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Third Sunday of Advent, 2007 Dec. 16

December 20, 2007

Third Sunday of advent, “Holding Tight” 

Passages… Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146:5-10, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11, Luke 1:26-55. It does help to have them read as a background! ON Sunday morning we had a collected reading of pieces from each passage all wound together.

I apologize that’s Thursday before these notes from Sunday’s message are being posted, but I didn’t really prose out the notes last week. Instead, I just put down ideas and thoughts. So, I’ve tried to tie them up a little for you before posting. I also didn’t get the ending out on Sunday because some candles I left in the foyer took a life of their own and I saw someone run by the doors of the Sanctuary with a plate of fire towards the end my the message time, and I lost every thought but that flaming, running image. Anyway, here you are… 

Blessed are those who don’t allow themselves to be unconvinced? I am intrigued by the passage in Matthew 11:2-11. Jesus makes an interesting statement that I’ve struggled to hold onto all week.

It’s an episode in the life of John the Baptizer, now imprisoned. He has a burning question… Is Jesus the One, the One of whom all is foretold? Or do we keep waiting? 

And Jesus uses the language of Isaiah and Messianic prophecies to say, “Yes, I am the One for whom you’ve been waiting.” And then a cryptic statement, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.” What? Why not, “God blesses those who accept me?”

Jesus seemed to know that there was something going on, that though he would do the Messiah thing in the language of the prophets, recognizable by the signs, something would not be as the people expected… blessed are those who hang tightly to him, anyway

Here’s how I came around to stick on this particular passage as I read the scriptures allotted for this day, the Third Sunday of Advent.  I was thinking about all the salvation language of Isaiah and the Psalms… real live enemies, and how that differs so much from our daily realities. And as we confront that difference we have to ask then how we will relate to salvation: Physically? Spiritually? Nationalistically? Psychologically? A blend of one, two or all? And I wrestled that question around until Jesus’ words started to sink in… Jesus isn’t blessing those who figure it all out perfectly, only blessing when all the details and expectations and contexts line up perfectly… but he’s blessing those who recognize him and hold on to that, no matter the offense or cost or stumbling.

Blessed are those who hold on. Blessed are you when Jesus doesn’t say the right thing, according to your sense of whatever, but you stay. Blessed are you when Jesus doesn’t argue your point of view, but you stay. Blessed are you when Jesus is allowed to be Jesus… and you hang on

And it doesn’t take too long being around Jesus for the tension to mount and something to be said or to happen that might make you want to walk… blessed are you when you stay put. Jesus might speak your language one page and reject it the next. Jesus might carry your personal banner for one parable and then tout your neighbor’s the next… you know, the neighbor you don’t really like. Blessed are you when Jesus has the freedom to be Jesus.

It would have been so easy to just say, “Yep. Go tell John that I said, ‘It’s me.’” Instead, in a round-a-bout way, Jesus says, “Yes, I’m the One you’ve been waiting for, but it might not be as easy as all that.”  

Today, this week… we’re waiting for the right One, but that One might not be exactly what we’re expecting. So we hold onto the truth that Jesus is the One, and we grant him the freedom to move in this place and move in us, to the glory and will of God. And so the passage from James starts to make more sense, waiting with the patience of the prophets… who so often did not see the reality of their own visions, but held tightly to the promises of God.

I though this week of a C.S. Lewis quote I read on his birthday just a few days ago. It’s from the end of The Last Battle, the final book of the Narnia series. The scene is set when a group of Dwarves consistently refuse the blessings of Aslan, and others around them can’t figure it out. They can’t understand because it’s a matter of faith and not of certainty. It’s a matter of acceptance, not coercion or even persuasion. The dwarves have closed their minds to the any and all things not just to their liking, and in doing so, find nothing to their liking. 

“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. But come children. I have other work to do.”

Blessed are those who don’t allow themselves to be unconvinced. Blessed are those who hold tight.

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