First Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2001
The Gospel: Luke Matthew 24:37-44
Sermon: "Preparing for the Kingdom of God"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Preparing for the Kingdom of God
First Sunday of Advent - December 2, 2001
One night I was studying for a test. The test was in my advanced Biology II class. I had thirty pages of notes to memorize for the test. I was in bed studying, preparing for the test, when I fell asleep. I went fast asleep after only covering two pages of notes out of thirty. The next morning I panicked. I knew I was unprepared. Have you ever had a moment when you felt unprepared? Maybe it was a test in school. Or perhaps it was participating in an athletic event like football or swimming? Maybe the moment of unpreparedness occurred at a presentation at work? Whatever the moment was the feelings are probably pretty similar. You know the feeling I mean. It's the one where your stomach feels like a bowling ball. The one where the best options are to get sick, to run or to hide. Not pleasant options.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could be prepared for all situations that came our way? It would sure relieve a lot of stress. We would not have to worry about anything. We would always be ready. We could handle every situation. We could do it all.
If we want to be prepared for the events of our life, if we want that feeling of living stress free, then we might understand where the disciples are coming from in the Gospel lesson. We come into this conversation in the middle. The disciples and Jesus have been talking about the end times. The disciples want to know when the end times will occur. What we don't hear is Jesus' initial response. Jesus tells them not even the Son knows when the end times will be. Only God the Father knows the day and the time of the end.
Now, do you remember what happened on the eve of the year 2000? People had spent millions of dollars preparing for the end of the world. Magazines were full of predictions. People were quoting the Book of Daniel, the Book of Revelation and the ever popular Nostradamus about the end times. And yet, Jesus tells us, not even he knows when the end will be. Kind of makes all of that hype seem pretty silly doesn't it?
The disciples, though, are curious. They are just like us. They want to know when the end will come. They want to be prepared. Yet, Jesus can not give them an exact answer. He does give them warnings about the end. Two men will be in a field one will be taken the other left. Two women will be at the mill, one will be taken, the other left. Jesus is pretty clear about there being an accounting. The difference appears to be in being prepared. The parable of the homeowner and the thief drives the point home. If the owner knew when the thief was coming then the owner would wait for the thief The owner would be prepared in order to prevent his house from being robbed. Unlike the homeowner we do not know the hour. Therefore, Jesus says we have to be ready all the time.
So our question then is how do we prepare? How do we ready ourselves for the coming of Jesus, the Son of Man? To be prepared, according to the writer of Matthew, we do the deeds that are characteristic of kingdom people. These acts are the mission of the church in the world. These deeds include acts of mercy, acts of peace, and acts of forgiveness.
Most of us would say we do our best to do these acts. For example, our Thanksgiving feast was an act of mercy, We fed the hungry. We might say we are for peace. We do not fight. We might even say we are forgiving. We come to the church and we say our prayers, particularly our confession to pray for forgiveness. I would agree these are all acts of mercy, peace, and forgiveness.
However, I believe the challenge goes deeper. We are called to constant acts of preparation. Merciful acts include feeding the hungry. like the Thanksgiving Dinner. They also include visiting a sick friend or listening to someone who is in trouble or pain. Maybe a friend or an acquaintance is suffering through a divorce or cancer. They might like someone to hear their pain. Visiting someone in prison, and I don't mean just inside prison bars, is an act of mercy. We all know people who are trapped in prisons of all kinds. There are people whose bodies make them physically trapped. There are people whose minds keep them trapped. Responding to the needs of anyone around us who is in any trouble is an incredible act of mercy.
We are challenged not only to be merciful but to promote peace. We are to be peace makers in our deeds. On Monday there was an article in the paper about an Eden policeman who was shot in the elbow in an act of road rage. The world we live in, is full of anger and hatred. We are called to promote peace. We are to promote peace among all peoples, all nations, all sexes. Peace is universal. Everyone wants to live in peace.
Perhaps the way we help promote peace the most is by starting with ourselves. To have peace in ourselves we have to dispel our own frustrations and hatred. The way we dispel our own anger and our own hatred is by practicing and doing deeds of forgiveness. I know we feel like we forgive, but do we really forgive. For example, if someone wronged us years ago what happens when we simply hear their name? Do we feel our pulse quicken? Do we have that initial thought that says, I really don't like that (and you can fill in the blank)? Do we feel the tension mount in our temples or the muscles of our neck and shoulders? The tension and the thoughts are feelings of unresolved hurt and frustration. If these are some of our responses then we really have not truly forgiven that person yet. We might find it helpful to do an action to help us forgive them. We might call them.. We might visit them. We might pray for them. Forgiveness is a conscious act that sometimes has to be done over and over again. Forgiveness is definitely a characteristic of the people of God.
As kingdom people we are called to live our lives in constant preparation. We are to constantly live our lives giving mercy, promoting peace, and granting forgiveness. During Advent we can ask ourselves these questions, How am I doing as a kingdom person? How am I helping in the mission of the church in the world? Am I merciful? Do I promote peace? Am I forgiving? The answers may surprise us. I pray we have a deeply reflective and powerfully stimulating Advent.