Updated: Jan 30
Last week the lessons read pointed out a need to understand how important it is to change ourselves … to not be caught during the End times, when the sun will be darkened.
It was like a warning not to be caught without oil in your lamp, unable to bring forth the light of Christ when the end comes. Our mortality means each life faces a personal End Time.
Thus, the season of Advent acts as a warning to have ourselves be reborn as baby Jesus … a new Christmas for each new budding Apostle … and not be caught napping, with no way to light a lamp quick enough to save a soul.
As long as there are no ICBM’s or unannounced meteors streaking towards us at this very moment … there is still time. Act now, before it is too late.
That is the continuing message of Advent.
Today, in effect, we read what the first step towards salvation is. It is repentance.
Now, everyone here knows that repentance is the way to wash away our sins, putting us back on God’s good list, the “go to Heaven” list. We feel comfortable as Christians, with Episcopalians (minimally) making sure we do not forget that vital step. Shortly, we will make a public confession of our sins and once again beg God to forgive us.
Cleansed of sin … and then next week we will say it all again.
While it is true that we repent when we say those pre-printed words from the Book of Common Prayer, it helps to see our public proclamation as “for demonstration purposes only.” We can never forget just how important it is to personally, and privately, have a deeper, more sin specific conversation with God. It should be done regularly, as a personal dialogue with God and Christ, as a way to help us stay sin-free.
While repentance is the first step, staying sin-free is a most important statement about the sincerity of one’s request to be forgiven.
This maintenance of righteousness, once forgiven, is the meaning behind Mark repeating the words of Isaiah, as he began his book telling the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark wrote, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Isaiah wrote, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
The “way of the Lord” and the “straight path” or “highway,” means WE must set out paths straight. Rather than wandering in spiral roads to sin and repentance, WE must prepare to meet the LORD at the end of that journey. WE must be walking the line, and not walking like a drunk pulled over by the State Patrol.
Now, Paul wrote in his letter, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” The word translated as “slow” is “bradynei,” which means “to retard, to be slow, to tarry.”
Thus, when Peter said, “as some think of slowness,” (“bradyteta”) he meant God is not “slack” or forgetful of his promise, while also not being quick to turn his back on the promise to be the God of His servants.
So, God is smart enough to know when you falsely beg for forgiveness – when you don’t really mean what you say in repentance – and God is not quick to stop forgiving you, even when you are not being completely truthful.
As Christians, we are baptized with water in a ceremonial ritual. We can call ourselves Christians by that symbolic act, just like we can call ourselves forgiven because we repeat aloud a confession of sins. However, as Mark pointed out, there was no need for Jesus to come into the world IF being sprinkled or dunked in water would wash all our sins away – past, present, and future.
Mark told how John the Baptist admitted, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
This is not hard to understand, but it may be unwanted to realize, being baptized with water by a church (an institution like was John the Baptist) is NOT as powerful as is being truly baptized by the Holy Spirit, through BECOMING Jesus, as advocated by faith in CHRIST.
We all wander in and out of sin and righteousness because we know who Jesus is and because we believe in baptism … BUT, we have a most difficult time receiving that Holy Spirit, which is the only way to walk that straight path, which prepares us for the End Time we all must eventually reach.
Repentance is the first step to receiving the Holy Spirit, but receiving the Holy Spirit requires a demonstration of commitment. Thanks be to God that He is patient with us and lets us make mistake after mistake, hearing our pleas for forgiveness from time to time.
Isaiah wrote in his song, “All the people are grass, their constancy is like a flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades.”
David sang, “You have forgiven the iniquity of your people and blotted out all their sins.”
Still, this circular path is the danger. We do not know when our time will come.
In chapter three of Peter’s second letter, before he wrote, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief,” some Bibles list this chapter as “The Day of the Lord.”
We read part of what Peter said about the Lord being patient with us, but when we read, “the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire,” that is reference to the End Times, when the Day of the Lord comes for many souls at once.
In the first seven verses, Peter told the reader, “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
That attitude will have developed over a long period of time … waiting for the return of Christ, before the End.
… and waiting …
… and waiting …
… until people stop believing there is a God … that there ever was a Christ … that there really is a Holy Spirit … and that all this praying for forgiveness stuff is a waste of time.
However, Peter said, “The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Remember last week and the meteor that was said to be coming?
Well, Peter begins our reading today by saying, “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.”
People have been waiting so long because Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” They expected him to come back soon.
But, their expectations were based on human clocks and solar day. According to what Peter wrote, the year 2014 is only about two God days past the times Jesus walked the earth.
But, look around … and what do you see in the news? Changes that are showing a crumbling of our patience, our society becoming too weary to stay awake waiting for the Master to come.
The only way we can stay alert is to repent, and then be diligent towards receiving the spirit of God within. That acts like a time change. We stop worrying about solar says and 90-year life spans, because we get on God time.
Everything slows down. Patience is a way of life. Preparing a straight path is accomplished.
We have fulfilled the Advent of Christ when we have truly repented and been prepared.
May God be with you.