Bishop Eric Menees
Happy New Year! I know that sounds a bit odd coming - as the Bishop's Note happens to this week - on Thanksgiving Day, but this Sunday is, in fact, the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of the New Church Year. There is no other season in the Church calendar that stands out so starkly against the prevailing winds of the culture.
While our airwaves and internet are full of ads enticing us to buy this or that in preparation for Christmas, our Bible lessons are taken from the prophets, who call us to repent and prepare to meet the Lord. Advent is a season that calls upon the Church to wait, watch, and prepare our hearts and lives to meet the Lord Jesus - either at his Second Coming or upon our death. And since none of us knows the day or the hour of the Lord's return, nor of our falling asleep in the Lord, we'd better prepare now. There is no time to waste!
This Sunday's lesson from the Prophet Isaiah is an example of just such a call to prepare: "But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever." (Isaiah 64:8-9a) The prophet Isaiah, writing some 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus, reminded the people of Israel that we are not in control - we are, indeed, clay in the potters hand. In other words: WE ARE THE CREATURE, NOT THE CREATED. Losing sight of this reality is the source of such great sin and sorrow. In fact, St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, saying that Rome had become such a sinful place precisely because the people had worshiped the creature rather than the Creator: "24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:24-25) To lose sight of who we are in comparison to God the Creator is to accept as true the LIE of the Devil.
Isaiah also reminds us, through his prophetic message to the people of Israel, that we need someone to plead to God on our behalf to show us mercy! Jesus is the person who not only bore the wrath of God on our behalf on the cross, but since his ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father he has constantly interceded on our behalf and will continue to do so. As we prepare for Christmas, let us remember that God loved His creation so much that He sent His only son to redeem and restore His fallen creatures. And to that I say...Amen and Happy Thanksgiving!
Catechism Questions 46 - 48
46. What does it mean that God made both heaven and earth?
It means that all things, whether visible or invisible, physical or spiritual, were brought into being out of nothing by the Word of the eternal God. (Genesis 1:1)
47. If God made the world good, why do I sin?
Adam and Eve rebelled against God, thus bringing into the world pain, fruitless toil, alienation from God and each other, and death. I have inherited a fallen and corrupted human nature, and I too sin and fall short of God’s glory. (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23; 5:12)
48. How does sin affect you?
The God-opposing, self-centered power of sin, which is present in all people, corrupts me and my relationship with God, with others and with creation. Because of sin and apart from Christ, I am spiritually dead, separated from God, under his righteous condemnation, and without hope. (Genesis 3; Ephesians 2:1-3; Galatians 5:19-21)