Sunday, November 27, 2016

Vision of Hope

Vision of Hope from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Isaiah 2:1-5
1The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrated for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nations, neither shall they learn war anymore.
5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Matthew 24:36-44
36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: 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. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

There are two chapels on the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary. While one of them is meant to be a flexible worship space, the other is a very traditional layout. Pews are bolted the floor, organ pipes visible above them. There's a massive stained-glass window at the front of the chancel with streams of color running down amid the stern stone frame. The students affectionately call that one Campbell Cathedral.

And in Campbell Cathedral there's a sizable wooden pulpit, the kind that pronounces the authority of the Word of God over every person who sits before it. But on the back of that formal, authoritative pulpit, there is a small piece of brass with a simple scripture verse on it: John 12:21b. Every preacher who has come through Columbia Seminary has waited for their turn to preach behind that pulpit, and has stared at that little tarnished placard as insecurity bubbled up inside them. "We would see Jesus," it reads. Don't scold our sinfulness, don't impress us with your theology, don't dazzle us with your poetic words. We're not interested in that. We would see Jesus.

We would see Jesus, because our year begins in the waning days of the calendar. The first Sunday of Advent steps out into a new day for God's people, as we go through the patient darkness of waiting for Christ's coming. We would see Jesus. In the midst of the darkness, in the shadow of bad news, with vision dimmed by our own fear, we want to see the heavenly light breaking forth into the world as Emmanuel, God-with-us.

We long to see Jesus sweep away the despair that keeps us stagnant. That same despair has numbed our hearts and turned our hope backwards so that all we're left with is nostalgia. We long to see Jesus sweep away what keeps us stuck and to be our vision of hope for the days to come when the mountain of the LORD’s house will be established as the highest of mountains.

In days to come, we will see Jesus. In days to come “nothing ever changes” will be swept away like the days of Noah. In days to come the many peoples shall go up to the mountain of the LORD’s house so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths. In days to come the Son of Man will break in upon us. In days to come he shall judge between the nations and we shall take up the tools of the kingdom rather than weapons of war. In days to come, all evil and suffering will be taken away we will be left with justice to live in the kingdom of God on earth. In days to come, all things will be made new, and creation will be restored to the goodness which God intended for it. In days to come, we will see Jesus.

And today is the beginning of the new Christian year, marked not with fireworks and revelry, but with faith and reverence. Our vision of hope sustains us for the season of Advent, when we watch and wait for Emmanuel, God-with-us. Only the Father knows when, but those days are on their way. In days to come, we will see Jesus as he gathers his people around one table for the messianic banquet.

This table is the taste of the Kingdom. We share this communal meal in remembrance that God is already with us. We take the bread of life and the cup of salvation in anticipations of the coming kingdom. And here, around this table, the Holy Spirit awakens us to the presence of the risen Christ already among us. In days to come, the Son of Man will sweep away sin and toil and our vision of hope will be realized. In the days between now and the days to come, Jesus invites us to this table to assure us that we are held by grace. Therefore let us hold on to our vision of hope, and rejoice that this new year brings us ever closer to the days which are to come. Rejoice, believers, and though evening is advancing and darker night is near, we will see Jesus in days to come. Therefore today, fed at this table, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

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