Monday, December 16, 2013

ADVENT I - AWAKE, O SLEEPER !!

ADVENT I

December 2, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Welcome to Advent.  Happy New Year Church!
At REZ we like to use the seasons of Advent and Lent to look inside, this season is one of anticipation - this morning's theme is "AWAKE, O SLEEPER" -

Does anyone else here have a routine when you first get up?  Some people stumble out of bed and make a bee line for the coffee maker - or even set it to make it automatically, so the magic elixir is already done when the alarm goes off!  Others get up and exercise, or read, some have a quiet time, others listen to the news.  I hope we all pray first thing in the morning. You know, say, "Good Morning, Lord"  instead of  "Good Lord, it's morning!" But we all have some routine, unique to us, that is the process of coming fully awake and being ready for the day.

This morning our readings bid us come AWAKE.

We hear it in the words of Jesus:
if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

In the words of Paul:
it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.

OR in the words of Isaiah:
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD!

Even in our prayer for Advent 1:
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light...

Waking up is a daily experience for all of us.  We recognize that these cycles of rest and sleep are necessary, but we can't stay there and remain ...  productive;  even employed; or married;  healthy; even alive!  If we stay asleep all the time, they call it something else:   a coma!  A vegetative state!!

Staying asleep is a bad thing - big time.  And it is something that the combined voices of Scripture and our prayer book tradition warn against!  Welcome to ADVENT - the alarm is sounding!  Its time to wake up - its time to get up and get in the game!  The work of God is moving on around us, and the extent to which we are asleep, is the extent to which we are more of a hindrance than a help in that Kingdom work!  The extent to which we try to remain asleep during the alarm, is the extent to which we are in danger.

God wants us to get up and get in the game.  But we love to be spectators!  We love to cheer on our favorite sports team, from high school to the pros!  Most of us will watch the Bronco game this afternoon I imagine.  I love the observation about professional sports that Nicky Gumbel makes about football, "It's 22 guys on the field, desperately in need of a rest, surrounded by 70,000 desperately in need of exercise!"  That is a perfect description for the church as well!

God is calling us to awaken - to shake off the shackles of slumber, the works of darkness and to, I love this line in our collect, "Put on the Armor of Light!"

All of us put something on after getting up - a robe and slippers, our bath robe or a pull over.  Something ... and usually we change again after we shower and get ready for the day.  We have a set of comfy things we wear around the house, and a set of work clothes, be they jeans and work boots or a suit and tie.  We are all pretty well experts at putting things on as well.  Most of us can dress ourselves, some with more success than others!!

This is the metaphor that Paul uses over and over and over again when speaking about our life in Christ!  We are told to PUT ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.  So we know how to put on our clothes - apparently, from looking at you all - but do we know how to "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ?"

How do we clothe ourselves in Christ?  How many here have played sports in some fashion at some time?  Have you ever played basketball in street shoes and a suit and tie?  Not for more than about 2 minutes.  Every game requires its own special set of clothing, if nothing more than the colors of a team, like the Rockies or Manchester United ... or if its the more elaborate uniforms and gear of professional hockey or football in the US.  Each team takes special care to dress appropriately to their sport - even within the sport there are differences in uniforms - if you are a lineman your helmet has a special face guard - if you are a quarterback or receiver, another specially designed face guard.  And if your a goalie, well, whoa Nellie!!  I'm not sure how those guys even move!!

The point is that there are things which identify us all in our putting on Jesus -  His identifying marks - you know:  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness - that stuff;  and there are specific things for us individually that denote a specific role on the team:  leadership, administration, discernment, helps, service, hospitality - or Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor or Teacher;  and the lists go on and on.

Once it was asked, "If you were brought up on charges of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"  Are you known to be a Christian among your peers at work, among your colleagues at the office, on your block, in your own home?

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is a daily activity, just like getting dressed in the morning.  Just like getting up from sleeping is a process we all have to engage in, so is the discipline of being awake ... spiritually.  We talked about the process of getting the Word inside you a couple weeks back - do you remember? 

Hold up your hand and wiggle your pinkie!  
HEAR, next:  READ, next:  MARK, next:  LEARN, and:  INWARDLY DIGEST!  Each step gets more and more of JESUS inside of us!  And we are to be like a sponge!  Filled up with Jesus so that when the world squeezes us it gets ...  ummmm?     JESUS!  That is the way that most people are going to come into contact with Jesus!  Not by coming here to this building!!

There is a reason that the word GO appears over 1500 times in the Bible!  If you get up and get dressed every day of your life but you never leave your house... what's the point.  If you do that, they will tell you that you have "agoraphobia" - the fear of the outside world!!  And I'm afraid that may be an accurate diagnosis of the place that the Church is in, especially here in the West.  We are one of the most powerful forces for good on the face of the planet, and we are asleep or afraid - locked inside our homes and churches.

So Wake Up!  
Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you!
Actually I did.

Put on the Armor of Light!  Isn't that an interesting turn of phrase?  It's in our morning collect, and it begs the question about both armor and about light!

In the East African Revival they had a practice they called, "walking in the light."  Of course, the phrase is taken from 1 Jn 1:7, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin!"  The metaphor of light is one that is pretty self evident.  But the effect of the light in this passage from 1 Jn is not.  Walking in the light means to walk in purity, with a clear conscience toward one another - keeping short accounts with our brothers and sisters, our family in the Lord.

Of course this assumes that we have more than a passing acquaintance - a Sunday morning only relationship - with each other.  It assumes a depth of community - koinonia or common life - life lived together, that we actually rarely see here in America.  But the promise is staggering!  If we walk in this kind of relationship with each other, keeping our accounts of hurt and offense short, we have koinonia together - a spiritual gift of the Unity of the Spirit, held in the Bond of Peace!  But there is something else - an added benefit:   And the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!  

Have you ever wondered how the Blood of Christ gets applied to the specifics of our sin and its effects in our lives and the lives of others?  through confession and repentance, but most effectively, through confession to one another.  It's easy for us to confess to God (up there) - it's not too easy for us to confess to God, with skin on - sitting next to us.  To go and make it right - to extend the actual "peace of the Lord."  to not hold onto offenses and unforgiveness, but to forgive and to be agents of forgiveness and healing.

This is putting on the Lord Jesus Christ - Putting on the Armor of Light!  It's time for us to wake up!  To live our life together as though we are actually the People of God like we say we are.  It's time to wake up to His Word in our lives.  It's time to wake up to repentance and forgiveness - in our own lives and extended to the world around us.

May God give us His blessing and His presence as we seek His face this day and throughout this season of Advent and beyond.

May we pray...  this is the prayer of the penitent 
from our prayer book's Ministry of Confession and Reconciliation ...

Holy God, heavenly Father, you formed me from the dust in
your image and likeness, and redeemed me from sin and
death by the cross of your Son Jesus Christ.  Through the
water of baptism you clothed me with the shining garment of
his righteousness, and established me among your children in
your kingdom.  But I have squandered the inheritance of your
saints, and have wandered far in a land that is waste.

Especially, I confess to you and to the Church  .  .  .

Here the Penitent confesses particular sins.

Therefore, O Lord, from these and all other sins I cannot
now remember, I turn to you in sorrow and repentance. 
Receive me again into the arms of your mercy, and restore me
to the blessed company of your faithful people; through him
in whom you have redeemed the world, your Son our Savior
Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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