Advent Day 2
Psalm 1· Luke 20:1-8
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
13 bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
18 Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
Repentance: Shifting Gears on the Inside
You can’t steer a parked car, but can you steer a stalled car? Imagine you are driving down Figueroa and your car stalls out. You call up a couple homies to help you move the car out of traffic and onto the side of the road so you can figure out what’s going on.
When they arrive, you put the car into neutral and your friends push. You attempt to steer, but the power steering has failed, so you’re struggling. Your homies push your clunker in the right direction, towards the shoulder. Finally, you make it to safety and begin trying to sort out the problem.
The word “repent” means to turn. Is it something we do or is it something God does? Yes.
In the Isaiah passage, God challenges His people to repent. They have become complicit with injustice. He brings their wrong to the forefront and tells them what he wants–for them to stop doing wrong and do the right thing (v.16-18). God wants His people to take action against injustice. He urges them to “stop doing wrong” (v.16) and “Learn to do right” (v.17). Doing the right thing looks like advocacy on behalf of your society’s weaker members: “Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (v.17)
God offers forgiveness in verse 18. The hinge point occurs in verse 19 “if you are willing and obedient”. What is required for us is an internal “shifting of gears”.
Instead of trying to work harder and harder at making ourselves better people—much like someone trying to rev a dead engine—God invites us to turn to Him for mercy. God invites us to be “willing and obedient” (v.19) rather than the alternative, to “resist and rebel” (v.20).
This internal shift enables us to be “pushed” by God in the right direction. The main force of energy to move our car forward comes now from the outside rather than from within. Resistance and rebellion to the outside nudging of God on our lives is like refusing your friends’ help and insisting upon trying to make your broken car move. It just can’t. Twenty minutes later you’re going to find yourself in the same place you started—stuck. So call your friends, make the shift into neutral, and allow God—and community—to push you in the right direction. Surrender, and let God change your position.
Lord, give me grace to stop insisting on my own way, which is clearly not working. Please give me the humility to ask You and others for help. Turn me in the right direction. This I ask in the name of Jesus, in whom there is forgiveness, Amen.
Pray the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent:
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.