Sermon November 27

A better future

Sermon Preached by the Rev. Benjamin Shambaugh

November 27, 2016; Advent 1 A: Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44

 

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears to pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall the learn war anymore.” Though these words sound like lyrics by Bob Dylan and conjure up images from the 1960's, they are actually from the writings of Isaiah, a Palestinian prophet from more than 2500 years ago. The image is so familiar that we forget that it was as counter-cultural in Isaiah’s time as it is in ours. Geographically situated between the empires of Egypt on the one side and Babylon on the other, the people of ancient Israel could see the armies gathering. They could hear the sounds of saber rattling and whether at the village well or the porticoes of the temple itself, their morning news was filled with rumors of war. Into time of uncertainty and fear, the prophet Isaiah brought a vision of peace. Isaiah asked people preparing for invasion to imagine a time when swords would be made into plowshares, when trillions spent on a war abroad can be spent to build up a nation at home, where at $800,000 per shell the money for one day's target practice was used instead to give schools a shot in the arm, to help end homelessness or insure that in this greatest nation in this history of the world, no one ever needs to go hungry again. Isaiah was asking the people to take the long view, God's view, and see a future centered not on Babylon but on Bethlehem... and beyond.

 

            Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah.” In the days of Noah, people were caught up in their daily lives, consumed by the concerns right in front of them, and missed seeing the big picture of what was going on. It's not so different today. Thanksgiving came and went very quickly and though leftover food, feelings, and family might still remain, the world has moved on. Black Friday came and went, a new Church year has begun, and the radio is playing Christmas carols 24 hours a day. Having spent 12 hours driving up 95 yesterday, I can report seeing cars with Christmas trees going up and down the east coast. People are getting ready for Christmas. Are they getting ready for Christ? Are you? As it was in the days of Noah, it is today. Our Gospel for today tells us that it is precisely in this type of time when the Messiah will return. In the words of Romans, "Salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone. The day is near." Jesus puts it this way “Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. You know that line from a Christmas carol “He’s making a list and checking it twice?” Advent warns us that it’s not Santa we should worry about! Whether the candles of the Advent wreath each represent a thousand years of human civilization, a hundred million years of geological time, or different stages in our own spiritual lives, light is starting to pierce the darkness, signaling that something new is in the air. Remember that the words “Advent” and “adventure” share the same root. Advent tells us that the greatest adventure of our lives is about to begin. Unlike Noah, we don't have to build an ark. God has already done that, with an ark in the form of a church and a life jacket in the shape of a cross. Advent, with its royal blue and anticipatory hymns, is a time to put those tools into action. Advent is a time for us not just to light a candle but to be that candle, and bring the light of hope, peace, joy, and love to those we meet. Advent is a time to share with them a vision of a future that is better than they can they can possible imagine. That future seems just as far-fetched today as it did 2500 years ago. That didn't stop Isaiah and it shouldn’t stop us. Isaiah, after all, was right. God is at work. Christ is coming. Christmas is just around the corner. Advent tells us that the time to get ready is now.

 
Posted in: Sermons 
Post Date: Sunday, November 27, 2016 7:01 AM