Advent 9: Isaiah 9:6-7, Revelation 19:1-16, 1 Timothy 6:11-16

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We all get the concept of justice. You do something wrong and there is retribution, you are made to pay in some way for your wrongdoing. It is central to our society that we try as hard as we can to stay within the law of the land as set out by our government or face justice.

Of course, not everyone manages to do this. There are and will always be criminals, those who cheat the system or those who choose to disobey the law as a form of protest. The former two groups do so out of greed and selfishness in many cases, with a total disregard of the law. The latter, those who protest, often do so because they perceive some kind of injustice which is to be railed against; often they’re right because the laws of human beings are, by their nature, flawed.

The same is true of God’s law. He is referred to as sending Jesus to govern over us in Isaiah and there are many references to his justice and law. There are still laws we must try our hardest to keep; laws regarding worshipping God, loving and caring for others, keeping God’s commandments etc. we have a choice as to whether or not we follow these laws, but they are there.

The difference is in the way justice is meted out. We all face it, but we can throw ourselves on God’s mercy. This is where the difference lies. When you throw yourself on the mercy of a human court you may need to make deals to get leniency. However, throwing yourself, sincerely, on God’s mercy and…

suddenly you are innocent of all charges. You’re sent from the court a free person and told to keep within the law. And, because of that, you try even harder to do so.

The thing is that, at some stage, you’ll break those laws again. It’s one of those things you can’t help. So you go back to court, worried that your past errors will be taken into account. You throw yourself on God’s mercy again and…

suddenly you are innocent of all charges, again!

That’s grace. You don’t deserve it, but Jesus, who came to Earth at Christmas, took the punishment we should have had on the cross. He did it, not to save us from himself, as some thinks it means, but to save us from ourselves. To save us from that spiral towards destruction that sin leads us to. We must face justice for our sin, but we have Jesus to stand up for us and declare us not guilty.

It’s not a get out of jail free card. We can’t just ask for forgiveness then keep doing the same old thing. It is a second chance, though, and a third chance. And a fourth, fifth, sixth…

Lent Day 11: Matthew 23-24

I used to be a Cub Scout. I also joined the Scouts when I was 11 (I’ll be 41 this year, so it was a while ago now!), but I thought it was boring, so I left after a month.

I loved being a Cub, though. We did Cub camp, when I was young enough to think sleeping in a tent was an adventure, not just really cold and uncomfortable. We did loads of activities to earn badges. We played football (well, others played football. I just happened to be on the pitch at the same time as them, being useless.). I even learned to iron and cook baked beans in the Cubs.

One thing I remember from my time is the motto of the Scouting movement.

“Be prepared”

It invites all Cubs and Scouts to make sure that they are physically, mentally and spiritually prepared for anything to happen. If you’re ready for anything then you are ready to meet almost any challenge life has to throw at you. In order to do this, you build your skills and knowledge, as well as constantly being alert and on the look out for anything you may need to react to. You need to be both proactive in your preparation so that you can be reactive in your response.

The same goes for all of us. Jesus is coming back. He is pretty clear about that and he’s pretty clear that we need to make sure we’re ready for him when he comes.

Now, some people try to pre-empt this by scouring the Bible for clues as to when it might happen. They quite passages out of context, find convoluted mathematical equations to give a date and time. Many build followers who buy into these theories (literally. Many make a lot of money out of these predictions), and who are sorely disappointed each time the hour passes… and nothing.

Here’s something else Jesus was pretty clear about,

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV)

Nobody knows when it will happen. Not even him!

If Jesus doesn’t even know, then how are we meant to work it out? Well, we’re not. We are simply meant to be prepared.

Being prepared means listening to what Jesus said, then putting it into action. Look at the “woe unto you” passages in Matthew 23. We should be humble, not boastful in our faith. We should lead others to Him, but not make their lives an unbearable burden when we do. We should give to the Church, but not forget to practice justice, mercy and faithfulness as well otherwise it means nothing. Remember that what’s on the inside is what makes us clean, not the outward appearance we present to others. We must place ourselves under his protection, because trying to make our own way just won’t work.

There’s a lot more to it, but all of these sum up our preparation for the day he comes back. It may happen before I finish writing this. It may finish before you finish reading it. It may not happen for hundreds of years. It is certain that it will happen and, when it does, we will know about it.

So, be prepared. Use Jesus as your teacher. Make sure you can determine his message from the ones your given which are meant to take you away from him, not towards him.

It’s daunting stuff. It’s the most important thing you can do, though.

Be prepared.