Sermon Advent 1 November 27, 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5 Psalm 122 Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:36-44
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
We are now in the season of waiting and expectation, Advent, but for what do we wait ? The Scripture readings give us two polarised pictures one of joy and religious fervour, the other of destruction and loss. And because of that there are different interpretations. Some tie these happenings to the Rapture, which entails all believers being swept up into the sky to meet Jesus in the air and with Him establish His Kingdom here on Earth. Others say that the ones whisked away are disbelievers who are taken to destruction while the faithful are left, in peace and serenity. Well those two views really couldn’t be farther apart.
The story in Matthew 24 may explain. That story starts with the disciples admiring the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem. You have to remember that it was a fantastic building for its time. There were no CN Towers, or Skydomes or Burj Khalifas in Dubai towering half a mile into the sky. Just about every building was only one storey high, some two. When Jesus prophesied the Temple’s destruction the disciples were of course alarmed and wanted to know when it would happen. So Jesus laid it down this way. There will be false messiahs and wars, and then the Temple will be destroyed – that happened. The Jews had a number of uprisings against their Roman overlords, led by charismatic leaders – messiahs. They and the Temple were crushed in A.D. 70. Jesus then said persecutions of Christians and Jews will follow, and they did for centuries. Jesus said that brutal, unjust and irrational powers would randomly select people for imprisonment and execution – they did. And it’s happening again now in the battle for Mosul. ISIS is randomly taking people from their homes and using them as human shields and when they are no longer useful mercilessly shooting them – as Jesus said one will be taken and one will be left, not because they are good or bad but just because ! They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tragic as that story has been for centuries and is now, the good news is that the Kingdom of God is being proclaimed throughout the world, we are living in the period of proclamation and persecution as well as the time of waiting and expectation. For all that it is still a time of Hope.
From this point in the story the timeline is impossible to predict. But at one point, one day, the Sign of the Cross will be the focal point for all Christians to gather together from across Heaven and Earth, as Christ returns in power and great glory to establish His Kingdom here on Earth. And this all will take place within the span of one generation. After much suffering and persecution over at least two thousand years the Kingdom will be established on Earth and there will be much joy. We have to watch and wait for all these things to come about, and we have to be really diligent in interpreting what we see unfold. And most importantly we must stay faithful. It’s no good putting Faith off until tomorrow, tomorrow may be too late, Jesus may come like a thief in the night at an unexpected hour. Keep the Faith for now is a time of Hope.
When Christ returns there will be much suffering still because those who reject Him will struggle against the inevitable. We are seeing that struggle as Christians continue to be the targets of other faiths but after all those troubles joy will become universal the way our Scriptures promise. Right now we are at the beginning of the celebration of the Reign of Christ, His reign started in the cradle and that is why we celebrate Christmas. What are the consequences of that for us ? Well we know that God is still in charge. Although history is a series of random events all things happen with a purpose. Events are not implemented directly by God but the overall arch of history is steered by Him. Both good people and misguided people are actors on the stage but the Director and Producer is God. Good people acting in accord with God’s wishes will implement good things for humanity indeed all Creation. They will help people and peoples in trouble or need. We can name many but for one Terry Fox is a shining example of the type of good person I mean, he has opened the hearts of millions of people to help others, Mother Teresa too and William Booth of the Salvation Army. Their lives immediately aid God’s plan. On the other side of the coin are people like the Roman Emperor Nero, who persecuted Christians, and today’s President el-Sisi of Egypt who like Nero imprisons and murders everyone who stands in his way: Christians have been and are the targets as Jesus prophesied.
The Good News is the Kingdom is here already, it began with Jesus’ birth, and lives in all believers. We are citizens of the Kingdom.
What do good citizens do ? Well they elect leaders. We should strongly commit to God, and cast our vote for God in all aspects of our lives as we go about every day. It’s no good saying that God is our leader, and then not follow what happens in the decision making bodies of society and not make our beliefs known. We have to remain both active and diligent as citizens of the Kingdom, we can’t just wait for important times to come along before we declare our allegiance, and then maybe not ! We get Baptised, Confirmed, married and buried but those aren’t the only times Christians should check-in to see how things are going. The other prime duty of a citizen is to pay taxes. We need roads, hospitals and police in our daily temporal lives and taxes make them possible. Our givings are what makes things possible in the Kingdom too. The Church, an arm of the Kingdom, is charged with many tasks, the first is to love God, then to love people, and it does that by providing aid and support to those in need, and in desperate situations. The next thing is to take the Gospel to the world, and make disciples for Christ in every other kingdom; givings help that happen. All of that gives Hope to others in need and desperate situations. The Kingdom needs us as full participants. The blessings we receive as citizens are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, all of which we will explore during Advent. And first in Advent is the Hope of Eternal Life in the Kingdom of God. Amen.