Advent 2019: December 6
Jesus said: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
This sounds pretty scary. Something like some of the climate changes that we are seeing now. This could be a projection from the climatologists. For many centuries there have been prophecies about the end of things. Many have come and gone. We are still here.
The people of Jesus’ time expected him to return in their lifetime. That didn’t happen. Will it happen? We don’t know. We can only live in our belief that he will come in glory. Whether we will see it in our time no one knows. It doesn’t matter. The point is when He does come it will be a time for rejoicing. He will come again.
Today I was watching part of “The Crown.” It is a popular series on Netflix. I often have things just out at me that you don’t think of finding in a docudrama. In series 3 Phillip (queen’s husband) is talking with his mother. She had a horribly difficult life and has recently been brought to England because of uprisings in Greece. She was a nun running a small clinic in Greece.
She asks Phillip about his faith. He tells her it is “dormant.”
Her reply is: “Find yourself a faith. It helps….No not just helps….it is everything!”
I do so agree with this statement. Having a faith that supports and nurtures you when everything around you is falling apart is everything. It is the one thing that allows you to rest in the strong arms of God and be held. God will be with you through any crisis…small or enormous. His love will fill your heart and soul and bring you peace.
I have often wondered how people manage to get along without some sort of faith. I definitely could not be an atheist. When things go wrong I need someone to share it with me. I have friends who do but sharing it with God is different. There is something special about leaning on God and knowing that I am loved and understood. I don’t know what people do who don’t have anything to fall back on. In my darkest moments I am held up and cared for. For me, God is there and always will be.
Yesterday I experienced a “God moment.” I was at a physicians office and he indicated I needed to schedule some surgery. The surgery is a simple one but you never know what will be found. A woman came and led me to her desk to set everything up. I was moved by the fact that in her cubicle there were wonderful quotes from the Bible and other words of encouragement. I mentioned that I was happy to see those words in a somewhat stressful moment. She and I began to talk about our faith and her compassion and caring were present in every word. Before I left she and I hugged.
We wonder if we can see Jesus in our everyday lives but he is visible in people we meet. He was there with us as we talked and shared. Open your eyes. Jesus is there.
Doubt can be a scary word. As children we are taught that some things are just true and we accept that. As we grow older we begin to realize that not everything we were taught is true. Our exposure to the world makes us begin asking questions. Some of the truths that held us up are taken away. We find ourselves in a dark place.
Many of us believe that doubt is the opposite of faith but I don’t think that. I think the opposite of faith is disbelief. Doubt is not sinful. It is a nudge to push us forward. It makes us question and by doing so…grow. It makes us search for God and look in places we have not explored.
Don’t be afraid of doubt. Embrace it and look deeper, listen more, learn and grow.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
I don’t know about you but I tend to worry. I know that I should turn my worries over to the Lord and let them go but I am not good at it. I will turn it over and then pick it back up again. I do this over and over. How ridiculous this is!
God will hear us when we cry to him. He will answer. Don’t keep picking things back up. Worry is a waste.
Religion tends to prefer and protect the status quo or the supposedly wonderful past, yet what we now see is that religion often simply preserves its own power and privilege. God does not need our protecting. We often worship old things as substitutes for eternal things.
A study that I attended was about how people view God. Each of us has our own view and to define it can be difficult. There are some people for who God is part of something visual. They may feel closer to God in the church they have attended all their lives. The only difficulty comes when something in that building is changed. The connection can be shaken. That is why changing something we have associated with our faith all our lives can be so distressing.
We can’t stay connected to the past. We have to live in the present. The words of the service may change, the building may change but our faith must stay connected to Jesus Christ himself.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12 NRSV
For those of us who are Christian we will be seeing a great deal of this in the years to come. Time was when being Christian and going to church was necessary for social acceptance and a way to get ahead in the world. Needless to say…this has changed.
Things will not change all at once. Erosion will happen little by little in the hope that it won’t be noticed or argued against. If we don’t protest the small things eventually there will be nothing left.
Our culture has changed drastically and we a heading into a time when being Christian will be a detriment.How many of us are willing to be persecuted for the sake of our religion? It will certainly separate the wheat from the chaff. Already Christianity is being removed from areas of life where it has been present since the founding of this country. I think it will continue.
We must be ready to stand up for our beliefs in the face of opposition. Be ready!
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Hope. A word to cling to. I suspect that one of the worst things that can happen to us is to have no hope. But having hope also depends on what we hope for. Writings from those in the concentration camps of the Hitler era show that even in conditions of horror hope was still present.
Hope can be a matter of perspective. Am I hoping that I can be an opera singer (not likely) or that my day will be a good one? It is possible that neither will come true but one is less likely.
If my hope rests with the Lord then I will never lose it. The psalm says his love is steadfast and I believe it with all my heart. I will hope in God no matter what.
Psalm 103: 1-5
Thanksgiving for God’s Goodness
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I always cling to this Psalm when things are rough. It is so perfect when I am stressed. What could be better than verses 3-4. I need my sins forgiven and my illnesses healed. David was right on target. This is a God of goodness and mercy. Thank him every day.