Third Sunday of Advent – Series C

This sermon most sharply directs the hope of the hearer. I think often we fail here in one of two ways.

  1. We set our hopes and dreams too low.
  2. We properly calibrate our hopes but then push them off into some distant future which we are not sure will ever happen.

The first sort of problem belongs to the social justice warrior or the political scientist who imagines we can establish a good, perhaps not perfect, but a good society. If only we tinker with the laws, build this or that program, we can make a difference. We cannot really do anything about slavery or the injustices of the past, so we ought to go for second best and call it good. Now, do not get me wrong, doing something to alleviate suffering and helping folks who have been stomped on is a good thing. I always encourage any effort to bring about what is good and fair. But is this the very kingdom of God? Not yet, at least not it in its fulness. At best it will be an echo, a dim foreshadowing of the kingdom to come. At its worst it may not even be His kingdom at all. Jesus is not content with half measures. A white stick and braille on the doorways in public spaces is not the sight God his mind for the blind. He comes to restore sight.

On the other hand, we often say, “Yeah, God will fix it all in the end, so I don’t need to do much today.” This effectively puts God’s kingdom into a future sense which has no impact on the now. N. T. Wright has done much to smash this sort of Christian complacency. The Christian holds this strange tension. God is going to solve every one of the problems which confront me and the rest of humanity. Heaven, the kingdom of God which I await, is a place of such perfect bliss. But being drawn to that kingdom I find that my compassion and love for the vulnerable, poor, and frail is increased. Being a citizen of heaven makes me increasingly uncomfortable with the sinful suffering of this earthly life. I would join Jesus in alleviating that suffering right now.

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