Friday, December 6, 2013

I Don't Suppose You Could Speed Things Up?

Brad Sullivan
1 Advent, Year A
Sunday, December 1, 2013
St. Mark’s, Bay City, TX
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 4 or 16
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

You do not know when the Son of Man will be returning, Jesus said, so be ready, and wait expectantly for the coming of the Son of Man.  If I’m really honest, I’m not the biggest fan of waiting…waiting and wondering and sitting around.  I tend to want things right away.  Jesus tells us to wait.  The season of Advent tells us to wait and gives us a chance to wait.  In the words of Stanley Hauerwas, Advent reminds us that we are to be a patient people in a world of impatience. 
Jesus told us that he would return and put all things right, he just didn’t say when that would be.  We don’t know and can’t know when Jesus is coming back.  We just know that we’re waiting.  We know that when we wait for more than a few minutes, hours, or days for much of anything, we lose patience or lose hope.  I’m not going to wait forever, we might say.  Well, two-thousand years of waiting isn’t forever, but it’s about as close as we can realistically imagine, and here we are still waiting. 
There is something deeply gratifying about that, about knowing that as a people, we’ve been waiting for nearly two millennia, and we are still here, waiting patiently, hopefully, and often joyfully.  Waiting is not usually associated with hope and joy.  I tend to think of waiting as a boring if not down right morose affair, waiting for some good thing to happen.  Life must be less than great now if we’re waiting for something great. 
Admittedly, we are waiting for life, the universe, and everything to be a whole lot better when all is restored with Jesus’ return.  There is plenty of darkness in the world, and as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, creation itself waits with eager longing for Jesus return.  We all want the world to be put right, and it can be easy to get discouraged by the darkness in the world.
Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to be bored or morose or discouraged, however, as we wait for his return.  There’s plenty of darkness in the world, and I don’t believe Jesus wanted us to add to that darkness as we wait for him.  We’d want Jesus to return; we’re sad about the darkness of the world, but we don’t wait by being mopey or fearful.  We wait by being joyful in our faith and in our crazy hope that all of the darkness will one day be dispelled and that light will reign forever. 
Waiting in a world of impatience, waiting faithfully and joyfully – that is the challenge.  We often wait for things by distracting ourselves.  We come up with some activity to pass the time, to anesthetize ourselves to the reality of waiting.  The trouble is that when we are distracted or anesthetized, we tend to forget.  The longer we are distracted, the less ready we are for whatever is coming.  Jesus tells us not to be distracted but to wait patiently and be ready. 
Wait and be ready without distraction, and by the way, you have no idea how long you’ll be waiting.  That’s a rather tall order.  In Matthew 5, Jesus told his disciples, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  I think this passage gives us some idea of how we are to wait.
I’ve often heard sermons talking about our need to wait and be ready, and while not specifically stated, the basic feeling I’ve gotten from the sermon is “you’ve got to be religious, and pious, and miserable in order to wait and be ready for Jesus.”  Well, whenever I’m miserable, I don’t have an overabundance of light shining.  Let your light shine before others, Jesus said.
            Jesus calls us to wait with hope and joy.  How do we do that?  Perhaps counterintuitively, I think we wait with hope and joy by slowing down.  We often want to go do something fun and exciting to be happy as we wait, but I don’t think that’s necessarily how we wait for Jesus.  We still get to have fun, don’t get me wrong, but moments of fun don’t really sustain us. 
            Wait with hope and joy by slowing down, spending time in prayer, spending time with loved ones.  We wait with hope and joy by slowing down enough to be still and know God.  We wait with hope and joy by slowing down enough to notice the joy and blessings in our lives.  We wait with hope and joy by slowing down enough to realize that we are waiting with hope and joy. 
We also wait with hope and joy by slowing down enough to notice the darkness and misery in the world.  Talk about counterintuitive.  We choose as disciples of Jesus to notice the darkness and misery of the world and then to respond by prayer and action, speaking out in love and acting out in love. 
            Specifically this Advent, we can wait by not being overcome by the clutter of the commercialized, secular Christmas season.  We can wait this Advent by praying, by being still, by giving thanks, by looking for opportunities to serve other people.  We can give to those who are hungry or to those who have a hard time keeping their electricity on.  We can wait by slowing down, keeping our faith with hope and joy, and letting our light shine before others that they may see our good works and give glory to God.
            We wait by keeping our faith and joy, waiting patiently in a world with little time for faith or patience. 

The Sea The Sea
Re:  Blah from the album Love, Are We Love

There’s no such thing as having too much faith.
There is only losing faith,
And why, oh why would you go to that place
Where you have lost your faith?

You say sometimes you have too much faith in people
They have a way of letting you down,
I say, don’t be quick to judge those people
‘cause that kind of thing has a way of coming back around.

You say sometimes it’s all out of focus
And all of this chaos is bringing you down
I say, just let it go, and love somebody,
‘cause that kind of thing has a way of coming back around.
‘cause that kind of thing has a way of coming back around.

There’s no such thing as having too much faith,
There is only losing faith.
And why, oh why would you go to that place
Where you have lost your faith?
Where you have lost your faith.


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