St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-02-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-02-2018

Stand Up and Raise Your Heads!

First Sunday of Advent: Hope

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

We can only guess at the number of books written and movies made about “the end times”; “the apocalypse” as it is also known. Some are written as a view from a biblical perspective; usually depicting a great war being fought between righteous and evil forces with a not-so-subliminal touch of divine influence governing the outcome; the winners surviving only by the blessing of God.

 Others are created as temporal science fiction that could include war but also might involve natural forces such as climate change related drought causing fire and famine, the explosion of super volcanoes, or giant meteors striking the earth; those surviving only doing so by preparedness, sheer determination, or simply by luck.

 In either format they almost always deal with the destruction of life on earth as we know it and the continuing struggle for survival in the aftermath experienced by the few survivors in a world of ungoverned chaos.

Many of us, here today, might remember the sense of approaching reality during the beginning of the cold war; the following years of government produced news reels teaching Americans how to prepare for a nuclear attack on our own soil, with bomb shelters designated and stocked with supplies, and the classroom ‘duck and cover’ drills; all reaching the critical point during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Still, after that era calmed down, with the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them over greater distances came the realization that, even if you were to survive an attack, you might wish you hadn’t. With food and drinking water immediately becoming in short supply; the contaminated earth no longer able to grow new crops and the lack of law enforcement; the inevitable outcome would be living in a world of total chaos; living in a constant struggle to protect what little you might have from marauders, death from starvation and rampant disease, plus the toll of the mental anguish that would come with all of this.

The fear still lingers. With the terrorist attacks of 9-11, with Iran and North Korea threatening to establish themselves as world powers with nuclear weapons, and with the ongoing threat of Russia we might think that a nuclear holocaust is just around the corner.

Witnessing the destruction of wars in other lands that not only end the lives of hundreds of soldiers but millions of civilians as well; the growing number of radical groups making their mark on the world by any means possible, and the ever increasing rhetoric of hate filled leaders preaching a doctrine of doom if we don’t fight to protect our own interests we might think that we should be digging in and stocking up right now. Many warn us to do just that; to prepare to hide away in a hole until it all passes over. Many, as a matter of fact, are already doing so.

But worse still than these, are the people who want to see all these horrors happening and continue to happen; the ones who believe these are the required sufferings that will bring about the return of Christ; the ones who read Christ’s words of warning and preach with a finger held firmly on the part that reads…

“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. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

In their vision, the second coming will only happen once the world as we know it is totally destroyed.

That is what they hope for.

But that’s only the first half of the reading; they neglect to finish listening to Christ’s ongoing message and by so doing they misunderstand those words to be warnings of how the Son of Man will come rather than a statement of how the world does, and will, react to chaotic situations.

Christ goes on to remind his followers of the natural signs of the changing seasons and, thus, how the coming of the Son of Man in his glory will be. He refers to the budding of trees as a sign of impending summer, something that occurs, not in an instant, not in the flash of a bomb blast; but slowly, gently, almost unnoticeable over a period of time. As such will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Christ does add a “warning” of sorts; he tells us to be “on guard”.  Not, however, by spending our time and recourses digging a hole to hide in; not by practicing “duck and cover” drills; rather quite the opposite; to be “on guard” to not be weighed down with “dissipation” (the squandering of time and resources to protect our lives from the inevitable) and “drunkenness” (the squandering of time and resources to hide from fear).

Christ doesn’t tell us to dig a hole to hide in (literally or metaphorically) in chaotic times, but to stand up and raise [our] heads”! To overcome our fears with the confidence that, in those hard times, the Son of Man is always near, redemption is always near, the Kingdom of God is always near to us; and, in the apparent death of the cold of winter, the buds of new life are just waiting for the proper season to sprout forth and take on new life; renewed life in the warmth of the Son!

That is what we hope for!

When you are in darkness, when you see nations in distress, when you’re confused and hear the roar of the sea and waves, when you feel faint and that your whole life is being shaken don’t despair… but lift your head high, look up to your hope in the promises of God, and know that your redemption is already near!

Amen

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16
33:14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
33:16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?
3:10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
3:11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
3:13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Luke 21:25-36
21:25 “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.
21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
21:27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.
21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;
21:30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
21:31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.
21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
21:34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,
21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.
21:36 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.”