Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wait...the ? is coming Advent 2 (b) 08

wait…the Lord is coming
prepare…the Lord is coming
take comfort…the Lord is coming

This morning we are going to travel back in time and look at three ancient texts and seek to discover meaning from them for our own lives during this time of Advent.
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. 
Advent means coming. 
The time when we anticipate the coming of the Christ child, born in a manger in Bethlehem those many years ago…
we anticipate the second coming.
The return of Christ in which the world as we presently know it will pass away, and a new heaven and new earth take its place.

Now, it’s pretty easy to think about the birth of the Christ child.  Pretty hard to avoid thinking about it..
although don’t you think our perspective of it has been skewed a bit? 
Instead of thinking about that baby boy born in a manger, among animals and strangers in Bethelhem, and celebrating his birth, instead, this time of year a round jolly bearded man in red dominates the scene. 

And the second coming…
How often do we think about the second coming? This was a huge deal for the early church.
Have we lost this concept? 
Sounds too much like science fiction and is hard to rationalize in our modern minds. 
Or fanaticism with  raptures, threat and violence.
It seems disruptive…and for many of us, we may prefer our daily lives rather than anything unforeseen.
Things are okay….At least they had been okay until the economy started to nose dive.  But at least gas prices have gone down. yesterday I paid 1.489. Who can beat that?
This coming of Christ..
It just doesn’t seem like something we would hope for.

It can be hard to anticipate the coming of our Lord,
So we are gifted this morning with insight from three different communities that have different approaches to this Advent.   There is one that is encouraged to wait…for the lord is coming. The other is to prepare the way…for the Lord is coming. 
And the third is to take comfort…the Lord is coming.

The letter of 2 Peter is written for a community of followers of the way who lived some three or four generations after the resurrection of Christ. 
Many within this early community, some of the most faithful and humble leaders, have died.  And where was Christ?
Wasn’t he supposed to have already come back? 
I mean, really. 
They had heard from their ancestors Jesus’ claim before the assension….”I’ll be back.” 
When?  \   When are you coming back? 

This pastoral letter tries to put at ease a crowd that is becoming restless, anxious, maybe desperate. 
The time of God is not like the way we understand time.  
One day is like a thousand years; a thousand years, like one day.
The day is coming, but you’re going to have to just wait longer.
But what do we do in the mean time?  We don’t like waiting.

In this information age, where whatever we want is virtually a click away…Waiting stinks…no one wants to wait around. 
It should have already happened last week. 

What are some of the things your waiting for?
What would draw your mind and attention away from where you are in this present moment to itself?  
How do you handle it?  shifting around in your seat..
looking at your watch.
What’s coming in your future?
I met with a woman yesterday who is in the county jail…and you better believe she is counting down the minutes until she appears before the judge and is praying she gets out.

What are you waiting for? And what do you do while you wait?
Maybe many of us are waiting for…Stewardship Sunday!
The time when we can turn in our pledge cards so that the life and ministry of God in this place may continue. 
Next Sunday will be a very important day in the life of the congregation.
So while you wait for this, pray about what kind of commitment you will make. 

What else?  A BCS champion?  How bout a playoff.
A turn around in the economy?  If only. An end to the war? Wouldn’t that be great!  The inauguration of our next president?  Just around the corner…
How do you handle all of this waiting?
Gather as much information as you can; Scouring the internet and newspapers and media outlets. 
Think about it randomly, constantly?
Count down the days…only 20 days left until I ride the train. Only 9 more months and I can retire.  17 more days and you know who is coming to town.
While they wait, wish lists are being filled out by children and children at heart.  Tonio Garcia’s mom, Valerie, told me that his list consisted of a several toys, but interspersed in that list was a note with concern for the poor, “could they get gifts too?”  And there was a request concerning his relationship with his older sister.  as the younger brother of two older sisters, I’m pretty sure I have a good idea what that one was about. 

2 Peter tells the community while you wait…repent.
In the mean time…strive for holiness and godliness;
strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish. 

Could you imagine a child coming home from school living these words out in her life:  So, daughter, what did you accomplish today: well, I really was trying to be more godly…so I helped my friend with her homework, and sat with the new kid in school.

Perhaps, like a list of Santa, we could make a wish list for how we might live a more godly and holy life. 

By doing so, we may even begin to live in such a way that we can witness this world transforming before our very eyes.
A good way to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Let’s turn our attention now to Mark’s community. 
I’ve mentioned before one of my friends bumper sticker: Jesus is coming, look busy. 
Mark says, Jesus is coming:  Prepare.
The story of Jesus had been told for decades after Jesus had lived, died and was raised from the dead.
Most scholars believe that the gospel of Mark was in it’s final written around 70 AD. 
During this time a war going on. 
Some Jews had revolted against Rome; they were tired of the occupation.  The Romans had laid siege to Jerusalem,
and destroyed their most precious and sacred possession: 
The Temple. 
There is chaos, unrest and anxiety. 
The price of oil is skyrocketing—olive oil—
and certainly we know how that affects the entire economy.[1] 

What words would you speak in such a situation?  Good news? The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ,
the Son of God.  The messenger is coming…prepare the way. 
A prophet appears in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance.  John is out there and he’s drawing a crowd. Sometimes I’m a little envious of the freedom of John B.
Wild hair, camel’s hair and a leather belt…
a simple diet of honey covered bugs. 

“I have baptized you with water, but one coming after me will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” The crowd responds…they go down to the river to pray; they confess their sins, and repent.  This is preparation. 
While we wait we may prepare our hearts for this one who is to come.
I was a boy scout…our motto was: Be Prepared.  A perpetual state of preparedness…I don’t know how well I live up to that. 
But, fortunately I have a great wife whose nesting instincts are kicking in since she is only 2 months away from delivery. 
And boy, am I learning what it means to prepare for someone that is coming. 
What was once an office in our house—is being transformed into…you guessed it. 
Want to come over and paint or something? 
And last week we went to not one but two birthing classes.  LeMans videos and breathing…
Have any of you heard Bill Cosby’s take on these classes [breathing impersonation]. “You did this to me!” 
We’ve got one on “breast feeding” coming up in a few weeks.
I wonder if Joseph went to that class? 

But preparing the baby room may be a good metaphor for preparing for Christ,
both the Christ child and the Christ who is to come. 
John’s message to repent, confess our sins, tells us to get all that stuff out of our hearts and minds that won’t do for this coming one.
Begin to clear out space, so that grace may fill that room.
Joy may abound in our hearts and in our lives. 
We make room in this community as we repent of our sins so the gift of the Holy Spirit may be present.

Wait…the Lord is coming says 2 Peter.
Prepare…the Lord is coming; says Makr
And finally, take comfort..the Lord is coming. says the Prophet Isaiah.
Our third community is the one addressed in Isaiah chapter 40.
The people of Israel, who claim YHWH as their god, have been in captivity, oppression, and away from their homeland for many many years now. 
Imagine that. If we were taken from our homeland…or our homeland was taken from us, and violently occupied by another people.

What does a prophet say to a people who have been living in captivity?
They are not at home;
and they are not fully present where they live.
They are in between.
For a grieving people who can see no future, were these words of great surprise: Comfort, O comfort, my people. 
Those of you familiar with Handel’s Messiah can start humming to yourself now. 
Take comfort for the Lord is coming! 

Mountains made low, valleys made high, The glory of the Lord shall be revealed! 
Go up onto the hightest hill: and shout the good news! 

God comes in might…this is not the strength of a bloody avenger, a violent brute or a demanding judge. 
No, this is God’s strength: It appears in the barely thinkable power of gentleness, in tender and caring presence, in intimacy such as a shepherd expresses when gathering the wounded, scattered flock.[2] 

In the midst of this cry: we are reminded of our place…
the people are grass.
On Wednesday at our noon Bible Study, we talked about the rare celestial trifecta of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon.
Did any of you see it?  Barbara said that the next time it will happen, Claudia and I will be the only ones who might still be alive to see it.  2052.  Sitting around that table were Sherl, Marylin, Georgia, Erik. 

Yes, we are a frail and fragile people.  We need to be comforted, by the one who gives comfort.

At the doctor’s office there are many magazines on parenting.  Most seem geared toward women,
the adds and the pink colors kind of give it away.
But, there are some really helpful articles in there.
One I was reading about the development of a child and it gave some cautions about what not to do with kids around one year.

One father wrote:
I thought it would be neat to see how my boy would react if I put the basketball under my shirt.  But, for some reason, when he saw me, he started crying and was upset…and now he’s afraid of the basketball.

Another story:
We bought our child Ermo, a talking doll.  But when we started the doll talking our 13 month old was crying and scared.  And now he doesn’t play with any talking dolls.

Our 12 month old accidentally pushed a button on the remote control to the television and changed the channel to on that was static and noise.  She began to cry and now doesn’t want to go near the TV.
When I read that one I told trasie we should do that to our kid so that he/she won’t want to watch tv. 

“Some things may seem harmeless to us older people and really frighten and worry infants,” the magazine said.  “Parents, be ready to comfort your infant and be gentle with her.”  

We grow older, and are not freighted by the same things, but certainly we are still easily frightened:  Markets crashing. Threats of war.  Environmental catastrophe.  Crime and gangs in our neighborhoods.  Disease and the threat of death and separation from loved ones.  

Comfort, O comfort my people.  This is advent.  He will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. 

This is something to hope for. 

In Sunday School last week, someone noted that the word for wait in Spanish is Esperar.  And the word for hope is Esperanza. 

Espera Wait and hope…can we stand it…the Lord is coming.   IN the mean time strive for holiness, godliness, peace and without spot or blemish. 

Prepare your hearts, …The Lord is coming, make him room…a room full of grace

Take comfort, dear ones.. Take comfort.
 This world may seem all messed up. Our lives may fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever. The Word made flesh is coming to bring comfort. 

“Hear what the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people; to his faithful; to those who turn to him in their hearts.”  Psalm 85:8.  

We turn to you now, Oh Lord…grant us peace.  Amen.

[1] Christopher Hudson, Theological Perspective on Mark 1:1-8, in Feasting on the Word, Ed. Bartlett, Brown Taylor, p. 44
[2] Kathleen O’Connor, Exegetical Perspective on Isaiah 40, in Feasting on the Word, ed. Bartlett and Brown Taylor.