Monday, December 5, 2016

A MESSAGE OF JESUS: "Any wrath to come, any wrath to flee from, is of completely human origin, flowing out of hate-filled, greedy hearts, and not one bit from God. " John+

As soon as Jesus comes up out of the water the spirit of God descends like a dove on Him. – Slide 19

The Reverend John Smith: Sermon, December 4, 2016 

John and Jesus

We began the season of Advent last week underlining a basic principle: When beginning you must keep your focus on the end. Advent, and the beginning of a new church year, considers the end of all things, expressed in apocalyptic terms and images, very popular and common in Jesus’ day. Apocalypse points to an “unveiling,” usually taking place in some cataclysmic event or war, of who is good, evil, pure, impure, faithful or unfaithful, in the eyes of God. I would say that many of our brother and sister Christians, and most of our fellow human beings, live in the world of apocalyptic today.
This Sunday we hear from John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. John was a zealot and lived steeped in this apocalyptic vision: one had to make a decision before the “wrath of God” would come upon the world and destroy the reprobate and unrepentant. Sincere folks would present themselves at the Jordon River to be baptized by John. They would cry out, confessing their sins, as John thrust them under the water. John told everyone about One who was coming after him, much more powerful, who would continue this ministry of calling people to repentance. This One would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire (a very apocalyptic image).

When Jesus came and began his own ministry shortly after the highpoint of John’s, it didn’t match John’s expectations. There was no “wrath” of fire unleashed on an unrepentant world. Instead wherever Jesus went he spoke of mercy, love, and forgiveness. He healed those who asked for healing. The way Jesus acted was so different than what John expected or hoped for, that he sent his disciples to ask Jesus: Are you the One who is to come or are we to wait for another? Jesus told John’s disciples of his healings, bringing sight to the blind (physically and spiritually), and bringing good news to the poor. Jesus’ vision was more like the one Isaiah hoped for, than the apocalyptic prophets of the day. In fact, Jesus subverted the apocalyptic vision from the inside out! Jesus didn’t enter into the apocalyptic enterprise of judging of who’s in, who’s out, us, them, good, bad, pure and impure, etc. He didn’t see any need for bloody battles with great loss of life to prove who’s right or wrong. Jesus did sometimes use the apocalyptic language of his contemporaries, but always to communicate a different message: Any wrath to come, any wrath to flee from, is of completely human origin, flowing out of hate-filled, greedy hearts, and not one bit from God.
Jesus rejected all the dualities that human beings live and die by and replaced them with Isaiah’s vision of harmony in Creation and between human beings:
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole on the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. The will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
The Good News is that Jesus offers us a vision to live by. While the world dwells in apocalyptic, determining who is good and who is evil, we can see, as we repent and let our thinking change, all people as God’s children and our brothers and sisters. We can love and forgive our enemies and those who hate us. The world’s protagonists may bring axes and cut down tree after tree, leaving stumps (like Jesse’s) everywhere, but out of each seemingly dead stump a shoot of new growth will come. This is our Advent hope: God will come to save us, not out of this world, but right where we are. 


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