Let Your Hope Shine
Let Your Hope Shine
Unfortunately, there was an issue with the Live Stream this morning and the service was unable to be recorded. We apologize for any inconvience. Below is a transcript of the sermon.
Scripture: Matthew 24: 36-44
“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” – REM
An odd start to the Advent season, we might hope for readings which are bright and cheerful but we get the opposite. We have a gospel from Matthew which says, “Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” A reading which seems to be full of doom and gloom, talking of destruction and the end of the world.
The reading from Isaiah speaks to a promise that God house will be raised up in the mountains. That we will walk in the paths of the Lord. That violence will end, and our swords will be beaten into ploughshares.
In his letter to the early church in Rome, Paul encourages us to lay aside works of darkness, to put on the armour of light, live honourably, and live as Christ would.
This is how Advent starts, a season of preparation. It would be easy to jump full-fledged into the Christmas season. To begin celebrating the love and harmony we find at that time of year. Instead, we are forced to slow down and ponder.
The readings from Isaiah and Romans speak to the hope that we have and of the potential that is before us. They are passages of hope and we can see why they fit with this first Sunday of Advent. However, the reading from Matthew is something else. It is a bit more troubling. We need to work harder to understand what Matthew is trying to tell us with this gospel passage.
Perhaps we should start by talking about what the reading from Matthew doesn’t mean. In the 19th century the theology of dispensationalism was developed. This theology argues that history is divided by God into certain time frames and it encourages a very literal reading of scripture. It includes ‘rapture’ theology, that is the chosen will be taken up and others will be left behind before the second coming. It was popularized by the Left Behind series of novels. It is in my mind, bad theology. It attempts to predict the end of the world, which is exactly what Jesus tells us not to do in this passage. “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
We have put a very modern reading on this passage. The assumption we might have is that the one who is taken away is the lucky one. About this passage Stanley Saunders writes, “The parallel illustrations in 24:40-41 do not likely depict a moment when the righteous are plucked up from the earth and taken to heaven, while others are “left behind” to await tribulations and final judgment. For first century audiences familiar with the ways of the Roman Empire, being left behind was surely preferable to being taken. For the people of Noah’s day, being swept away was not a good thing. Instead, these sayings simply depict sudden, surprising separation, without indicating cause for judgment or reward on the part of those taken or left behind. Rapture theology, which has little or no scriptural support, may offer comfort for those who seek certainty or presume to have secured the inside track to heaven, but the focus of this unit is on remaining vigilant amidst the uncertainty of a long wait amidst discouraging circumstances.” (Stanley Saunders – Commentary on Matthew 24:36-44 – Working Preacher from Luther Seminary)
What is the point of the passage?
To stay awake, to remain aware, to be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour.
We can relate this to the mystery of our faith:
Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ will come again.
This is part of the promise of our faith, it’s the hard to explain, I’m not always sure what it means, I certainly don’t know what it will look like part of our faith.
However, to stay awake, remain aware, and be ready can also be interpreted less literally. Our calling as followers of Christ is to watch for signs of God’s kingdom. It is also to watch for signs when God’s kingdom needs to get to work. To be awake, so that we can be aware of when injustice and oppression is occurring. To stand witness to the suffering and oppression in our communities and in the world, but more than that to stand with those who are suffering, to stand with the oppressed. To bring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, those who have not heard God’s message or who chose to ignore it. Our role is to speak that truth on behalf of those who cannot.
This command doesn’t end with this passage. If we keep reading in Matthew’s gospel, we find the passage and words of Jesus saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
When, when did we do this is the reply.
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
We don’t remain awake, aware, and ready for our own sake. We remain awake, aware, and ready for the benefit of others. That’s the call of the Christian, a life of service. I don’t know about you, but when I read this passage I feel sense of urgency to it. As if it mattered, because of course it does. It matters very much. God is very invested in creation, God is invested in this world, God is invested in what we do and how we live. If God was not invested or interested, then Jesus would never have been born. God in Christ would not have walked this Earth to demonstrate a way of grace and mercy, a way filled with and fueled by hope if what we did here didn’t matter.
And so it matters. It matters how we care for one another, it matters how we love one another, it matters how we care for creation. It matters because God is invest in us, because God wants God’s love to shine out through us to provide hope to all people. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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