Today's readings are concerned with love and peace, specifically peace between different community groups be they “tribes of the Lord” as mentioned in the psalm, “nations” as mentioned in Isaiah or our own “neighbour” identified by Paul. This is appropriate for the first Sunday in Advent which when we look forward to celebrating the events that show how much God loved his creation. Advent leads to Christmas when God took human form and then on to Easter when he died and rose again so that we do not need to suffer the consequences of sin, That sacrifice shows true love for us.
In recent weeks a number of our sermons have been about or included references to discipleship. Specifically the need for us to become true disciples and in turn help others on the discipleship path. Some of us attended the recent discipleship training day and have followed up by reading books about discipleship that we purchased on the day. One of particular note is The Vine Project, co-authored by Colin Marshall who was the key note speaker. I understand that this book was set by the Bishop as pre-reading for the recent clergy conference so it comes highly recommended.
The main premise of The Vine Project is that we all become “learners” or “disciples” at the time we accept Jesus into our lives and we remain in that state until we gather around the risen Christ as part of the redeemed people. Thus once we start on the discipleship path we do not learn enough about how to live as God's people to jump off of the path until we meet with Jesus, whether that meeting is brought about by our own death or the second coming.
How do we learn?
Colin Marshall says that we learn by reading and re-reading the bible, by talking to others about the readings, by carefully listening to sermons and other explanations of God's word and by discussing that with others. He even suggests that it might be useful to have space in the pew bulletin for us to make notes during the Sunday service and to discuss those notes with others during morning tea.
He also recommends that we spend more time in small group or one-to-one discussion throughout the week and that we ensure that we spend enough time in prayer for us to form a meaningful relationship with God.
As true disciples we also need to be aware of the needs of others; whether its the people sitting around us on Sundays, our families, our workmates or other people that we meet in our everyday lives. Do any of them need a helping hand? Do they need a special prayer? Is there a passage in the bible that might help them?
When it comes to helping people on the discipleship path we are not talking Billy Graham crusade behaviour. Rather it is a need to demonstrate love and concern in our actions and statements. We should also be aware that we need to approach this with a degree of urgency because we do not know how long we have to be disciples. It may be hours, days or years. The length of time isn't important, it's the action of loving our neighbour that will bring about results. I want to re-read the gospel passage, please listen carefully
Matthew 24; 36-44
But about that day and hour no-one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
We do not know when the Son of Man will return but we do know that if all Christians act as true disciples and work to support each other and create new disciples we will be helping to create God's Kingdom and will be a huge force working for a more peaceful and loving world where we have a fair sharing of resources, fair government. Loving treatment of those in need, justice for all and a world eagerly waiting for Jesus to come again.