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Sermons

“In God’s Good Time”

Nov. 28, 2021 First Sunday of Advent The text is Luke 21:25-36.

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[Jesus said:] 25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

At first glance it would seem that there has been an error by the people who determine the lessons to be read on Sunday mornings.  Today is the first Sunday in Advent; wouldn’t it make sense that we would be focusing on waiting for the birth of Jesus at Christmas?  Instead, we’ve just heard Luke recounting Jesus’ proclamation to his followers concerning the end of days, the final judgement of humankind.  The timing doesn’t seem to add up.  But, take heart, for the rest of Advent the readings will focus on the events leading up to our Savior’s birth.

But we’re still confronted with the rather strange selection the lectionary chooses for our gospel reading this morning.  There’s no avoiding the fact that Jesus is speaking about the Parusia, his Second Coming, in clouds, with power and great glory.  And Jesus is rather adamant that this will happen before those he is speaking to themselves pass away.  Or, then again, maybe not.  The “generation” he alludes to may not be everyone alive at that time, but Jesus might be singling out a portion of the population, those who come to believe in him.  Perhaps those who confess Jesus as Savior will continue to proclaim the Good News through the subsequent generations and the end times will not occur until everyone is fully on board.  Either way, the disciples, and all those who come after are instructed to be alert, to stand ready to receive Jesus and to be redeemed by him.

But again, why is this narrative included as part of the Advent season, what do we learn from this seeming paradox?  Maybe the reason is that we need to learn that time, as we experience it is vastly different from how God sees it.  Creation and the passage of time doesn’t have to be linear in the eyes of God.  The fact that we read this morning of Jesus telling us to be ready for his triumphant return, when we are still a few weeks away from his birth serves as a reminder that we are to be ready, to be alert, and to anticipate both.  And, just to add a bit more mystery to our perception of time, we believe that Jesus is already here, and has been since before time began.  And the kingdom of God that we await?  Well, that too is already among us, those of us who acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.

Perhaps this morning’s passage is meant to serve as a reminder that, although we wait expectantly for the birth of Jesus at Christmas, and we are also to be alert for his ultimate return when the kingdom is fulfilled, that there is work still to be done.  Remaining prepared for what may happen in the future shouldn’t diminish from the living of abundant lives in the present.  If we put too much of our attention toward tomorrow, we might miss the joy that exists today.  Many years ago, I purchased a pair of rather expensive hiking boots, that I would wear while exploring the trails in the Colorado Rockies.  I hiked in them every day during my trip and then they were relegated to my closet on my return.  My plan was to minimize the wear on them as I awaited my next hiking trip.  No way was I going to wear this pricey footwear for just walking around the neighborhood.

Life happens, and as it turned out several years passed before I had the opportunity for another multi-day mountain hiking trip.  As the time approached, in great expectation I retrieved the boots from the back of the closet and laced them up at home, just to get myself motivated for the trip.  I took only a few steps before both of the soles fell off the boots.  It seems the glue recognized the passage of time, even if I didn’t.  And, believe me these were really nice boots, and I missed the opportunity to wear them out.  They fell apart even without me wearing them; such a waste!  So much for worrying about tomorrow while ignoring the pleasures of today. 

And this is the danger when apocalyptic scripture is taken too literally; we tend to focus on the end while losing sight of the now.  We can focus on the portion of Jesus’ discourse that highlights the fear and foreboding that will be the result of the end times, or we can be comforted with his words that tell us that God is near; his example of when the spring brings forth new leaves.  “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life”, Jesus tells us.  It seems that the inclusion of this portion from Luke’s gospel today might teach us a thing or two as we begin the Advent season of expectation and waiting.

The world continues to struggle with the distress caused by the Covid pandemic; things are certainly not yet ack to normal.  Nearly every aspect of life has been affected and our behaviors modified as we grapple with this illness that has plagued us for nearly two years now.  And, the news a few days ago of the emergence of what may be the most dangerous variant to date, surely doesn’t help to ease our concern for the future.  But Jesus reminds us that no matter the situation, God is always near.  The fear and foreboding that Jesus foretells is overcome with the knowledge that the leaves will sprout and that springtime will follow.  We mustn’t dwell on the situations we face, for if we do, we deny ourselves the anticipation of the joy to come.  No matter what happens this Advent, Jesus will become incarnate on Christmas, the Son of God will come again to walk among God’s people.  And this is the ultimate sign that God is in charge and that in the end, God’s kingdom will come. 

So, we can decide how we live our lives as we wait for Christ to come again.  We can leave our hiking boots in the closet, not enjoying them, until they crumble.  Or, we can put them on, lace them up, and walk around in them; confident that we are making use of them as they were intended.  And, if we should happen to wear them out, we can always buy a new pair before the next hiking trip.  This way, no matter when that next trip happens, we will be prepared no matter what.         

Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and Holy God, help us to understand that your time is not our time, that all things will come to pass according to your will.  Keep us from dwelling on those things that would prevent our hearts and minds from living the abundant lives you desire for your people.  And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One who comes among us to point the way to the promised kingdom; the one to come and the one already here.   

God is Good, all the time.  All the time, God is GoodAmen.

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