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Sunday, November 27, 2022: Daring Community

Sunday School Activities

Daring Community
Matthew 24:36-44
Parkminster United Church
Sunday, November 27, 2022 – Advent 1

What images do you associate with Advent? A lush Advent Wreath surrounding blue and pink candles? Nativity scenes and decorations that remind us that something special is coming. Or maybe even calendars with chocolates or some other treat tucked inside?
In the video we just saw, theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber gives us a very different image of Advent. What about a thief prowling outside your house, stealthy and silent? Your front door torn off its hinges, shattered glass in your foyer, and a stranger’s footsteps on your stairs? What about your most prized possessions disappearing while you sleep? I don’t know about you, but to me, these images don’t exactly feel very “Advent-ish.”
And yet these are the images our Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent gives us. A homeowner caught off-guard. A house that’s been broken into. The Promised One coming at an unexpected hour, like a thief in the night.
There’s no way around it — these images are disturbing. This isn’t exactly the Jesus we think we know — the Jesus in the manger, the Jesus on the cross, the Jesus who feeds, forgives, and heals. The Jesus Matthew describes in this apocalyptic passage is no respecter of boundaries. He’s not invested in the status quo, he doesn’t care about keeping us secure and comfortable, and he’s not thwarted at all by our elaborate defense mechanisms. The Jesus Matthew describes is an invader. An intruder. A disrupter.
The implication of the thief-in-the-night analogy is that Jesus isn’t going to come in the guises we expect. If we think we have faith pinned down, if we think we know what revelation looks like, if we think we have Jesus all figured out, then we’re in for a surprise. If, on the other hand, we approach with our hands wide open; if we confess that we don’t even know what to look for, or where; if we empty ourselves of all preconceived notions of God and open our hearts to expect the unexpected, then we will be able to receive the real Jesus with joy.
Episcopal priest Fleming Rutledge reminds us, “Advent begins in the [beauty of] the dark. It is not a season for the faint of heart.” Advent is about letting go of any unrealistic expectations of God and of each other and opening ourselves to what could be. It’s about embracing these darker days and waiting, with anticipation, and letting ourselves be robbed of answers and certainty – leaving us vulnerable but hope-filled.
We are constantly playing the waiting game. Waiting for news of peace or for news of more conflict among nations. We wait, hoping to see an end to gun violence and oppression. We wait, watching the earth struggle and groan – wondering if the changes we are making are too late for creation. We are waiting for peace to come to the world.
Patience may be a virtue, but if it is, it’s a challenging one. So, it may be with some trepidation and anxiety that we enter this season of waiting and watching, wondering and hoping. Waiting no longer seems a natural part of our human rhythms and expectations; we would rather have it all today.
But the season of Advent implores us to celebrate this time of waiting. It calls us out of the patterns of the rest of the world and places us in a daring community. A community that dares to hope in spite of….
It’s daring because we are learning how to be faithful in waiting. Our whole life together is a time of waiting: waiting in the present absence of God, waiting for the ultimate coming of love and justice, waiting for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people will know the fulfillment of love, reconciliation, and hope.
At Advent, we are called to participate in a different kind of time and a different way of life. In a society racked with worry and anxiety, about war and natural disasters, about racism and systems of oppression, we are called to stand in readiness. We are asked to trust in a caring promise and a wondrous assertion that we are intensely cared for, in the now and the not yet. The prophet Isaiah proclaims the promise: “Fear not, says God, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”
The world spins on in exhaustion and pain. We are asked to believe in hope and take a daring leap of faith. God will enter the world in a fresh way again and again and again.
Henri Nouwen writes that the spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that the new will happen to us, things that are far beyond our imagining, fantasy, or prediction.
We are called to live in a daring community because, as God’s people, we are asked to live the future now. We are asked to celebrate the sacred joy of the unknown, trusting in the power of God to break forth at any moment into our lives, our community, and the life of the world. To live with such hope is a powerful and daring way to live.
It is this longing and hope that brings us to this table this morning. I once overheard someone say this: “I do not assume that my imagination has exhausted all the possibilities.” This is a beautiful definition of hope.
In this time of waiting, our spiritual imagination encourages us to stay alive to the possibilities that we haven’t even imagined or dreamed of – Yet.
And so, we come to this table this morning:
Because we declare in our waiting that hope is indeed possible.
Because we dare to hope that the divine waiting will come to fullness, in God’s time, not ours.
Because we dare to imagine that peace will come, that the lion will lie peacefully with the lamb, that a sacred community will come.
Because we dare to dance in the stillness of a chaotic time.
So, this season of Advent – let us be daring – let us be open to being robbed of the things that do not serve us or are holding us back – as individuals and a community – let us embrace the waiting. Blessings to you all this Advent season. Amen.
Rev. Heather Power