The season of Advent offers signs that Christmas is close at hand. Each week we’ve lit candles that help us prepare to receive the promise of Christmas. Since we lit the fourth candle this morning, which is the candle of love, we can be quite certain that the next candle we light will be the Christ Candle, marking the coming of Christmas. So, be on the alert, the time of celebration is at hand!
While we process the election results and ask what they mean for us as Christians living in America, we have gathered for worship on what we’re calling Commitment Sunday. This means that I’m tasked with preaching another stewardship sermon. This will be my sixth such sermon drawn from the Gospel of Luke. The underlying theme of these readings is Jesus’ command to “Go and Do the Same.” That command emerged from the question: “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded to that question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. When he finished telling the story, he asked the man who he thought was the neighbor after hearing the parable? The man answered: “the one who showed mercy.” Then, Jesus told him and us to “go and do the same” (Luke 10:25-37). Each of the five previous texts we’ve looked at, beginning in June, raises the question of who we are as God’s people in relationship to the world in which we live. Now that we’ve reached the end of the road, we’re faced with an “apocalyptic” reading that invites us to stay faithful to the end even when things get tough.
Today is World Communion Sunday. It was established years ago as a reminder that God’s Table is a Table of unity, even though God’s church is fragmented. All across the globe Christians are gathering to share the Supper that Jesus established so that we might remember him and in doing so share his love with the world. Though this observance has Presbyterian origins, it began to spread across the globe after the Federal Council of Churches adopted it in the late 1930s.
Over the summer we visited the Psalms on several occasions. We heard in poetic fashion the call to pursue a life of faith with vigor and diligence. We heard messages of judgment and hope. This morning, even as we look forward to a busy fall, we return one more time to the Psalms. The word we’ve heard this morning is a most edifying one. It is a call to praise God “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel . . . Stir up your might and come to save us!” In ages past, the Shepherd of Israel took a vine out of Egypt and planted it in a new land. This vine spread out covering the land from sea to river. It grew strong and powerful. Unfortunately, over time the vine lost its luster. For some reason the Shepherd had failed to properly care for the vine, or at least that’s the view of the Psalmist, who asks God to repent and look down upon God’s people and restore the vine to its former glory. Yes, Lord, make your face to shine upon us once again!