Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wake Up!

The following is the communion reflection given on the first Sunday of Advent, 2007.

Romans 13.11-14 reads like this:

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (NIV)

This is an interesting passage for communion but we will get to that a bit later. First let’s read the previous pericope. Verses eight through ten read thusly:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (NIV)

Here Paul says that we have one debt and that is to love one another. He lists some commandments and finally says all of these and any other commandment that we may be able to find are all summed up in one, to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says in another place that the Law and the prophets hand off of the Greatest and the Second Commandment, both calling us to love – God and neighbors.

It is important to note that this love is not simply doing “no harm to its neighbor,” but that this love is proactive rather than passive. It isn’t enough to simply not to hurt others, but our love must propel us to act in their behalf. The memorial we are about to remember is a clear indicator of that principle. God didn’t simply not kill us, but rather He sent His Son who died for us. It is this proactive love that we remember and that we must make our own.

Now we come to the actual reading for today, and the aspect that seems a bit odd for a communion reflection. Paul is going to end up encouraging his readers to clothe themselves with Christ – to own Jesus, His life, His death.

Advent season is a season of expectation, of looking for God, of waiting for His coming into the world. But the expectation also includes a receiving or an accepting of that for which we wait. It is that receiving of God that must speak to us, and which obligates us to some responsibility.

And here we have the part of this passage that seems odd for a communion reflection. Paul tells his readers to wake up because salvation is closer than it was when they first believed. These are Christians Paul is writing and telling to wake up.

Many of us who have been keeping this memorial for forty years or so can simply take this memorial without thinking about it. We’ve always done this on Sunday and so we continue – it’s expected, it’s what we do. When we do that, we fail to recognize our God in the memorial. We cannot allow ourselves to let this feast become routine. We must, as Paul encourages his readers, wake up because our salvation is closer today than when we believed.

We are told in another place that we dare not presume on the patience of God. That to delay responding to God because we have more time is in itself sin. We are called to believe, to own God so much that we live in expectation of Him, and in Him – all the time. When we take of this memorial, we must do so fully cognizant of what we are doing, what God has done, and who we are called to be. If we have begun to slumber, we must wake up and live in the salvation that we enjoy, clothed with Christ.
Delivered at Albuquerque, the first Sunday of Advent, 2007

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