the one to begin a new year...
November 28, 2016, 12:00 AM

Sermon from Nov. 27, 2016

Text - Matthew 24: 36-44

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior to Come who is Jesus the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, we come to this new church year, and if you’ve been paying attention these last few weeks to the Gospel readings we’ve had – the message hasn’t changed much from Our Lord. Signs, signs of signs, and more pointing to a day that will come and is coming. There will be hard times, times will not be fun, and so much more.

These last few weeks we’ve heard quite a few ‘apocalyptic’ messages from our Lord.

But, there’s something I’ve always noticed about what Jesus calls for us during these times leading up to that time of the Advent – second coming – that we don’t know when it will occur.

If you listen to a lot of the folks around the world today who profess to ‘know’ that hour, or foresee it’s coming in the signs of the world – their advice and warning is – you better get right with Jesus. You better proclaim to know him. You better shout to the world and those around you that you mean it – or else!

Sound about right?

Yet, as we look at what Jesus says in our Gospel reading this morning – we do get a dire message, but what we should be doing leading up to this coming time is not quite the same as what we hear out in the world.

After Jesus’ warnings he tells a small parable about two men in the field and two women grinding grain. One is taken, one is left. Yet, those individuals weren’t doing anything special they were doing their work. Continuing in their labor of the world. One would assume that one from each of those pairs was continuing to follow into what Christ has proclaimed.

I noticed something as I read this text this year. Nowhere does Jesus say which person you’d want to be. Are we to prepare in some way to be the person ‘taken’ or the person ‘left?’ It’s like Jesus has been intentionally ambiguous here.

We live in a world where the dominant message is – you don’t want to be left behind – yet Jesus’ message in this particular part of Matthew’s gospel seems to lean towards not wanting to be taken. Those during Noah’s age were taken by the waters of the flood. A thief comes in the night not to keep things ‘safe,’ but to take what doesn’t belong to them.

Maybe we want to be the ones left? It seems it would match with the intent of Jesus’ words here? Kinda throws a wrench in that whole fictional series, Left Behind, right?

However, no matter where you align yourself in that conversation – whether you want to be ‘taken’ or ‘left,’ I don’t believe that Jesus wants that to be the dominant conversation. If that is the focus of our discussions, we’ve lost the whole point to what Jesus is getting at.

As I hear this message that Jesus proclaims to and for us this morning, one word stands out to me – Stay alert, be prepared, watch (depending on your own translation the words and phrases will vary slightly, but their meaning remains virtually the same).

And, yet I think we still miss-hear what Jesus is trying to tell us. When we hear ‘stay alert’ or ‘watch’ I think we feel we need to be like a sentry. Someone who looks out from the guard posts so that they can see the ‘bad’ coming to warn everyone else. Don’t get me wrong – that is a good job to have. It helps keep us safe – everyone safe – from the ‘evil’ to come. But, when we hear that that is all we should do – we lose sight of the actual life that Jesus has called us into.

Yet, in the few verses we hear this morning and the season of the church year we newly venture into this morning – I believe that action takes on a slightly different meaning. It isn’t so much that we ‘stand guard’ and ‘watch vigilantly’ only straining our eyes into the distance – and also making sure that others around us do as we do.

I don’t think that’s what Jesus means.

We are to ‘stay alert’ and ‘be prepared,’ but that requires and expects more than just standing around and shouting that ‘the end is coming!’ In fact, I’d hazard a guess that it doesn’t mean that at all, but instead it means living into the faithful witness that Jesus calls us into.

Living into that life where others and all are loved and cared for. Bearing witness to the grace and radical welcome of inviting those different than us into our lives. Seeking to hear others so that our own voice, our own life, our own community as a whole can be that much more full.

We come boldly into the season of Advent and we hear this message from Jesus that is of warning and is full of gloom and doom. Within that message we don’t get the ‘full’ story. In fact, the only thing we know for certain is that we won’t know when that time – this coming Advent – will come about.

In the knowledge of ‘not knowing’ we are to be prepared, to stay alert, and to watch.

My hope and prayer for us at this time and always is that we do heed this warning from Jesus. Live into the life that we have been called into. That we live into this new and renewed life that we have been gifted by God through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus – the Word of God.

Bearing witness through our words and our actions.

Caring for those around us, loving all – especially the ones we don’t agree with, the ones we don’t like, and the ones who seek harm. Living into the foolishness of the cross for the sake of the life of the world.

My hope and prayer for all of us – is that we remember that Christ dwells with us in the midst of the struggles of our lives and our world. God does not abandon us. We may not know when that day or hour will come. We may certainly not enjoy that time when it is here – whenever that may be. But, we remember and have faith that God is continually with us.

We began our worship this morning – and will begin each Sunday during Advent – singing O Come, o come Emmanuel.

Emmanuel – God with us.

That is the message that we cry out as we enter this Advent season. God is coming. God has come. God is with us. Share that message. Be prepared for that Advent.

In Christ, through Christ, because of Christ – Emmanuel – God with us. Now and always. Let us remember that promise and presence as we live into this life. Amen.

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