Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent 2015

"A World in Crisis"


             To say that the world is in crisis is a huge understatement.  As I approach the theme for this year's Advent booklet, "And All Shall See," I wonder how that can ever change. 

             With international terrorism a regular occurrence, including bombings, beheadings, burning fellow human beings alive, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands across Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere...With domestic terror including the targeting of police and military service members, or worshippers in a church driven by adherence to a twisted religious or political belief...With violent uprisings in American cities from Ferguson to Baltimore to New York and elsewhere...And with an epidemic of senseless crime and brutal murders here in our own wonderful city, whether driven by the scourge of drug dealer turf wars, or racial hatred, or simply a lost segment of our population with no hope or vision or sense of self-worth...

How is it that this can be taking place in light of the biblical assurance that "all shall see?"  Apparently there are far too many who do not see the glory and salvation of the Lord.  Will this ever change?  How can it change?  What is our role in bringing about this change?

In a sermon in our sanctuary years ago, Tom Austin reminded us that the world's salvation is placed squarely on us, the common people of the world.  God has always done his work through imperfect people...God's words still can be conveyed through our words and deeds, through his redemptive work of extending comfort, issuing challenges, and providing insightful hope.

So, what is our plan for addressing the ills of the world?  Several weeks ago, John Finley wrote in The Calendar about the positive things we and our church can remain involved in to help improve the human condition in places we can touch.  It was a good list.  It is a formula for changing hearts and lives.

We know that we may never be able, by ourselves, to persuade the evil murderers of terrorist groups to cease slaughtering innocent people, or stop the scourge of drugs, weapons, and callousness toward human life right here in our community.

But I am reminded of the Old Testament lesson of Moses facing a hardened Pharaoh.  He reluctantly let God use him and Aaron as his instruments to rescue the Israelites.  Moses asked for release of Israel and warned that God would demonstrate his power if Pharaoh refused to heed his call (Exodus 5:1-3).  It took several plagues descending on Egypt to soften Pharaoh's heart and free the slaves.  Will it take similar plagues to change the world today?  I hope not.

We must pray for God to give us the heart of a servant and the courage to obey his word.  We must pray without ceasing for the hardened hearts of evildoers to be softened and turn toward a         Christ-like life.  In the New Testament, Matthew 4:16 shows the way:  "The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; light has dawned on those who lived in the land of death's dark shadow...Repent for the kingdom of heaven is upon you."

Repent, a word often heard as a harsh command should be understood, instead, as an invitation to a better way of life.  Hear the Master.  He delivers the good news.  His invitation to repent is not an accusation.  Rather he opens his hands to you in love and says, "Repent."

- Sarah Davis


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