I thank Nate for taping our church Service. Through no fault of his, the battery in the receiver linking my mic to the camera died toward the end of the Service. This is what caused the squeaking sound during the Time with Children and which is also the reason why the sermon is not included this Sunday.
I am including the printed sermon here, but for anyone at church on this Sunday you'll recognize that it's not the same sermon I delivered. Sometimes what is written is not what is preached.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
No one knows anything at all about the timing of the coming of the Son of Man. Today’s Gospel makes this absolutely clear. The angels of heaven didn’t know. Even Jesus didn’t know. It’s going to come as a surprise. That’s all we know.
Ours is a God of surprises. God doesn’t operate under the same parameters and expectations that we do. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the surprises. We should learn to go with them as part of being faithful.
Friends of ours were looking forward to their two daughters coming home for Thanksgiving. One was taking the train from New York City to New Haven, Connecticut and was going to be picked up there by her mother. The other daughter was going to fly in from Colorado, but then a blizzard intervened.
Her father called her up at 6AM just after she had gone to bed – she works as a bartender. He told her that she better get over to the airport as soon as she could to get on stand-by because it looked like all the flights were going to be cancelled later in the day.
I don’t know how this works, but her luggage somehow got on a flight to Bradley, but she couldn’t. She had to bounce her way from airport to airport for 18 hours to get home. But since the luggage made it on that other flight, my friend had to drive down to Bradley to pick up her bag, but not his daughter. She wouldn’t get picked up until several hours later when her mom and sister were coming home from New Haven.
He's telling me all of this on the phone while driving to pick up just her luggage. That’s when I told him that I was upset because on the way to Northampton the next night to meet them all for dinner we were going to have to stop off at the car rental agency in Northampton to drop off the car my daughters drove from Boston. That added another probably a whole two minutes to our travel time.
I don’t think he was too sympathetic. But the point of all this is that there are surprises in even our ordinary lives, and when we get out of the routine of the ordinary, if only for a Thanksgiving holiday, then surprises shouldn’t surprise.
And that’s all that Jesus is asking us to do today. Go with the surprises. Don’t make them into roadblocks. Follow God’s detours.
Jesus used the example of Noah in today’s Gospel to express the idea of God’s surprises. It’s not like there were no hints and God just flooded the world impulsively. According to the story, the people of Noah’s day mocked Noah when he warned them about God’s anger and God’s coming judgment.
They simply went about their lives and ignored not only God, but this huge boat that was being built at God’s command. They went out of their way to ignore Noah’s warnings and then they were really surprised according to the story.
Or take Isaiah’s prophecy. First of all, it was and still remains a huge surprise to imagine a time of world-wide peace. It’s as strange now as it was in the prophet’s day to listen to God’s message that we should be beating our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning-hooks.
We should give less energy to preparing for war, says God. God has warned us about this – repeatedly. It’s like Noah all over again. It’s in our face as big as the ark.
The late physicist Stephen Hawking wondered if the lack of signs of intelligent life in the universe were a result of the fact that when a civilization got the point of being able to annihilate itself, it did.
That’s the point we are at now. War could soon be a matter of no winners and losers, but only of complete destruction. God warns us, and His call for peace surprises us, but it shouldn’t. We have to learn how to live together or else we’re all going to die together.
Isaiah also says that the nations will stream to Jerusalem because that is where God dwells. But here comes another surprise. When God’s messenger of peace came into our world in Jesus, He didn’t have the time or the inclination to wait for people to come to Him. So Jesus brought God to them.
God surprised us with a humble Bethlehem birth. God surprised us with Jesus’ ministry and message. God surprised us with Jesus’ death and resurrection. But through all of these surprises Jesus brought God out into our world.
And even though the world was mean, savage and violent, Jesus was as peaceful as Isaiah foretold. You can’t force people to be peaceful, but you can set them an example. You can surprise them by being peaceful even when everyone else is turning their ploughshares into swords and their pruning-hooks into spears.
Jesus is like Noah building the ark. He’s plain to see. His life reveals the will of God. It’s a surprise, but we shouldn’t be surprised by surprises.
Today we lit the first candle of the Advent Wreath, the candle of hope. Hope is the surprise that God springs on us constantly
Maybe God’s surprise is that in Jesus, God has entered our world as us, to show us exactly what we can do. That we can be so grieved or even terrified by violence that we choose peace. That we can get so sick of the killing that we work for peace. That we can finally realize that it’s up to us, in God’s name, in following Jesus’ example, to surprise the world and start taking seriously about hope.
May this be our prayer as we begin our season of Advent longing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Children Sunday School 9:30-10:30am
Nursery care available during worship