Lectionary Year B
December 5, 1999
Second Sunday in Advent
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
(FS) A. DESCRIPTION OF AUDIENCE
This is a rough draft and starting point for a Sermon that will be
preached for the First Presbyterian Church of Navasota, Texas. Communion
will follow. The church is in a small town of 7000 or so, very near
College Station, TX, and one hour northwest of downtown Houston.
Congregation usually has about 100 in worship, ranging from very young all
across the spectrum to very old.
(Part of an Advent Series, "The First
(FS) C. ADDRESS
"A CAROL OF ANTICIPATION"
Many of the best-loved Christmas carols call up beautiful images in the
heart and mind. The "little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay"; angels,
"sweetly singing o'er the plains"; the "three kings of orient". One can
just see them all, brought from melody to life in warm, pastel colors on a
Hallmark greeting card. Psalm 85 is another of our "early carols", and it
too calls up a powerful image...
But, has anyone here ever seen a card with "righteousness and peace"
kissing? Or "love and faithfulness" meeting together?
"Love and faithfulness" are popular words in the Old Testament. They
are tied to God's ways with Israel. In pure grace, God chose one family,
later one small nation tucked in a corner of the globe, and offered the
rich blessing of His love and presence. In love, God offered Abraham the
son he ached for, and freedom for Israel, and a throne for David. In
faithfulness, God held Israel accountable to the demands of the Covenant,
even when their actions brought on pain and exile and suffering. It could
be that the words of this Psalm were chanted or sung sometime during that
long period when God's people were adrift in a strange land, painfully
aware that they had broken their end of the tie... but longing for a better
day, a day of forgiveness, a day when they would again taste the nearness
and see proof of the faithfulness of God.
They longed for the good news that we hear today. Mark's opens
abruptly with John the Baptist preaching in the desert, calling for the
people to open a path in the wildnerness and make a straight way, for God
was coming at last!
We are, indeed, called to turn from our sins and our preoccupation
with ourselves and be on watch for the Lord's coming. But we do not build
that highway; God, in grace, builds it. God came to the world, in love.
Love that reached out to the world, even when the world would reject
it and drive nails through it. Faithfulness that fulfilled the promises of
the ages, made to Abraham, Israel, Moses, David, and the prophets. They
met together in a tiny baby, born among animals and laid in a manger.
In that baby, righteousness and peace kissed. Jesus was God's
righteousness with flesh, arms, and legs. Righteousness that breathed and
spoke of forgivness and ate with sinners and healed the most crooked lines
of the human heart.
And peace! The broken-hearted had the wounds within bound by
words of healing. The conscience-burdened heard their sins forgiven. And
at the end, God's Righteousness became our peace, going to the cross,
dying for us, and rising again for us.
At this Table, righteousness and peace embrace and kiss. We
remember the cost of our own lives, redeemed with the blood, sweat, and
tears of God's beloved.
And we remember that righteousness and peace still kiss, after we
leave this Table. Many people have shared the story about the memorial
service after the collapse of the Aggie Bonfire: of how thousands of
Christian "Aggies" linked shoulders in tears, grief, and solidarity,
humming gently "Amazing Grace". That response of hope and faith in the
very face of a terrible loss was also a "kiss"; the kiss of a
"righteousness" of faith that flowed into a response giving peace to many
They still kiss when Christians not only hear the stories of
Jesus, but also ache to go out and bring comfort to the sorrowing, food to
the hungry, and peace to those who know no peace. (good illustration?)
They still kiss when the Spirit given by the One who was love and
faithfulness itself, bears fruit in our lives for
the blessing of the world.
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