St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Canon Claude Schroeder
Sermon on Luke 21:25-33
Advent is the time in the Church when we focus on the promise of Jesus’ coming.
The Collect for Advent declares, “He came to us in great humility and He will come again in his glorious Majesty to judge both the living and the dead.” In between these two comings, there is a third coming and that is His coming to us right here, and right now.
I got an email the other week from a friend of mine in Saskatoon who pastors a church which ordinarily does not keep time the church calendar. He decided this year to observe Advent with his congregation. In the email he wrote,
“What strikes me as I begin to listen to the Advent Scriptures is that our contemporary celebration of Christmas doesn’t account for the coming Day of the Lord! Advent pulls us back to reality and calls us to watch, resist the enticement of the culture to live without thought of eternity, and to prepare to stand before the Son of Man.”
Advent pulls us back into reality, and puts things in perspective.
Life is difficult. Life is hard. The cards are stacked against us.
Why is that?
Well, for one thing, everybody dies.
Among all the cards you get dealt in life is card that has the picture ofa grave on it. It’s yours.
There comes the time when that’s the only card left in your hand, and you have to play it.
We are death bound creatures.
But it was in the time of this mortal life, this “death-bound life” that Jesus Christ came to visit us.
His coming was a game changer.
When the time comes for us to play our last card, the game is not over. In view of Jesus’ coming, the game is just beginning. As we confess in the Creed, ” We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
So whatever it is that you up against the present moment, whatever challenges, difficulties, and dead ends you are currently facing – God has something in store for you, beyond the challenge, beyond the difficulty, and beyond the dead end of your life… Something not of your making, and not of your doing. It will be of His making and His doing. As Paul put it in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4.17)
If you believe that, if you take Paul at his word, which is taking God at his Word, you have within you an inexhaustible source of patience, and an inexhaustible source of strength, that enables you to overcome your difficulties.
The promise of Christ’s coming not gives us perspective in the present, but it also give us hope for the future.
But this notion of hope is often misunderstood.
Having hope for the future does not necessarily mean that the uncertain or even negative circumstances of your life will have a positive outcome, that things are going to get better. No, things may, in fact, get worse. Things may turn out badly for you.
You can hope for healing. You can hope for peace. You can hope for success, and who of us doesn’t hope for these things? But that isn’t Christian hope,
One commentator writes, “So often we wait on God and think we are waiting in hope when in fact we are waiting with a shopping list we have composed, confusing this with prayer, and confuse what we think are our prayers with hope. (Patrick Comerford). In other words, we confuse God with Santa Claus.
This is why T.S. Eliot wrote,
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
So what is the Christian hope? Who or what are we waiting for?
The Christian hope is hope in God, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and it is Jesus for whom wait. And the hope that we have in God through the Resurrection of Jesus is altogether impervious to circumstances, and in fact trumps the worst of circumstances.
So how do we grasp this hope? How do we seize hold of it?
Hope is not something floating around in the air that you can reach out and to grab hold of, like a child chasing a butterfly with a net.
Hope is something that you actually generate in your life. It’s something that you bring into existence and actualize in your life through certain habits or practices, the failure of which without a doubt will result in you falling into that deep, dark hole we call ” despair.”
What are those habits and practices?
You will find a fulsome list on page 555 of the Prayer Book. You may want to make a note of this look them up some time.
You will find included on that list the practice of writing cheques and putting them on the offering plate.
Today we are gathering our pledges in for 2019. That act is not only a sign of hope for our future as a congregation.
But then there is the practice of which our Collect for today speaks. It’s the practice of hearing, reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting the Holy Scriptures.
You know that the organizing principle behind the Book of Common Prayer is a plan for Bible study? The plan is a very simple one. As part of your Morning and Evening Prayer listen to a chapter of the Old Testament, and a Chapter of the New Testament. If you follow this plan, you will read through the better part of the Bible once a year.
If you were follow this plan, it would have very practical effect of rewiring your brain. It would change the way you think. The stories of the Bible would embed themselves in your mind, and you would start to think in terms not of Bible verses, but Bible chapters, and begin to see connection between them, and grow in the knowledge and love of God.
Is this too much for us to handle? One thing is for sure, we neglect the Scriptures at our peril.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus paints for us a terrifying picture of life on earth., with sign appearing signs in the sun, moon, and stars. WE know from Genesis 1, that the sun, the moon, and stars are symbols of God’s providential ordering of life on this earth. We know from observation that the appearance and movement of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky is predictable, in the ancient world this is how you measured the passage of time, and navigated your way around.
So what happens when signs appear in the sun, moon, and stars, blocking your view?
I tell you what happens – there is chaos, there is confusion. You don’t know which way is up, and which way is down, where to go and what to do. Everything comes to a standstill.
It’s like what happened last Tuesday with a power outage in our province I was told there the Tim Horton’s Harbor Landing which did have power was absolutely overrun with customers, looking for somewhere to go and comfort themselves with a cup of coffee and a doughnut.
Now what Jesus is describing is something akin to a global catastrophe with “distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world, for the power of the heavens will be shaking.” Jesus talking here about the very structures and systems that govern human society.
Sounds like the end of the world, doesn’t it? Except that it’s not.
What Jesus is describing here is not the end of the world, but the end of the present world order, where the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever!” (Revelation 11.15). In the very moment that the world seems to be falling apart, ” they will see the son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21. 27)
What is Jesus referring to here?
We of all people should know this because it’s stares us in the face every Sunday morning when we come to church, where in the window about the altar you we see Jesus coming in a cloud with power and great glory into the presence of God to be seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high.
So here’s the thing? What do you do in the deep deep crisis in your life when it feels like the world, at least your world is falling part?
Well, you can go to Tim Horton’s and try and comfort yourself with a cup of coffee, and a doughnut. You go back to bed, and pull up the covers and wait for this whole thing to blow over, or…or, you can do what Jesus told you to do, and that is look up, and lift up your head, because your redemption is drawing near.
It’s a counter intuitive move isn’t it?
The world around me is falling apart, and I look up and lift up my head.
Who does this?
We do. This is the move that we make when we come to church. We look up and lift up our heads. We adopt a posture of hope and expectation. What do we see when we look up and lift up our heads. We see Jesus, reigning and ruling over His creation. We see Him coming to save us and set us free.
It’s why Jesus said to the disciples, “When you see the trees coming out in leaf, you know that summer is already near. IN the same way, when you see these things taking place, know that the kingdom of God is near!” (Luke 21. 29,30)
We find ourselves in the midst of variety of crises: political, economic, ecological, social, cultural.
These are chaotic and confusing times. How shall we navigate our way through them? Advent would tell by focusing our attention on the promise of His coming, and the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.
Mind you, you shouldn’t take my word for it.
Take His word for it.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21. 33)These words of Jesus have been written down for you in the Holy Scripture for you to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, that by patience and comfort of His Holy Word you may embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life, given to us in our Savior Jesus Christ.