Time for
hope.

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end,

Today’s message from scripture is one of hope. This hope is expressed in three different ways.

The first expression from Isaiah is taken from the second set of Chapters. Chapters 1 to 39 of Isaiah were written before the exile, Isaiah saw the cause of the wars and tragedies that led to the Babylonian exile including faithlessness and overall social injustice. Chapters 40 to 66 were written during and after the exile in Babylon. They are filled with a message of trust and confident hope that God will soon end the exile.

Today’s reading, from Chapter 40 is the start of this second set of Chapters. It involves the commissioning of prophets. God is instructing them on the message they are to bring. Literally, speak tenderly to Jerusalem means they are to speak “tenderly” to the heart, the seat of reasoning of each person. It has nothing to do with the city of Jerusalem proper because the city is a long way off and is in ruins.

This message of hope is so important to us. It provides perspective on the City and Kingdom of God. The City and Kingdom of God has absolutely nothing to do with any earthly city. It is not Jerusalem or Rome, it is not any one place. What people fight over or call their capital is of no import or consequence. How silly will believers in cities seem in the eternal kingdom.

The City of God – the new and eternal Jerusalem, will come from God – not from the earth. That City and Kingdom starts with the state of our hearts and minds, and how we point to Him in Whom our hope is focused.

Our hearts, minds, and hopes are to go to the high places – to rise up. We, like Isaiah and John, are to proclaim the Good News. We are to do so without fear, saying: Here is God. That is a powerful and hope filled message for the world. The reward for those who proclaim that message is exactly this: God will feed us. God will gather us into His arms. He will carry us and will lead us with care.

The second expression of hope is set forth by Peter. It is so helpful to us every day, but with particular import during this penitential season. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some regard “delay,” but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

This is such an important hope – that we have assurance of God’s patience with us. Are we ready? Perhaps not; we can all do better. We can proclaim God’s kingdom better and more often. We can point to God more often in our actions and with voices that correspond to our actions. Here is God. This is what He is like. Come meet Him and find true hope. We must also bring to mind that this hope comes with a warning – Don’t wait forever.

Finally, we have the hope expressed in the Gospel. God made a promise and He was fulfilling it. The Messiah was about to appear. John pointed to immanent hope. Like John, we are to point, but to hope now present.

It is time to hope. It is not just hope because of the past; because Jesus came and spent 33 years on earth. Rather, it is time to hope because we live is the aftermath of that salvation, promises fulfilled, and eagerly approaching the great eschatological moment, when Jesus returns, when we are gathered in, where our hearts and minds will overflow with joy, and where hope is completely fulfilled.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

One of the wonders of Advent and the Christmas season is Why. Why did Jesus come to earth? Why did God allow Himself to be humbled in such a way as to take on our humanity, to be born in a stable, to proclaim eternal truth to a people who would not listen, to be mocked and persecuted for that message, and to sacrifice Himself? In the most simple terms, it is about completion. The dictionary defines completion as ‘the action or process of finishing something.’ God did all these things to complete us; to bring about the fulfillment of God’s plan for humanity. The Church does not often speak of eschatological things – the end times and Jesus’ return – but as we focus on the moment of salvation that started coming ever closer in the stable at Bethlehem, we are called to do exactly that. Advent preparation is meaningless if it is just about Christmas day, or the forty day season of Christmas. We are to be preparing ourselves and living for complete completion. What began that night 2,017 years ago was God’s offer of all we need to get there. What we are to do today, throughout Christmas, and every day is to witness and cooperate in moving toward the completion Jesus offered and offers. We stand in this intermediate time. We are the link. Together we build the bridge from the joy of Christmas, the exaltation of resurrection, to completion.

Join us in prepare through Advent and begin the celebration of the Christmas season (all 40 days of it). We have our annual pot-luck vigil dinner on the 17th, a great breakfast on the 10th, and many other special events including our traditional candlelight midnight Holy Mass (really at midnight). Take a look at some of the reflections as well – like ‘Why be a member of this Church.’ Ever wonder, ever think about the answer – check it out. We so look forward to seeing you.

You may view and download a copy of our December 2017 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. — Hebrews 9:28

  • 12/3 – Revelation 22:12
  • 12/4 – 1 Thessalonians 5:2
  • 12/5 – 1 Thessalonians 4:16
  • 12/6 – John 6:50-51
  • 12/7 – Romans 2:6-8
  • 12/8 – Philippians 3:20-21
  • 12/9 – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I long for Your return. Come, Lord Jesus.

Sadness and
longing.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.

I heard ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ for the first time this past week. People of faith singing out with such longing, such desire. It made me sad.

There are a lot of things that can make us sad at this time of year.

In part, it is melancholy – a sober thoughtfulness as we prepare. Maybe we think of Christmases past, people no longer with us, some regret, distance from those we love, separation, an unresolved conflict we wish had never happened. We think about those things with longing – a wish things were different.

Perhaps we are sad as we bang our heads against the wall trying to get ready. Shopping, buying, spending – will they be happy and satisfied? Did I measure up? Decorating, dragging out the dusty trees and ornaments. Looking at it all, and comparing to the neighbors – are we good enough this year? The lights that didn’t go on quite straight. Not being Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Remembering at the end of it all we just have to put it all away. Then all the crowds and the traffic. We think about those things longing that it would be different – a wish things could be simple once again.

Listen to the words from the Prophet Isaiah: Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants. The people of Israel were crying out. They had lost their way, they lost sight of God. They wanted His promises, His consolation. They wanted His presence, the coming of Emmanuel. They knew they were missing out. Things weren’t the way they were meant to be. They were sad, melancholy.

The key to Advent is to connect to the reason for the underlying sadness in our lives. We do many things to fill our lives, including what we do to fill the Christmas season ahead, but none of that is really able to help us deal with the melancholy or longing within us. None of it can silence what is calling us.

So how do we find what will fill us, what will bring us the fullness of joy and contentment? We start by finding some common ground with what Israel was going through, to put ourselves in their place. If we take the time to reflect on their longing, their melancholy, their sadness – we begin to connect with the gift God was getting ready to give them. He definitely heard their plaintive cries – and sent His Son to them, the Messiah, Emmanuel. If we spend this Advent season in prayer, scriptural reading, and reflection, listening for the voice of the Spirit, we will find Him pointing us to Jesus. Then we will find our hearts and minds really calling out for the fullness of what will satisfy.

Unlike Israel, we have an advantage. Our hope is a post salvation hope. Yet we still long. Advent connects us to this remaining longing. Our hearts and minds call out for the fullness of what will remove all sadness, melancholy, and longing. Advent connects us to the event that will satisfy – Jesus’ return and entry into the kingdom. Let us be ready. Return, return, Emmanuel!

This week’s memory verse: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” — Mark 1:15

  • 11/26 – Psalm 103:19
  • 11/27 – 2 Peter 3:13
  • 11/28 – Romans 14:17-19
  • 11/29 – Luke 17:20-21
  • 11/30 – Matthew 6:9-10
  • 12/1 – Revelation 11:15
  • 12/2 – Revelation 21:1-4

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You are my only Lord and King. Grant that I may be focused always on Your Kingdom and all necessary to build it.

Radical
revolution.

“And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

Belonging to a Church, really belonging, being a member and letting people know that one is a part of that church community is a very radical statement. Believe it or not, that makes us revolutionaries. Why so? Because it involves doing, teaching, proclaiming, and acknowledging revolutionary things.

In part, our revolution is a doing revolution. It means carrying out the tasks our Master, Jesus gave us. It is indeed feeding, welcoming, clothing, caring for, and visiting our brothers and sisters in need. That even more so today. Do those things. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Our world certainly places a value on being generous and doing good things, but falsely claims that such works are some kind of natural instinct. Where did it come from? Who knows? People just do good, because, well they do good. They may even attribute the doing of good things to political leadership.

In part, our revolution is a teaching revolution. In rejecting such notions, we call the world to understand the source of all the good we have. Our revolution is about having a full, informed, and factual knowledge of what God has done for us. The good we do, the structures of civil society had a source, and it wasn’t people’s natural goodness. The rules of a good and generous life, the call to self-sacrifice came from the example, life, and teachings of Jesus Christ. He is the source and the fulfillment of all good. Without His life, humanity would devolve, perhaps not into complete anarchy, but into a disorder that brings us to the disaster of everlasting death. Teach that truth. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.

In part, our revolution is a proclaiming revolution. The world has its stories of the time. The world urges us to talk about certain things and to shut up about others. We must like those things the world and its talking heads approve of and keep the God stuff to ourselves. The world would say, faith is fine in the walls of your home and the walls of your church – but not in public spaces or ‘polite conversation.’ The teaching of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church to this day are anachronistic (outdated and obsolete). Yet we know that the teachings of Jesus are the only sure way to everlasting life. The guidance and laws of the Church are the living path to complete life. Proclaim the reality of God and the life of His Church in every place and time without fear. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.

Finally, and most completely, our revolution is about the Kingdom of God and Jesus as our only Lord and King. That is the most radical thing ever! It means that nothing else takes precedence, nothing else is important. The Kingdom is a sole goal and all we do, teach, and proclaim is about building the kingdom and getting to the kingdom. No other leader, no political system, no thing, no person can be our king but Jesus. To be counted among the sheep, to make it, is to seek first the kingdom of God.

This week’s memory verse: And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. — Matthew 24:14

  • 11/19 – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
  • 11/20 – Matthew 24:1-2
  • 11/21 – Matthew 24:21-22
  • 11/22 – Revelation 14:12
  • 11/23 – Revelation 14:7
  • 11/24 – Luke 21:36
  • 11/25 – 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I may not only prepare, but also invest wisely. Help me to use all in preparation for Your return.

Investing
rightly.

“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

In case anyone might have missed it, the past two weeks have focused on getting ready and being prepared. Prepared for what? It is about preparing for wise investing, that is that carrying out of the obligations God has entrusted to us.

Given the time of year and the immanent celebration of Thanksgiving, we might take Jesus teaching on talents as a time to discuss investing in our church. We could turn this day into a discussion of money stewardship and emphasize generosity. While Jesus’ parable deals with stewardship, it is about a different kind of investing.

For the past few weeks we have heard Jesus talk about the end times. Jesus has been encouraging us to prepare for his Second Coming. Today, we do not hear a ‘Let’s get ready for Jesus’ coming parable, but are asked to look back – what have we accomplished after we had prepared.

St. Matthew’s is writing in the late first century when the church was struggling with Jesus’ delayed return. This retelling of Jesus’ parable reminded his people and us that we have been entrusted with great treasure, we have been prepared, and that we will now be held accountable for how we have invested.

In this parable, the man going on a journey represents Jesus. His going on a journey represents His ascension. The servants represent Christians who are awaiting Jesus’ Second Coming. The talents represent the blessings God has bestowed on us. The man’s return represents Jesus’ Second Coming. The master’s assessment of the faithfulness – the investment of the servants – represents Jesus’ assessment of us at the end of time.

Jesus has entrusted His property to us – His word and the building of His kingdom. He has treated us as individuals, allocating resources in accord with each of our abilities. He neither insults the most able servant among us with trivial responsibilities nor overwhelms the least able servant in the community with impossible tasks.

The parable indeed celebrates active, forward-leaning, risk-taking, involved-in-the-world, where-the-rubber-hits-the-road investment of our preparation.

The master does return, and will settle accounts with us. This will be the time for accountability. Jesus will ask us to show what we have done for Him, for the kingdom. If we have taken our church time, our prayer time, our scripture time, and our fellowship, all in preparation, and have invested it wisely, if we have taken risks, sweated the details, and have remained while others have hidden, we will be rewarded greatly.

As in the parable, the Lord rewards the servants who have invested in four ways: He gives each investing servant equal treatment even though each servant returns different amounts; He will pronounce us as ‘good and faithful.’ Nothing feels better than words of praise given by God; He will give us increased responsibility—a promotion; and He will say, “Enter into My joy.” This is what the faithful Christian can expect to hear when Christ comes again.

As John Shedd observed, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” So, we must not live in fear, prepare and bury what we have learned. We must invest rightly and build for His return.

This week’s memory verse: For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — Ephesians 5:8

  • 11/12 – Psalm 119:105
  • 11/13 – Psalm 27:1
  • 11/14 – 1 Peter 2:9
  • 11/15 – Ephesians 5:14
  • 11/16 – 2 Corinthians 4:6
  • 11/17 – Psalm 119:130
  • 11/18 – John 1:4

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, fill me with your light. Grant that I may always walk in Your light and spread it to all I encounter.

Being
prepared.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”

As we worshiped last Sunday our brothers and sisters in Christ, men, women, and children, were being killed in Texas as they came together to worship God and declare their faith in Jesus. They held their lamps up brightly, filled with the oil of faith, ready to meet the Lord.

Many of us grew up in a time when coming to church was considered a light thing. Maybe our parents or grandparents had faced persecution as faithful National Church members, but not us so much. That was in the past. But, as is said, everything old is new again…

Today’s lesson from Jesus dispels the myth of faith as a casual endeavor. Jesus tells us, ‘always be at the ready,’ with our lamps prepared and with an extra stock of oil at hand. We do not know the day or the hour.

Prepared lamps and extra stocks of oil are not just about coming to church on a chilly Sunday morning. It is not about waiting for a moment to come someday. It is about actively preparing and living out our faith. If we are not watchful, if we are not making ourselves more and more ready, if we are not becoming more and more – like unto the Lord – what use is there to even having a lamp?

Violence, tragedy, and suffering are a raw truth. This truth is visited more and more upon Christians. From martyrs in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to homegrown terrorists right here, to media, hate groups, and government casting people of faith as silly, backward, and ignorant, we might be tempted to extinguish our lamps, pour out our oil, and sit in the dark. Ssssshhhhh, be careful, snuff out the lamps, someone might see us. Is that who we are?

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians: do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Wise words about how we are to face the challenges of our time. The followers of Jesus, the faithful, will not allow their lamps to even grow dim. Don’t tone it down! Rather, illuminate this dark time, cast a bright glow not just inside the walls of this church, neighborhood, or city – but across this world. Let our light not only glow outward, but also illumine us inwardly. Do not grieve, offer hope.

Let us picture our lamps at the ready, held up before us. Feel the warmth – it is the warmth of faith. See the glowing faces, they are the face of Jesus in the world. See the light before us, calling the people of our neighborhood, city, and the world to come to Jesus – the only way. The faithful: wise, prepared, ready.