Sunday, December 7, 2014

Homily for Populus Zion - The Second Sunday In Advent (Advent 2)

Luke 21:25-36; Romans 15:4-13; Malachi 4:1-6

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Signs in sun and moon and stars?” “Distress of nations” and “foreboding of what is coming on the world?” You’ve seen these signs. Indeed, every generation has seen these signs. And yet, the Lord has not returned. Surely it is rational to conclude that He isn’t coming, right? It may even be rational to conclude that He doesn’t exist at all. This, the world would have you believe. This, your culture would have you think. This, your enemy uses to deceive you and to lead you to either pride and self-righteousness, or to despair and hopelessness, or, simply, to unbelief – either way, he wins. However, there is an old saying: “What is long delayed is not yet abandoned.” Therefore, you must be watchful. You must watch for His coming; which is to say, you must have faith, you must have trust. And, you must watch that you may be found doing the things you have been given to do; which is to say, you must produce works, the fruit of faith, you must love.
For, these days, and this delay, are given in mercy, that all might have opportunity to repent and be saved. For, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” But, how are unbelievers to know the LORD and His mercy? They are to know the LORD and His mercy by the love of His Christian people, by your love. Let the Gentiles be thankful that there are Christians, let the Gentiles be thankful for you, and so glorify the LORD. But, do you do this? What do unbelievers hear in your words and see in your deeds? Do you show the love and mercy of the LORD to others in what you say and do and how you live?
Sadly, too often, what unbelievers see in the words and deeds of Christians is judgment, hatred, and hypocrisy. For example, unbelievers today might conclude from what they see and hear from Christians that, to be Christian, is to hate homosexuals. Likewise, they might conclude that, to be Christian, is to have no mercy or pity for pregnant women in very difficult situations. Again, likewise, they might conclude that, to be Christian, is to hypocritically preach the sanctity of marriage, all the while practicing divorce at the same rate as non-believers.
Now, of course, the Holy Scriptures do prohibit and condemn homosexual acts. And, the Holy Scriptures do prohibit and condemn killing and murder of any kind apart from the authority given governing authorities to punish the wrongdoer and to protect the good. And, again, the Holy Scriptures prohibit divorce except for unfaithfulness. However, all of those prohibitions and commandments are founded and are fulfilled in love. Nowhere does the LORD command His people to hate those who perform homosexual acts, who abort their children, or who divorce their wives. Nowhere does the LORD command, or permit, His people to hate anyone. On the contrary, your Lord Jesus actually commands you to love your enemies and to do good to those who hate you. Therefore, how are unbelievers to know the LORD and His mercy if His Christian people do not show forth His love to all people, regardless of their sin?
Perhaps the last prophetic voice to speak before the coming of John the Baptist, before which the LORD had remained silent for four hundred years, the Prophet Malachi wrote: “Remember the Law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.” The Prophet directed the people to remember the Ten Commandments, for the Word which had been given long ago still applied and was, in fact, the source of endurance and encouragement even in a time when the Word of the LORD was no longer heard. However, Malachi wasn’t merely preaching works to the LORD’s people, but obedience which is trust according to the spirit of the Law, love. The final words of the Old Testament come from Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Notice the change of heart the Prophet promises: The hearts of fathers will be turned to their children, and the hearts of children will be turned to their fathers. They will actually look upon each other in love, without thought for the self. The right relationship between fathers and children will be restored, even as the right relationship between mankind and our heavenly Father will be restored.
Elijah, that is John the Baptist, came preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John prepared the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus. When He began His ministry, Jesus preached much the same message, but He proclaimed the Law fulfilled in His love for His Father and for men, His children, and in His obedience, which is faith and trust. While the Law is fulfilled, it has not passed away. No longer must you obey it out of coercion or fear, but now you obey it in freedom out of love and thanksgiving. And, since the Law is fulfilled, it is not your place to wield it like a weapon and judge others. Indeed, if you insist upon judging others by the Law, by the same Law will you be judged. No, your freedom is bestowed in love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. What you have freely received you must freely give, or you will lose your freedom and your life.
St. Paul teaches, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Your hope lies in the fact that the LORD has loved you and has forgiven you in Jesus Christ. And, by loving and forgiving others you exercise and maintain your freedom through faith and obedience in Christ. You keep the lamps of your soul full of life-giving oil, trusting in the Word and promise of your LORD in and through all things and all times. In loving with the Lord’s love, you are always prepared, day and night, awake or asleep, for His return. Therefore, you need not fear the signs or His coming, but “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The King is coming. That is certain. Judgment is coming upon “all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Do not fear. You are children of the light and the very Light of the World shines through you, the Light of our Lord Jesus Christ who is “Light of Light” and “very God of very God.” Let His light shine through you, and do not prevent it or inhibit it by fear of what is befalling this world. These are but signs of His coming, just as the trees bud forth and you know that summer is near. And do not prevent His light shining through you by failing to show love for all, even for the unbeliever and your enemy, even for sinners who appear to be unrepentant and secure in their sin. For, underserved grace, mercy, and love have been given to you without cost or merit. Therefore, give freely of what you have freely received, and you will remain free and without fear of judgment.
Yet, behold, the King is here now with His gifts of grace, mercy, love, peace, charity, kindness, and forgiveness to bind up your wounded souls, heal you, forgive you, restore you, and renew you. Hear, and be forgiven. Eat, and be satisfied. Drink, and be sated. Beloved, be loved. Then, go, and love with His love. And, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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