My Witness - Sam Buehrer - SylvaniaUCC - Dec92018
December 9, 2018
Sermon “My Witness” December 9, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
3In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Sermon “My Witness” December 9, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
Last week when Hafidha and I we were talking about the season of Advent, we took the time to explain that Advent is not just a title, but that it literally means, coming or beginning. As we did so, I noticed that several of you looked as if a light bulb went off in your head. This made me think that several who heard this had never thought of Advent as being anything other than a title for this season. Clearly understanding the meaning of the word Advent gives new insight to the season.
With this is mind, I want to explore the meaning of the season a little further. So I ask the question, what for you does Advent points toward? What is coming? What are you expecting? Is it the coming of Jesus as an infant in a manger in Bethlehem? If that is what we believe Advent is all about, I would suggest that we are seeing Advent with limited vision. Advent is looking toward the birth of Jesus, but it is also looking for something far greater to break into our world. We are not just looking for the coming of Jesus. Even more so, we are looking for the coming of Christ into our lives, Christ being that Divine Presence that permeates all creation.
In a recent devotional, Richard Rohr explores what Advent means to us by exploring what it means to receive the Divine Presence of God. He begins by asking a question.
“What if we’ve missed the point of who Christ is, what Christ is, and where Christ is? I believe that a Christian is simply one who has learned to see Christ everywhere. Understanding the Universal or Cosmic Christ can change the way we relate to creation, to other religions, to other people, to ourselves, and to God. Knowing and experiencing this Christ can bring about a major shift in consciousness…”
He goes on to suggest,
“The Universal Christ is present in both Scripture and Tradition, and the concept has been understood by many mystics, though not as a focus of mainline Christianity. (See John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:9-12 if you think this is some new idea.) We just didn’t have the eyes to see it.
God’s first “idea” was to become manifest—to pour out divine, infinite love into finite, visible forms. The “Big Bang” is now our scientific name for that first idea; and “Christ” is our Christian theological name. Both are about love and beauty exploding outward in all directions. Creation is indeed the Body of God!
In Jesus, this eternal omnipresence had a precise, concrete, and personal referent. God’s presence became more obvious and believable in the world. The formless took on form in someone we could “hear, see, and touch” (1 John 1:1), making God easier to love.
But it seems we so fell in love with this personal interface in Jesus that we forgot about the eternal Christ, the Body of God, which is all of creation…Jesus and Christ are not exactly the same…Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time; Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time.”
He finishes by saying,
“When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are believing in something much bigger than the historical incarnation that we call Jesus. Jesus is the visible map. The entire sweep of the meaning of the Anointed One, the Christ, includes us and includes all of creation since the beginning of time (see Romans 1:20). This Advent, let us wait in anticipation for the eternally coming Christ.”1
If we can begin to see Advent not just as a time to prepare for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, but if we can see it also or more so as the time when we look for the in-breaking of Christ, the Divine Presence, into our lives, then we might truly experience what it means to be in the body of Christ. For when we experience Christ’s presence, in that moment we become aware that we are part of that eternal love that burst on to the scene when God first spoke at the beginning of time, We become aware that we are part of that love that is ever expanding further and further across space and across time.
It is that love that Luke alludes too when he writes about preparing the way of the Lord. When the Lord, the Divine Presence comes, it comes with such a force that nothing can impede it. It is as if the valleys are filled in, the mountains are made low, the crooked ways are made straight, the rough places made smooth.
In an Advent sermon by the Irish theologian, Herbert McCabe, McCabe takes the image of a roadway being made straight and compares it to how we live our lives. He writes about a highway akin to our Interstate 75, that when it comes to a valley, the valley is lifted up and when it comes to a mountain, the mountain is made low so that it can go in more or less of a straight line without having to loop and bend around them as the local roads do. He suggests that these local roads, the ones that follow the contour of the land are an image of the way we deal with each other, how we have to deal with people. He suggests that with people we do not like much, “it is often an uphill struggle. It is difficult to get to know them, and we approach them as we climb a hill – with bends and loops and changes of tactics as we try to respond to them. With our friends it is all so much easier: a downhill run that carries us along…With powerful people that we are afraid of, we often have to make sudden twists and turns…The going is rough quite a lot of the time.” Contrast that rough way with God’s way, which is much more simple and straight forward. God’s way is the way of love. God’s way “does not care whether it meets easy or difficult, uphill or downhill, good or bad. It does not care how important or unimportant we are…God’s way cuts straight through all the mountains and the valleys, the heights of sanctity and the depths of depravity. God does not turn aside from anyone.3 God’s way reaches all people.
It is this very way that is the focus of the Advent season. Advent is pointing us toward the “Big Bang”, the first “idea” where the infinite love of the divine became manifest in all creation making all things beautiful. Therefore whenever we feel love and see beauty around us, we are seeing the rough places becoming plain and the crooked being made straight. Whenever we feel love and see beauty around us, we are seeing the presence of the divine. And when we see the divine, Christ has come.
1Richard Rohr, Who Is Christ? December 2, 2018First Sunday of Advent. Center for Action and Contemplation Meditations@cac.org
2Herbert McCabe. God, Christ and Us. Continuum. 2003. Page 26.
3Ibid. Page 27.