1 John 2:18-25
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Today is the third Tuesday of Advent and the third installment in our Preaching Series. The topic is desire and longing, which I’d like to approach by way of what is sometimes called the Third Advent. The First Advent was the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago, the Incarnation. A physical, human presence that could be seen and heard and touched. We are now waiting for the Second Advent, that is, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in glory, on clouds descending, every eye beholding.
Of course, Christ is not confined to the past or the future; all time and eternity belong to Christ. Christ comes to us even now, in this life: the Third Advent. In the Gospel of John, as we heard, Jesus promises not only to be with them, but to be in them. We are in him; he is in us. He is the light of the world, the light of all people. Christ comes to us, abides in us, even now.
Today’s scriptures parallel one another in presenting us with images of brothers in community. Genesis portrays the sons of Jacob who are blood brothers, though born of different mothers. In Matthew, Jesus is gathering a community of “brothers” as followers. Some of these are pairs of blood brothers, namely Peter and Andrew, James and John. The others in the group have been paired together as “brothers” to share with the blood brothers in Jesus’ itinerant ministry of exorcism and the healing of diseases. But this group of twelve also has a representative role. Their number and gender symbolize a reconstituted Israel, the nation of twelve tribes descended from the patriarch’s sons. They are being chosen and given authority to act as a focus for the gathering Jesus movement. In company with other “brothers”—and sisters too—they are being empowered to proclaim in word and deed that the kingdom of heaven has come near.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola asks us to imagine a charismatic leader whom we admire and whose life and mission have been an inspiration to us. Think for a moment of who this person might be for you. Whom do you admire? Who has inspired you?… You believe in this person’s values and priorities. You admire his/her integrity. You are convinced that the cause he/she represents is so true, so important, so worthy, that you are ready to offer your full support.
I came to live in this country in 1999 – fourteen years ago. When I first came here, I missed England so much. In the first few months in the Monastery, I would spend much of my time remembering my former life: filled with a mixture of homesickness and nostalgia. I think I lived most of my conscious life at a point somewhere half-way across the Atlantic!
“For freedom Christ has set us free.” St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Words like freedom and liberty will be in the air this week as we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July. Freedom, whatever that means, is the essence of what it means to be American and it was very much on the minds of the founders. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Familiar words from the Declaration of Independence. Our foundational documents and the principles they articulate with such extraordinary sonority have resonated far beyond our borders, and continue to do so.
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your Love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A funeral procession winds its way through the center of the village and passes through the city gates, heading for the place outside its bounds where the dead were laid to rest. Hired mourners, weeping and wailing on behalf of the friends and relatives of the dead man, are leading the way, along with musicians with flutes and cymbals sounding their mournful tunes. The mother of the dead man, already a widow, walks ahead of the open-faced coffin, her face worn and weary and her body bent with her double sadness. Then comes the body of the dead man, lying in a long basket carried upon a stretcher and followed by a large crowd from the town, silently shuffling forward.