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Advent day five: The reign of God is now

12.7. 2017 Posted By: The Mennonite

Brenda Sawatzky Paetkau is part of the pastoral team at Eighth Street Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana. She is looking forward to lively dinner conversation when the entire family will be gathered at the table over the Christmas break. 

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;

       Righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,

       And righteousness will look down from the sky. Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

This text was the basis of the very first sermon I wrote as an “official” pastor. It was called “A Prayer and a Passionate Kiss.” I was 27 years old, full of energy and delight for what was possible when God and the people of God collaborate which will result in goodness for heaven and earth.

More than two decades later, still as an “official” pastor, I find myself experiencing Advent 2017 with unexpected wonder. All the apocalyptic texts at the end of Year A and on the first Sunday of Year B have Jesus showing up like I’ve never seen before.

That first sermon I preached reflected a future hope. It emphasized that while there are some signs of God’s in-breaking into the world now, those signs are meant to maintain our hope for a glorious future.  There is a sense of the Reign of God winning over Empire someday. Some. Day.

But in Advent 2017, Jesus is subverting that apocalyptic message. This year, like never before, I understand Jesus to be more cognizant of empire than I had imagined. It breaks his heart to know his disciples and enemies alike will bend their knees to empire with devastating results.

Yet this Advent, Jesus’ confidence in the already established Reign of God is showing itself. There is no need for the dismantling of empire first so that the Reign of God can abide on earth. The Reign of God is here now. Jesus is already embodying God’s Reign on earth as are others who are surprised to discover they too are living this way now, right in the shadow of empire.

After more than two decades of pastoral ministry, I am no less energetic or delighted for what is possible when God and the people of God collaborate which results in goodness for heaven and earth. What is changing is my willingness to hold this as primarily a future hope. The other thing that has changed is my assumption that the empire must be defeated before this hope can be fully lived.

This Advent, I’m discovering the audacity of Jesus. This Advent, I’m discovering the subversion of Jesus. This Advent, I’m discovering that a broken heart does not mean despair only. It means that the reality of devastation caused by empire is real and it is hurting people, so our hearts are breaking.

But, like Jesus, our breaking hearts do not necessarily lead to revenge and violence. Our breaking hearts can land us in Love’s territory, where we can embody the Reign of God now. The shadow of empire cannot stop steadfast love and faithfulness from meeting. The shadow of empire is no barrier preventing righteousness and peace from kissing each otherThis is the grace of God. This is the promise of Advent. This is the kind of living to which our Christ calls us.

I still like the title of that sermon offered all those years ago. The Advent 2017 blessing is that this is our reality now!

Read previous Advent reflections and sign up to receive our 2017 daily Advent devotionals in your e-mail inbox. 

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