Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Advent Prayer

"The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.
O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!" (Ps. 58:3-6)
Advent is upon us. For many of us, Advent is an afterthought, an extended preparation for Christmas. A time for office parties, charitable dinners, and gathering with family and friends. Advent, while it is a time for us to prepare our hearts, homes, and lives for the birth of the Christ child, is also something far more radical. On the Christian calendar, Advent captures Israel's longing for a Savior, a Messiah to set them free from their oppressors. This Messiah will judge the unrighteous and evil, bringing justice to the earth. The prophets and the psalms are full of Israel's cry for salvation and deliverance from her enemies. Constantly, the question is put to God, "How long? How long, O Lord?"

For Christians, Advent also captures our own hopes for the coming of the Messiah. We, too, live in a world filled with injustice, with evil people oppressing, exploiting, and destroying the weak and poor. We long for Christ to return and to bring the fullness of the Kingdom with Him.

Advent reminds us that we live in the time between times; and thus we live in tension and ambiguity. We see the works of love and mercy and the movement of the Holy Spirit. However, we also see the greed of our culture and the death and destruction that it brings.

Advent is in some ways then bad news. In a culture bent on consuming itself into a drunken stupor, Advent causes us to ponder justice and to name those who refuse to respond to God's grace by loving their neighbors as themselves. This week, I read two articles that are worthy of mention in our Advent preparation.

The first article discusses that despite losing $74 billion in equities, Wall street securities firms will pay out $38 billion in bonuses, on average over $200,000 per employee. The $74 billion in losses stems largely from the recent scandals in the subprime mortage market. In short, banks marketed loans to people who could not afford them, developing methods of delaying payments, reduced interest for several years, etc. In return, the banks charged excessive fees.

The second article tells the story of an elderly and her two senior adult daughters, all of whom struggled with poverty and illness. Mortgage brokers from Argent Mortgage Company, purchased this summer by Citigroup, swarmed the mother and her daughters, making hundreds of phone calls. Eventually, the women succumbed and signed a mortgage agreement with the company and began a free fall into debt. In 2005, with their mother in the hospital, mortgage agents convinced the family to refinance again, incurring thousands in steep fees. The mother died, the one daughter was dying, and the third's eyesight was too poor to see what she was signing. She was told this would be the only way she could save her house. Now, her house is in the process of foreclosure. She waits for the letter and the escort out of her home. When asked what she will do for Thanksgiving, she stated, “I’ll be right here... I’ve got some corn flakes and canned vegetables. That’ll be my Thanksgiving.”

On Wall Street, the millionaires who orchestrated this whole process will divide a $38 billion dollar pie, while the poor who lose their homes will eat canned beans and corn flakes. A long time ago, the Psalmist captured the cry of Advent:

"O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD...
surely there is a God who judges on earth" (Ps. 58:6, 11b, ESV).

Maranatha, Lord Jesus


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