Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Longing for More

Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 24:36-44
December 1, 2013
© 2013

For the four Sundays of Advent, Rev. Regina Erwin, Associate Pastor of First Christian Church, Odessa, Texas, where I am currently Interim Pastor, and I will be dialog preaching. The scripts take on a different form and are a little less detailed as a result. We have outlined the basic flow, but you'll need to be there or use your imagination, as they will be more free-form  than usual. My thanks to Regina for her courageous imagination to try this and to the congregation for engaging with the conversation. Norm

Through Advent we read from the Hebrew Prophets, as we did from Isaiah 2 this morning, about God’s promise of a new day of peace. Viewed through a New Testament lens, we see them as pointing to Jesus and celebrate them with his birth. Now 2000 years since Jesus’ birth and perhaps 2700 years since Isaiah’s prophecy, we are still waiting for peace.
How are we supposed to be in constant wait for 2700 years? I can’t barely wait for my wedding in just a few short months.
There are so many conflicts and struggles all around the world: Syria, Pakistan, Egypt. For the children of the next generation after mine, they do not know a time where we have not been involved in a war. 
Did you realize that on the Homeland Security System that there is not a place for no risk of terrorist attacks just low.
Yet we can’t help but yearn for Isaiah’s vision in our lives and those of others. The words of verse four are on a wall near the United Nations Headquarters. “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 anymore.”
Micah 4:1-3 is almost identical to Isaiah 2:1-5. They were contemporaries. Did one borrow from the other or did they both quote the same poem of hope? Joel 3:10 repeats the line about swords and plowshares, but we don’t know when he wrote.
Is it better to treat the promise of a coming peace as a feel-good message that we can all rally around, endorse, mention in a prayer and raise a glass to, or to proclaim along with our hope the reality of its long-standing absence?
In Matthew 24:36-44, Jesus said even he didn’t know when God’s hope for the future would come, but it would be a surprise.

 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 
37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 

42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But 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. 
44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

This text may seem uncomfortable for some of us. It asks us to live in readiness yet with the knowledge that the coming of Jesus will be at an unexpected time.
Jesus’ reference to the days of Noah does not mention the evil that brought God’s judgment on them but that people were engaged in ordinary daily life and were surprised by the flood.
Jesus spoke to our fear of being abandoned, We don't want to be abandoned. We want to make the cut, get the invitation, receive an acceptance letter, make the team, and be part of a family. We don't want to be abandoned.
Alyce McKenzie who teaches at Perkins School of theology at SMU tells of a grown woman who still tears up at the memory of being 7 years old on a family trip and being accidentally left behind at a gas station as the family station wagon drove off. She remembers the feeling of the concrete under her thin-soled sneakers, the smell of gasoline, the family car growing smaller and smaller in the distance, the sound of someone crying that turned out to be her. They came back as soon as they noticed she was missing, but the memory of those minutes remains. 
We have a hard time living with joyful expectancy when what we hope for seems so distant and unattainable.
We live with this constant promise. Sometimes we doubt it and other times, we know it to be the precious truth. We have the opportunity to live as Christ taught us, live as an example. We can teach those around us how to wait for that beloved promise. Church as a waiting community teaching example for culture
Jesus repeatedly urged being awake, alert, watching in readiness. How do we prepare for a promise? Promises always come as a surprise.
The surprise may be that Christ is already active among us. Part of watching is looking for the hidden signs of Christ’s present hope.
God reveals enough about the future to give us hope, but not so much that we do not have to live and walk by faith day after day.
Our society just can’t wait but starts to inundate us with holiday frenzy disguised as Christmas earlier and earlier. Advent is a counter-cultural call for waiting and anticipation. Advent is rehearsal of waiting for God’s hope.
9 year old “good fellows” Christmas
One of my favorite theologians, Walter Bruggemann summed up the season of Advent this way, “Advent invites us to awaken from our numbed endurance and our domesticated expectations to consider our life afresh  in light of new gifts that God is about to give.”
Here we are on the first Sunday of Advent and we feel like the student who joked on the second day of class “I’m already 2 weeks behind.”
6th grade Christmas with Mom home from hospital.

Don’t knock yourself out trying to create the “perfect Christmas” (and be so frazzled you can’t enjoy it), but wait for God to surprise you.

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