Sunday, December 11, 2016

ADVENT II - READY !!

Advent II - Dec 4, 2016
Fr. Phil Eberhart


READY !!!



Last week, on Advent 1, we talked about alarms and coming awake from sleep and the necessity in our coming awake to
PRAY< PRAY< PRAY!

Pray by yourself - in your own closet - your WAR ROOM!  How many have not seen the movie, War Room?  You need to see it.

Pray with others in the Body of Christ!  ADD EXPONENTIAL POWER TO YOUR PRAYERS BY PRAYING IN UNION, IN AGREEMENT-
IN CONCERT with other believers from this Body and from other parts of Christ's Body.  This is the source of a true unity and what late Bishop Terry Kelshaw, would call a "true usefulness" in the Hands of the Carpenter from Nazareth, for us as His Body.

Finally, Pray outside these walls!!  Prayer is our primary tool for seeing the hand of God in the world about us --- through us!!  It is our belief that God desires to engage the world with His healing power, with His amazing grace and with His unfailing Love ---- through US!!
Did anyone watch the clip this past week on our REZ website? (click here to watch)  The World finds out that God is Good when the Body of Christ actually SHOWS UP!

PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!!

Now this morning I want to take another poll!

How many here decorate for Christmas?   Almost 100%!

Now the level of decoration varies greatly I think.  How many decorate outside?

    That is a commitment beyond what I have. Mostly because I don't climb ladders very well!  In fact, they don't make ladders that are made for people like me!!  I'm more of a lift truck kind of guy!!

   But there are some here who decorate amazingly!  We were at a home in our parish yesterday for a luncheon with Pastor Bob who we will hear from a bit later regarding the Tartu Academy, and the decorations were out in force!  ALREADY!  In looking around I was thinking, hmmm, they must have a second house, where they store all these decorations!!  It was beautiful and amazing!!

The point is that in some measure we all have to prepare for the season. Here in America it seems that most of our preparation is external to us.  It is lighting the house (let your light so shine, before men, that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven!)
It is putting up a tree and buying presents.  Putting up a Christmas village or a train set or model of Bethlehem or just the Creche. 

When we had the girls at home we would put up an Olive wood Creche we got in Bethlehem.  And over the course of the Advent season, other characters came to visit the Babe in Bethlehem.  Barney, the purple dinosaur!  Barbie and Ken made an appearance,  Even Santa came and knelt before the Christ Child!

How do you prepare for the Coming of the Christ?  How do you get ready?

I heard Advent referred to recently as a "mini Lent!"  Our gospel this morning features John, the Baptizer preaching "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" It has "come near!"  

We have to get ready, and I want to give us a template for that repentant preparation this morning.

As I read through our readings this week I was struck by how many times words describing the character of God were used:  words like justice, righteousness, steadfastness, faithfulness, encouragement, hope!  As we were praying together this past Friday at Erev Shabbat at Congregation Roeh Israel, I was led to pray from Micah 6:8.  Do you remember the verse?

Let me sing it for you, and you can go back and listen to the recording and memorize the verse:

He hath shown thee, O Man, what is good...
And what doth the Lord require of thee...
but to do justly, and to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with Thy God.  
Sing it with me a couple of times ...

Now hopefully that gets stuck in your rememberer and you find yourself humming the tune and remembering the words.  If not just
come back to our website and click on the link for the sermon site and click on the sermon titled, "READY"

In his letter to the church, Jesus' brother James, tells us that the Word of God is like a mirror, in which, when we look we can see ourselves as we really are.  This Word is one that gives us a template for considering ourselves in the light of God's commands.  Let's look for a moment...

TO DO JUSTLY

The concept of Justice in Holy Scripture is always tied to the character of God, those attributes I mentioned earlier.  His righteousness, his unfailing love, his equity, his encouragement. 

The word that is used in the Hebrew here is used over 400 times in the OT and it most often means Judgement!  To Judge rightly, in the way that God judges.  The scriptures tell us that God sees things differently than we do.  Any of you ever flown over mid America.  When you take off, what do you see these days?  A patchwork quilt of circles and squares from the farmland below in the Fly-Over America, between the coasts!  But the view is very different down on the quilt, believe me.  You never get the same sense of grandeur when you are tilling the land and planting the crops and watering them and harvesting them!  If you've ever flown over Great Britain, you can't really make out the stone walls that separate each piece of countryside from the next.  They look like little dotted lines.  And God looks at our world and sees things differently - "His ways are Higher than our ways,  His thoughts than our thoughts!"

So what does doing JUSTLY mean for us?  It means taking part in the Character of God - that is what we are promised as those who are now IN CHRIST!  If you look at verses like 1 Cor 13, the description of Divine Love - AGAPE- or the list of behaviors in Romans 12 or 2 Peter 1 you can get a good idea of what we are talking about - taking on the Character qualities of Jesus! 
But how?

Just two verses for you here:   
2 Cor 5:21           He became sin who knew no sin, that I might become the righteousness of God, IN HIM.
Galatians 2:20    It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me...

Take some time to consider these words along with your consideration of self as you seek to DO JUSTLY this week.

LOVE MERCY

Anyone here who doesn't love mercy??!!!!  Especially when its directed toward us!  towards me!!   I love mercy!!

Now turn it around.  It's is not Mercy FOR you that is in view here, but Mercy FROM YOU!

In his model prayer, and in several parables Jesus teaches us that what we have received of God's mercy, His forgiveness, His unfailing love, we are to pass on to others who offend us, or injure us, or otherwise come across our path adversely.

I was convicted yesterday of this as I was driving, trying to change lanes and getting honked at, (which is my personal pet peeve), throwing up my hands at the driver behind me, and as I looked in the mirror I saw the sticker on my window, which interestingly in my rear view mirror is not backwards - it reminds, IN GOD WE TRUST!!! 

I did not love mercy very much yesterday, as I rushed from meeting to meeting to meeting!

How do you SHOW MERCY when someone crosses you, offends you, injures you?  It is then that we need to LOVE MERCY!  Not just when we receive it.

WALK HUMBLY

And finally, we are told to Walk Humbly with our God!  

In 2 Chron 7:14, an oft quoted verse for many Christians in our country for the past... oh ... 3 or 4 decades, it tells us to humble ourselves before God.

It's interesting that this particular word only appears twice in the OT.  Here in Micah and in Proverbs 11:2 
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly H6800 is wisdom.

Over and over and over again throughout scripture, we are urged to be "lowly", "humble", "not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought."  We are told to humble ourselves before God and He will lift us up.  Remember the song?

Humble Thyself in the sight of Lord (echo) (repeat)
And He (echo) will lift (echo) you up, 
Higher and Higher
and He (echo) will lift (echo) you up.

Another song for your mental tumbler this week!  And its easier said than done, right?  I find it hard to humble MYSELF!  Most often I find my self BEING HUMBLED.  Finding out from God, sometime through the instrumentality of another (Val), that I'm not really 
ALL THAT!  Or she just looks at me with that look, and asks, "Whose deal is this anyway?"

Perhaps the greatest moment of humility we can find on this planet is when our "knees bow and our tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!"  That is our posture in prayer!

So we are back to Prayer again this week.  Friends we can't do this preparation on our own!  Christ Jesus has to Make Us READY.
So our work is still the work of PRAYER - of COMING TO HIM - OF COMING ON BENDED KNEE.

And out of that position of bowing down we begin to WALK HUMBLY, we find MERCY in His Love and are encouraged to share it with others as we DO JUSTLY.

The work we are called to in this season is to ready ourselves for His ADVENT.  His coming into the world, and His Second Coming!
Nothing will take us to that last coming of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords as us walking in the ways of Micah 6:8

Sing with me... again:

He hath shown thee, O Man, what is good...
And what doth the Lord require of thee...
but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God.

Let's Pray:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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