunk on our foolishness, just like them. We need to be awakened from our sin-induced stupor to watchfulness that we might repent, just like them. We are dead in our trespasses and sins, just like them, with no hope for redeeming ourselves, for renewal, and for restoration. And, if we are going to live, then life is going to have to come from outside of us. And, if we are going to stand, then someone is going to have to raise us up. And, if we are going to be right with God again, then He is going to have to make that happen. And, He has. And He does: “And this is the Name by which He will be called: ‘The LORD is our Righteousness’.”
This is the message of Advent: The Lord has come. And, the Lord is coming. And, the Lord comes, even now. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our sight. Notice the subjects of the verbs in Jeremiah’s proclamation: “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch….” “The LORD is our righteousness….” Advent is the Gospel proclamation that a Savior is coming to save those who cannot save themselves. The King is coming to a kingless kingdom. Your God is coming to a godless people. The Bridegroom is coming to His harlot Bride. He is coming to redeem Her. He is coming to save Her. And, He is coming to marry Her. But, He does not come in the ways that you expect, or even desire. For, He comes in lowliness and humility. He comes in mercy and grace. He comes for all who will receive Him and not reject Him.
They were looking for a king. They were looking for the King, the Messiah. But, what they saw didn’t look anything like a king at all, and He certainly didn’t look like the Messiah of their imaginations. Nevertheless, He was the King. He was the Messiah. But, because their hearts were numb with sin they did not see Him for the Messianic King that He was, the King prophesied of by Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and Zechariah, and all the prophets. He entered the Royal City in the same manner as generations of kings before Him, “humble, and mounted on a donkey.” They acclaimed Him as King, laying down their cloaks and palm branches before Him according to tradition. They even ascribed to Him Messianic praise: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” But, He did not come to do what they thought He would do, what they wanted Him to do. He did not proceed to Herod’s palace and take His place upon the throne. He did not raise up a Jewish army to force out the occupying Romans and establish glory to Israel once again. But, He went to the temple, and there he began to overturn the tables of the moneychangers and those who sold sacrificial animals. For, that is the kind of King Jesus was and came to be, the King of Righteousness and Justice for all the people.
King Jesus would indeed take up His throne, not the throne of David, or even Herod, but the throne of the cross. While He was anointed King by His Father and the Holy Spirit in His baptism by John in the Jordan, Jesus would be crowned King in His suffering and death upon the cross. He was not the king they were looking for. And, when Jesus was tried before Pilate, the people cried out, “We have no king but Caesar.” For, they were a people sitting in the darkness of sin and death. But, what passions, desires, and lusts do we permit to be our kings, our idols, our gods? How often do we reject the divine gift for the purchased treasure? No servant can serve two masters, but he will love one and hate the other.
And so, like the end of the Church’s Year of Grace, it’s beginning is about waiting and watching for the coming of Her King, Her Lord, Her Bridegroom, and Her God. You cannot be waiting and watching if you are sleeping, if you are too occupied with material pursuits, the passions of the flesh, and worldly wisdom. You must not be incurvatus in se, curved inward on yourself, but you must forget yourself and find salvation in another, in the other, extra te, outside of yourself. The Gospel message of Advent is that salvation is coming to you. In fact, salvation unto you has come, and salvation comes to you now. Indeed, salvation is nearer to you now than when you first believed. Therefore, you must be waiting and watching. You must be prepared. However, you cannot be prepared if your hearts are numb with sin, if you are sleeping, if you are too occupied with material pursuits, the passions of the flesh, and worldly wisdom. “‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Love is not curved inward, but is always focused outward, therefore “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; [and] love is the fulfilling of the Law.”
But, the commandment to love is not a commandment of the Law. That is why Jesus calls it a new commandment. For, it is a commandment that has been fulfilled, by Him, in perfect obedience in His Passion. That is why love is the fulfilling of the Law: His love is the fulfilling of the Law. Jesus, your King and Bridegroom, your Lord and God, has fulfilled the Law for you, in your place – you are free. You are free to love with His love without cost or loss, but with joy and thanksgiving. Through trust in Him, you are well prepared to receive Him in His coming. No matter how long He may tarry, you remain prepared and ready. You do not have to worry about the when and the where or what time, whether you are awake or asleep, for your salvation comes to you from outside of you. He is the object of your faith and the substance of your salvation. He is near, even now; your salvation is nearer each and every day than when you first believed.
“Stir up You power, O Lord, and come,” we pray, “that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threating perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.” The Lord has heard your prayer, and He has answered, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” The Lord has heard your prayer, and He has answered, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” Your King has come. Your King is coming. Your King comes. Cast off the works of darkness, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let Him clothe you and cover your sin. Let Him cleanse you and make you holy. Let Him fill you with His love, to overflowing, that you may abound in His love, an ever-flowing spring. “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.