Sermon for Advent 2 2020

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

It is a shame that we so rarely hear from the Second Epistle General of St. Peter. Indeed, after consulting the lectionary I discovered it only appears on two Sundays in our entire three year cycle of readings. So I wanted to focus on our Epistle this morning. Don’t worry; we’ll get more John the Baptist next week.

Like Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonian’s, Peter’s Second Epistle was written in a period of delayed gratification with regard to the Second Coming of Christ. In fact this letter was written at least a decade after Paul’s; Peter actually references Paul’s epistles explicitly in the verses which follow this morning’s lesson, calling them “Scripture,” so not a little time has passed. That being the case, we can imagine the anxiety of Peter’s audience to be even more acute. Why hasn’t Christ returned? Has he forgotten us? Was the second-coming merely a fond idea, vainly invented?

In the Year of our Lord 2020, I admit I feel a bit more kinship with Peter’s audience than I probably have in my entire life. Perhaps I am not alone. Between the pandemic and violence in the streets and the most divisive election in my lifetime and all the other difficulties this year has brought, I’ve found myself saying, without any sense of irony, “why won’t Jesus just come back and fix it already!?”

Peter, such a great pastor, gives us a compelling answer. God’s time is not ours, and any delay is surely so that the Good News can spread farther abroad and more can be saved. Our part is to persevere in godliness and “holy conversation,” to be patient and to persevere in living that simple call to prayer and study and works of charity.

I think this is especially important for us, right now. No doubt many of you will have received notice from me or from the bishop or both that as the church in this diocese we are imminently entering another “lockdown” phase of our life together. As wise and proper as the bishop’s godly counsel on this matter is, it will no doubt be painful for those who have come again to receive the sacrament at this altar. It is truly painful to me. How much more, then, must we remember Blessed Peter’s call to persevere in righteousness, to keep saying our prayers and reading our bibles and doing what small acts of Christian charity we can safely do, during this next season of our common life. How much more must we take to heart that if “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” then what, not to be flippant but I mean it sincerely, is a few more months.

“Every year,” the great Fleming Rutledge has said “Advent begins in the dark.” A friend of mine recently told me he has a peculiar way of reckoning liturgical time this year. By his count, we would currently be on day 317 of Lent. Perhaps that feels to many of us about right, but I would counter that we are now in the midst of the most “Adventy” Advent in our lifetimes. We are by necessity in darkness, called to watch and pray until the glory of the Lord is to be revealed, until all flesh shall see it together.

My prayer is that at the last we will be found to have been a people who did just that, who kept home alive in the darkness, knowing that the great and terrible day of the Lord would come when we least expect it, like a thief in the night, and then we should find that, our consciences being made pure, the Lord has made in us a mansion made ready even for himself.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.