24 December 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey 4th Advent - Sermon 24 December 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
4th Advent - Sermon
24 December 2017

St. Augustine begins his “Confessions” with the important notion that we are restless until we find rest in God.  
'Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.'
~Augustine of Hippo

To be at home, to be at rest is a theme that echoes throughout the Hebrew scriptures.  On the seventh day of the creation of the universe, even God rested, and in so doing, God blessed the Sabbath, and blessed us with the real gift of being at home, at rest.  Later, when God speaks to David about establishing a house and a home, the Lord hints at three meanings, at least.  

  • The meaning is about a literal “place” where God may abide,
  • but also the establishment of a home for his chosen people,
  • and also an establishment of the “house and lineage” of David.

Of course, even the casual reader may note the juxtaposition of the house of the Lord, the Temple, which was built by David and Solomon but then God’s own son, Jesus being born into a place that was no house at all.

The house of the Lord built by David and Solomon was heavily stratified, there were many many doors, many thresholds to cross.  Many many requirements for followers of Yahweh.

Then we have the story of Jesus from the first chapter of John.  Followers of John the Baptist ask Jesus: “Where are you staying, where to you abide?”  Jesus responds with a deeper answer than merely where he was staying the night, instead, he answers with the verb which signifies a deeper sense of abide - that is, where will they find Jesus, where will they experience the depth of his being, where will the encounter the living God.  He answers, “Come and See”. Jesus is the master inviter who tells these followers to, “come and see” where I abide.  Come and see!

“The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

The place where Jesus abides is a place open to us.  Of course, the word abide is very similar to the word abode – home, household, a place of rest, refreshment, welcome, safety, hospitality, gratitude, thanksgiving, and repentance and conversion.

To abide is to be present, to really “be” in a place, not to just pass through, but to really stay there.   To abide in a place means that we also need to abide with the folks around us.  To abide with someone is to really be with them.  When we are given the present of another’s presence we feel the blessing of that person, but also, through them, we can feel Christ’s presence in our lives.

Of course, to be fully present with another when they are in pain, suffering, or heartache can be quite a challenge.   So, the word abide signals a timeless quality of place – where Jesus abides is that timeless and eternal place where we might “come and see” the blessing that God has given us. Abiding in a place can point to the abode where God lives – the place that is open to us, if we cultivate the awareness of God’s presence.  The word points to a sense of timeless presence, the gift of abiding alongside someone; the gift of presence to those in need, those in heartache, those in suffering.

As we eat follow Jesus’ command to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” we do “abide in him, and he in us.”  Christ has given us the gift of the real presence of him in our lives.  We partake of the “bread that came down from heaven” and “the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

We pray today, “Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself.”

We abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.  We are given “rest for our souls.”  Through the gift of the Eucharist we are offered the gift of God’s presence in our lives.  We are made one with God, and he is one with us.  We are made one with God, we are also made one with one another.  We also offer each other the gift of invitation, the gift of hospitality to others.  And, so we offer others the gift of presence, of healing, of caregiving, for we are one in the Spirit with God, and one in the Spirit with one another.

'Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.'
~Augustine of Hippo

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