Peace Presbyterian Church
November 27, 2016
Happy New Year!!
Yes, this is the first Sunday of the Christian Year. It is Advent I. Last week you heard that you were stuffed ---- stuffed with the presence of Jesus Christ. Maybe if you got stuffed with turkey, the sense of being filled up with God’s presence was brought home!
We do have a great deal to be thankful for!!
Like the first wintry storm that we remember from our forages up North, Advent abruptly disrupts our lengthy season of Ordinary Sundays. Itr presents a sharp contrast to the things that have become normal to us. We have settled for our current reality, gotten too comfortable with it. We are dangerously close to accepting the ordinary as the normal, and the Advent comes and shocks us.
Every first Sunday of Advent there is an apocalyptic text. Apocalyptic simply means the last days. Every first Sunday the lectionary-makers have us going to the end times. Not Christmas. The last days, like Isaiah was prophesying – when every nation should go up to the mountain of the Lord.
NOW, we are catapulted into Advent. Immediately our minds turn to Christmas – and maybe Christmas shopping. Let you ask you to hang in with Advent for a while. If you share my political leanings, you have been in something of a chaotic state this past three weeks. I had expected Hillary to win and to continue the policies that President Obama had initiated. That was not to be the case. I believed the New York Times and CBS. I was unprepared for President-elect Trump. My expectations were cast loose of their moorings. Now I do know rural white people and worked with and for them for 18 years – I should have known better than to believe the urban media. But I suppose I wanted to believe them. Now, my political leanings are way beside the point I wish to make here. Rather, I have been thrown into chaos in a way that I would not have been had Clinton won. Is God speaking out of the chaos I (and perhaps others) have experienced?
I think so. And I think that is related to the Scripture readings for this first Sunday of Advent. They are a way through the chaos, but they are not complacent or passive Scriptures at all.
First from the prophet Isaiah, who is describing the establishment of the kingdom of God when all people will go up to the mountain of the Lord.
READ ISAIAH 2: 1-5.
We are reminded that we are the people of Yahweh, the citizens of God’s kingdom, not ultimately the citizens of Obama, Trump, or Clinton-land. And the nature of that last judgment is what –“ they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Sounds a lot like Peace to me. Not the Peace of occasional cease-fire, nor of ongoing campaigns, nor of crushing towns and cities into masses of rumble. NO WAR. That’s what the Kingdom is all about. PEACE.
Well , we clearly are not there yet. BUT BUT BUT –That is clearly what we should be about. That is clearly where the last judgment, the city of Zion is. That is a clue about the way through chaos.
Let me return to the chaos a moment. I confess that I had wanted to see the policies of the Obama regime continued with Clinton, and was thrown into a chaos of expectations when that did not happen. It is now three weeks later, and I realize something. I would not have had to rethink my expectations, or my commitments if Clinton had won. I realize that I identified the with the Christian. The election was a huge trumpet blast waking me up to reality. I was guilty of fallinginto a partisan hole. God is not a Republican, but neither is she a Democrat. God is greater than all that.
Which leaves us where?
The lectionary texts leave us disrupted. Matthew speaks of two images for judgment: the contemporaries of Noah, and the owner of a house that is about to be robbed.
Well, The Advent text is oddly reassuring. But it is pretty upsetting as well, certainly at first it is.
Let’s listen to it:
Matthew 24: 36-44.
God is saying, saying here in the Gospel of Matthew, and saying at Advent, and saying through the election --- Wake up! Pay attention! Who are you when it comes down to the nub?
So the people who surrounded Noah and the owner of the house are not condemned for their sinfulness. They are judged, rather, for settling too comfortably into business as usual. They seem resigned in their assumption that nothing will change. At least not soon. Clinton will get elected, and all will be dependably tumultuous.
This risk of complacency brings with it the risk of accepting politics as usual, of accepting lies as truth, of compancency in the face of injustice, of recklessly blaming victims and outsiders. Such a mindset often leaves us unaware of the precariousness of our position. And so our Advent shock us. They signal the end times. They witness to judgment.
We are to prepare for the second coming, the return of Jesus. The Lord is coming back, and he will not be pleased with everything he finds.
These texts wake us up, they disrupt our comfortable, ordinary season of life. We are used to “marrying and giving in marriage, eating and drinking” we are far from pounding our spears into plowshares.
It is a mark of my complacency that I hear these texts as threatening. They are a prophesy of what will happen to me when I idolatrous equate mine or any political party with the kingdom of God. I am supposed to wake up, to pay attention, to put on Christ. This is the season of anticipation, yes. But it need not be threatening. What does the promise of Christmas mean if we are anticipating the end time?
Is it not the signal of new times, a new age? This is God’s word for us on this first Sunday of Advent. This is the announcement of hope, the possibility of a fresh start. A resetting of our default modes. It is – if you will – a born-again experience. Isaiah announces a vision of the end times where all nations shall travel to the holy city of Zion. Jesus warns us against complacency – of those who scoffed at Noah as he built the ark, of those homeowners who were not alert to the chance of being robbed.
So there is an urgency to this message, an anticipation, to be sure. But it is not anxious anticipation, but a joyful anticipation. An exceitement about what is to come.
In the meanwhile. We are to ask How does that excitement enter into and inform the present? What does the journey to Zion say about how we are to live now? That ultimate goal makes a different right here and right now.
Advent is about the transformation of our hearts. We are followers of the same Jesus Christ who spoke to us on the first of November. We are to be alert disciples, living now in the hope of the future glory. We are to stay aware of the ways that God has blessed us, and aware of the ways in which we can know a joy-filled, exciting adventure.