Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Isaiah is clearly a dreamer:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
When was it ever so?
What word might you say concerning the days to come for Washington and the United States?
Steadily we make war “to secure the peace” – war which kills thousands and thousands of innocents, who remain largely out of sight and out of mind.
Bob Woodward reports that our President, our commander-in-chief, has been exasperated by the machinations of the military-industrial complex, about which President Eisenhower, himself a General, issued dire warnings half a century ago.
The Romans once ruled the world. They are much nicer folks now that they have abandoned such pretensions, grow fat, and eat pizza.
What a blessing to the rest of the world if we would abandon many of our national pretensions.
The Lord’s House, Episcopal style, is now established in full view as the National Cathedral atop Mount St. Alban’s in Washington. All the nations stream to it from time to time, to eulogize our fallen leaders, to pray for the world in times of crisis….
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths."
That would be Advent in deed, not just in words. So be it.
Pray for the peace of Washington: *
"May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.
For my brethren and companions' sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.
Because of the National Cathedral of the LORD our God, *
I will seek to do you good."
The licentiousness of the Romans persisted even among the Roman Christians. Saint warns them against such behavior by pointing to the end of the world, which he expects soon.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.
Why is the flesh so much the enemy for Saint? Rarely does he rant or rage against intellectual sins. Here he closely identifies “the works of darkness” as works of the flesh.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.
In my favorite movie of all times, Babette's Feast the title character escapes to Denmark from trouble which she has experienced in Paris. To survive, she selflessly serves for many years a parsimonious Christian sect much dedicated to Saint’s proscriptions against gratifying the desires of the flesh. Their lives are dull and boring, and they are caught up in petty recriminations, trying to preserve the purity espoused by the founder of their sect.
Much of the film is devoted to Babette’s preparation of a scrumptious feast, which she serves devotedly to everyone in the sect – a major break with their bleak purity and unlove. The feast is Babette’s personal gift to them, in gratitude for the safety they have provided her. She also holds close a secret that they do not know. In feeding their flesh, Babette feeds their souls. Little acts of reconciliation begin to break out around the table as they relish the very long meal.
What would you include if you were to re-write Saint’s injunction showing how we me might truly “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”?
What works of darkness do you perceive threatening our world right now? How might we put on the armor of light in response to them?
Like Saint and most other Christians in the first century, Matthew expects the world to end soon, without warning. He quotes Jesus to make his point.
I will turn 74 eleven days from this Sunday. Today is my Mother’s birthday, and were she alive, she would be 105 (five percent of the entire Christian era). Such transitions inform how I receive the urgency in Matthew’s text. I might meet my maker at any moment now, with no additional advance warning. I must be ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
The same is true for you too, be you 6 or 60.
We memorialize Christ’s first Advent anticipating his coming again. “Therefore we all must be ready.”
Poem Found on Cinder No. 3--2000 A.D.
The tree, the sky, and the water were ours,
we presumed, for us to use as we pleased,
as if we had a Visa card or Mastercharge account
in God's name with no payment to make in our generation.
This is a recording is a recording is a recording
is a recordingisa recordingisarec....
-- Louie Crew, 1981