My Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Last Sunday, visiting from Trinity Anglican Church in Mason, OH, Deacon Dave Truax delivered this homily on the occasion of this year’s First Sunday in Advent. I know some parishioners were unable to hear this most excellent start to the Advent season, and so I want to afford you the opportunity to read the text. Below you can read the homily as well as the Epistle and Gospel lessons for the day.
(First Sunday in Advent Epistle and Gospel Lessons):
THE EPISTLE. Romans 13. 8
OWE no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
THE GOSPEL. S. Matthew 21. 1
WHEN they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them; and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple; and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
(Homily delivered by Deacon Dave Truax on Sunday, November 28, 2010 at Christ Our Hope Anglican Church):
Some of you may be wondering why we had a Palm Sunday reading this morning, and you may be thinking how strange it is to read about Jesus coming to Jerusalem and the Templejust four weeks from Christmas. I hope I can help with that this morning.
The theme of today’s sermon is, “Behold Thy king cometh unto thee…” Or “Judgment is not a four letter word.”
Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the first day of a new Church year. Our scripture readings this morning are aimed a getting the New Year started out on the right foot. I would like to begin the sermon by giving you a little back ground information on today’s Propers (the gospel reading, epistle lesson, and the Collect). Both the Gospel reading and the Epistle lesson today, and for all the Sundays in Advent, have been the Proper readings at least since the time of Jerome and the fifth century. That means that on the First Sunday of Advent for the last 16 hundred years, the Church has used the same readings that we heard today to prepare for Christmas and the proclamation of the coming of the Savior of the World.
The theme of the coming King in today’s lesson is consistent with all the Advent lessons. We have the Advent Season because the Church desires to minister to the saints in a pattern that follows the life and ministry of Christ. Advent speaks to us before Christmas the way John the Baptist preached to Israel before Jesus, so that we don’t “miss Christmas”. Advent is a Purple Season, a season of repentance and preparation for the coming of Christ. Our own Bishop Morse has said that Advent is the “little Lent”. Advent is a time when the Church directs our thoughts not only to the coming of the Baby in the manger, but also to the His coming as king when he shall judge both the living and the dead. And our response is to “purple” our hearts and say, “Ever so Lord Jesus, come.” Our Advent Collect, which is to be said everyday throughout advent until Christmas Day, sums it up like this, “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 thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;”.
The church is teaching us that Judgment is not a four letter word. Judgment and redemption are inseparable. Jesus the King cleansed the Temple because the Temple was to provide a space and a place and time for prayer; it was to be a House of Prayer, and only prayer. The people were to see and meet, not only their own needs, but the needs of the entire world through the eyes and faithful use of prayer. Anything else done in the Temple was thievery. Jesus’ judgment was that they had turned the Temple into a den of thieves. They were robbing the world and themselves of prayer by turning the place of prayer into a market place. Likewise, in advent, as we turn our hearts and thoughts to the coming Christmas King, the Savior of the World, His love for us and for all men judges us. The Savior of the World’s love searches us, and puts us in order by driving out what St. Paul called in today’s epistle lesson, “the works of darkness,” and fills us with “the armor of light”. His judging love is also His redeeming love. Jesus heals our wounded hearts, the hearts that he wounds with conviction, just as he wounded the money changers and sellers of doves with a whip of cords. He chases out the darkness and makes us into a House of Prayer. Believers in Christ are like the five faithful virgins, in Jesus’ parable about the coming of the son of man in Matt 25, who are waiting on the bridegroom. They are not called “faithful” because they have no sin, but because, in spite of their sin, their lamps are full of oil, meaning that their hearts are full of prayer. They wait excitedly and expectantly for the promise of His coming and not only for their own redemption, but also the redemption of the World to be fulfilled. Their prayer is our prayer every communion when we come to this Table. “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts … that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name…”, In other words, “Behold, our King cometh to make us into a House of Prayer.”
This expectation of Christ the king coming to judge us with his love, to set his house in order, is not an occasion for sadness but for joy. The Advent Season is a season of joy for the Church because repentance and healing are always an occasion for joy. The being “put right by God” is grace to us and relief to us. Again, the advent Season is about joyful preparation, meaning joyful repentance, because the coming of the Son of God is at hand. And it is a season aimed at preparing us for a whole new year of being the House of Prayer for our world. It is a time when that “Son sending Love of God” shines on us like Christmas, expelling the money changer in us. The author of Romans exhorts us in today Epistle lesson to “…walk honestly, as in the day;… not in strife and envying.” We are called to rejoice in repentance, to throw down our “temple market ways” before our coming King, to “OWE no man any thing, but to love one another” and to pray for one another, like the people throwing down palm branches and garments before and the Lord and shouting “Hosanna in the highest”, because they have an expectation that He is coming to put things right. The little baby born in a manger comes to judge and redeem. And judgment starts, on this first day of a new Church year, with the House of God. He comes to cleanse our temple, to turn over the money changing tables of our hearts and teach us to pray and to be a House of Prayer for our world. And our response as we prepare for his coming is, “Behold our King cometh, Hosanna in the highest!”
I was listening to a radio program a few months ago, in which people were telling stories of what they had given up so that they could be with their true love. I heard a woman tell the story of how she quit smoking to be with her Husband. She told of how she had tried to quit smoking for years with no success. She tried the patch, she tried the gum, and she read all the books. She said she tried everything but could not quit. Then she met the man of her dreams. She loved him and he loved her. She told him “I love you and I want to marry you.” He said, “I love you and I want to marry you. But I won’t marry you until you quit smoking.” And her response was, “that’s it; I’m done smoking!” And she did quit; just like that. She was glad to quit because she wanted him. Nothing else mattered. “Quitting” was no longer a four letter word. She was now not only willing, but joyfully energized to throw down, before her beloved, that habit which no mater how willing her spirit was before, her flesh was to weak to allow it. But now, somehow, she could do it, because something inside her said, “behold thy king cometh onto thee, Hosanna in the highest!”
That is the exciting, joyful message of Advent. Christ is coming to the world at Christmas, but he comes first to us, the Church, at Advent, to put us in order so that we may be the House of Prayer for our world. Today, in the Church, Christ is served to us meekly, on a Table. He comes to Judge us with his love for us and for the world, to search us with the Love of God, to make the money changing table in us into a communion table for the world. He makes us into His House of Prayer, a Temple of the Holy Spirit, a people on the earth for the whole world to enter into and find Christ and their salvation. And that is what we can expect when we joyfully and boldly approach the communion table. We come not with a heart full of “Temple Marketing”, with envy and strife, but with a heart full of prayer for ourselves and for our world. We come not “trusting in our own righteousness,” but expecting to be “put right” by His “great mercies.” That is what advent teaches us. It teaches us to rejoice because judgment is not a four letter word. Behold, thy King cometh. Amen.
(Homily delivered by Deacon Dave Truax on Sunday, November 28th, at Christ Our Hope Anglican Church)