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a blended service of traditional and contemporary elements with communion

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scripture, prayer, and creative response with communion

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Sunday, November 28, 2010


Matthew 24:36–44

We have entered new season in the church year.
Not of Black Fridays and cyber Mondays and Salvation Army Santas and Christmas trees – but for us it is a time of “already but not yet.”
Already, but not yet. We prepare for the coming of the Christ child at Christmas even as we live into the expectation that Christ has come and has promised to come again.

In Advent the texts of our worship cycle reflect these two themes:
Texts of the “already-ness” of Christ – often using the powerful and metaphoric style of the apocalyptic. Of the end times: bold images of cosmic upheaval, war, chaos and judgment. And texts of “not yet” foretelling and preparing us for the birth of Christ. Familiar and cherished tales of prophetic angels and promises of children, of Gabriel and Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth.

Already, but not yet - Are you with me so far?
Attending to the “already-ness” of Christ in which you and I live, Jesus speaks out to us today through the words of Mathew’s gospel and wants to help us navigate through these challenging times. And it seems what Christ wants us to know more than anything else is that we as Christians need to live our lives:

Awake, but not afraid.
Ready, but not fearful.

Fear is the currency of this age - it is everywhere subtle and seeping, bold and brash – invisible like the wind, yet in our faces and holding our very lives ransom for the price of our faith. Fear is the currency of this age, manipulating the way we see the world and not just the way we see the world, but how we even choose to live our life.

And to the moneychangers who turn faith into fear, Jesus out-shouts them in a whisper still small voice:
Be awake, but not afraid
Be ready, but not fearful.

It is an unconventional notion, this lack of fearfulness.
Unconventional, but ancient.
Bold, but so biblical that King David himself wrote psalms about it.
Listen to just a few verses:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;

Did you catch that good news - the kind of news that never grows old, that never makes the front page, but has its happy home in our hearts forever?
The Lord is with us.

We say that all the time – “The Lord be with you….And also with you”
But I wonder if we grasp the full significance of the meaning of the “with-us-ness” of God.
The Lord is with us.
Even death, itself, no longer can claim victory.
There in the silence of death, the grave, the grief, the mourning, the heart rending sadness, there when hope seems farther away, farthest away, there in the silence the power of death finds itself broken. The cross of Jesus claims the victory – and its silence becomes our strength and its silence becomes our voice – a lifetime of alleluias.

And so we proclaim with boldness:
Be awake, but not afraid
Be ready, but not fearful.

To explain Jesus takes us back to the time of Noah
Jesus says that the people in Noah’s day were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage – rather ordinary activities - they knew nothing he said, until the flood came.
For a people with extraordinary good news to share, we can just as easily fall prey to the “People in the Days of Noah Syndrome,” can’t we? For a people with extraordinary good news to share, we, too, can let the routine of life hold sway. Eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage – we do these things, too, all good, even better than good - Personally, I love weddings. But Jesus’ call to be awake and to be ready means that we are called to infuse the ordinary of our lives with the extraordinary hope and promise that we share in him and through him.

Let us recall the words of promise given in our baptism symbolized by a simple lit candle:
“Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.”
Eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage. Taking the bus, sitting down with your children or grandchildren or neighbors or friends. Over a cup of coffee or café au lait or a piece of pie or Facebook - In the lunchroom or boardroom or classroom or living room - where is our light shining?

I love spending Monday mornings going through the worship slips and reading how folks have experienced God in the past week. How people have either shined the light before others or had that light warm them, cheer them, bless them.

Be awake, but not afraid
Be ready, but not fearful.

To be awake and ready is simply for us to live our lives as children of the light – who have been entrusted with extraordinary good news to share and shine in word and deed before the world.
The Lord be with you…and also with you…amen!

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