Summary: A Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Series C

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2nd Sunday of Advent December 6, 2009 “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Come, Lord Jesus, come. Come, O living Word from heaven, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, lead us into a living relationship with you and with our Creator. Come and inspire our imagination, that we might see ourselves as people who are a part of your kingdom, embraced by your redeeming grace, heirs of eternal life, and participants in your ongoing work of salvation. This we ask in your holy name. Amen.

As I was preparing for my sermon this morning, as I often do, I revisited some of the sermons that I had written in years past. One sermon that I had written six years ago, caught my attention, and I have rewritten it for this morning. Thus, I would invite you to journey with me through some of the concepts that I learned in my first class in systematic theology.

According to my professor, the late Dr. Aarne Siirala, just as there are only three ways of answering a question – “Yes,” “No,” and “Both yes and no,” – there are basically only three ways of understanding reality, and our relationship with God. The first method he referred to as “The Mythical approach.” In this approach, the reality and truth of God are believed to be buried and implanted deep with each person. It is the theological approach of Zen Buddhism, and a lot of the so-called “New Age” philosophy that is so prevalent in religious bookstores these days.

According to this approach, if we want to really know and understand God, we need to look deep within ourselves. After all, we were created in God’s image. Thus, if we want to know God, we should learn and practice the techniques of transcendental meditation, and allow God’s Spirit that is within us to speak his reality to us.

The problem is, however, that this approach to theology can become self-centered. There is no objectivity. A person who believes that the reality of God is revealed to them from within their own being, would then view the world around them, and study the Scriptures in relationship to what they already know about the reality of God. This is quite different from approaching the Scriptures objectively, believing that through these sacred texts, we can learn of the reality of God.

Dr. Siirala referred to the second approach to the study of theology as the “Ontological approach.” In this approach, reality and the truth of God lie somewhere outside of ourselves, and if we really want to know God, we need to look at and study the world around us. After all, God is the Creator of the universe, and through a study of what is objectively before our eyes, we should be able to discern God’s identity from his handiwork.

Persons who seek to know God from this approach pour through and study the Scriptures with a fine toothed comb. Like the Pharisees and Scribes, they want to get at the heart of God by dissecting the various stories of the Bible with questions such as “Which is the greatest of all of the commandments?” In recent years, this approach to theology was exhibited by many Biblical scholars in the movement that became know as “the search for the historical Jesus.” Like members of a Crime Scene Investigative team, using techniques of modern literary criticism, they sought to demythologize Scripture, to separate fact from fiction, and then they would know the truth and reality of God.

The problem with this approach to the study of Scripture, is that our search for God is limited by our human reason, which convinces us that unless something can be proven to be logical, it must be false. For example, an expectant virgin has got to be a myth, because that is beyond the scope of human logic.

That may be true. We encourage our children to remain chaste, because that is the best birth control method available. However, simply because something is illogical doesn’t mean that it does not convey truth. How does one convey the truth, that in Jesus, we behold the very incarnation of the Son of God? The truth is, some facts about the reality of God and his intervention into our world to redeem us from sin and death remain beyond our comprehension.

It is my belief that if the authors of the Scriptures were limited to the use of logic, we would know much less about the reality of God and the nature of his redeeming grace in Jesus the Christ. Without denying the Spirit of God’s role in the birth our Lord, this is a not a logical concept to express. And in various ways, with the exception of Mark, who chose to ignore the birth of Christ altogether, the other Gospels utilized their own creative means to express the reality of Jesus’ incarnation.

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