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11/27/2022 Sermon

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Listen for the Word of God in Isaiah 2:1-5

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

2 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3 Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob,come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Here ends the Hebrew Scripture lesson.

Listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew 24:36-44

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42 Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

This is the good news.

This week, our scripture from Isaiah is a hopeful ideal that all people will come together, following different paths to the same God. One God. The prophecy, the hope, is that we shall all be as one, putting down the tools of war and strife once and for all. We are invited to walk, always, in the light of the Lord!

There is a bit of foreshadowing going on between these two passages. The author of Matthew, and our scholars that paired the texts for the first Sunday in Advent, both may have read Jesus into the words from Isaiah, “For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples.” That’s our guy, Jesus. But also many others.

As we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, we embark on the four Sundays of Advent. We prepare for the arrival of Christ in our midst, the Light of the World. We take this Advent time to practice living the way God truly wants us to live. In hope. In peace. In joy. In love. And we focus on those four words, as one theme each week.

The Gospel of Matthew verses for today are cautionary. Matthew is admonishing us to, “keep awake” and “be ready.” Matthew is warning his listeners, including us, that God will come to earth – and yet we will be unaware of God’s presence.

Matthew cites some examples to wake his contemporaries from their sleepwalking.

What do we do to awaken from ours?

We need to open our eyes. We need to open our hearts and minds.

The Season of Advent is a reminder to choose to walk with God each day. It is our hoped-for new beginnings that we can carry with us the entire year.

For what do you hope? And why? (Do you have the courage and energy to hope?) Our friend Sally is good about reminding me, and us, that “Hope is mandatory.”

I encourage you to be in contemplation, and in conversation, about your hopes.

Matthew’s community was waiting, and watching, and waiting, and watching. They were losing heart. Perhaps losing faith and losing hope.

Let’s have a brief review of theological terms to better understand the differences between what Matthew’s peers believed verses what many of us believe.

Are we apocalyptical or are we eschatological? Or do we blur the two together?

If we have an apocalyptic theology, we are living in expectation of the end of time… we are waiting for something to happen later. For instance, waiting for Jesus to return for those following his Way. That was the frame of mind when the Gospel of Matthew was written.

An eschatological theology focuses on now, on the present moment, which is happening again and again. The decision to follow Christ, the decision to stay sober, the decision to be faithful to your spouse does not happen once on your baptism day, or the day you start a treatment plan, or the day you speak your wedding vows. The decision ideally happens no less than every day. We must decide again and again how we will live our lives.

Each day is a new beginning. Each day we have the opportunity to choose how we will interact in the world, with God, with family and friends, with society in general. That is living in hope!

We make our choices so that we will be ready, today, now to live as followers of Jesus. Because it cannot wait. I am not waiting for Jesus to come back in the future, I think he is here with us now. And I want to live each day to the fullest. But sometimes we fall short of expectations. And so we try again. Later that same day. Or the next day. Or whenever it is that we realize that we have gotten off track.

Matthew invokes “the days of Noah” to stress what happens to those that fail to prepare for the second coming, for the return of Christ. And uses the examples of one being taken, one being left behind to create the visual, literal, physical resurrection which was the common belief or expectation.

Those taken, presumably up to heaven, are saved. Those left behind are abandoned by Jesus, by God. This scripture is based more in fear than in hope.

That was Matthew’s theology. That is certainly not my theology. Our God does not abandon anyone. Our God came to live among us, first as the boy child Jesus and then, when he was martyred for his ministry, through the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.

Are we apocalyptical or eschatological in our beliefs? We are a both/and people. We are living in-between the already and the not yet. Jesus lived in the region of Judea 2000 years ago, his Holy Spirit is with all people since his death and resurrection, his Spirit will continue to come to all ages, again and again, preparing and awaiting the time when we live into God’s hope of perfect peace for all of Creation.

Matthew was writing to a community that was still waiting for Jesus to come back – in the flesh.

What I believe is that Jesus is here with us. Now. Not in his flesh, but in our flesh.

Our hopes have been fulfilled. God is with us. Be ready. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Keep awake, lest you pass by Jesus on the street and do not recognize him, or her, or them.

Rev. TJ Mack – November 27, 2022

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