Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive; Eliminate the Negative
Advent 1, Year A
One of the greatest coping mechanisms we use to handle our lives is to assume, at least at the “big picture” level, that today will be pretty much like yesterday. Like yesterday, today red will still mean stop and green will mean go. Like other years, this year Dunedin will NOT have a white Christmas. Like at the end of the 20th century, at the beginning of the 21st century we’ll read Advent lessons that talk about the second coming of Jesus, but except for some wackadoodles televangelists, we don’t really believe it will really happen, at least not now.
Humans don’t much like change (unless it’s our idea, of course) but all humans around this world absolutely need hope, especially the hope that there is a transcendent force for good behind our existence, and this good force will some how, some day, change things for the better. The prophecy from Isaiah we read today is about 2,700 years old. This lesson is being read in churches around the world this Sunday. Hundreds of millions of people on earth right now hear and yearn for Isaiah’s promises to be true. Some day.
Jesus knew that humans both resist change and desperately want it. When he talks about the people at the time of Noah, he is pointing out that they had no idea disaster loomed ahead, that everyone and most creatures would be utterly swept away. Only 8 people and the animals on the ark (plus, I assume, all the fish) would remain. That’s a pretty grim context for what we call the good news of Christ, but who here hasn’t seen how life can change in an instant? After being swept away, when everything we’ve known has changed, the gap between our yesterdays and our tomorrows can seem like an abyss.
What should those who follow Christ do to deal with change? The first thing we need to do is remember two things: God didn’t wait for us to have everything figured out before coming to be with us the first time, so there’s no reason to assume we’d have to have it all figured out before God comes again. The change that flummoxes us doesn’t unnerve God. God can handle rough and tumble of life on earth. Jesus didn’t live in a bubble; he came right into the reality of human life as a force for good, making life around him look a bit more like Isaiah’s vision; he healed the sick, confronted the hypocrites, welcomed the outcasts; respected the dignity of women and children; cleansed the temple; and quite literally bore the brunt of our murderous sin-filled wrath without succumbing to violence to save himself.
The other thing that we need to remember is that having faith is neither a spectator sport or a final exam testing our doctrinal purity. Having faith means putting what we believe into practice now. If we believe that God is indeed an awesome transcendent force for good, we will join God in the rough and tumble of life on earth in the midst of the changes and chances of life…
Read the full sermon text HERE.
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