|Determine What Is Best|
¨Maybe we got here because our parents presented us for Baptism when we were little, or later in life, decided to follow Jesus and be part of the church he founded, whatever the reason, we are now part of a movement of faith that seeks to change this world and make it better.¨
The Reverend John Smith
How often have you heard a person say: "I'm a spiritual person and not really into religion." Not that we want to get into an argument with the person about church attendance or anything like that, but it's important for us to realize that the statement is part of a big misunderstanding. Almost all of the religions of the world are more "spiritual" than Christianity. If that's true, and Christianity isn't very spiritual, then what is its most important characteristic? The word that best describes Christianity is incarnational.
What does "incarnational" mean, but that a certain time in the world's history, God entered the life stream of humanity by incarnating, with the cooperation of an existing human woman, his own Son (there were always hints, but we didn't know God the Father, had a Son), taking on our human flesh, becoming one of us. Most religions have rich histories, with very special "spiritual" beginnings enshrined in their sacred stories, but on inspection, they all lack an incarnational moment when God entered into human history and while taking on all the limitations of human existence, gave us the finest example of anyone who ever lived.
That is why today's Gospel goes through such an effort to plant John the Baptist's advent smack dab in a particular time of human history:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Iturea and Trachonititis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
Luke the Evangelist wants to prepare us for this incarnational moment in actual world history by going to great lengths in describing the historical beginning of John the Baptist's ministry of proclamation as the messenger, prophesied by the prophet Malachi: I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. Luke lists all the real historical figures having power at that time.
On this Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist is introduced to us because in very real ways what will happen to John will foreshadow what will happen to Jesus. Both will be scapegoated and murdered by leaders united in preserving their power.
We're not anywhere near the Passion accounts yet, we have over 20 weeks to go, but you remember that both Herod (in John the Baptist's case) and Pilate (in Jesus' case) wanted to save both John and Jesus, but in both cases it couldn't be done without antagonizing the crowds. So Herod and Pilate, powerful men that they were, yielded to the pressure of the "crowds" and in doing so become part of the crowd. The crowd in "lynching mode" has the real political power and this has been the case forever in human history.
So we're here together because not because we are "spiritual- though not very religious." but because we are caught up in this Sacrament of history. Maybe we got here because our parents presented us for Baptism when we were little, or later in life, decided to follow Jesus and be part of the church he founded, whatever the reason, we are now part of a movement of faith that seeks to change this world and make it better.
This is very important, this "change the world" part, because that is what "thy Kingdom come" means. The Kingdom is taking root here, on this earth, among its people. We're living through the birthing pangs right now.
But unfortunately, most Christians think that faith is about a personal choice, like saying, "I accept Jesus as my personal savior." This is the first of the baptismal promises we take. But it is more than this. If the decision of faith is all about my personal choice made to "get to Heaven," it severely diminishes Jesus' significance for the whole world. My personal choice for Jesus to be saved (and sorry, but woe to those who don't make this decision or have hitched their salvation to the wrong wagon) contains little or no belief or conviction about what Jesus coming is meant to do to change the world, to bring about Kingdom come here and now. Number one conviction: Jesus, priest and king, who allowed himself to be sacrificed as a scapegoat to end all sacrificial violence and scapegoating, that, we see everyday, is tearing the world apart.
St. Paul writes to us today:
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, have produced the harvest of righteousness that come through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)
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