Sunday, December 06, 2015

Refined by Fire - Reflection for Advent 2C




See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? 
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a]Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.


 We stand here on the Second Sunday of Advent. The time of preparation continues. The arrival of the messenger who will refine us with fire is not yet here, but is on the horizon. Advent has an apocalyptic flavor. God will intervene. Things will be different. We will be purified. That's a scary thought -- being purified. There is much in our lives that hold us back, but we find difficult to let go of.  The process of purification/refining of silver or any precious metal involves removing impurities. The dross is skimmed off the top so what is left is pure silver. The day of judgment spoken of here involves having that part of our selves removed. Maybe we're not that interested in letting go. Perhaps that's why we want to hurry through the season, assuming that Christmas won't involve letting go. Instead, Christmas becomes a time of accumulation.

I'm not preaching this morning once more, as the Choir leads the service. So I share this text, so that we might be prepared for the coming of the messenger of God, the one who prepares the way. The messenger would be appear to be John, or at least that is how we have understood this process. As we reflect on this message, I share these words of reflection from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to his students at Finkenwalde, his underground seminary:
The fact that this Advent text encounters us today teaches us that even the fulfillment of all promise and all proper expectation has only begun. Even the time of fulfillment is a long time of waiting. Thank God for this -- so we say, regarding our sin. May this waiting soon end, and the time be shortened -- so we pray, regarding the cross that burdens Christendom throughout the world. May the work of the messenger, who is coming to prepare us to stand before Christ, be done soon. May Christ come to his temple, to his church in the hour when it is ready and awaits him as the adorned bride awaits her bridegroom. May the divine "soon" be fulfilled at the hour of mercy. [Theological Education Underground, 1937-1940 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 15), p. 22].

Part of us wants to get this over with, but part of us wants to put it off for as long as possible. For Bonhoeffer and his students, the context was dire. The Nazi control of Germany in 1937 was almost complete. And yet, he could offer a word of hope. Such is the case for us. The messenger is coming, so as to prepare us to stand before the Lord in the Temple of God.  May we continue this journey of preparation, letting the Spirit bring refinement to our lives, that the church of Christ would be a beacon of hope in the world.  

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