What Are You Waiting For? Looking for Clues
[audio http://opcbrookhaven.org/worship/audio/fail/01.mp3](The service did not get recorded this week - sorry. So I had a little bit of fun with my own recording.)
Jeremiah 33:14-16 Luke 21:25-36
Advent is a season in the church year; it's the four weeks before Christmas, and those four weeks represent the 400 years that passed between the last of the Messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible and the birth of Christ. In a sense, we're trying to replicate some solidarity with those who waited in ancient times for Messiah. The difference, of course, is that we know the end of the story, that Christmas comes and Jesus is born. Our music during Advent tries to work that middle ground, singing Christmas music that is appropriate for Advent.
But there's another aspect of all this that Presbyterians don't like to admit: Advent is also a time to remind us that Jesus will come again. Do we believe this? Well, we say it every time we have communion: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." But do we really believe it? Or are we turned off by those who are so obsessed with thoughts like "rapture" that we'd rather not admit it or have already removed it from our vocabulary and theology? If that strikes you as familiar, then let me ask you a question: is life perfect? OK, maybe life is good, even grace-filled; but the kingdom isn't fully here yet. We do need Jesus to return. And that's the context for today's lesson.
How do we know that God is at work in our lives? The text from Luke is full of all kinds of freaky and strange imagery. It's texts like this that give us the impression that God only works in big dramatic ways, as though God had Cecil B. DeMille on retainer as a divine director of sorts. But I want to suggest, particularly as we explore this theme of waiting, that God might be leaving little clues for us to know our calling here and now.
As we talked about last week, I want us to look at the possibility that, rather than living our life for tomorrow, we ought to try and do our best to live faithfully in the here and now. There is no perfect life, short of Jesus coming back. But: we can see evidence of the kingdom here and now, and we can do our best to be Christ's disciples in the moment. And I'm confident that, if we look closely enough, we can see clues that this is what God desires for us.
There's the old joke about the guy in his house as the flood waters rise. A boat comes by to rescue him, and he refuses: "No, thank you. I have faith in God. God will save me." The boat leaves. The waters rise, and now the man is on the second story. Another boat comes by. "No, thank you. I have faith in God. God will save me." That boat leaves. The waters continue to rise, and the man is on the roof. A helicopter comes. "No, thank you. I have faith in God. God will save me." The helicopter leaves. The man drowns. As he enters heaven, he gets a meeting with God: "God, you let me down! I was telling everyone that I have faith in you and you let me drown!" God says indignantly, "What did you want me to do? I sent two boats and a helicopter!"
Sometimes God is right there in front of us. We just don't have the right lenses on to recognize God.
When Elizabeth and I were first married, we had a scary experience. She was taken to the hospital because of an aneurysm which led to emergency brain surgery to remove a tumor. She survived, and the tumor was benign, and we often think about this as one of those dramatic moments of grace at work. But it was the time after the surgery that I think is illustrative for our conversation today. After the surgery, she was unable to walk far. At the time, we were living in Chicago, at the mercy of street-side parking for our three-story walk up apartment. It had gotten to the point that we had a map next to our front door of a five-block radius where we could mark down where we parked the car and remember where to go get it. But in those immediate weeks after surgery, for some reason, it always seemed like there was an open spot right in front of our building. We began to jokingly refer to the "god of the parking meter." Now: did I think that God would see us coming around the corner and vaporize a car or two to make way for us? No...But life does seem to be full of random little events. Can we open our eyes to the possibility that God is already at work in the coincidences, in the rhythms of life as the presence of unexpected gifts?
Where are you? Is there job or family stress in your life? Is it this time of year, bringing back memories of years past and loved ones lost? Is it a health issue that you're facing, or that someone close to you is confronting? This is, admittedly, an imperfect world, and will remain so until Christ returns. But the birth of Christ ushered in a new era.
In some ways, it's about making the best of what we've got. But another way we might put it is that it's about seeing our vocation, our calling, in the here and now. What God expects of us, God expects of us now and always.
Can you see God at work? Can you recognize the clues?