Waiting for pardon

Welcome to the Waiting Room; Advent 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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On one hand it looks quite simple for God to provide food, drink (everything that we need really) for free to us. Maybe at times we take that for granted -- and we take the fact that God came into the world to have us live a different life for granted -- this Advent and Christmas may we live that different life, realizing the cost of God's actions for us.

Notes & Transcripts

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy things without having to pay for them? Kind of like when we were like kids. When we got money, it was often money that wasn’t earned. It was a gift, maybe for birthday or graduation or confirmation or … and then maybe when we got our first job or two, it was still really what I’d consider “free” money. Yes, we worked and earned it, but spending it really didn’t cost us much. We could make irrational purchases, because someone else had our back. If we got into some sort of financial trouble, someone would bail us out.
So when I hear today, I think, “Oh, that sounds great, I’d like a life like that.”
Isaiah 55:1–2 NRSV
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Free water, the basic of life. Free wine, to celebrate all the richness of life. Free milk to nourish our bodies. Free bread to satisfy our stomachs. The promise of rich food in bounty.
Ah, doesn’t it sound great.
That is, it used to sound great. Now, life has taken a turn for me. Too much rich food, and Zantac has become my best friend. Too much bread, and I just feel bloated and yucky. Too much milk, and I get all “mucousy”. Too much wine, and I’ll need extra strength Tylenol to bounce back the next day. Too much water, … well, too much water in, just means even more water out.
While the richness and excess of might have seemed great a number of years ago, they’re not now.
It would have been great though for

What about biblical times?

I’ve got to think, that biblically, they weren’t living the life that many of us live today. Just returning from the Exile, with no real economic system in place. Probably many possessions left behind and not carried with them through the wilderness for 40 years. Maybe even their appetite for what they’d consider “rich food”would be different. Maybe their stomachs would be satisfied with less. Maybe their consumption of wine and milk, and even water, would be less. Maybe they’d understand differently what it really cost to have those things, after not having them, and so when they’re given the freedom to come and eat, they’d do so with that in mind.
I often wonder if that’s what it is like for a new refugee family. Seeing the richness of what we have, they can’t even begin to participate in that richness as we do, because they’re more aware of the cost than we are.

Where does Christianity flourish?

It is often been said that Christianity, actually religion in general, flourishes where there’s persecution — places where people need to hope in order to have the reason to get up in the morning.
I doubt many of us feel persecuted on a regular basis. There is no occupying force that has taken over our land — actually we might be the ones who have taken over someone else’s land. There are no restrictions on our religious celebrations — you might hear people say there’s a war on Christmas — there isn’t in my mind — we’ve just let the commercial aspect of the season run rampant over the spiritual aspect and that’s our doing. There’s no shortage of heat, hydro, food, etc for many of us — there is a shortage for some people that’s to be sure — but we’ve created an environment where that’s the case — no foreign power is holding any of those things hostage from us.
It is in the most difficult of situations that religion seems to hold the most amount of force.
Isaiah 55:10–11 NRSV
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
This week, the snow came down from heaven — well you might not think it was heaven sent if you had to shovel it, or go out into the cold that came with it. When we think about it though, we know that the snow is necessary to help replenish the water table, and help plants to grow in the new spring, and for the cycle of life to continue.
It really is the second part of this passage though that seems to have the biggest bang given that we’re getting so close to the birth of Jesus.
The word of God will go out, and accomplish God’s purpose, and succeed.
Part of our theology would say that God’s purpose in sending Jesus into the world, was to grant us forgiveness of our sins, in other words — to grant us pardon.
Here’s a quote from Luther, that seems appropriate:
I’m not sure I’d go as far as Luther seems to in his letter to Melanchton. I do think though that the last line is important to remember — pray boldly for we are mighty sinners.
Maybe if we understood the deepness of our sin, we’d understand the richness of God’s grace more. Maybe if we looked at where we’ve fallen short more, we’d see God pardon as being more lavish.
Maybe then, we’d understand the true cost of our pardon. Take time in this Advent season to prepare for the birth of our God into the world. Take time to hear the word of God. Take time to revel in the pardon and forgiveness that our God gives — for living as God’s forgiven people is really the celebration we’re supposed to have — one that is free — one that is hosted by our God — and for that we give thanks.
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