Advent Reflections from The Hill – Week 4, Thursday

 
We Don’t Talk About That at Christmas!

Hebrews 10:4-10                 

 

                  “Let’s
change the subject.” You know what this means. “I really don’t want to talk
about that.” We have many reasons for not wanting to talk about a given
subject. Sometimes the subject is painful. Other times we feel the subject too
private. It even may be the subject is open to conversation except in present
company.

                  During
the Season of Advent we generally talk about prophets, angels, innkeepers,
young parents, and of course, baby Jesus. We learn of Zechariah’s song, Mary’s
Magnificat, and songs from the “Heavenly Host.” But, we don’t talk much about
sin.

                  In
our culture we do not prefer the pietistic reference to “wrong or
transgression.” Sin is a “religious word.” We find it easy to dismiss the
subject if we can categorically refuse its use. We do not have trouble
identifying any cultural influences that shaped our history or the history of
people. But mention sin and immediately its religious connotations place the
subject out of bounds for many.

                  The
problem is, whatever word we use to describe fractures in relationships,
contraventions of civil law, or out right disobedience to the “laws of the
land,” these are realities of life. Putting things back to right requires some
action taken to repair relationships, live civilly with all people, and obey
laws intended to protect everyone. Choose your word. People act in ways that
violate the Other/other. Unless we prefer to live in a state of constant
rupture, we look for some means to put things back together.

                  Enter
the Season of Advent. Were there no need to repair the breach, heal the
fractures, repair the ruptures, we would not need a Savior. Some people are
just fine with that language and invoke language games of their own. We who
celebrate the Season of Advent as the coming of Jesus, the Christ cannot escape
talk of sin.

                  The
writer of Hebrews reminded readers “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and
goats to take away sins.” The reference is the sacrificial system connected
with the Temple. Sin is presupposed. That is, the human condition is set in the
context of sin.  People have attempted
any number of ways to make things right – sacrifices of animals for example.
They fail.

                  Jesus’
obedience, even to the point of death on the cross, is what the writer opens up
as the Way. Jesus’ obedient life given for us does not fail. Our continued
transformation comes through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for
all. “His body” encompasses his life, death, and resurrection. Our living the
life of Jesus works against those actions that fracture relationships.

                  We
may not talk much about sin at Advent. But, if it were not for our sin there
would not be an Advent to talk about.

 

Todd

Advent Reflections from The Hill – Week 3, Thursday

Joy, Peace, Gentleness

Philippians 4:4-7

Todd

Sometimes when we read the Scriptures we
feel as though we are asked to do the impossible. We find many of Jesus’
sayings “hard.” In fact, noted scholar F.F. Bruce titled one of his books, The
Hard Sayings of Jesus
. Immediately you may be thinking of some of those as you
read. “Turn the other cheek.” “Pray for those who persecute you.” There are
many others.

The Apostle Paul writes to the church at
Philippi and encourages them to express joy in the Lord – “Rejoice in the
Lord always; again I say, Rejoice
.” Often our reaction to such a
suggestion is to think, “He knows nothing of my life experiences!”

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Advent Reflections from The Hill – Week 2, Thursday

Unfinished projects … Aren't We All?
Philippians 1:3-11

Todd Littleton

We have a wooden storage shed in our back yard. It came with the house when we purchased it more than 15 years ago. Over time gophers built up the dirt underneath the wood floor. A few years ago I replaced some of the wood floor that had begun to rot. The roof needed repair. I reshingled the shed. The thin wood sidewalls showed need for repair. I replaced the wood sidewalls and covered them with metal.

Earlier this year I noticed the doors to the shed had deteriorated. I took the old doors off and began reconstructing the framing to prepare for a new door. I began doing this on a Saturday. I ran out of time. The project is unfinished. I will either hope for a warm Saturday this winter or wait until Spring to complete the project. I am confident I will finish the project.

We want to be careful talking about people as projects, so we won't. What we will draw attention to is the project of God's grace in the lives of people as God's project of redemption in Jesus. Paul was confident God would bring to completion his work of grace in the lives of his friends. It was his hope.

Evidence of the ongoing work of God in the lives of his friends was their overflowing love. Living in and living out the love of God would help them make great decisions . Rather than make decisions out of selfishness and pride, they would make decisions as they continued to get their minds around the great love of God. The "fruit of righteousness" would be lives lived in honor of Jesus for the glory of God.

Decisions born out of love for God and love for others would be the evidence God was completing his project of grace among them. A project Paul was confident God would complete in them. And, a project we may be confident he will complete in us as we make decisions born out of our love for God and love for others.

Even so come Lord Jesus.

Advent Reflections from The Hill – Week 1, Thursday

Feeling the Tug of the Past and the Pull of the
Future

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Todd Littleton

 

            The
reality TV show The Biggest Loser

offers a variety of challenges for its competitors. Recently contestants ran
the length of a football field carrying the weight they had lost the previous
ten weeks. Rudy ran carrying an extra 138 pounds. Each step he took he felt the
tug of the past. He would learn he made poor decisions, did not face some
uneasy experiences, and gave in to a faulty view of himself as a person.

            At
the other end of the field was a life size image of Rudy ten weeks earlier.
After carrying the weight he had lost each week in the form of football each
trip down the field, Rudy would be able to knock down that life size image.
Each trip in that direction left him experiencing the pull of the future. The
competition illustrates our own lives.

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Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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