Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
[NRSA: Romans 16:25-27]
Who knew the conclusion to a letter could be so powerful! Paul’s letter to the church at Rome,
The purpose of Jesus being born and revealing God’s heart, mind, word, and will is for us to clearly see that we would completely trust and obey.
Compare with the introduction to Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome [NRSA: Romans 1:1-5]
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,
Paul’s opening is basically a repeat of the conclusion. Bookends to hold up a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that have to do with our Advent journey?
What are the bookends in our lives?
I was recently reminded of a Peyton Manning who had shared his perspective about the occasion an athlete retires. Typically, on an announcer show, a most recognizable photo of a player during their career and the years of play are shown under their name. Joe Namath, 1965-1985, Hershel Walker, 1985-1997; Peyton Manning, 1988-2015. Peyton’s comment was about the dash between the numbers. The Dash represents the career of success and failures between the two numbers. The bookends are important, but the dash is more important.
Part of Advent has been establishing the bookends, the context, the itinerary of our spiritual journey. This fourth week we best focus on the main thing.
We have reminded one another to praise, to prepare, and to practice maturing our spiritual self. The last leg of this trek is to pause.
Traditionally Advent is the time
- we hear about John the Baptizer and his call to prepare the way for the Lord,
- we hear God’s call upon Marry, who is both humble and faithful, to carry and deliver the Son of God.
- We hear about Joseph and his uncertainty about the unfolding events,
- And maybe we hear about the shepherds who are both frightened, comforted and compelled by the host of angels.
But this year, I invite you to place those stories in the position of the bookend that help define and refocus us as Christmas is now less than a week away.
Hear Paul’s words to the church as we reflect on 2020 and look forward to the power of God with us in 2021.
- God who is able — Who is ABLE to overcome pandemics? political strife? fears and even death?
- to strengthen you — Where will you and I find the strength to overcome these things and more?
- according to my gospel and — Did we know this promise is in God’s word? Read them? studied them? shared them?
- the proclamation of Jesus Christ, — Have we told others about Jesus, his strength? grace?
- according to the revelation of the mystery — Do we trust what’s been shown to us? experience?
- that was kept secret for long ages — Can we look back and see God patiently at work?
- but is now disclosed, and — Can we find God being revealed now?
- through the prophetic writings is — Have we looked for the pieces and fitting them together?
- made known to all the Gentiles, — God loves us who love Him but also those who do not.
- according to the command of the eternal God, — is it an idea, a suggestion, a nudge, or a command?
- to bring about the obedience of faith — This is the heart of it all — God is seeks our response.
- to the only wise God, — God who knows what is best for us
- through Jesus Christ, — Who makes clear, knowing our sin, failures, faults, & weaknesses. Died for us.
- to whom be the glory forever! — God desires an eternal relationship, love, faith, trust, obedience.
The history of God’s work with the world is revealed in the bookends of Paul’s letter:
The heart of the story is fleshed out with us, throughout human history.
We have God’s strength, guidance, word/teaching, grace, hope and life — when we give obedience.
Oh it was going so well until we get to the Trust and Obey part.
God desire good and blessing for all, but we are living in a
- political agreement
..where not everyone Trusts and Obey and we wrestle with whom to trust. We see the power of disobedience
What does it mean to Trust and Obey God? Look at the bookends we have discussed the past three weeks.
- We are not the potter; we are the clay.
- We need to repent of our sins and be made new through Christ
- We need to be maturing and growing in spirit.
- The Dash – “Dashing through the snow” Calling one another to live like
- We are being shaped by God and not the world
- Loving our enemies and the lost because it serves Christ and not ourselves
- Wake up and get to work growing and sharing Christ with others.
Trusting and Obeying is the DOING these.
This fourth week we gather to invest this next week…
Before any traveling, cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, or celebrating: Is what I’m focused on right now something that is drawing me toward God, keeping me stuck where I am, of moving me away from the heart of God.
- Actively do, say, and think what draws us to God and not to the world
- Intentionally seek out those we need to forgive and seek their forgiveness
- Wake up each day with this prayer: “Good Morning God! What do you want me to do today?