The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon Preached at Springwood by Br Andrew on Sunday 29th November 2015
The 1st Sunday of Advent 2015
It is the First Sunday in Advent and so today is the first day of the Church Year and for the next 12 months our readings will come mostly from the Gospel of St. Luke.
As I first read the Gospel for today I thought to myself and then said to the others during Bible Study that an Apocalyptic Gospel couched in terms of latter day doom was not really the ideal setting in which to speak of Healing.
So under the sage advice of Pastor Luke I have chosen the passages from Jeremiah and I Thessalonians from which to state my insights.
Jeremiah and Paul have things in Common, both their Ministries took place within sight of the destruction of Jerusalem and it’s Temple, they both spent time in prison for the sake of the Lord. The greatest difference, however, is that while Jeremiah prophesied to a stubborn and unrepentant people, Paul wrote to the new Christian,however misguided and with a greater success rate, I mean look at us here today. One way or another we are all here today because of him.
Jeremiah began his prophetic mission in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (about 627 BCE) and finished in the eleventh year of King Zedekiah (586). Jeremiah was a Levitical priest and prophet disowned by his family and imprisoned throughout the length of his prophetic term until released by Nebuchadnezzar sometime close to March 16, 597 B.C.( The Babylonian Chronicles say that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem on March 16th, 597BC) 1 . Babylon then firstly exiled King Zedekiah and many of the leading citizens in 586, ending Judah’s existence as an independent or quasi-independent kingdom and establishing the Babylonian Exile. Just as Jeremiah had prophesied.
In our readings this week Jeremiah preaches healing to the Nation of Judah, from prison in the Kings house. Healing in the form of the coming of the righteous branch sprung from David to be known as ‘the Lord our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). Which was the promise to re-establish the Davidic monarchy and the Levitical priesthood. 2 If we had an historical timeline handy we would know that at this time in Judah the country was riddled with unrighteous Priests and apostate Kings. Healing for Judah is to be restorative, both Spiritual and Social that the people may live in safety under guardians who keep the Law of the Lord – if only they but obey his commandments. All prophecy could have been healing for Judah should she have heeded the advice, nothing was ever a fait accompli!
Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians was the first Book of the New Testament written, by 52 AD during Paul’s second Missionary Journey, even though early manuscripts such as the Codices Alexandrinus, state that Paul wrote it from Athens. Most New Testament Scholars agree it was written from Corinth after Timothy had returned from Macedonia with news of the state of the church in Thessaloniki (Acts 18:1–5; 1 Thes. 3:6). Paul’s main reason for writing this Epistle was to reassure the Thessalonians to remain faithful until Jesus returned. When he had first come to them, he had come from prison in Philippi, and after sending Timothy to them he wrote them this response, part of which we read today.
That the Lord will so strengthen Thessalonian hearts in holiness that they will be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.(1 Thessalonians 3:13)
Paul’s words are vitally important they are a true narrative of Christian life as lived in 1st century Thessaloniki, the earliest record we have, long before any Gospel was written. Paul is so thankful for the joy he experiences due to them and wants to see them to restore what is lacking in their faith; Paul wants to heal their spirits to give them the strength to abide in the Lord and to walk the narrow way. Look again at the prayer he prayed for them and let’s claim it for ourselves:-
May Christ heap upon us the gift of charity to love each other as did the Christians of Thessaloniki , to heal our hearts of its wayward ways and proud knowledge that we too may be blameless before God our Father when the Lord Jesus returns.
In the microcosm of our own daily lives we long for healing, of the more immediate everyday kind – some of us for physical healing, for healing of the mind or spirit. For strength just to face tomorrow, we know Jesus is present with us but the liturgical Movements of Liturgy, the anointing and Prayers serve to soothe our minds and spirits and draw us closer to the Lord and to renew ourselves in our relationship with the Lord Jesus.
It is rare that healing is immediate when physical healing is desired and God so often says NO and we so forget that since God always answers prayer that No is also an answer. He has said no for me for 48 years until I realised that I was looking for the wrong response and that His refusal to me brought many blessings and opportunities to serve Him that may never have occurred had he healed me, in the manner I desired.
Spiritual healing can bring with it a struggle that feels as though all the plagues of Egypt were released at once into our minds and so often the Healing is in giving us the strength to manage to face ourselves and live. That we are not caught up in all manner of destructive habits and in the worries of this world or like the seeds caught in the briars cease to produce fine produce.
It sounds difficult to have to say it but ‘healing’ is conditional, for Israel and for Judah their well being had always been conditional upon their obedience and their keeping the Commandments. We call this condition ‘FAITH’ for Judah, in the time of Jeremiah, if they had had Faith in God they could have been healed, for the Thessalonians their ongoing living Faith would ensure Healing for them whether by the Elders at their bedside’s or at the end of the Age. For us too, Faith in Jesus is sufficient.
- Book of Jeremiah – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2015. Book of Jeremiah – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Jeremiah#Historical_background. [Accessed 27 November 2015].
2.Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch: Jeremiah: Jeremiah Chapter 33. 2015. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch: Jeremiah: Jeremiah Chapter 33. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/kad/jer033.htm. [Accessed 27 November 2015].
3.Chronology of Apostle Paul’s Journeys and Epistles. 2015. Chronology of Apostle Paul’s Journeys and Epistles. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.matthewmcgee.org/paultime.html. [Accessed 28 November 2015].