November 29th 2015
Introduction: Our theme for the Advent season this year is “Living in the light of God’s promise.” Sometimes the first Sunday in Advent feels a little like Chicken Little running around proclaiming: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” The Gospel lessons usual focus on the prophecies or apocalyptic signs and portents make for a surprising and gloomy start to what is supposed to such a joyous time in a world that needs some good new. But it is also a time of waiting and looking, and hoping. A time of being alert and believing in the fulfillment of God’s promises. The coming of the One who can make all things right. So let’s be alert and keep watch and live in the light of God’s promise!
The season of Advent always begins with surprising “end times” texts that probably catch us a bit off guard. We want to start singing Christmas carols that will help to get us into the holiday spirit or mood. How do we make sense of the need to start our season with such a focus? The texts are about time and expectations and of course waiting. Always waiting! What do we do during this season of waiting and anticipation?
Well for one things, if we listen to the news we are on guard: against terrorists, suspicious activities and packages, and so on. Being on guard always can be very exhausting. Is this what Jesus means? I don’t think so. In fact, he says almost the opposite. We’re to be on guard against being weighed down with the “worries of this life” so that Jesus’ coming doesn’t catch us not ready.
I am a procrastinator and I suspect I am not alone here this morning. I will start giving more to the church when I get out of debt for example. Or I will take more risks for God and his church after I get other things done in my life that need doing or perhaps when I retire. I will speak out more boldly for Christ and his kingdom of peace when I stop worrying about what others will think of me? God arrives unexpectedly! I should stop acting like I have something to wait for, before I get to work the way God wants me to. The time is now, that is all the time I have to use for God and his kingdom and glory! Amen?
I.) The life of faith really is one of anticipation!
A.) We long to see the end of the world as we know it and to see what comes after it, if there is anything?
1. We look for the signs that Christ is returning.
2. The brokenness of the world, wars, poverty, injustice, hunger, nakedness, imprisonment, sickness, prejudice, hatred and strife are signs of our shortcomings, the presence of sin in the world to be sure.
3. We dare not attribute these things as signs to Christ’s return, because we then ignore our role or our part in all of the brokenness.
B.) Jesus says that the signs will be as obvious as when spring comes and leaves appear.
1. There will be celestial and earthly signs, and all that occurs will overwhelm people.
2. We, however, cannot allow ourselves to be mired in dread and fear for that time, to be drawn into all kinds of wild speculation of when it might be, what it will be like or what will happen afterwards.
Illustration: I have had many conversations with Christians down through the years who are caught up in ends times, or apocalyptic study and reflection. Nothing wrong with that I suppose but it cannot be allowed to get in the way or our fulfilling our mission, our purpose for being the Church in the world. Let’s turn to Matthew 25:31-46. These are our marching orders so to speak. This tells us what we need to be about until the time of Christ’s return. God does have a plan and it is just this, we are to love God with our whole being, nothing held back and care and share with all, not some, all of our sisters and brothers wherever they may be and whoever they may be. This doesn’t give us license to pick and choose who we will help and who we wont!
II.) Jesus tells us to raise our heads, for our redemption will draw near.
A.) Jesus promised to be with us, whatever may come to very close of the age.
1. Until that time, we live fully and completely in this life, but in so doing to anticipate with Joy, in the life of the world to come.
2. The Holy Spirit remains in us and among us, nurturing our faith and opening our eyes to the work of God through his church in the world, work that has been done and still needs doing and will always need to be done by God’s people.
3. Until such time as Christ Jesus returns, which we do not know the hour or the day, we have work to do!
B.) Be assured of God’s love and salvation and with the help of the Spirit, the love of Christ compels us into the world.
1. Both Jesus’ love for us and our love for him are compelling, turning us toward our neighbors.
2. In that unfailing light, we take strength and courage that there is still time to change the world.
Illustration: The Jesuit-psychotherapist Anthony de Mello, who lived from 1931 to 1987 wrote in “One Minute Nonsense” of an interview between and enquirer and a spiritual master.
“What’s the secret of your serenity?” Asked the enquirer. Said the master, “Wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable.”
Conclusion to message: If we contemplate the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus, we are confronted with the truth of what Tony de Mello was saying.
So much of the preaching and teaching we hear about the coming of the kingdom suggests that we have to implement and successfully execute some program to bring about the coming of the kingdom. There are some radical Christian groups who believe their role is to hasten global conflict so that the metaphors of the book of the Revelation may literally take place!
This, in my opinion, is certainly not what Jesus is saying in this gospel passage from Luke 21. The person of faith, you and me, the follower of Jesus, is urged to take a far more contemplative and organic stance to these eschatological manifestations, fancy words for saying the end of all things as we know them now. The “coming of the Son of Man” will no doubt be very dramatic. When is the breaking in of God into human reality not dramatic? Just ask the shepherds, right?
The signs will be as organic as the sprouting of tree leaves after the winter passes. Stand up and see the coming salvation for all of creation. That is all that is really required of us. We are to simply offer our complete cooperation to what God is doing in the world. After all, this is not your project. It is the work of almighty God. All we have to do is be alert to the fact that it is happening right in front of our eyes!