Monday, December 09, 2013

Sermon - Second Sunday of Advent

You have often heard the Deacon conclude our Sunday Celebrations with the words like these,
" . . . let us go forth and proclaim the Good News by our very lives"
and we all respond , "Thanks be to God!" I know that if I ask you what we are being thankful for, some humorist in the congregation will say, "I’m thankful that Mass is finally over!" But this prayer of intention does have a serious meaning.
How are we doing on this intention?
Now I don’t intend to call anybody out but lets be honest. Some of us are sitting here today thinking, "I’m not even sure what the good news is much less know how my life would reflect it."
Perhaps most of us are able to tell someone the major elements of the Gospel Good News yet are puzzled by just how our lives could proclaim that news. Yet there are some, that both and you and I know, whose lives do reflect God’s Good News loudly.
Two questions then: (1) What is this Good News? And (2) How do you and I reflect that Good News in our lives?
Every year in our weekly worship our community recalls the details of the Good News of the Gospel. We begin with the season of Advent in which we recall the great longing for God that preceded that first Christmas. Our first reading today finds Isaiah, over seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, says things like:
"On that day, a shoot shall spring from the stump of Jesse, and from his root a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD (God) will rest on him."
"On that day, the root of Jesse, (will be) a signal for the nations (which) the gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious."
OK, so someone is coming from God to tell the world about a glorious dwelling place but what is a "stump of Jesse" and what does that have to do with it?
You see, Isaiah is writing poetry and he uses images to communicate his prophetic messages. Jesse was the father of David, the shepherd who became the King of Israel about three hundred years before Isaiah was writing. God had promised David that among his decedents would be the messiah who would establish the kingdom of God.
At Christmas we celebrate that a son of David, of the family of Jesse, Jesus, was in fact this messiah, and the Son of God, who came to establish the Kingdom of God and invite you and I to dwell in that kingdom.
Pope Francis, in his new encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joyful Good News) puts it like this:
"God by his sheer gift (grace) draws us to himself and makes us one with him. He sends his spirit into our hearts to make us his children, transforming us and enabling us to respond to his love by our lives."
Still I sense there are skeptics among us that are thinking, "good news, bad news, I hear both every day and nothing changes in my life." I admit, that in our times, we can become overdosed on "news" and even numbed by "news". Let me suggest some ways to think about "news" that might help our discussion.
Consider the case of two high school classmates, Ed and John. Ed moves to west coast and John stays in Minnesota. They were not close and haven’t communicated since graduation. Ed runs for US Congress in his state and on election night John notices on TV that Ed has won his election. He says to his wife, "good news, Ed won."
Meanwhile Ed and his wife are also reacting to this news. They had campaigned together and spent most of their personal savings on the effort over the last year. Ed’s wife calls her mother and says, "GOOD NEWS, WE WON!"
I hope you catch the difference. John’s remark to his wife about ed winning was in lower case while Ed’s wife’s call to her mother was all in caps.
Notice that, for the couple in Minnesota, the news of their classmate’s election win was inconsequential. It will not change their lives. But the for couple on the west coast the news will indeed change their lives, for them, this GOOD NEWS must be capitalized. They need to get ready to move their family to Washington or ready for Dad to be gone for long periods of time while serving in congress.
Perhaps you can think of examples in your own life. I remember when my son was serving in Iraq. He and his unit were scheduled to be there for 12 month. His family was hunkered down, praying for his safe return and doing their best to have hope rather than fear govern their lives.
Sometimes bad news and good news seem to interact. A few weeks before the 12 months were to be up, the Pentagon announced that Iraq tours were being extended from 12 to 15 months. Bad News to many families including mine.
The soldiers in the war zone heard the news also. Those close to coming home hoped that since the orders authorizing their return to the States may already be in the works that this bad news would not apply to them. But they didn’t know for sure. For the families that had been planning for their loved ones’ return, the wait seemed longer than it really was.
When the cut off date was made known it was bad news for many families. It turned out that my son’s preplanned return date was before the cut-off date for the extension order and he would be coming home as planned. Bad News followed by Good News.
The GOOD NEWS about Jesus has a Bad News then Good News aspect also. When Jesus was publicly executed on the cross his followers went into hiding or fled the city. Their hopes and beliefs about Jesus being the Messiah were replaced by despair.
Then little bits of news began arriving at the hideout. Those visiting his grave reported that his body was missing. One of the women reported talking with the Lord in the garden by the tomb. Two disciple who had run away came rushing back to say they had dined with the Lord in Emmaus. Over the next few days their despair turned to Joy with the Good News of the Resurrection.
The Good News of Jesus is always CAPITALIZED. John the Baptist anticipates it this way in today’s Gospel reading:
"I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
If we let the the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel change our lives, you and I will be filled with the Holy Spirit and fire! A fire that lights up our lives.

A life on fire with God’s love will indeed proclaim the Good News!

© Copyright 2013 Joseph E. Hilber

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