December 8, 2016
2 Peter 3:1-10
First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming?
[2 Peter 3:3-4a]
The English writer, Samuel Johnson, is assumed to have said, “Hell is paved with good intentions.”
I recalled that quote as I drove back from Columbus on Wednesday afternoon after three days away from home and after having missed three of my promised Advent reflections. So, I beg your forgiveness and ask your prayers that this lapse is the only one during this season. I have heard from several of you how much you look forward to these posts and I truly regret that I wasn’t able to keep them up during my travels earlier in the week.
I thought further about my schedule and how overcommitted I’ve become and how I am not allowing time for those moments of stillness that put me closer in touch with Scripture and more in tune with God’s word. Many of us live hurried lives, thus don’t allow space for quiet meditation.
I must make one confession to you, dear reader. When I read Monday’s assigned readings I had a difficult time making sense of them and not enough time to reflect and develop some meaningful thoughts to share. I thought I would get back to them later in the day and perhaps I would be better able to focus. It didn’t happen.
Today’s readings are a lot different. There is an abundance of material to think about and to limit oneself to one reading is a challenge. But I want to take a few moments to reflect on the second letter of Peter, especially in light of the days I’ve been experiencing this Advent.
One of the key first steps as we enter more fully into Advent is to slow down. But the busyness of this season attempts to distract us from having an Advent season that truly prepares us for the celebration of Christmas, with all its meaning.
We talk about Advent as preparation, or a beginning. But first we have to understand what our preparation is. Advent is a season of self-awareness. Our faith is never so strong that we don’t struggle with doubt. If we haven’t prepared our hearts to be open to Christ’s coming, we’ll never truthfully be able to say, “Come, Lord, Jesus!”
At this time of the year, not everyone is in a festive mood.
Some of us are in a bad space.
Some of us are sad.
Some of us are unemployed. I just spent time with a colleague whose position is being terminated.
Some of us are ill. I visited another colleague who is currently wheelchair-bound, but yearning to be back in the pulpit. My prayer list is extensive.
Some people are mourning the death of a loved one, and the hoo-ha of the glittery holidays only make matters worse. I attended two funerals the past weekend.
And then there are those of us whose expectations remain unfulfilled. We go through the routine year after year. But after all this time, we’re still waiting for things to get better—and they just aren’t.
Can it be that we give up on God too quickly?
We pray a quick prayer asking God to help, and when we don’t hear a positive answer in a day or two, we wonder why God ignored our prayer. Or we ask God to intervene in a situation and end up solving the problem ourselves because we just can’t wait. We move on too quickly when there’s no immediate action.
Peter reminds us: The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
And now at Advent, we await God’s coming in Jesus Christ. I suspect that one of the reasons we are missing the significance of Advent is that, as people of God we haven’t been trained to see God at work in the ordinary areas of our lives. Each week we come to church, hear the Scriptures read and preached, we sing the hymns and say the prayers, and, if we’re lucky, we have an experience of God.
But do we carry that experience with us out of church and into our everyday lives? Do we look for God in the ordinary arenas of home and work, economics and politics? Can we imagine that God is using us in our various roles as employee, retiree, parents, spouse, friend, citizen, and volunteer, to extend God’s love, blessing, and steadfast care of all creation?
Can we, in short, see God at work outside of the church?
You might not have imagined that simply by praying for someone or inviting someone to church you might be the vessel by which God continues to reach out and embrace all God’s beloved people. The work of the church is the ministry of ALL the baptized, not just those who are called to the ministry of word and sacrament.
Yes, we are living in turbulent times. We can’t gloss over that fact. But Jesus was born into a world such as ours, in fact, in a world even worse than ours, it was a world in which tyranny ruled everywhere, and poverty and hunger and suffering was overwhelming for all but a very few.
Therefore, God in Jesus Christ is in the middle of the turbulence, not as a magician who will fix things but rather, someone who sees us and walks alongside us in this distress; someone who equips us to do God’s work through our hands.
And so we pray:
Come, Lord Jesus! Give us sight that we may see our neighbors’ needs; give us new ears that we may hear the cry of the poor; and new tongues that we may sing your praises. Through your Spirit fill us with the joy of unexpected fulfillment as we await the coming of the Christ.