1st Sunday After Advent (Christmas)

Scripture readings from this past Sunday: Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20.


     This past Sunday at PCC we celebrated the Christmas story and our last Sunday of Advent, hearing about the future coming of Christ.

When The Man Comes Around

     For us Christians Christmas comes in an instant, it should be as abrupt and startling as Easter. As it also was for those shepherds in the field who were met by by the company of Angels proclaiming the birth of the Christ. all through this year and season of Advent we have been dealing with hard questions. Where is God? Why must we still suffer? Why is there still evil? Why are things still the same? Christmas gives us an answer. Christ has been born! He has died, he has risen, and he will come again. in the mean time, we proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes. For us Christmas is a little Easter, if we do not first engage ourselves with the second coming of Jesus during this season, then we will not have a full understanding of his second coming when we celebrate it during Easter and Lent.

  

     But how are we to be when he comes again? When He comes around? where will you and I be found? One of the aspects of the Christmas story and Advent is about location, where we are in God's story. In this in between time of Christs resurrection and his second coming our position and allegiance is everything. This is shown through John the Baptist and Mary, both Faithful to their Lord and proclaiming the kingdom that is to come and our actions and practice as Christians as we live in expectation and anticipation of the return of Jesus, Paul encourages us to run with endurance () and train painstakingly in the ways of righteousness. Christ himself commands us to follow him, and to live according to his life and governance. St. John and his vision from the book of Revelation gives us a clear picture of the importance of location in our lives and where we are in the time between.

 

     In his vision from Christ, John is instructed to write to the seven churches of Asia Minor. this is the basis for the book of Revelation, which is meant to serve as an encouragement to the seven churches to persevere in their faith and remind them of the need to endure and live faithfully in their allegiance to Christ. the book is not meant to tell us about how the world will end, or about events that are happening now, but to give us comfort and to know that God has the final say in all things, and will fulfill his promises that he has made to his people, from the time of his crucifixion to the time he comes again. The book of Revelation is very clear that position is important, we can either be those who are faithful to Jesus alone casting our full allegiance to him, or we can be on the side of the world and the evil one who rules it.


     Those who are on the side of the nations of the world and the evil one will mourn when their empires are over thrown and will cry out against God and his judgement:


Revelation 18:9-10: “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!"


     The location of those who substitute all manner of things in the place of submission to God will find their location with those who mourn for the fall of our empires. Babylon is any nation, people, person, idea that is in opposition to God and his glory. Babylon is anything within us that is not in submission to the will of God, be it our own pride, our desires for our nation to be the greatest, our desires to be in control, our desires to be over others, our desires for our tribe or group to succeed over all other no matter the cost. Babylon is mighty indeed, but God has the final say in all things, and has already pronounced its fall.


Revelation 18:2[a]: " “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’"


     To this proclamation what are we to say? how are we to find ourselves with the world and the evil one already condemned? we are to respond with hope and faithfulness, this proclamation is the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news is this: Jesus is King, and all other leaders or influences are pretenders. so where are we? do we find ourselves allegent to Jesus and him alone? what does it look like for us to be farmers, teachers, mechanics, truckers, pilots, office workers, college professors, nurses, and students who have given ourselves fully to following Christ and living lives that proclaim the coming kingdom? when we do so we join with saints innumerable through history who have done so. so be on watch for the coming of our Lord until he comes again, remain faithful to the gospel and its message and always hold in reverence its teachings. God is with his people and will not forsake those who come to him.


Revelation 21:6-7: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children."


A prayer from the BCP from this previous Sunday of Advent:

"O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."


Blessings and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ to you,

- Associate-Pastor Andrew



   

Fourth Sunday Of Advent

Scripture readings from this Sunday of Advent: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. Romans 16:25-27. Luke 1:26-38. Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26.


     This past Sunday of Advent at PCC we heard about the incarnated love of God through Jesus Christ and his extension of love to us as his people.

The Lord of Love

     This Sunday of Advent we reflected upon the love of God shown and given to us through Christ and his coming. There is a deep need within all of us to know and feel that we are loved, especially by our creator. Being aware of the love of God and his good presence in the life of the Christian has the power to drive away all manner of desires and temptations within a person when they have become aware of God’s presence because he himself is our fulfillment and chief end. When we are aware of God’s love what else could we want? It is in our nature to seek until we find it, and when it is found to enjoy and commune with it. Because of this Advent takes us into the realm of spiritual formation, and requires us to consider our darkness and where we stand in regard to Gods love and his second coming. When we do so, we engage with the spirit of Advent, the second coming of Christ should be remembered as a snapshot of two realities, now and not yet, judgement and deliverance.

    

     Both of these realities are held within love, Gods love for us shines through his judgement and mercy, and the kingdom that has arrived and will come in its fullness in the new creation. This mercy is revealed in our formation, we have been saved by Christ, but we will not be truly saved until we are made new. This is the in-between of Advent made manifest in our lives, in our struggles with our old selves and our new selves in Christ we will not be complete until he comes again and makes all things new. This is the love of God that these things are the way they are. Gods love has no boundary of time and delights in the process of making all things new, including us.

    

     To better explain this love God has for us and its place in our lives and advent, I would like to create a word picture with some passages and ideas regarding spiritual formation from the New Testament for clarity’s sake.

   

      Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters”.

     2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

     1 John 3:2: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.

 

     There is certainly much that can be gotten into with these passages, but let us focus on this, through his great love for us God has desired to form us from ages long past. (Rom. 8:29), is forming us into his image through the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), and we will be transformed into his image in the future when he comes again (1 John 3:2). This is the love of God to you and me, God has loved us with an everlasting love that spans beyond time. and his love is changing us degree by degree in consistent change that at times is not measurable by us, we are being metamorphosed into the same image (the image of God). This is sanctification and scriptural spiritual formation, the love of God at work within us for his glory and our sake. We were, are, and will be loved by God, this will never change. All that can change is our awareness of this truth, this love was made incarnate for our sake and died for us upon the cross. Reflect on these passages above and where you find yourself in the midst of life and reflect on the image above of Christ the good healer healing the broken in the gospels and beyond. now our poem of Advent from W. H. Auden has become a message of hope, Nothing could save us that is possible. Nothing possible indeed except the limitless, and impossible love of God and the agency of the Son acting in submission to the Fathers initiative joining in the work of the Holy Spirit.


God loves you (me) then, now, and age without end.


A prayer from the BCP from this past Sunday of Advent: " Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."


Blessings and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ to you,

- Associate-Pastor Andrew

Rejoice, Again I say Rejoice!

     This past Sunday at PCC we were able to celebrate together as a congregation the good news of the gospel and partake in its joy as a congregation. but Joy as we touched on this Sunday is hard to find in our world, and harder still to create out of thin air. But the call of advent once again arrests us in our pessimism, dread, and normalcy: Rejoice! this is the time of Joy upon to earth, God has fully revealed himself in Christ Jesus and conquered death through death. The long awaited messiah has come, and will come again.

    

     In this time between that is Advent while we are taking inventory of ourselves, we should ask the question have we participated in joy? when last did we celebrate the once and future coming of the messiah? have we longed for the return of Jesus and the full arrival of his kingdom? What if when we are finally face to face with God, giving an account of our lives on earth, instead of being asked if we abstained from sin and fled from it, what if God asks us this "did you participate in my joy? Did you rejoice in my kingdom?" what if we as Christians viewed our journeys of sanctification as participating in the joy of the coming kingdom, then on trying to avoid sin? if we did so, avoiding sin should be of no issue because all things pale in comparison to the all sufficient and fulfilling love of God revealed through Christ who is all a man needs for life. This joy is not an escapism however, it is not a joy that says that everything is fine and we're all just on a happy bus to heaven. This joy is joy in the midst of great darkness, darkness that no man could fix. This joy collides with the darkness of our world and the darkness within ourselves and demands us to take an inventory, advent after all is about paradoxes, light in darkness, victory in death, strength in meekness, mercy in judgement, and joy in suffering.


     So to end and continue to define joy and how it comes about, joy has come through judgement. In the end all will be judged by the Lamb of God: our country, our presidents, our rock stars, pastors, our world, our talk show hosts, and us. At this great appointment of time when it is at its end. Fleming Rutledge in her book on Advent says this on grace in a violent world:

     "well might we fear the judgement, all of us. But something has happened. John's preaching sets it in motion. With the announcement of John, the world begins to turn on its hinges. the final reckoning is going to take place. And so the judge of all the universe arrives upon the scene. But it is not as we thought. the face of the judge is marked with infinite suffering. His hands and feet are torn by spikes driven in by violent blows. His brow, pierced by the crown of thorns, bears the tokens of utmost humiliation. the judgement has already happened. It has taken place in his own body. the Son of God has borne it all himself. the judge who is to come has given himself to be judged in our place 'to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray".


     This message of rejoicing is one that is wrapped up in Judgement: the Lord is coming be on watch, the Judge is at the door. Advent at once astounds us with the picture of our deliverance through judgement and justice. The Lord is coming as a judge, who can stand against? all must give an account. but those who have been washed in the blood of the lamb (Rev. 7:13-17 NIV) will be judged as righteous and will be welcomed into the kingdom of God and its joy, where darkness will be no more. until then, we rejoice in the Lord and in his kingdom that is to come, through all manner of suffering and trial for our Lord's sake. I would like to direct now our attention to the gallery of images that are at the top of the page, the painting is a tryptech, a painting in three parts from left to right by Viktor Vasnetsov: "Rejoice In The Lord O Ye Righteous". it is a wonderful depiction of the world to come, Saints from all peoples, nations, and cultures flocking towards the city of God in the second panel. There are lots of details to take in when viewing it and I recommend searching the internet for a larger picture of each panel than is provided here.


     Rejoice in the Lord oh ye righteous, the Lord has come to give good news to the poor and the oppressed!


A prayer from the BCP from this Sunday of Advent:

"Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord,  to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen."


Blessings and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ to you,

- Associate-Pastor Andrew

Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture readings from the second Sunday of advent: Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8, Psalm 85:1-2 & 8-13.


     This Sunday at PCC, we celebrated the second Sunday of advent and its announcement of peace upon the earth through the reign of Christ.

The Divine Turning Point

     The second Sunday of advent brings us to the subject of peace. As we heard on Sunday, this peace is divine favor and mercy granted to us from God. This peace was extended to man from God out of love so that his creation might be spared from the divine war that God wages against the age of darkness. It is impossible for man  to redeem the world, so it should come of no surprise to us that God is involved in war with our age of evil until all things are under his foot "and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1:19-23, NIV). to better understand this, we should address our modern understanding of influence. the modern world would tell us that we are masters of ourselves and can trust our thoughts and emotions to lead us to greater understanding and even faith if we trust them well enough.

    

     Our culture believes in human supremacy and our free will to decide how we feel and think, but what if this is simply not true? most in our time would say that there might be a god or some higher power, and fewer still would say that the devil exists even among Christians. It has been the challenge and failure of many philosophers and theologians to accurately describe the relation of evil and good, much less the agency of evil. It is a fair claim to say that most would agree that there is no standard of evil in our broader culture, that there is merely a standard of good that is justifiable through any means necessary. It should come as no surprise to us that the bible communicates otherwise, our biblical understanding of evil is anything that is in opposition to the work of God. We could even say that by the standard of scripture, that evil is intelligent and moves with purpose.

    

     Evil is an active agency that works for its own gain and supremacy against the will of God. This evil is portrayed by the devil, or satan who seeks to destroy and devour. with satan, are his fallen angels and demons who seek to destroy man and corrupt him. "The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him" ( Rev. 12:9 NIV). He is the ruler of the age of darkness where man was held captive. how could we stand against such a thing? Against such an agency man has no hope. Let us return to W. H. Auden's  great poem For the Time Being: "Nothing can save us that is possible". The peace given to us by God was granted through the crucifixion of the Son, through his death and resurrection the Devil and the agency of evil was put to route by the decisive victory of Christ. through his victory over evil he is now actively reigning until he returns to finish what was started.  God is at war with satans age of darkness through the intersection of his peaceful kingdom that achieves victory not through resisting evil, but by living and dying in submission and love, this is the only way that peace to us was and is possible. This is why advent uses the language of "ages" to describe our time, because we as God's people are in the midst of the now and not yet. Evil has been defeated, but its defeat will not be realized until the future coming of the Christ. In this reality, advent reminds us to be watchful, watchful for the coming of the Son, and watchful against the powers of evil that seek to ensnare and destroy us in our following of Christ. Therefore, keep watch for the coming of the peaceful kingdom, bringing the peace given to you through Christ to your neighbor.

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15, NIV).

A prayer from the BCP for this Sunday of advent:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for out salvation: give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Blessings and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ to you,

- Associate-Pastor Andrew



Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr Grace Remington, OCSO © 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey.

First Sunday of Advent

     Scripture readings from the first Sunday of advent: Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37.

    

     This Sunday at PCC we began our celebration of Advent. Advent is celebrated during the church year typically during the four Sundays before Christmas eve where the season culminates.



    

    


Advent Begins in the Dark

     As we began our Advent reflection on Sunday, let us reflect on the theme of darkness. Advent begins in the dark. In his sermon pastor Nathan brought us to the attention of Genesis 3:15 and the hope in our waiting, the first telling of the gospel story in the bible:

    

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15, NIV)


     In our reflecting on hope in the darkness, I would like to bring attention to the painting at the top of the page by Sr Grace Remington, Mary comforting Eve (© 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey). The faithfulness of Mary, and the unfaithfulness of Eve, Mary treading on the head of the serpent as a foreshadowing of what her son would do upon the cross. Mary is directing Eve towards the light to come through the son of God in the midst of Eve's rebellion (her clutching the fruit of the tree of knowledge unable to let go) each one of us are Eve, people who by their own means cannot be rid of our darkness, nor be free from the darkness of the world.

     W. H. Auden, in his great poem For the Time Being says this: "Nothing can save us that is possible" this is as true for Eve as it is for us. There is nothing possible that can save us and there was nothing possible that could save Eve, apart from the impossible nature of the son of God. Auden wrote his 52 page poem in the midst of the second world war, a time as dark if not darker than our own. A time that turned modern optimism and theology on its head. in such a time we were reminded that the world has not gotten brighter but perhaps darker. In times like our own and like Auden's, we are reminded of why the savior came, and why he is coming again. He came and must come again because nothing possible can save us, there is nothing else that can deliver us from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light that is hastening itself towards us with the love of God.

     This is our hope, the intercession of God's light into the domain of darkness when the Son comes again. as you read and reflect upon the scriptures from this past Sunday, reflect also on this painting of Eve and Mary and what it means for us as God's people awaiting his return. In the mean time, keep watch for the Lord and do not grow weary.


    A prayer from the BCP for the first Sunday of advent:

     "Almighty God. give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your son Jesus Christ came to visit in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to life immortal, through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen."


Blessings and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ to you,

- Associate-Pastor Andrew