Sermon St Eustachius 9.45 7 November 2021 Year B 3 b4 Advent Our High Priest
Jonah 2v1-5,10 Psalm 62v5-12 Hebrews 9vs24-end Mark 1vs14-20
I wonder if you have ever had to appear in court? If so did you act on your own behalf, or did you employ the most competent solicitor or barrister that you could afford?
Well, the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews gives us great assurance that in heaven we have the most competent of advocates to act on our behalf before the throne of Almighty God. We have a high priest unlike any other. A high priest that the writer described earlier in his epistle as ‘after the order of Melchizedek’. A priest who has no beginning and has no end, one who is eternal.
That high priest is none other than the one who has redeemed us and we serve, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus who existed with God the Father and the Holy Spirit before the creation of the world. Jesus who chose to take upon himself our human form, yet without sin, so us to reconcile us to the Holy and Righteous God, our heavenly Father. Jesus who tabernacled here among us for some 33 years before entering back into highest heaven where, at the right hand of God, he is ever ready to make intercession for us. I hope you find that thought as encouraging as I do.
That same Jesus we read in our gospel, came to the Galilee after the arrest of John the Baptist to proclaim the good news of the gospel. To proclaim that we, who through our disobedience and neglect of the commandments and statutes of God, needed to be reconciled back to our Holy God and Father. To be restored to the position God had intended for us his children from before the foundation of the world. Restored so that we may share with God our promised eternal life in the coming new creation.
I wonder if those four early disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John, knew what they were letting themselves in for when Jesus called them to leave their nets, and the family fishing business, and to follow him. I wonder, did we know what we were letting ourselves in for when we also choose to follow after Jesus?
In their case it was not just to lose their livelihood and position in their society, it was to take up with a somewhat unknown, charismatic and itinerant Rabbi, he was a teacher from Nazareth of all places.
After all had anyone ever heard of anything good coming out of Nazareth? Nathanael certainly did not think so when Philip said to him “We have found him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the prophets wrote”.
But three of those four men. Andrew, Simon Peter and John, had already spent some months with Jesus, for Saint John records in his gospel that they had previously gone up with Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast in the spring of AD 28. So they should have had some idea of what they might be letting themselves in for if they left all and followed after this Jesus. But were they yet ready to start ‘fishing for men’? No, that would take some more time moving around with this Rabbi and learning just who this Jesus really was, the Messiah, the Holy one of God.
It took another two years for them to understand about this Jesus, who could then say of them at the last supper (Jn17v7-8):
“Father, Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed you sent me”.
A lesson that I hope, each one of us here this morning has also learnt since we came to believe, trust and follow after Jesus, Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed of God.
Yet as our collect this morning reminds us, it is God the Father’s will to restore all things in Jesus his beloved Son, and then Jesus will become King over all peoples. That shall be a day when, as the alternative collect tells us, wars shall cease, and poverty and pain shall end, and the earth shall know the peace of heaven.
Are you like me, looking forward to that day? No more destruction of the rain forests, no more pollution of our fragile environment, no more loss of God’s beautiful species. I must say that I am, so let us pray earnestly that the world leaders at Cop26 in Glasgow start to work for that day by working to prevent any further destruction and loss of our fragile environment, there really is no time to spare.
And the writer of Hebrews has more to say that is especially relevant as we approach Advent. Advent, that time when we think not just of our Lord’s first incarnation some two thousand years ago, but also of his promised return at his second advent, at his second coming. Both the Old and New Testaments are teaming with prophecies of that time.
The return of Jesus is featured prominently in the Scriptures, yet most people are surprised to learn that references to the second coming outnumber references to the first coming by a factor of eight to one. There have been identified some 1,845 references to our Lord’s Second Coming in our bibles.
At Jesus first advent, Jesus appeared, as we read, “to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself” and that through his agonising death on Calvary’s tree, an event that will remain for ever as the centrality and turning point in human history. But our writer reminds us that the Lord will return ‘a second time’. Jesus has already dealt with the sin of the world, so what will take place when he does return? That is a long story and we cannot go into all the detail now, perhaps a good bible study sometime.
We also read this morning that at his return Jesus will, “save those who are eagerly awaiting him”. That raises a searching question for each one of us to answer, are we truly ‘eagerly waiting’ the return of our Lord, and the completion of our salvation? We have been redeemed once and for all through our Lord’s death, but we are all still, ‘a work in progress’. Our salvation is an ongoing process as Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians (2Cor3v18) for we are being changed from one degree of glory to another. That transformation will only be completed when we meet with Jesus in paradise or at his return. So can you see how it does behove us to be ‘eagerly awaiting’ Jesus’ return.
If we are not awaiting our Lord’s return and our full salvation, the writer of Hebrews gives to us some ominous, and warning, words. “It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement”. What do you make of that statement? Do you believe that there is going to be a judgement, or have we as individuals, and as a society, moved on from all that sort of ‘stuff’? We need to take care how we answer that question if we are to put our trust and believe in the scriptures as our faith requires.
There is a simple but true little phrase I heard many years ago, ‘Born once die twice, born twice die once’.
But what can I possibly mean by that? Think about it, and then remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus.
Do you believe the words that Jesus spoke to the Pharisee Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night, “You must be born again”? I trust that we all here have put our faith and trust in Jesus, and so we have been ‘born again’, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and so our eternal life is secure.
Can we then join with the psalmist (Ps62v5-6) and say, “Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul; for in him is my hope. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken”.
We Christians of all people have a hope, a hope that transcends anything that this world can ever offer. That hope is in the one true and living God. The God who has redeemed us through the precious blood of Jesus shed at Calvary. The God who St John records (Jn 14v3) could say that in Jesus, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also”. Do you not find those words most comforting that Jesus is now in the process of preparing an eternal abode for us so that we shall be with him in the coming new creation.
‘Joy’, said C S Lewis, ‘is the serious business of heaven’.
So as we carry that wonderful promise of our Lord with us, let us also remember the injunction of Saint Peter concerning this present world and age. In his second epistle (2Pt3v11) Peter writes, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God”.
Brothers and sisters we are called, like those early disciples, to do all that we can to hasten Jesus coming again. Just think how you can work to help make that possible. But we are also called to live out our lives and show that we are Christian people, and as such are called to work to establish peace and harmony among all peoples, and especially to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We are charged to preserve this creation that God entrusted into our keeping from the very beginning of time, and we are to declare that ‘the kingdom of God has indeed come near. Come near both at our Lord’s first advent, and now in Jesus working through us his people.
We all need to seek God earnestly in our prayers. To ask how each one of us can join with him in building the kingdom, and showing its beauty and fulness to our hurting and disordered world. Amen
Let us pray:
God our Father, King of the universe, our refuge and our strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease and poverty and pain shall end,
that this earth may know the peace of heaven,
we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen