Monday, November 29, 2010

an advent rant...and it's only week one!

This is a major chunk of my sermon from Sunday, November 28th. It is both a rant and an invitation to really think about what these next 4 weeks are about.  Are we in a mad race to Christmas complete with special sales each week or is this a season to think more deeply about Christ's return in final victory? Perhaps, in a sense, I am trying to convince myself that the Church is still culturally relevant...but some of the signs that I have seen this Autumn have me concerned.

I confess that I also come at things with my past life as a marketing and promotion type fully intact, and I continue to repent for my contribution to the disease that affects us all these days. We are easily swayed by images on TV, radio and yes even the web...we are lulled into indifference at times and called to action at other times and I know the nature of the marketing types who are out there seducing us is about power and principalities - it about making more money and filling the God shaped hole that is intrinsic with our humanity with stuff that is easily broken, temporary and totally unsatisfying.

But as a whole we do not want to take the time to be in relationship with others - in Christian community that makes us reflect on deeper meanings of life, on what God is really asking of us...that is hard work, being a Jesus follower is not all about singing Kum Ba Yah around a is all about living in ways that are counter-cultural, loving God and loving neighbor means everyone - not just those who look like you and me.

So, thats my intro - here's where the Holy Spirit led me Sunday morning...(note it is written for the ear, so lots of elipses and dashes to make me pause)


You have to excuse me, I am feeling more than a wee bit cynical this week… perhaps miffed is more like it. Yes, miffed is a good word

Why you might ask? Well, here we are the first Sunday of Advent with texts that are rich with imagery, images such as these from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 2:1-5) God’s people going to the Mountain of the word – so that He may teach His ways and we may walk in His path…so that God’s people are compelled to turn their weapons of war into tools for working the land – and make the desert bloom again!  I am all for that...

Or Paul’s language – in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 13:11-14) Where God’s people are encouraged to set aside the darkness that is indeed all around us and to actually clothe ourselves with Christ – we are to be awake – open our eyes to the finishing touches of the salvation work that began when we first believed, and is ongoing as our faith grows and deepens…and we know the signs of people who are growing in faith, our worldliness is to be set aside! We are to live as God’s people – people who love one another and who care for one another – no more quarreling or jealousy, we are to set aside our sinful ways and instead live as Christ Jesus lived…that’s a powerful invitation isn’t it? To live into how God created us to be…don’t we all want to please God with our lives?

And how about the imagery in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 24:36-44). Here’s something we can sink our teeth into…the Lord Jesus returning – in a day or hour that we do not know – but he is coming – and we need to be ready – not out of fear, but out of a joyful anticipation!

Wonderful images all of them…embracing language that until recently had been set aside for the Church and God’s people – language that invites us to live holy and hope filled lives because our hope rests not in this world, not in the things of this world but in the kingdom of God – which truly is here and yet not to completion…

But this year, I have noticed that a thief has come. A thief has come and stolen something very precious. Our language…and it makes me kinda ticked off…

Let me show you what I mean…I first noticed it with this 
Since when do we believe in a cell phone company? Give me a break.

You should know I am a US Cellular client, have been since 2004…and when I went in and transferred my account over to the new plan I didn’t save a dollar…its still ridiculously high…oh, I do get points, which accrue each month, and I can use them to buy ring tones or get discounts on a new phone if I earn enough points over time. puhlease… how did a new cell phone plan give me something to believe in anyway? Oh, and look at this added bonus - they will give me forgiveness! Forgiveness AND protection - really? Frankly, I am offended…but am I offended enough to break my contract, pay $150 per line to switch to a new company? I am still figuring it out.

I had hoped this thief would stop there…then I went to the store a week ago and saw this display –

my future happiness comes out of a bottle of Coca Cola? I mean I like the fizzy burn - I was a Coke drinker for a number of years (have since switched to Diet Pepsi btw)…. But happiness? I can buy happiness for what – a dollar? The bottle is cute and all, but I don’t think it matters one bit in my long term happiness for heavens sake! Good Lord!

I knew we were in for it when I saw this on facebook Friday – a friend posted it and I wanted to frankly barf…

Give Glory – are you kidding me? Are they saying that if, IF I buy a new computer, that game that the boys have been begging for, or the new IPod touch – that I am able to GIVE GLORY ???? Are you kidding me?

It’s the final straw… Glory is off the table – it is sacred language – it refers to God’s glory – the worshipful honor and glory that we give to Him!  What has the world come to?

And as I was chewing on all of this – and trust me – there is much angst involved here...It has come to me, this, our church is not the destination for worship, the people of our country worship at the altar of commerce – their aisles are lined with the newest, greatest thing – their object of desire is not the love of God but the love of stuff…because the only way to find fulfillment is by gathering around oneself more stuff.

Our Gospel passage talks about a thief coming in the night, well friends – we have seen the thief and it is our consumer driven culture. I am all for having the freedom to buy and sell things, but how much is enough?

And then, I had a phone call at 5:09 this morning – I was asked to go to the home of a dying member of our congregation, and as usual, I noticed no suitcases packed, no pile of stuff waiting to go with her. Instead I saw her family and friends surrounding her with stories and tears and even some laughter…and what they wanted wasn’t a delivery of the latest sales items from a department store. They wanted a prayer and assurance that our hope rests in God in whom is all the power and glory forever and ever…

We know…we know, don’t we? Deep down in our hearts as people of faith we know that consumerism is not the Christian way to celebrate the birth of Christ…is it possible for us to opt out of this insanity to turn our hearts and minds to the God of glory this Advent season?

Let’s start by taking back our language, Let's start by living into the imagery that ties us to God… we have already been given instruction in how to do this - with the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It is the prayer that Jesus prayed every morning and every evening. This prayer speaks of the commandment to Love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and how we are to live into the Word of God...and the importance of teaching this to our children.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Take a look around you - even here in our sanctuary we are surrounded by a picture language that over time we have grown so accustomed to we don’t see it any more…but let’s take a moment to relearn what these symbols mean so that when we see them out in the world we are reminded of our three in one God! And then, let's recapture and share these images from todays texts and these word memories all around us with our that they have meaning, so that this - has meaning... so that we can prepare our hearts and minds for the return of Christ, the true meaning of this season of Advent.

one of the 10 stained glass windows
Trinity UMC, Waverly

I then walked around the sanctuary and talked about all of our stained glass windows, the images up front in the chancel area, the cross, the candles, etc... after worship several members of the church mentioned that they had never known what these things meant. Perhaps, just perhaps, this advent season has started off on a different foot...perhaps...

In Christ, together,


No comments:

Post a Comment