Sermon: Advent with Isaiah – A King Comes

Texts:  Isaiah 11:1-10 & Romans 15:1-13
Second Sunday of Advent, Series A

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Every time there is an election, it seems that our discontentment with the status quo emerges. Things are not the way they should be. And when the politicians start their campaigns, it occasionally happens that we can begin to have hope. We hope that things will finally be put right. Even though we know it is idealistic, we still feel the longing to dare to hope for “change we can believe in”. In fact, some politicians play to those longings and desires for change. In the campaign speeches during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barak Obama repeatedly stressed these two words, “hope” and “change”. But, now, no matter what your political views, we’d all agree that there is very little to hope for in politics, and very little of the change that will matter. 

Isaiah, writing during a time when war with the pagan empires threatened to destroy God’s people, calls Israel to place their hope in their faithful God, who will raise up a king who will bring in lasting change. So, Isaiah says that God’s promised king is coming from an unlikely source. He’s coming completely qualified to make good on his promises, and he coming to bring hope to the entire world.  Continue reading “Sermon: Advent with Isaiah – A King Comes”

Sermon: Advent With Isaiah—The Promise of Peace

Text:  Isaiah 2:1-5
First Sunday in Advent, Series A

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

At the United Nations headquarters in New York City there is a large sculpture of a blacksmith beating a sword into a plowshare. On the wall of the UN building behind the statue appears a text lifted from Isaiah 2:4. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This text with the accompanying statue were a gift of the Soviet Union to the UN. On the base of the statue appear the words “we shall beat our swords into plowshares.” This represents a sort of goal or motto which the UN is working for in the World. We certainly would not doubt that the goal of organisations like the United Nations is very lofty and just. It is good for us to strive and work for peace among the nations. We all wait to avoid another world war. 

But, we all live with a certain level of discontent when we look at the world. Idealism gives way to the harsh realities of life. We long for and desire “peace on earth, good-will to men” but despite our best efforts, that kind of peace which beats swords into plowshares, remains elusive. We have a hard enough time trying to keep the peace within our families, let alone among nations! People are not peaceful, they are fighters. People do not love their enemies, they want to get even. So, this text may appear to some as being the stuff of dreams. Some see this text as an idealistic fantasy — something for humanity to strive towards. But, Isaiah promises a peace which isn’t only idealistic, but a reality already making itself known in the world.  Continue reading “Sermon: Advent With Isaiah—The Promise of Peace”

December Newsletter

It’s a season of preparation. We’ve spent the last several weeks beginning our preparations for winter. We may have gathered wood for the fireplace, raked the leaves, winterised the car, got winter clothing out of storage, and prepared ourselves to dig in (and out!) for the winter months. This is also the time of the year when we begin to prepare for Christmas. We make a list, either mental or physical, of those to whom we want to give gifts and cards. We go shopping, we decorate our homes, we spend time with family and friends. In fact, we’re so bombarded with Christmas throughout December that by the time Christmas Day arrives we’re ready to be done with the whole thing. We’ve had quite enough of Jingle Bells, Santa Claus, and tinsel for one year, thank you very much.

But this season in the Church is not pre-Christmas. No, this is the season of Advent, and we should not let Christmas encroach upon its own unique character. It is a very short season, just a smidge over three weeks. And what joy we have to welcome its arrival, with the wreath and the growing light and warmth, the many beautiful Advent hymns, the extra services where we lighten the long and dark evenings with the Word and prayer, psalms and songs!

Advent means “Coming” and focuses our attention upon the Coming of the Lord. We have spent a the last four weeks reflecting upon the fact that at the end of history Christ the King will come to rescue the world and establish his rule in the new heavens and earth. Now, we look forward to the coming of the Saviour in Bethlehem, where we meditate on the mystery of the incarnation: God made flesh for us and for salvation. Advent also focuses us on the longing for Christ to come anew into our lives here and now. Advent is a time where the Church prepares itself by meeting the coming of the Lord in his word and in, with and under the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper.

Advent is a season of preparation, expectation and hope. The Old Testament readings are all from Isaiah and express ancient Israel’s hope and expectation for coming of the Messiah. They prayed and prepared for the day when the Messiah would come, establish God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven, destroy all the powers of evil, and abolish sin and death. John the Baptist figures large, with his constant warning and challenge to us not to settle down into the ways of this world, thus failing to be prepared to welcome God’s surprise in-breaking, the joyous arrival of His Kingdom in the flesh of His Son.

This continued coming of the Lord among his people here and now is important. As we go about our busy lives in preparation for the holidays, we have to ask ourselves, “Where is God in all this?” The danger we face is in the tendency to be indifferent to the presence of God. When we think we can do things on our own, we act as though we have little or no need for God. When we fail to live as though Christ himself is present among us during worship, we can easily be lulled to spiritual sleep. Advent exhorts us to be prepared and vigilant so that when Christ comes again to set the world right again, and establish his reign on earth as in heaven, we may be included. Advent reminds us that this expected coming of the Kingdom of God has already begun in the babe in Bethlehem, and continues through Word and Sacrament today. May you have a blessed Adventide!

Your Pastor,
Rev. Matthew Fenn

Sermon: The Royal Splendour of the Cross

Text: Luke 23:33-43
Feast of Christ the King, Series C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

A cart was being driven through the streets of a city in the Far East. On the cart were standing fifteen or twenty men. Around the neck of each, hanging from a string, was a notice. On the notice was written the particular crime they were accused of. When they reached the end of their journey, they were taken off the cart. Two of the men were selected, and were publicly beheaded. The others were taken back to prison, to await the pleasure of the government.

The purpose of the notices was obvious. They were to rub in the point to the people who were watching (and there were plenty of people watching): that’s what will happen if you do this sort of thing. The ‘sort of thing’ in question was actions or teachings which the government interpreted as being revolutionary. The Romans used more or less the exact same system. That’s what’s going on with the notice that’s placed above Jesus’ head on the cross. Sometimes condemned Roman prisoners, like the ones I just described, carried the notice around their neck on the way to the place of execution, so that all the more people could see, and take warning. Continue reading “Sermon: The Royal Splendour of the Cross”

Sermon: What is the Day of the Lord?

Text: Luke 21:5-28
Proper 28, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

“For behold, the day is coming” warns the prophet Malachi. A day of fire and wrath. A day to end all days, the last day, the Day of the Lord.  What is the day of the Lord? When most Christians use the phrase “the day of the Lord,” they use it to refer to the end of time, when Jesus descends from Heaven on a cloud to bring justice to the world and defeat evil once and for all. Just as there was a beginning, when God created everything, there is also an end of this creation and the rising up of a new creation out of the ashes of the old. Isn’t that what we think our Gospel reading is talking about? A day when the heavens will be shaken, the seas will roar, the sun, moon, and stars will fail, the nations will be in upheaval, and people will literally faint with fear? It’s all thunderbolts and lightening, and very very frightening. It may make for great cinema, but we have to be careful when reading this kind of language. It can be very easy to jump to the wrong conclusions and misunderstand what Jesus intended. Our Gospel reading is emphatically about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, not specifically about the end of the world. That doesn’t mean the End of the World won’t happen. So, what’s the point of this passage if not the End of the World? Continue reading “Sermon: What is the Day of the Lord?”

Sermon: Will the Dead Be Raised?

Text: Luke 20:27-40
Proper 27, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The question our texts put before us this morning is this: will the dead be raised? It’s a fundamental belief today that once you’re dead, you stay dead. That’s what we hear isn’t it? Dead people don’t rise again. Resurrections don’t happen. We live in a scientific age and we know that once a person is dead, he is always dead. In fact, since 2012 the term YOLO, “you only live once”, has become a catch phrase of many who seek to live life to its fullest and embrace risky behaviour. However, the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day is is a central teaching of the Christian faith. Three central issues hang on it: accountability before God, the last judgment, and eternal life. Without a resurrection, death would be the end, our accountability to God would be limited to this life, and judgment and eternal life would become meaningless concepts. So, in light of the rampant skepticism that we see today, the challenge of our texts is all the more important: Do you believe, teach, and confess that the dead will be raised? Continue reading “Sermon: Will the Dead Be Raised?”

Sermon: We Feebly Struggle, They in Glory Shine

Text: Revelation 7:9-17
All Saints day (Obs.)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Are you a saint? Most of you will immediately think, No. I’m not a bad person but I’m no saint. What do we mean when we say, “she was a real saint?!” When we call someone a saint in that way, we mean that they are a person of great patience or moral excellence. That’s the question we need to think about on All Saints Day. What makes one a saint? Do you need to have lived an extraordinarily holy life? Do you need to have been another Mother Theresa? Do you need to have done some miracles or perhaps been a martyr? Oh! I know! You need the arbitrary decision of Pope Francis! That’s what makes you a saint, right? On this All Saints Day who are all these saints? Continue reading “Sermon: We Feebly Struggle, They in Glory Shine”