Sermon for 1st Sunday in Advent - Nov 27 2016

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, A
November 27, 2016
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

"The way forward is to walk in the light of the Lord."  Noel Leo Erskine[1]

Erskine says this is the message that Isaiah brings.  All around is chaos and hate and violence, war and destruction.  There is no reason for hope and the words of Isaiah seem like some kind of cruel joke.  Where is the peace the Lord promises?

The way forward is to walk in the light of the Lord.

There are times when, it seems, all we've worked for and all we've dreamt of and all we've attained stands in danger of being lost.  When the house is falling down, we focus on getting out alive, and fear we won't survive.  The rain keeps falling and the waters keep rising and rescue doesn't come, and the temptation to despair is banging on the door, Isaiah tells us:

In the days to come,
   the mountain of the Lord's house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be raised above the hills....

In just a few minutes, we, all of us, will claim that promise.

We will claim it by continuing in the apostles' teaching, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.

We will claim it by resisting the forces of evil, and promising repentance of sin and turning back to the Lord.

We will claim it by proclaiming in speaking and acting out the gospel of love and hope and resurrection.

We will claim it by seeking and serving Christ in every person, by loving our neighbors as ourselves.

And we will claim it by striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human person.

The way forward is to walk in the light of the Lord.

The psalm today is of a piece with this promise:

"Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good."  (Ps. 122:9)

Paul offers the same counsel: "Lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."

Sometimes we forget, because we've heard these passages so often and probably because we think the promises refer to a time yet to come - since they obviously have not been fulfilled yet - sometimes we forget how radically and fundamentally revolutionary God's promise is, and how radically and fundamentally God's promise offers us reasons for hope.

Yes, us.

Maybe we think if we are good enough or work hard enough, God will bless us in our earthly life.  Maybe we think that position and power and influence will save us from whatever coming conflagration is in style this week. 

We should know better by now - that's not how things work out, at least not all the time.  So what does work?

The way forward is to walk in the light of the Lord.

Last weekend in North Dakota two men held a conversation - one was a water protector and the other was a police officer. They faced off - one with a handshake covering his face and the other with a helmet and face shield.  There was a lot of noise, people yelling, orders being given. The one on the protesting side said, "We love you." And, after a short pause, the officer said, "We love you too."

He was carrying a baseball bat.

One moment.  Just one moment.  But a shared message - a grasp at a promise - another way is possible.

The way forward is to walk in the light of the Lord.

Today we take a step together in the light of the Lord.  Today we invite Mary Jane Fleurette Laughlin to join us on that walk.

We welcome her with smiles and "awws" - admit it, we're thrilled she's come to the party - but we also welcome her with the good news that God is love, and her life is upheld and enriched and sustained by that love.

We welcome her with promises.

We welcome her in the sure knowledge that the way forward is to walk in the light of the Lord.

And we invite her to walk with us in that light from this day forward.

Can I get an Amen?

 

[1] Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1.  Bartlett and Brown Taylor, eds., “Isaiah 2:1-5, Theological Perspective,” Rev. Dr. Noel L Erskine, Candler School of Theology.

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