Monday, November 29, 2010

Sermon on Romans 13:11-14, for the First Sunday in Advent, "God's Time is Son-Rise!"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. For church-goers, today marks the beginning of a new year, as we begin the season of Advent, in preparation for Christmas. As we enter this new year, we consider what Paul says in Romans 13: “You know the time…” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Do you know the time? What time is it? In the reading, St. Paul tells us that “you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.” Hopefully now that you’re at church, and you’re listening to me, you’re not still asleep, right? So can you tell me what the time is and what hour Paul is talking about? It’s helpful to know that there are two different ways that the New Testament writers speak of time. There’s the ordinary kind of time, called chronos in Greek. As in “chronological.” Chronos is the kind of time you’d be talking about if you asked someone on the street what time it was, and they looked at their watch and told you what hour of day it was. Ordinary time with minutes and hours.

But the second kind of time that is mentioned in the NT is kairos. Kairos is the kind of time Paul talks about here in Romans 13. Kairos is not time measured in minutes or hours—it means the time of fulfillment, harvest time, the appointed time for something to happen, or “due time.” Kairos could be described as “God’s timing.” When prophecy comes to fulfillment, that’s kairos time. It’s the due time for something to happen. Jesus talked about it when He said “My hour has not yet come.” He wasn’t talking about sixty-minutes set out in the future, but He was talking about the kairos time of His betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. About the time when all these things would take place and prophecy would be fulfilled. Paul, writing in Romans, is talking about this same kairos time when he says, “You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.” So now that we know what kind of time he’s talking about—what time is it? What’s happening? What’s the big event?

It’s the same time Jesus spoke of in Luke 21:28: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus’ 2nd coming, the time that has long been awaited. So we’re called to readiness—straighten up, raise your heads. Wake up from sleep. Salvation is almost here. Everything that we’ve been waiting for by faith, will be fulfilled in God’s due time, and that time has come and is coming. Paul uses the picture of a sunrise. The night is far gone, the day is drawing near. It’s like we’re at dawn, waiting for the sunrise.

Have you ever been to a sunrise on Haleakala? Seen how the pitch darkness of night gradually lightens to gray, and dawn slowly breaks as beams of golden light first pierce the clouds above, growing ever brighter until the fiery red sun breaks the horizon and casts color across the mountains and crater? We’re waiting the dawning of the Son—S-O-N—of Righteousness, with healing in His wings. We’re awaiting Jesus’ Son-Rise, His glorious reappearing, that’ll surpass a million sunrises for beauty and awesome light. Jesus’ reappearing will bring the end of the darkness, so we can live in the daylight of His unending kingdom. When you are watching a sunrise, what happens to the darkness and shadows? They’re pierced through by beams of light till the holes widen and merge into a blanket of pure light, and the darkness is gone. We don’t want to be darkness on that day (Eph. 5:8), because darkness will be pierced through and light will reign. This is why we must put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Today we’re living in that kairos time, that time just before the dawn of Jesus’ Son-Rise. God’s promises are waiting to be fulfilled; God’s timing is unfolding. Wake up from sleep! Don’t be caught unaware when Jesus returns. There are many who’ve a sleepy indifference to eternal matters. Life can lull us into a calm slumber where we just don’t care about what happens after life. We see today and tomorrow—we live only in ordinary time, and don’t realize that in God’s timing, the world won’t go on forever. There will be a sudden and complete end, and those who trust in Jesus and are waiting for His return will be ready, but those who don’t trust in Jesus will be unpleasantly surprised.

So now is the time to cast off the works of darkness, so we’re ready. There are three pairs of sins that he names, which we’re to avoid. The first is orgies and drunkenness. Wild partying and drunkenness often go hand in hand. Losing control, getting intoxicated or high on alcohol or other substances, fighting and violence—the Christian shouldn’t be involved in any of these. Rather we’re called to have self-control and temperance. We should never lose control of ourselves, and if we drink, only in moderation. Of course wild partying and lowered inhibitions are not at all like the positive and healthy expression of festivities and celebrations. Family and community celebrations filled with joy, are a positive thing. Celebration is also a part of the kingdom of God—but the festivities are kept with modesty and self-control.

The second pair of sins that Paul warns us to avoid is sexual immorality and sensuality. Again, we don’t want to be caught in works of darkness when Jesus returns. Any form of a sinful lifestyle that doesn’t honor the God-given bounds of sexuality, namely marriage. God has set that boundary around sexuality for our own protection and the protection of others, and Christians are to use that God-given gift only with their husband or wife. Today that boundary is rarely honored, but it’s for a good reason that God has given it. Within marriage it produces stability and the depth of love that God desires, rather than instability and shallow relationships. Instead of brokenness or jealousy, it leads to unity. The other sin, sensuality, includes other forms of self-indulgence or worldliness. Being caught up in our own sinful desires and taking things to excess. Against this we as Christians are to walk properly in sexual purity and self-control. Giving honor to God with our bodies.

It might seem unusual for the last pair of sins to be grouped with the others. Quarreling and jealousy. But these are just as serious as the others, and equally unacceptable to our Christian conduct. Being argumentative or abusive, using language or even physical violence to fight against other people—these are works of darkness. In Galatians Paul says, “if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you’re not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:15). Are we nipping and biting at each other? Are we always at each other’s heels? Are we being divisive and argumentative? Jealousy can cause quarreling, or it can happen apart from it. But that sense of rivalry or envy of what someone else has can destroy your own peace of mind, robs you of contentment, and stir up quarrels. Again, quarreling and jealousy are works of darkness that we must cast off. Instead we should live with brotherly harmony and contentment. If there are disagreements, we should settle them with brotherly admonition and concern. Find ways to build each other up and encourage.

Now you’ve heard the works of darkness that we are to cast off. Do any of you see yourself in the mirror? Is there something, even a shadow of those works of darkness hiding in you? What if you’re involved in wild partying and drunkenness, or sexual immorality and sensuality? What if you’re quarreling with people or filled with jealousy? If you see those works of darkness in you, the light of God’s law is exposing it to you. So now you must cast them off—put away those works of darkness. Quit them, say goodbye to them, put an end to them. Don’t rationalize, don’t excuse or defend them. Don’t try to hide them or perform them in the darkness of night, thinking that the Son won’t rise or that your works won’t be seen. Remember, the night is nearly over and the Son is rising so you cannot hide sinful works.

Instead, if you have those works of darkness in yourself, cast them off and put on the armor of light that is the pure innocence of Jesus. If any of these are in your past, arm yourself against that darkness coming over you again, and reentering your life. Put on Christ Jesus, and let His light drive out the darkness in you. Lay your sins at the cross. Confess them and feel the joy of release, knowing that they’re forgiven. Know that the impurity and the sin is driven out by the pure light of Christ, and you’re clean and whole again. Imagine how the sunrise transforms a cold, dark and shadowy mountain into a warm, colorful, and bright landscape. Now realize that the light of Christ has shined into your heart and life, melting away the heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh. Filling the darkness with light and color, illuminating your life and giving it joy and beauty. God is works in you by faith, and you’re clothed with Christ in your baptism. God’s work in you is begun, but the “Son-rise” of Jesus’ return is just at the edges of dawning.

We know that Jesus can return at any time, and the hour has come for us to be awake and ready. Put on the armor of light; put on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). In your baptism, you put on Christ as God made you His child and gave you Jesus’ innocence to wear, to cover your sin. We are called to put that armor of light or put Christ on again and again, because it is a daily struggle we as Christians are called to. Daily return to your baptism, casting off, putting away those old sinful works of darkness, and clothing yourself with Christ. Arm yourself with His light against the attacks of our sin.

Luther talked about the persistence of our old sinful nature being like the stubble that grows on a man’s face when he doesn’t shave, and how we daily need the “clean shave” of repentance and forgiveness. That is to say that confessing our sins once in awhile just doesn’t cut it! It should be a daily practice. One way to remember your baptism is to splash your face with water three times in the morning, and pray, “I was baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—dear Lord, help me to live today in my baptism.” It’s one way to remember your baptism and to put on those clean clothes and start the new day in Christ, fighting against your old sinful nature, and wearing the armor of light.

We know the hour and we know the time. We know that God’s time, the time when His promises are going to be fulfilled, is getting closer and closer. Just as God sent Jesus in the fullness of time 2,000 years ago, to be born that first Christmas and redeem us—so also the fullness of God’s time is again drawing near, when God will send Jesus to bring our salvation to completion, and take us to Him. We’re living in kairos time—God’s time—and He calls us to be ready, for His Son-Rise is nearly here. This Advent season, may your waiting and expectation be filled with joy, as we watch for the Greatest Son-Rise ever seen or imagined. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points:
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1. What kind of time is chronos? See for ex. Matt. 2:16; Luke 1:57. What kind of time is kairos? See for ex. Mark 1:15; Luke 4:13

2. So what is the time that Paul speaks of in Rom. 13:11? Cf. Luke 21:28. What significant thing is going to happen? How does Paul picture this?

3. How were we “once darkness”? Ephesians 5:8. What does it mean to be in darkness? What are the works of darkness? Eph. 5:1-18; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9. What will happen to the darkness?

4. What is sinful and harmful about wild partying and drunkeness? What is a healthy, Christian alternative? In what way is the kingdom of God marked by celebration?

5. What is sinful about sexual immorality and sensuality? What are common forms of this today? How does it impact you? What is the healthy Christian alternative to the use of God’s good gifts?

6. What is sinful about quarrelling and jealousy? Why does this belong with the others? Gal. 5:15. What is a healthy Christian alternative? Psalm 133

7. How does a Christian “dress” for the Son-Rise? How should we be ready for His return? Gal. 3:27. How does Jesus clothe us?

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