Monday, December 7, 2009

There Is More Beyond

There Is More Beyond. Sunday, December 6, 2009

The preaching text for this sermon is Luke 3: 1-6.

Luke gives us a prologue which includes kings, governors, tetrarchs, and high priests. Through this prologue, we are given a time and place. In that time and place, we read, "The Word of God happened to John the Baptist."

While it was beleived that God came to be among creation, rabbis were concerned that God may be identified with earthly leaders and powers. God was given a high station, known as heaven for a residence. While heaven was God's throne, earth was the footstool. God still remained active and present in the world. Distance from God was created by human acts of sin. These unrighteous acts brought about a divide between God and God's people. As God comes to be among the people, God's presence judges the people and calls for their repentance.

Luke quotes from Isaiah 40 in this text. The pattern followed in Isaiah is that God speaks to the prophet, and the prophet speaks to the people. The section that is quoted by Luke is God's direct statement to Isaiah. John now speaks that word in his time and place. God comes to be among the people, his presence judges the people, calls for their repentance, and brings about salvation. In that moment of God happening to the world, God brings salvation.

We are haunted by the statement, "for now." These simple words convey a tentative and short-lived safety. Instead of hope, we await the in-breaking of failure, tragedy, gut-wrenching news. This tyranny of fear lords itself over our lives. In the moment of "for now" the weight of brokenness is upon us.

Contrary to expectations, the current Christian understanding of heaven may not liberate us from the tyranny of fear. Ben Witherington, III in his book Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom of God and Its Celebration (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009) states that there has been "the loss of a viable hope for the future of the world and replacement of it with a dying and going to heaven sort of hope." The vision of enduring now and going to heaven where there is no pain, fear, or dying encourages a passivity in this life. Traits of Christian character such as humility and meekness have become justifications for the current passivity of "the loss of a viable hope."

With the prophet Isaiah, the reign of God broke into a time when God's people were under the burden of judgment and punishment for their sins. As the reign of God broke into their lives, through repentance of their sins, salvation was offered to all who were repentant. With John the Baptist, the reign of God is announced once again. God's people, under the rule of the Roman Empire, are under the burden of judgment and punishment for their sins. John announces the breaking in of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. Salvation is offered to all who are repentant. The Word of God breaks into our moments and places where we are under the burden of brokeness. For all who are repentant, salvation comes to us with the in-breaking of the reign of God and the promise of the coming kingdom of God.

Heaven breaks into our lives now, with the promise of completion at the end of time. We live now with the boldness of hope, and the promise of the re-creation of the whole world. Already, but not yet. This gives us the courage to confess our sins, promises us salvation, transforms our hearts and minds, and empowers us to live in this day with the hope of what is yet to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment