Second Sunday in Advent
Sermon starts at 22:40 in the recording
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Being a parent is one of the most difficult things that I have done in my life and that I continue to do.
If you are a parent,
you never quit seeking the best for your kids.
You never quit worrying about their well-being.
You never quit hoping for their success.
Parenting can cause us to lose sleep
and it can cause us to beam with an amazing pride.
It can cause a deep sadness
and a deep sense of thankfulness.
But, it isn’t easy.
Because we are talking about humans outside of our control.
For as well-intentioned as we might be in raising them,
the bottom line is that they will, ultimately,
make the choices they want to make.
Good, bad, or indifferent.
In the Lord’s Prayer we start by saying, “Our Father…”
Our spiritual parent.
Do you ever think about things in this way?
We read stories about the Children of Israel.
We address one another as brothers and sisters.
Do you think about God as your parent?
And, if so, does God have the same worries about His children as we do about ours?
At the baptism of Jesus, the Father responds with,
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
And, how the Father’s heart must have ached when Jesus utters the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46b
God cares for His children.
Have you ever really thought about what He really wants for us?
I think one of the things that is the most important to God is found in the reading from the epistle last Sunday:
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Peter 3:8-15a
God doesn’t want us to perish
God doesn’t want any to perish.
Like when Jesus says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16
The word for perish in John 3:16 is the same word in Greek that is used in the 2 Peter passage.
An interesting thing about this word is that it has to do with relationships, and in particular, losing a relationship.
In the translation of the Bible called The Message, it reads like this:
“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”
The father is mindful of the frailty of His children.
And He is so patient, that He will wait longer than anyone would ever think of waiting to make sure He doesn’t lose relationships with His children.
So, if this true about God,
what is God asking of us?
How do we keep from being lost?
In the last part of the 2 Peter reading, it says this:
Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”
We protect ourselves (and others) from being lost by:
· Being patient
· Being at peace
· Being clear
Anyone who says that patience isn’t an essential part of the journey is not paying attention. We are called to be patient in almost every aspect of our lives, whether we are driving or at the grocery store or listening to someone tell a story or watching someone having difficulties in their life and remaining clear of the shrapnel as they navigate the drama. God is calling us to live out the patience that a parent has for a child as they grow and mature, basically to trust the process.
God (as the Father) asks us (the children) to trust the process of salvation.
I spoke with someone this week that has been through a lot and is currently dealing with something else that is difficult, to which they wondered, “Why me?”
That’s a great question.
It’s definitely an honest one.
All things are part of the process of living.
And even though the situation that we are in may not be of God’s doing, the response to it and growth in it is something God is involved with.
If we can be patient.
The question for us is, “Can we be patient in the midst of the crazy, the chaotic, the unplanned, the “undeserved” or the unexpected?”
That’s what we are called to.
Do we look to God to be a beacon for us as we navigate this world?
Do we trust that, “God works all things for good, for those who love Him…?”
Being at Peace
Are you settled with your lot in life?
Do you look at your life and have an attitude of thankfulness for both the Good and the bad?
Peace is not the absence of chaos
but contentment in the midst of it.
It is the image of Jesus in the boat during the storm.
While all hell is breaking loose around the disciples
(most being experienced fisherman),
Jesus calmly sleeps.
That moment was chaotic.
I think most would have been a bit anxious.
Like when the plane you are traveling in hits rough turbulence.
Jesus was in rough waters.
Jesus was also content in what he understood about Himself and how the Father would take care of Him in the midst of those rough waters.
Can we, like Jesus,
who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith,
be content in the midst of the storms of our lives?
In a “Why me?” moment, can we echo the words of Jesus as he experienced the anxiety of the Way of the Cross when He says, “But not my will, but Yours be done.”?
We are, inherently, about ourselves,
The way of faith calls to be mindful of others,
sacrificing our inherent selfishness.
In the parent-child illustration, we, as children, are being asked to trust in the wisdom of our parent.
I like bananas.
I know not everyone does.
I also know that everyone has their preferred ripeness and texture for the bananas they eat.
I need a banana to be not too ripe and definitely not blackened or bruised from being dropped.
When I am at the store, I take a few moments to look at the bananas I want to buy. I also make sure the cashier doesn’t toss them around when ringing me up.
I don’t like a beat up banana.
A bruised banana shows that it has been beat up and mishandled.
Some people’s lives look like a bruised banana.
While there are many phrases to describe it
(some not very appropriate),
we say someone is “weathered” or that they have “trauma” or a hundred other things that reflect how their difficulties have manifested in their appearance and in the way that they carry themselves.
Their faces are sunken.
Their brows are furrowed.
Their gaze is cast down.
Their outlook shaken.
Not God’s intention.
Remember, Jesus said,
“I have come to give you life in abundance.”
Not a bruised life.
A life that is whole.
A life that reflects James’ wisdom:
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Not a bruised banana.
“What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger” is an oft used quote about struggles.
My advice is to avoid the things that almost kill us.
Even though they make us stronger,
we get bruised in the process.
Encourage others to do the same.
Like when you give counsel to a child to keep them from the pitfalls of life.
It is in our being patient, at peace and clear,
that we show others how they can do the same.
And by showing others this,
we help them restore their relationship to God.
It is how restoration happens.
It is what keeps us connected.
It is how we keep from getting lost.