Audio First Sunday of Advent Yr A Dec 1 2019
Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44, Psalm 122
We enter into the season of Advent, the season of waiting and preparing. Advent, the season that demands that we be in three whens at once, the when that has been, the when that is now, and the when that is not yet. It is not an easy place to rest.
A hard part of Advent is that we don’t really know what to do with it. Our culture has been at Christmas since Halloween. Completely skipping over the now and not yet hard stuff of Advent, the beginning the middle and the end of this sacred story. Before we arrive at incarnation, God in the flesh, the birth of the baby in a barn, we’ve got some work to do.
Matthew’s gospel gets us started this Advent, this story that traces the days of Noah before the flood, eating and drinking, and knowing nothing of the flood. And then continues with two in the field and one taken, two in the kitchen and one taken. Stay awake, Matthew warns us, stay awake. Not because you are so afraid you cannot sleep, but because God is doing something amazing.
Today we are working on prophecy. Prophecy is a word that has multiple meanings. We have heard it used to talk about telling the future, predicting events. We have heard it used to describe a particular type of preaching, prophetic preaching. Prophecy is a big part of the belief we have of what will be, we may call that end times, we may call that revelation or apocalypse. But for us, here and now, prophecy is a call to change. It is a call to change course, do something differently. To take seriously following Jesus in the here and now, not at some later time. This prophecy calls us to stay awake!
The events that are described in scripture, and specifically in Matthew’s gospel, are signs of God’s awesome power, and they are a terror only to the faithless. Remember, the arc of God’s love bends toward mercy and compassion, there is no reason to be afraid. Sometimes this passage from Matthew has been used to make us afraid. It is one that has been wielded as a weapon to keep us in line as we hope that we are the one to be taken, or raptured, and not left behind.
Prophecy is not to terrify us; prophecy is to call us to change. Sometimes, that change needs be drastic, prophecy may call us from death to life. But not out of fear, but out of love, the love that God shows us in the incarnation, in appearing in the flesh, then, now, and yet to come.
Prophecy, the call to change is all around us. We see it in our climate, we see how important it is that we care for this creation that God gives us, or we will continue to experience the extremes of weather. We see it in our culture, we see how important it is that we treat each other with mercy, compassion, justice, or we will continue to walk down the road of fake news and name calling, disintegration. We see it in our neighborhoods and our families, we see how important it is that we love our neighbor, the ones that don’t look or think or love like us.
Our scripture calls us into this relationship with God through Jesus, that turns us around, that rights us, that heals us. And our scripture shows us that wholeness and healing may not happen in this physical life, but indeed will happen when our hearts and souls are joined with God and the communion of saints in the eternal now.
Prophecy is not only in our scripture. Prophecy, the call to change, is part of our storytelling. The prophetic story shows us a world that may be if humanity doesn’t pay attention or stay awake to what is happening around us. Stories, the world building of novels, can help us see what profound change may be needed in our world today.
Madeleine L’engle’s story, A Wrinkle in Time, begins with a family in sorrow, at the disappearance of the father. The oldest daughter, Meg, her youngest brother, Charles Wallace, and her friend, Calvin, encounter three beings, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. These beings call the children into a journey that will save their father and bring new light and hope to the world as well. This is a story that acts as prophecy, a story that shows us what the world might look like if we humans don’t do something different right now. This is a story that calls us to change.
I want to pick the story up at a very dark place, the children have traveled to a very dark world, a world shrouded by a dark cloud. On this dark world they discover an IT, that holds all of the inhabitants in power and fear and has captured not only the father the children are looking for, but the child, Charles Wallace as well. Our hero, Meg, encounters IT, and must free both her father and her brother. Meg discovers the means by which she can free her father and her brother. She must love herself, and she must love others. She must live into her own uniqueness. Meg is indeed the square peg in a world with only round holes. On this dark planet is the lie that they are all happy because they are all alike. On this dark planet is the lie that there is only one way to think and to be, and as long as everyone falls in line, everyone will be happy. It is clear in this prophetic story a world away, that power rules, not love. And power over people results in darkness and death, whereas empowering people through love, and active love, not a romantic feeling, results in freedom.
Darkness and death are dire. Love, the love that is born into our time as a small baby, the love that was put to death on a cross, the love that was raised from the dead, the love that changes us, transforms us, frees us, is what the prophets point us to. This is the love that calls us into life, this is the love that frees us to love fiercely.
Sometimes, I think this prophetic little story is happening today. It seems like there is a darkness covering us. A darkness capable of fragmenting us into pieces of hate. But the light shines in the darkness, the light of love, the light of hope, the light of peace, the light of joy.
The prophets show us the way. You are loved, God’s love in this world matters. Carry that love, that light, into all of the places you find yourself. In this Advent, this coming of God, this incarnation, stay awake, be ready, you are God’s beloved, you belong to God already.