Sunday, December 11, 2016


Advent III
December 11, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart

SET !!

Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  The anticipation is rising - the day is drawing near!

In a race event like at the Olympics, what is happening when you hear "Ready ... Set ... GO!"  The gun fires and the runners are off like a shot.  There is a scene in the movie Chariots of Fire, where Ben Cross's character is practicing the start with his Lebanese coach.  The two most important times in the race are at the starting gun and at the finish line.  Both require a focus that is THE FOCUS of the message this morning.

It occurs to me that being SET, for a runner, as for other sports, is the moment when all the training and conditioning, the weight room, the running track, the muscle training of repeated starts, all come to the sharpest point - the most focused moment in the life of the runner.  The same is true of all of life!  Christian life as well!

On this Sunday of Advent I want us to consider our position in the Ready - Set - Go! formula.  What does it mean for us to be SET as a Christian?

We all do this to a greater or lesser extent in our every day life - we have to do the Ready -Set- Go formula in our every day life.  If we are going to live our life with any sense of competency or accomplishment, we must get ready on a daily basis, we must be set for the work that we do and all that happens before we actually do anything! 

There is a good deal of preparation that goes into almost any task or set of tasks that we undertake in life.  Especially those who are in professional roles, as doctors, lawyers, preachers, lawmakers...  each one must complete a certain regimen of tasks to be SET to do their given role in the world they work in.  We all do it.

So how do we get SET, as Christians?

I've talked a lot over the last years about Willingness, Availability and Obedience -  getting SET as a Christian for the work of the Kingdom of God is doing all you can to sharpen the "ability" part of availability!  Well, wait a minute!  You've said that ability doesn't matter, as much as availability - that God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!  What do you mean that we have to sharpen our "ability?"

Isn't it strange how God works with us?  He expects 100% of us in our efforts in our Christian life for Him, and then He comes along side by the Holy Spirit, and cheers us on, and enables us with His power to do more than we think we can, to do super abundantly more than we can ask or imagine - and it happens in an incredible INCARNATIONAL partnership that is 100% ME and 100% HIM!

Do you remember the scene in  the movie "Facing the Giants?"  The team and the coach are at the end of a practice session.  And the coach takes the team leader and blindfolds him and puts him on the 20 yard line, with another player riding on his back.  Then he is asked to do an all fours crawl down the field to see how far he can go.  Along the way the coach gets down on his knees beside the blindfolded player encouraging him and calling him to more, more, MORE!! until at the end he has crossed the goal line, 80 yards with another 200+ lb player on his back!!  

Friends, God has not called us to ease and rest in our Christian life -  He has called us to the work of the Kingdom of God and to be ready, to get SET, for His coming - and part of that work is the partnership He has called and equipped us for in His Gospel work in the world!
Getting SET is different for each task - each race - each contest.  Getting SET is different for each profession.  It's different for an architect than it is for a radiologist - different for an accountant than for a rocket scientist!

So What does getting SET look like as a Christian?  In any of these professions, men and women will tell you that the preparation is as much mental as it is physical, even in the sports camps - from the Olympics to Sunday afternoon football, the mental preparation is paramount - the same is true of being a Christian and being used by God in His Kingdom!

Paul uses three images:  The Soldier, The Athlete, and The Farmer.  (2 Tim 2: 1-7)  James, uses the farmer in this morning's reading.
The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I want to consider the "strengthen your hearts" comment.  What does getting SET look like as a Christian?  SET for His Coming??

1.  It looks like taking the whole enterprise of being a Christian as MORE THAN A HOBBY!  Paul's analogies are people who take their "work" very seriously.  We need to toughen up our mindset if we are going to be useful in the Kingdom of God - hardship is a way of life, not a passing moment in time.  We have bought the whole consumer enchilada as a Church in America!  It's all about me, it's all about my comfort and all about my preferences!  We need to have a healthy dose of LORDSHIP!   It's really NOT about me, my likes, preferences or opinions!  It's about JESUS, HIS LIKES, PREFERENCES AND OPINION.

2.  Training starts NOW!  Wake up!  Get up! Stand up! Suit up!  The problem is that when you're doing this as a hobby, you don't really tolerate TRAINING well! When you're playing "flag football" there really isn't any training!   And this is "Training in Righteousness!"  This is training of our mind, our body, our will, our emotions, our everything!  And where does the training come from?  

3.  Here ... (Bible!)  2 Tim 3:16  Profitable for "Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness."  If your not fingering the pages of your bible in study and prayer daily, personally, and in a group of some kind, then you are in this as a hobby ... poking it with a stick once a week to see if it's really alive!

4.  And I'm not talking about casual reading, I'm talking about drilling for the water of life!  We're about to drill a well in Rwanda, and I've become familiar again with the parameters of water well drilling.  The soundings of the earth, the picking of a spot, the counting of the cost to cut down through hard rock.  We have to approach our study of God's Word like drilling a well!  Dig deep!  Cut through the rock of our hard hearts!  Allow the Word of God to speak and be "living and active, like a two-edged sword, cutting down between bone and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

5.  In that process you will come to know His voice!  Listen!!  His is the voice of the Encourager - the Comforter - the One, called alongside to help, to cheer you on - and it is in that way that you will begin to discover HIS empowerment, HIS giftings in you, and HIS particular call to the work of His Kingdom.  And no, it can't be done alone!  The whole enterprise is in community.  The household of Faith.  Look around you and smile!  Welcome to the Communion of the Saints!  Welcome to the Kingdom of God expressed on this planet!

6.  Now get SET.  Discover the passion that He has placed in you.  The gifts He has given you to match the passion.  Let His compassion become your passion, remembering 1 Cor 13, without love its all nothing!  Get SET!  Study to show yourself approved!  Endure hardship!
Then put on the armor - the pads - the suit - the fatigues - the collar!   Whatever it is that sets you apart for the profession you are called to and do it with all (all means?  ALL)  your might.  100% of you for 100 % of HIM, what Chambers called MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST!

That's what we're after here.  That is what the world needs from us.  That is what Christ demands of us.

Just one final reading in that light:

[Eph 6:10-18 NLT] 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Friends, there is a lot of putting on and standing up to do.  We have to be SET in our minds and in our hearts, in our bodies and in our emotions, in order to do the work He is calling us to do.  Our willingness is just the beginning.  Our MINDSET is one of readiness that forms and shapes our avail-ability, so that He can use us when we are called on to be Obedient to His voice.

This season of ADVENT is a time when we check our MINDSET, we then check our ARMOR, making sure we are prepared to be used by Him in the work that He has called us to do.

Let's pray.  I want to pray a prayer that the late Bishop Terry Kelshaw wrote:

Lord Jesus Christ
Master Carpenter of Nazareth
Who on the cross
In wood and nails
First worked our full salvation;
Use well your tools
In this your workshop
That we who come to you rough hewn
May by your grace
Be fashioned to a true beauty and usefulness
In your service.


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