On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Light one Candle

O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. (O antiphon 1)

The O Antiphons where and are sung with the Magnificat during evening prayer in the latter days of Advent. The sequence is like this
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom) (cf Is 11:2-3; 28:29)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord) (cf Is 11:4-5; 33:22)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) (cf Is 11:1; 11:10 and Micah 5:1)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David) (cf Is 22:2; 9:6)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring) (cf Is 9:1)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations) (cf Is 9:5; 2:4)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God) (cf Is 7:14)
I commend the ELW for having restored all seven to the Advent hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are a work of unknown origin, though the writings of Boethius in the 6th century suggest that they already existed then in some form. They are all related to prophecy from the book of Isaiah, as noted. If one was to take the letters of the title of each in reverse order the Latin words ero cras might be found. That in turn means: “I will Come.“
As preachers we have just slogged through 6 weeks of judgement texts from Matthew, end-times, warnings, and judgement — o my. Advent has now arrived and we are to do it again? I was really hoping that the Lord would return before I would have to preach again on such texts. I will find out Sunday, ‘round 10:45am what the outcome of that hope might be. 
Advent always begins with a text just like this one. We began the year of Matthew with the parallel text from Matthew 24, the text we were spared a few weeks ago, the one that immediately precedes the story of the ten maidens. Mark does not know that story but he reports Jesus foretelling a dark apocalypse right before these verses. Verses 24-26 really come as a promise. Yes, a promise in spite of the sun and moon failing and the stars falling. Angels will gather the Lord’s elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
But back to the morbid part of the chapter for a moment. Let’s see: false prophets, false messiahs, destruction of all that is sacred, persecution and harassment of the faith and the faithful, betrayal, cataclysmic disasters, wars that come suddenly, so sudden no one will have the time to prepare and everyone will be forced just to react. In short, chaos the like of which no one has ever seen unless they were given a glimpse of the “darkness” that covered the face of the deep as God’s face hovered above it. 
Pant. Pant.
I seem to recall that every generation on earth has had a “moment” when the wise and observant noted that, in the words of Eisenhower: “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before!” (yes, you read that right) Every generation has had occasion to think that: “this might be it.” It never has been. 
So far.
Don’t think twice it’s alright. (Bob Dylan)
Is there such a thing as apocalyptic and eschatological hope? Should anyone have such hope or even aspire to have such hope? If one had it, would one be accused of being an escapist? Would charges of: “You are so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good,” be leveled against you if you were of such type hope and would you have the presence of mind to answer: “You are so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good?” OK, I only ever had the presence of mind to retort that once in my life, but it is a needed balance. 
Heaven, in a way, is a judgement upon earth as it is and as what we have made of it. It is hard to think about heaven as a judgement to be sure but the real problem is earth. If everything here is just hunk dory then why are there riots in the streets of Missouri as I write this? Why is a rag tag army sweeping across parts of the middle east committing atrocities as they go? Why are there hungry ones walking the streets of your city? Why are all solutions to all these problems always insufficient and even if they manage to solve the symptom at hand by armistice or charitable action, why does the problem, like an unclean spirit, just sort of fly away restlessly, wander through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finding none, says to itself, ‘I will return to my house from which I came,’ and when it comes, it finds swept and put in order, and it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of affairs is worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43ff) “So will it be also in this evil generation,” says Jesus. (Matthew 12:45) 
Killer comets fly overhead, no matter how many tiny space ships we parallel park on them. Yellowstone National park is, remains, and always will be one of the largest volcanoes on earth. It may erupt in another 10,000 years, but then, it might do so on Saturday. If so, I will still preach on Sunday since the fallout will not get here until Monday and the mass extinction will not arrive until 2017, but, given the apocalyptic shape of such an event, church would probably be full Sunday, and the stores would be looted in Clark County as well by then, leaving me without coffee for Monday morning.
We need to face it: There are things that have no earthly solutions. No one really wants to be that helpless but it is true. 
Who will light a small candle in this darkness? Who will say: “This is enough. I light this candle as a revolt against the worst this world has to offer. I light this candle as a revolt against the best this world has to offer. I light this candle as a testament to hope in the one who is my wisdom, my Lord, my  root in the past, my promise of redemption, my new dawn, my king, and my God with me yesterday, today, and tomorrow. My Lord says: ‘I will come,’ His angels will gather me in due time, I will refuse to be afraid, I refuse to give up. My candle and I stand against the darkness and, because of the God who is with me, the despair of darkness will not triumph but instead will be overcome. Christ is risen! Come, Lord Jesus” 

I dare you to light your Advent wreath that way. As a Christian would you do otherwise?  I dare you not to . . . 

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