Saturday, December 13, 2003

Advent: Welcoming the Inbreaking of the Kingdom

I think I did a fair enough job delivering Wednesday's homily. This whole sermon thing is a little daunting, and I've been thinking about a point Dr. Power made the other day about how priests are given the gift and responsibility of speaking God's hope and promise into the lives of people who, like me and everybody else in the world, face the challenges of stress, overwork, individualism, materialism, depression, addiction, all kinds of life dominating brokenness, on and on into the night.

It is by no means useful for me to try to think up pretty and academically impressive things to say. But that's what I like best! Rats.

This weekend will be the second young adult bible "exploration" or whatever. We need a decent name for this: I don't want to be trendy, but as one of our kind parishioners pointed out the other day, "Bible Study" carries connotations of lectures and bottled answers. He's right, especially in the Bible Belt culture. "Bible Exploration." Does anybody have an opinion on that? Soon I'll be putting together content for a young adult ministry webpage on the church's site. This will be a challenge; I know what I want to convey, but I'm not sure of the best way to do so.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is not that we can be "saved" from hell or to heaven by giving intellectual assent to a set of doctrinal propositions. That's what is usually meant by the idea of "accepting Jesus" as one's Lord and Savior. Believing in Jesus is not the same as believing something about Jesus, which is what lots of folks consider conversion to be. Well, they're just plain wrong.

Essentially, the Gospel calls us to an alternative lifestyle of repentance: continual turning from materialism to generosity, from individualism to community, and from cynicism to gratitude and hope. We turn from ourselves and our own way of doing things (what Paul calls "the flesh" or "sinful nature") and turn to God and a new way of life (what he calls the life of the Spirit). When men and women take seriously the proclamation that God is drawing all the outsiders near and that the reign of God is breaking into the world through the changing lives of Jesus' disciples, that news will radically alter their attitudes and ways of living and relating to others. People who respond to that news will form missional communities and through their lives in the world translate into different cultures God's message of repentance and hope. Those communities will take shape in different ways appropriate to their own times and places, and consist of a group of people who are serious about changing their attitudes and way of living to bring it in line with the inbreaking Kingdom of God.

It is Advent, after all.

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