Posted on Mon, Dec 19, 2011
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for Advent 1 2011
“Shhh…Jesus is Coming”
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
November 27, 2011
Happy New Year! Yes, it is the beginning of the year, the beginning of a new liturgical year, the beginning of the Church year, the beginning of another opportunity for us to study together reading that illustrate how good God has been to the people of God from the beginning of time to the present time. I love Advent with all the beautiful decorations, candles, wreaths, and for the anticipation it offers us. I have a newsflash for you this morning. Ready? Shhhh…Jesus is coming. Would you pray with me?
God of all living things, we listen for you this morning. We want to hear that still small voice with which you announced the coming of your child to a young woman and a young man. We lean on you for inspiration and for hope as we await your coming again and again. Speak to us as you did that morning long ago, we pray. AMEN.
Hear the words of one of our Spiritual Heroes, Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote, “The advent of Jesus of Nazareth marked the first century of the Christian era, but the Christ is without beginning of years or end of days. Throughout all generations both before and after the Christian era, the Christ, as the spiritual idea, the reflection of God, has come with some measure of power and grace to all prepared to receive Christ, Truth. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets caught glorious glimpses of the Messiah, or Christ, which baptized these seers in the divine nature, the essence of Love. The divine image, idea, or Christ was, is, and ever will be inseparable from the divine Principle, God.” I find these words both moving and thought-provoking. They are both simple and profound, a classic both/and, as I like to describe these multifaceted concepts. Perhaps the Mary Baker Eddy’s key sentence here is this one, “Throughout all generations…the Christ…the reflection of God, has come with some measure of power and grace to all prepared to receive Christ, Truth. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets caught glorious glimpses of the Messiah or Christ, which baptized these seers in the divine nature, the essence of Love.”
As a pastor and as one who has spent most of his life trying to find and assimilate the nature of God, I can’t think of a better goal for us during this Advent season that this one; to be baptized in the divine nature, the essence of Love. That, for me is the key to our practice as Christians. May I suggest a shift for us this morning? I want to suggest that we give up on and let go of that old thinking that we were taught. Let’s give up on theology that says humankind was so bad, so wicked, so far down the slippery slope on the way to eternal damnation in a devils’ hell that God had to send his son to be killed as atonement for our sins so we could be saved and thereby qualify for life everlasting in heaven. Before I move further, let me simply say that if this theology is so important for you that you are unable to move beyond it, that’s okay. I would never try to take that away from you. And at the same time, let me suggest this. God created humankind on the image of God and pronounced that it was not just good, but that it was VERY good. God loved every living thing that God created and wanted to show us that love in the most meaningful way possible. So God sent that beautiful son of God, who also became to son of humanity. God sent him as an expression of love for you and you and you and me. And the purpose of that gift was to insure that you and God and I would always be in meaningful relationship with one another. This gift highlights the good in us, the good that God sees, and the good that stays with us in tough times and in good times, in happy times and in sad times. This is the good that is inherent in us and cannot be robbed from us. That, my dear friends is the gift I anticipate during Advent. This anticipation gives me hope for today, hope for tomorrow and hope for all the days ahead. You and I are beloved children of God and no one can every rob us of that birthright. I remember that brief passage from Corinthians 1, verse 9 that says, “God, through whom all of us have been called into intimacy with Jesus is faithful.” Isn’t that wonderful? Our redeemer is faithful and true. Everything God has said God will do. Every morning God’s mercies are true. Our redeemer is faithful and true! Are you with me this morning?
While the imagery from today’s Gospel may at first seem unpleasant, it was chosen because, when we consider it carefully, it actually offers us hope. Remember that apocalyptic literature is resistance literature, and one offers resistance because one has HOPE that it will lead to better days. We can’t help but think of the current “Occupy” movement. The radical change it calls for is scary for the 1% who hold the most power, privilege and wealth. However the “scary” change is good news that offers real hope for the other 99% seeking economic justice.
The gospel of Mark, which was written about 70 CE (the same year Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed) is responding to the world that he knows coming to an end. It has already happened! He is expressing hope that something can happen to raise up something new and better from the wreckage. He isn’t predicting the end; he’s hoping for healing from the end that has already occurred. He’s hoping for a Christ experience that will “occupy” imperial Rome and bring healing and justice at last.
Neither are we predicting the end in these days of fear and trouble; scary times to be sure. Our message for this morning is one of hope, and here it is. Shhh…Jesus is coming. Jesus has come, Jesus is coming, and Jesus will come again and again. Jesus is coming to break down systems of power built on the backs of people who are excluded from the ability to exercise power and receive power’s benefits. The hope of Jesus is that systems like that will come to an end.
Jesus is coming to “Occupy” our world, our country, our county, our city, our church and our lives. The hope in that is that we will learn to live in peace together with all our brothers, sister and neighbors everywhere. Shhh…Jesus is coming.
Finally, Jesus is coming to teach us about love. Jesus is coming to baptize us into the divine essence, the divine nature of love. I want that baptism. I want to experience of love all over again every day. I want to love the way Jesus loves. I want another Advent in my own life. How about you? What do you want in your life this Advent season? And what will you do to make that happen?
We must acknowledge the tension here; the tension that exists between the hope and possibility of change AND the fact that these really can be frightening ideas. The good news is that we know how the story ends. God wins, Jesus wins, love wins, and hope wins. We have nothing to lose as we prepare to be baptized all over again into the essence of God’s love. As a matter of fact, we have everything to gain from the experience.
Shhh…Jesus is coming. Get ready.
God bless you throughout this time of hopeful preparation.
© James Edward Merritt 2011
1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
2before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!
3Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
4O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
5You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
7Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
8You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
9You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
10The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches;
11it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.
12Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
14Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,
15the stock that your right hand planted.
16They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
17But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
18Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
19Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved
24“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”