Advent Pilgrimage – Week 2

•December 7, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This year I am sharing some Advent Reflections online. The theme is Pilgrimage. I have to confess that I wrote this a few years ago, and have no idea what the inspiration I used was, my apologies if I have inadvertently plagiarised anyone else’s work, but the setting is definitely mine.

This week The Peaceful Kingdom

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.


He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.


The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

If you prefer the written version:

If you were in charge of this country, what would you want to see happen?  What changes would you make?

This is what Isaiah said the new king would be like.  A king of wisdom, with skill to rule, judging fairly, with honesty/integrity, obedient, powerful.    This is a beautiful picture of the eternal peaceful kingdom, where everyone and all creatures will happily and safely live alongside one another.  A day is coming when the nations will gather together and recognize the new king.  All creation will one day be at peace.  However unalike all will get along.  Fear will have no place – danger will be past.  There will be peace with one another, with the whole creation, and with God.

But this peace won’t just happen, but will come when the new member of David’s line comes, who will be filled with the Spirit of God.

Christians have identified this figure as Jesus – the Messiah, sent by God to be our saviour – the one who can make the impossible possible, the only one who can bring justice, harmony and peace.  God’s himself living with his people.

Jesus is the hope of the world.  It is him – in his love, wisdom and power – that the earth will be blessed – and again the promise that one day the earth will be filled with people who know and honour the Lord.   

This is the hope of Advent: a world renewed, changed; a kingdom of security and justice.

But they are a hope also for today, for those who love God.  For those of us who are human who struggle with relationships; for those of us who look in great sadness at the world, and mourn for its brokenness and unhappiness.

Jesus makes these things possible, and in his advent life, we have to live it out today.  We can live in peace and in justice – in God’s love – in the spirit of his wisdom – as we pray ‘Come Lord Jesus’.

Lord, we would like to see our world renewed into a place of peace and harmony.  Renew us by your life-giving Spirit, so that we can be agents of peace, justice and love where we are, and so be part of your great purpose for the whole creation.  Amen 

Advent Pilgrimage Week 1

•December 1, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This year I am sharing some Advent Reflections online. The theme is Pilgrimage. I have to confess that I wrote this a few years ago, and have no idea what the inspiration I used was, my apologies if I have inadvertently plagiarised anyone else’s work, but the setting is definitely mine.

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

Isaiah 2: 1-5

The Future House of God

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.


In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

Judgement Pronounced on Arrogance


O house of Jacob,
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

This is the spoken recording

Or if you prefer the written version:

Going to a place where we can be close to God.

Before Jesus were born, the Jewish people had been waiting for a very long time – years and years and years – for God to send a special leader who would set them free from being ruled by other nations.

They waited and waited – and then God did something – he sent an angel to give Mary some good news.  We do not know what God will do – all we can do is wait.

Imagine…

We are going on a journey.  ‘Imagine you are on a special journey, and on the way you begin to meet up with people of all different places.  You notice that they are wearing different clothes than you, and some are speaking different languages.  But as you walk along, you realise that you are all walking to the same place.’

Imagine your first glimpse of this special place.  It is still a long way to go, but you can see it towering above all the other mountains.  How are you feeling?

People around you are beginning to talk to one another, saying, ‘Lets go to the mountain of the Lord God of Jacob and worship in his temple.  The Lord will teach us his law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him.’

You keep moving forward, climbing the steep hill.  It’s hard work, but before long you reach the top.  Look around.  How do you feel now you have reached this destination?

‘On this first week in Advent, as we begin our journey towards Christmas, Isaiah points to a day when all nations will come together to listen to God.  But we know that even when God sent his very own son, Jesus, into the world, still the people did not listen.  Jesus promised that one day he would come again and at that time nations would never again go to war.

In Advent we remember when Jesus first came to the earth, and we look forward to when Jesus will come again.

Isa tells us to look ahead – on a journey of hope – for God’s promises are not empty.  Waiting for the coming saviour – who will come, not just at Christmas, but one day will finally come again and bring in the era of justice and peace.

We are asked to look beyond where we are, to be people of vision, and to look out to the world around us.

Yes the world is still war-torn, distressed, broken – and greedy too.  Yet that is the world into which Jesus came.  That is the world for which we pray, and in which we must live as Christ’s disciples.  Where we must play our part in making peace.

God of hope, give us this Advent a faith that looks inwards to the deepest longings of our own hearts, upwards to the heavenly city and out to the whole world.  Hold before our eyes this vision of hope as we joyfully wait for the coming of the Saviour.  Amen

What Do I Do While I’m Waiting?

•November 24, 2022 • 3 Comments
Candle flame burning
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This is my written sermon for our Circuit’s Ministry to those who cannot join worship in the building, for this coming Sunday – the First Sunday of Advent.

It is based on the set readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, and Matthew 24:36-44

Person looking at their arm with a watch on it
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Sometimes it feels as if I spend my whole life waiting.  Waiting for appointments, for letters, for someone else to sort something, for things to change…  You will have your own list.  Like many, I am not very good at waiting!  But perhaps one of the most important questions is what we do while we wait.

This week we reach the beginning of Advent.  Advent is a period of preparation, a time of expectant waiting.

Advent calendar 
lit wooden houses on top of wooden numbers doors
Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

I guess that raises the question of what are we waiting for?  For many it is waiting for Christmas Day.  To celebrate, whether with reference to Jesus or not.  But we wait, not just to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also for the Second Coming – the time when Jesus will return again.  This is the emphasis of this week’s readings.  We are looking forward, but that should be very much with an eye on how that effects how we live today.  We are waiting, but we wait actively.

Sword with black handle
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on Pexels.com

Isaiah gives us a vision of a day when “Swords will be turned into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (2:4) – a sentiment I’m sure we all long for.  Is it a vision for the future, or something we should be working to make a reality each day?  Perhaps we can look and see what there is in our everyday lives that are swords and spears that could much more usefully be used for growth not destruction.  What weapons are around us?  Do we pick them up, or try and make them something more healthy?  When and what should we be tending and growing rather than creating hurt?  It is never too early to stop fighting, to lay down arguments, to do all we can to make the world a better place.  Whilst we wait for the ultimate cessation of war, of all kinds, what am I doing to make it a reality where I am today?

Tractor ploughing a field.  The field is half ploughed the rest is green growth
Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

In Romans we are implored to “Wake up from your sleep, lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.  Let us live honourably as in the day.” (13:11-12)  Living honourably seems to have become a rarity in public life in recent months.  We went from the death and memory of the Queen, who lived life so honourably, to scandals in public life that seemed to be forgiven very quickly and glossed over.  But as always the question should be for me.  I am not asked to sit in judgement on decisions and actions of other people, but to worry about how I live my life.  That is all each of us is accountable to God for, how we live each day.  Does that honour God and God’s way, or detract?  Do I live in the ways of light and spread light, or bring only darkness?  When  God looks at me and my life, whether now or at some time in the future, what will God see?  What will be my legacy?

Hand holding up a leaf with the light shining around and through it
Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Because as Matthew reminds us – you never know.  We never know when God will return again, and we never know when our last day will be.  If we knew today was our last day, how would we behave?  Matthew reminds us that the Son of Man will come at an unexpected time, so we should be ready.  (24:44) When I was young, I thought God could wait, that I had a life to be getting on with and God might spoil it.  Fortunately, I discovered that was not the case and I know life would have been very different without God on board. It can be easy to imagine that we have plenty of time to do something, sort out what needs doing, put right a wrong, do all we can to turn a bad thing into a good thing – but do we?  God sees today.

So, as we wait, for Advent to journey, for Christmas to come, for Jesus to return and bring us to himself, for my final day, how will I live?  In destruction or peace?  In darkness or light, dishonourably or with honour?  Living each day as if I have all the time in the world or as if it might be my last?

One of the hymns linked to today is There’s a Light Upon the Mountains by Henry Burton, (one of my favourites!) which speaks of waiting for God.  The first verse goes:

“There’s a light upon the mountains, and the day is at the spring,

When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King;

Weary was our heart with waiting and the night-watch seemed so long,

But his triumph-day is breaking, and we hail it with a song.”

And the third verse:

“He is breaking down the barriers, he is casting up the way;

He is calling for his angels to build up the gates of day:

But his angels here are human, not the shining hosts above;

For the drum-beats of his army are the heart-beats of our love.”

This Advent, and in the rest of our lives, may we not become weary of waiting, however long it seems, and live as God’s people in God’s ways.  May we live daily as the heart beats of God’s love.  For God is coming into each and every day.

May God bless us in our living, waiting and longing.

 
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