Monday, December 23, 2019

Two Important Things to Know on the Advent Schedule in Santiago UMC

There are 2 things you need to remember during the Advent Season when you are in Santiago City, Isabela. Here are the 2 things:

1. The Santiago Central UMC has usually 2 services during the Advent Season. It has a Simbang Gabi which is usually 6PM and then the Morning Watch which is usually at 5:30 AM. 

2. The last Simbang Gabi on the 24th of December is usually a family service. They encourage every family to have their own family devotion. A liturgy guide is usually given.

This year, I was tasked to be the speaker in one of the Morning Watch. The theme assigned to me was "In the depth of brokeness, pardon and reconciliation."

Below is a very short excerpt of the sermon.

"The Gospel Text is from Luke 2. The theme ofr this year's Simbang Gabi is "In the depth of brokenness, pardon and reconciliation." The title of this sermon is "More than forgiveness, reconcile."

I am a medical doctor and I usually bring bad news to my patients. But today, I am happy to share with you the good news of Jesus.

The Gospel of Luke we read is focused on Christ as the Savior. This is a unique message in this book.
Luke was written to include the Gentiles. It tells them about this reconciling God.

Who is this reconciling God?

 -   In the Luasanne Document on Reconciliation from Duke Divinity School, the Jewish concept of reconciliation encompasses two intersectional expressions: a vertical reconciliation with God and a horizontal reconciliation with other people.

o   The dichotomy between the sacred and the profane created a gulf which separated humanity from God.

o   Rituals such as offerings for atonement, through which the profanity was removed, played an important part in restoring the relationship between God and Israel.

o   In the prophetic tradition listening to the voice of God, as revealed by the prophets, became the means through which Israel could reconcile with God. 

o   If we look at the Greco-Roman and the Old Testament understandings of reconciliation it was ascertained that actions like prayers, healings, giving sacrifices, sharing meals and exchanges occurred in both. The Gospel of Luke uses these images to illustrate the reconciliation between God and men.

§  In the Jewish world priests and prophets were mediating agents on behalf of the people, whereas in the Greco-Roman world the mediating agents were primarily the priests.

§  In Greco-Roman society, the gods themselves acted as mediating agents. The motivations for reconciliation were also similar.

o   Luke speaks about reconciliation even though he does not use the common Greek terms for reconciliation. The chapter also focused on Jesus’ enactments of reconciliation through the healing of those with leprosy.

o   Mission reconcilatio is the mission of God.

o   God’s reconciling mission does not happen in a separate vacuum or in the spiritual domain only. It is ingrained in the world we live and the people we live with. It is present in our homes, in our workplace, in school, in our church, in the society, in the government, in this world.

o   Relationships are not just defined by the present situation but also by the history of the past. The hurt and the trauma that led to conflict and war must be remembered in memory.

o   When Christians are passive bystanders and refuse to become constructive agents of reconciliation amidst such divisions and destructive conflicts, we are guilty of withholding love to a neighbor, the love of God is not manifested in our lives, and we give life to a defective gospel.

o   Every act seeking reconciliation, no matter how small, matters greatly to God. The scope of reconciliation runs from healing in one person’s life, to two individuals overcoming animosities, to nations and long-divided peoples seeking to do so.

o   Christ calls for far more than admitting guilt, but deep contrition, and a costliness and depth to healing broken relationships which goes far beyond tolerance or peaceful coexistence. This witness begins at home.

o   For the church to make peace, she herself must embody God’s peace as a living sign of God’s reconciled community. Baptism identifies believers as one church family, the body of Christ. Within their families, local churches, and the larger Christian family and our tragic divisions, Christians are called to a special witness of fidelity, sacrificial love, boundary crossing, and common prayer, seeking to heal conflicts following our Lord’s words in Matthew 18:15-20.

o   Biblical reconciliation also leads Christians beyond church circles to vigorously analyze, engage, and influence our local communities, nations, and world as witnesses for reconciliation and just community. Without sacrificing our Christian convictions, we should seek to partner creatively with people of good will to promote peace, including with people of other faiths. At the heart of the church’s public engagement is a prophetic responsibility to call political authorities to account.

Reconcile with who?

-          - Reconcile with God, self, others and nature

-          - John Wesley approached a holistic salvation in the work of Christ. God is reconciling the world in a holistic way.

Who is this forgiving God?

-        - In the essay “Forgiveness in the Gospel of Luke” written in 2009 (retrieved Luke tells of 28 stories about forgiveness. It also emphasized that “Forgiveness is God’s action through Jesus of Nazareth.” It said that this is a scandal in Luke’s gospel. When Jesus forgives a paralyzed man, Jesus’ detractors accuse him of blasphemy for daring to assume the prerogative of God (Luke 5:21). His banquet companions are dismayed by his evident presumption: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49).

-     - Forgiveness is God’s gift to all humankind. God offers forgiveness without restriction to the entire human family. Luke’s story of God’s forgiveness begins in Jerusalem (see Luke 1 and Acts 2) with Jewish people. Even here, however, the picture is a universal one, since the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost come “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). It is back to these nations, the Gentiles, that the word of God’s forgiveness is ultimately destined in Luke/Acts."


   The sermon message was very intentional to encourage the listeners that this Advent season, we must not only forgive but reconcile with those we have quarrel with. The example of God, who did not only forgave us but also reconciled humanity to Him, was to be followed.

W  Whenever, you are in Santiago City dring the Advent season. Choose a time, when to worship with the people called United Methodists.