Welcome to worship on this 1st Sunday of Advent, November 28, 2021! We are glad that you are here!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin includes the order or worship, all the words and responses to the liturgy, the hymn/page numbers out of the ELW and the Tree of Life booklet, and the sermon in full. The sermon is also included after the video.
For a fuller online worship experience, you can light a candle nearby to remind you of the light and hope of Christ among us all, and you can have something small to eat and drink during communion. These are optional, and intended to help you in your worship and connection with all of God’s people.
May God’s grace make more clear the hope we share in God’s love, this day and always!
God our salvation, in you there is wisdom, peace, and joy. By the power of your Spirit, lead us into your truth and teach us your ways, that we might have steadfast hope through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So the other day I was browsing Facebook marketplace, and I came across this ad which seemed pretty appropriate for the times we’re in:
I know, hilarious and obviously fake. I mean there’s no way an ark like that would go for 90 grand. It’s worth at least its original asking price of $123,456. But with the rains and flooding we’ve had and continue to have in the last while, I guess this kind of thing isn’t too farfetched now, especially when we also saw this in the news:
These are crazy times we’re living in. Sure, we here in the Lower Rainland are used to this kind of weather, but the past few weeks have been unprecedented even for us. Or at very least, it is alarmingly unusual.
And so, if you’re like me, you might have thought that this was it, it was the end of the world. You might have thought that God had finally had it with us horrible sinners and it was time to destroy the earth and everything in it just like the story of Noah and the real ark that wasn’t bought off Facebook. You might have thought that these crazy rains and floods, paired with the ongoing pandemic and the crazy political climate we find ourselves in, were all the signs that we were warned about in the bible. This is it, the end times.
To top it all off, Jesus seems to solidify this notion in our brains today just with the timing of the gospel reading we get for this 1st Sunday of Advent. This episode is the continuation of Luke’s version of that story we read just a couple weeks ago out of Mark’s account when Jesus and his disciples left the temple and they expressed their awe at the building and all its marvels. But of course, Luke had to one up Mark and go into a lot more detail. Seriously, if you look up this passage in its entirety you see Jesus go all out with his explanation around this. And so Jesus warns them of the temple falling, and talks about the signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and the distress around the earth with the roaring waves of the seas. Which totally sounds like what we’re going through now with this crazy weather.
So it’s hard not to think that this is it. It’s hard not to think that all these things that Jesus said will happen is now happening. It’s hard not to be afraid.
Because really, this is kind of scary stuff.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t think I’m not ready for the world to end. I still have a lot to see, a lot to experience, there are still a lot more Marvel movies to come out for me to watch. So I tend to push away thoughts of the world ending because it makes me uncomfortable, it causes anxiety, and again, it’s just kind of scary.
Well, scary when we hold onto this Western view of the world ending, at least.
What do I mean by that? Well, let’s be honest. We have it pretty good on the most part over here in the west. Sure, we had our problems with the weather lately, and real estate prices keep going up, and also this cancel culture seems to be getting out of hand, but all in all, we’re still very much a first world country, we enjoy freedoms and privileges that many other countries don’t have, not to mention our internet infrastructure is among the most decent in the world. We have a lot to complain about, but really, we don’t have a lot to complain about, although we still complain a lot.
The point is, we’re comfortable in our lives. Not just because of our own hard work, but because we happen to find ourselves in part of the world that these comforts are just more easily attainable. From our Western perspective, the world is a pretty nice place.
So when we’re told that such a nice place is going to be taken away from us, we get anxious about it. When we have to trade in our comfortable lives for anything but, then we feel like we’re short changed and we instinctively resist. When we hear predictions and see the signs that point to the world ending, it is scary.
But what if I were to tell you that maybe the world isn’t that great, at least not for a large percentage of the world? What if I were to remind you that since we’re part of the 1% just for living where we do, means there is the 99% out there living in worse conditions that us? What if I were to point out that the end of the world might sound, to a vast majority of the people on this planet, like good news?
Think about that widow that Jesus and his disciples encountered in the temple. She lost her husband, her home, and all her money to the corruption of the day. Would she be so torn up if that kind of world would end? Think about the millions upon millions of refugees and oppressed that continue to live in areas of great violence and danger, the point where the only way they could be free is run away or die. Would they be afraid of all of that ending? Think about those who have been severely wronged by our broken justice systems, our out of date customs, and our very biased ways that are designed specifically to make the rich richer while the poor get poorer. Would they resist the end and hope that all of that oppression perpetuates instead? To all these, ending the world wouldn’t be scary, it’d be a relief.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we need to rise up and revolt and destroy the world ourselves. I’m not saying that there is no hope in this good for nothing world. I’m not saying that the only way to true peace is the full annihilation of all life like how Ultron wanted in episode 8 of this past season of “Marvel’s What If…?” series.
But what I’m saying is that maybe what Jesus is talking about here is not actually the literal physical end of this planet. Maybe Jesus isn’t being at all intentionally scary. Maybe there is hope in what might seem so hopeless.
Jesus says that when these things take place, stand up and raise your hands. I don’t know about you but if I see some major destruction going on around me, you better believe I’ll be running in the other direction, never mind standing with my hands up. But Jesus says when these things happen, it means that your redemption is near. It means that our salvation is drawing close. It means that we will be saved, even from this. “This” being not the actual end of the world, but “this” being the hardships of life, the unfairness and corruption of our systems, the injustice and inequality in our societies and nations.
So when Jesus said that these things will happen during that current generation, he really meant it. He wasn’t off by a few millennia like a lot of people might think, but rather he was right. That generation didn’t pass when all these things took place because these things took place in every generation since Jesus said these words and continue to take place even now.
And as these things continue to take place, so Jesus continues to tell us, promise us, give us the hope in that we will be saved from it. Perhaps not in the way that we’d think as the end of the world isn’t as we think, but there will be salvation. There will be redemption. There will be God’s love and grace ringing in and around our lives, lifting us up in love, and allowing us to see the truth of God’s welcome and forgiveness for us all.
So you see, this isn’t really scary, per se. This “end” as we might frame it as isn’t horrible. It isn’t about God being angry with us and wanting to smite us. But rather, Jesus is assuring us that we are loved even in the changing seasons. Jesus is reminding us that we are cherished even when the evils around us seem so overwhelming. Jesus is holding us up, giving us this unsurpassed hope that God holds us, forgives us, and saves us even when all hope seems lost.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the church year. It is the first Sunday in which we look forward to the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger, and the first Sunday in which we are reminded of the hope in that promise of salvation, the redemption in God’s grace, and the strength to learn God’s ways and truths, leading us into a world of new beginnings.
So in this season of Advent, of waiting and watching, of hope in God, let us look with confidence at the changing seasons, the changing landscape, and changing tides of society, and see the hope given to us by God that our redemption is always drawn near by the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.