Advent #1…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (November 26&27-2016)
Title: It’s Just a Question of WHEN!!
Text: Matthew 24: 36-44
I wonder if any of you remember the 1998 film entitled Armageddon (staring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and a very young Ben Afflect). It was an exciting “on the edge of your seat” action movie about a giant meteor the size of Texas which was heading on a collision course for planet earth. If you saw the movie, you probably remember hearing Charlton Heston’s voice in the introduction to the movie. Heston explained that the last time a giant meteor crashed into the earth (63 million years ago) it had the impact of 10k nuclear weapons and created a suffocating cloud of dust and dirt that the sun was not able to penetrate for a thousand years, and resulted in the destruction of all living things on the planet…including the dinosaurs. Heston concluded his introduction with these ominous words: “It happened before…it will happen again…it’s just a question of WHEN”…It happened before it will happen again…it’s just a question of WHEN!!
The more I think about those words, the more convinced I am that Heston has put his finger on the essential message of the season of Advent. You see Advent is not really about preparing for Christmas…Advent is all about preparing for the end of time…the wonderfully frightening Day of the Lord…the day when Christ the King will return (this time in power and great glory) to establish his eternal Kingdom of justice and peace in this bruised and broken world of ours. Advent is about preparing for an event which happened before (in a barn in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago, and will happen again (at the end of time)…it’s just a question of WHEN!!
So heres the question we must ponder…the question which insists on being asked and answered on this first Sunday of Advent and a new church year is this: How do we live as Advent People…what do we do…how do we prepare for an event that we know is coming, but we don’t know exactly WHEN it is coming??? (pause)
Well, Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel help us to answer that urgently important question. We prepare for the Kingdom which is coming by living today as if it is already here! Let me say that again so that it has an opportunity to sink in…we prepare for the coming of the Son of Man and for the Kingdom which is coming in the future by living as if it were already here TODAY! Let me give you a couple of examples of what this looks like…how it actually works:
We live today as a Peacemaking Community-..we pray and work ad advocate for peace and justice for all people…not because we believe that we can single-handedly bring peace to Syria or Israel Palestine or the hundreds of other places in our world where violence and injustice exist. No, we work/pray/advocate for peace because when the Kingdom comes there will finally be peace on earth and goodwill for all people. So we live today as if that Kingdom were already here!
We live today as a Compassionate Community…we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and care for the widows and orphans…the vulnerable people…the forgotten people, not because we believe we can single-handedly eliminate poverty/hunger/homelessness, but because we believe that when the Kingdom comes there won’t be any hungry, homeless…there won’t be any vulnerable people…there won’t be any forgotten people… so we live Today as if that Kingdom were already here!.
We live today as an Inclusive Community…a community which extends hospitality to all people, but especially to outcasts…those folks who are despised and rejected by the world, not to increase our Sunday morning (or Saturday evening) worship attendance, but because when the Kingdom finally comes, there will be no outcasts…everyone will be included…no one will be excluded…so we live Today as if that Kingdom were already here
This past Tuesday, I drove to Princeton with Pr. Jost (from Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church) We went to speak with the Pastor and Lay Leader of Nassau Presbyterian Church to learn about the Syrian refugee family that the church is sponsoring and helping to resettle in Princeton. Our local clergy association (the RVCA) is considering the possibility of sponsoring a Syrian refugee family in our community and we were asked to speak with the folks at Nassau Presbyterian and learn as much as we could about their experience. And as we listened to Pr. Davis and Tom (the lay leader) speak about this remarkable family and their incredible journey from their home in war-torn Syria to NJ and about the overwhelming support they have received from the greater Princeton community, it occurred to me that the people of Nassau Presbyterian hae decided to live as Advent people…to live today as if God’s Kingdom of justice and peace were already here because, when the Kingdom finally comes, there will be no more refugees..no one will be the victims of racial and religious violence, hatred and bigotry…when the Kingdom of God finally comes, all people will be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. The people of Nassau Presbyterian Church have decided to live today as Advent people…to live today as if that Kingdom…God’s Kingdom were already here!
Now, my friends, the simple truth is that it is not easy to live this kind of existence…to live as Advent people…Advent people always seem to be a bit out of step with the values and commitments of the world…but the great Good News that we celebrate on this First Sunday of Advent is this…when we decide to live as Advent people…when we live as if the Kingdom which is coming were already here…we live by FAITH and not by sight. And Faith is what pleases God the most…Faith is what brings a smile to the face of the Almighty…Faith (ultimately) is what saves us! And, my friends were there is faith, there is love…and where there is love, there is peace…and where there is peace, there is Joy…and where there is faith love, joy and peace…there is GOD…and where there is God, there is HOPE. not wishful thinking but real…sturdy and substantial Hope …and Advent is all about HOPE…Advent is saturated with HOPE… and Hope is the one thing that we and the world most desperately need…what we and this bruised and broken world cannot possibly live without! Amen!