Trinity's Sermon from Sunday

 

Holier Than Thou A sermon on  2 Peter 3:8-15

Joe Cailles, pastor Trinity United Methodist Church

December 10, 2017, The Second Sunday of Advent

 

2 Peter 3:8-15

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

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These days are days of preparation.  At my home this past week, we’ve unpacked our Christmas ornaments and dusted off the Nativities.  Our Christmas stockings are now hung by the chimney with care.  We’ve also updated our Amazon Christmas wish lists.  With the new fallen snow yesterday, the town looks like a winter-wonderland.  That the snow mostly stayed off of the road and sidewalks is a sweet bonus blessing.  Our church has the Advent season decorations up, and we even found the missing Advent banner.   This time of year, we prepare our homes, our churches and our souls to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

Our scripture passage from Peter’s second letter is also about preparation.  Peter’s people aren’t preparing for the birth of Jesus.  We today have no idea how the first Christians celebrated his birth.  Peter writes to his people to guide them as they prepare their lives for the return of Jesus Christ.  Peter writes his letter to help people shape their everyday lives in accordance with their faith that Jesus will come again.  And Peter’s words to them help us today prepare our lives so that today and tomorrow and forever, we might have holy lives, and lives filled with peace. 

 

Peter writes this letter in the years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He and his people believed, as most Christians do in that day and age, that Jesus, who was resurrected from the dead and then ascended to God, will soon come again.  Soon, they believed, he would come back and and usher in a new golden age for all humanity, where God and the people would be separated no more.  Death and dying will be no more.  Jesus will come again and bring with them the completed Kingdom of God.  That’s still what we Christians believe today. In the Lord’s prayer, we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on heaven and earth.”  And it the Apostles Creed, we say, we believe that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. 

 

But the issue for the early church is that Jesus has not come as quickly as the people believed he ought to have come.  It would seem, in their opinion, that the promise of his return has been slowed.  Peter’s people don’t see the promised Kingdom of God as they expected it to appear.  Here they are, living their lives of faith, worshiping as we do today, doing what they thought they ought to be doing and yet, they don’t see their reward.  They don’t see Jesus.  The world looks the same to them as it did before their faith, and so they’re wondering and worrying, is their faith in vain?

 

We can understand that, right?  The feelings of uncertainty, the impatience, the frustration, we’ve felt those things.  We show up.  We do right.  We work hard, and yet the world still seems broken.  We still seem broken in our souls.  The headlines are filled with stories of harassment and threats of war.  Many of us wonder where justice and truth are. 

 

And inside of us, oh this time of year can bring out the best and the worst of us.  We want to be in the Christmas spirit.  It would seem on the surface that everyone around us is merry and bright, and yet so much seems out of our control.  Other people mess us up.  We mess ourselves up.  When it comes to this time of year, we have visions and opinions and preferences and expectations of how things ought to be, of how other people ought to be, of how we ourselves ought to be.  It’s the most wonderful time of year except when it’s the most angst-ridden, got to get it right, I am not prepared, and I am seriously freaking out, time of year.

 

People of God, Hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

God says to us through scripture and through the prophets: “Comfort, O Comfort my people. Every valley, every low place in our lives, every disappointment and undelivered expectation shall be lifted.”  And God says to us, “Every mountain, every hill, every seemingly insurmountable obstacle which separates us and the world from how God knows we can be, every one of those obstacles shall be made low.  The uneven ground, the rough places in our world and in our lives and in souls shall be made level and plain.  For the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and the glory of the Lord is revealed, in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

 

Peter tells his people, and he tells us today, Fear Not! Our faith is not in vain.  The promises of our Lord are not in vain.  Jesus will come again, in a day maybe, in a thousand years maybe.  Jesus is coming again.  The Kingdom of God is coming even now and so until that happy day when heaven and earth and God and humanity are fully united together and forever, until that day we are to live our days in preparation.  Peter writes, “What sort of people ought we be?  We ought to be persons of holiness and godliness.  We are to be people of peace.” 

 

That’s good news for Peter’s people and good news for us today.  In this season of preparation, in all the seasons of our lives, we are to be people defined by Christian holiness and by Godly peace.  I like that; I wish I could wrap up holiness and wrap up peace and put them in a gift box.  I wish I could turn to folks who aggravate me and frustrate me and say, “Here have a box of holiness.  Here have some peace.”  I suspect there are many, many people who on occasion want to hand deliver a big box of holiness and peace on my doorstep. 

 

In truth, holiness and peace are gifts to us from Jesus Christ.  Holiness are peace are already available to all of us.  The problem comes when we mistake peace with getting our own way and we turn holiness into Holier Than Thou-ness. 

 

I confess it, I am guilty of that.  I’ll say, Lord give me peace.  But what I’m really saying is Lord, please help these fools to see that if they would just do exactly what I say, when I say it, then I would not be as aggravated as I am now.  I suspect I’m not the only one to say the one thing and mean the other.  And as far as being holier than thou, I’m more Christian than you, I’ve got the inside track on life better than you, I’m right with Jesus, but I don’t’ know about you…well…when my head gets too big, God has given me a very loving and very patient wife and sons and a sister and mother who can immediately and with great precision remind me to check myself.

 

To be a person filled with holiness is not being holier than thou, but to see God’s love and God’s mercy in the face of everyone before us.  To be a person filled with peace is to know God is in control and to be really OK with that.  To be a people of holiness and to be a people filled with peace is to look at the world around us and see a world with endless possibilities for God’s Kingdom to blossom all around.  God’s peace and God’s holiness flow in us and out of us when we overcome ignorance with truth, when we overcome prejudice with acceptance, and God’s peace and God’s holiness flow in us and through us when we choose love and hope over cynicism and despair. 

 

At this communion table, the holiness of God and the peace of Christ are as real as the bread and the cup.  At this table the Kingdom of God finds a home in our souls and will grow and thrive and transform us so that God can use us to transform the world.  From this table we go out in the world bearing God’s love, God’s peace, God’s joy and God’ hope.

 

This is a season of preparation, not just for Christmas worship or Christmas presents. This season is given to us to prepare us for all of our days.  As we prepare our homes and holiday meals, let us prepare our lives to be filled with the holiness and with the peace of Christ.  Thanks be to God.  Amen